Еlements of design for studying argumentation: the case of two ongoing research lines

The design for studying argumentation in two on ongoing research lines. Argumentation within the laboratory setting: the design of a piagetian test. The test of liquid conservation. Argumentation in the classroom: the case of problem solving in physics.

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© Московский городской психолого-педагогический университет

© PsyJournals.ru, 2010


© Московский городской психолого-педагогический университет

© PsyJournals.ru, 2010

Еlements of design for studying argumentation: the case of two ongoing research lines

Francesco Arcidiacono

Dr., Institute of Psychology and Education University of Neuchatel

Alaric Kohler

PhD student, Institute of psychology and education, University of Neuchatel

The aim of this paper is to present some ideas in order to construct designs for studying argumentation. Our specific focus is on learning processes involving peer interactions and adultchildren activities. We consider argumentation as a contextbounded activity, at the crossroads of different lines of research, such as the neopiagetian and neovygotskian concerns for the sociocognitive development of higher psychological processes, and the sociocultural approach of participative interactions within goal directed activities. In this paper we offer some elements to implement designs around two ongoing research lines in order to pay attention to quasiexperimen tal and observational studies. Firstly we present the task of liquid conservation assuming that a revisitation of this classical study could offer a possibility to consider the argumentation in children's talk beyond Piaget's logicism. The second line concerns an educational situation designed to observe learning through argumentation in classroom contexts; inspired by a piagetian task for studying physics quantities, a sequence is planned to offer stu dents an educational setting to commit into argumentative interactions.

What is the role of argumentation in learning processes? How and under which circumstances do peer interactions and adult children activities promote learning through argumentation?

In this paper, we aim to present some elements of designs within two different research lines aiming at highlighting how argumentation can emerge as a context bounded activity in learning settings. We propose to pay attention to quasiexperimental and observational studies, starting from different perspectives: the neopiagetian and neovygotskian concerns on learning and argumentation; the main approaches of participative interactions within educational activities; and the recent advances of argumentation theories that underline the need of alternative models to consider the argumentative processes emerging from social interactions. We will present some methodological aspects in the implementation of two ongoing research designs: the first one concerns the piagetian test of liquid conservation; the second one proposes classroom activities in physics education.

Learning through argumentation: from piagetian tradition to recent advances

The relevance of peer interactions in learning processes is recognized by different theoretical approaches inspired by Vygotskij (1934) and Piaget (1965), and has been developed to understand the sociocognitive dimensions of thinking processes. In particular, the role of argumentation in learning processes is a very important dimension of the scientif ic debate.

In this paper, we are specifically interested in the design of experimental or natural settings where par ticipants are invited to argue to learn. The focus is on argumentation as a tool for learning specific contents (Schwarz, 2009). Firstly, we would like to consider the historical background of the piagetian and postpiaget ian tradition on this domain. Since the 1920s, argu mentation has become an important element in Piaget's work (Piaget, 1924, 1926; Piaget, Szeminska, 1941; Piaget, Inhelder, 1966), as a trace of the child's reasoning. In order to have children expressing their conceptions in an argumentative way, Piaget engaged in «critical» or «clinical» interviews with children, inviting them to react to contrary points of view. The main piagetian hypothesis was that the arguments provided by the children were the signs of their logical thoughts. This exclusive attention to logical structures led Piaget into an underestimation of social and con versational dynamics and strategies involved in argumentation itself (Arcidiacono, PerretClermont, 2009).

Over the past decades, numerous studies have been devoted to the role of social interactions in learning and arguing. In the early stages of the postpiagetian tradition (Doise, Mugny, Perret Clermont, 1975, 1976; Perret Clermont, Mugny, Doise, 1976; Mugny, Doise, PerretClermont, 1981; Perret Clermont, Nicolet, 1988), the experimental evidences have suggested that sociocognitive conflicts can bring along notable cogni tive restructuration in children's thoughts: their levels of reasoning and arguing can be affected by different dimensions, such as task demands, institutional contracts, and educational settings (SchubauerLeoni, Perret Clermont, 1997; Cesar, Perret Clermont, Benavente, 2000). Other studies have contributed to this line of research with a close attention to the argu mentation as a specific component of sociocognitive activities (Perret Clermont, Carugati, Oates, 2004), in order to understand how the meaningmaking activity of participants within an experimental setting is simultaneously social and cognitive.

Other studies have investigated argumentation by developmental and social perspectives (Kuhn, Shaw, Felton, 1997; Buchs, Butera, 2004), providing an analy sis of the competencies involved in argumentation. In particular, the focus has been the understanding of the main difficulties that children meet when they engage in argumentation, and the requirements of their competen cies to argue.

Marro Clement (1999) and Trognon, SaintDizier de Almeida, Grossen (1999) have shown how argumentative conversations display but also support the mute al scaffolding of partners' ideas and their articulation, allowing for the construction of new learning. Baker (2003) has underlined how the dialectical dimension of argumentation provides an additional advantage to mere peer cooperation, enabling the objectification of participants' perspectives and representations. Asterhan and Schwarz (2007) have identified some characters tics of dialogues during dyadic interactions that can predict conceptual learning, such as the expression of different arguments, the fact that arguments are distributed among participants, and that discussants coconstruct the solution.

In the following part of the paper we intend to high light some methodological dimensions related to the abovementioned aspects, in order to consider the con struction of designs fostering argumentation.

The design for studying argumentation in two on ongoing research lines

Several recent studies have contributed to the understanding of the role of argumentation as a specific form of dialogical social interaction (Muller Mirza, PerretClermont, 2009; Rigotti, Greco Morasso, 2009). The advances in argumentation theories underline how arguments are nested in communication processes, as a collective construction of discourses, constrained by different dimensions of the communicative context (PerretClermont, 2006; Rigotti, Rocci, 2006; Arcidiacono, Pontecorvo, Greco Morasso, 2009). As argumentation is an activity in which interlocutors attempt to decrease or increase the acceptability of one or more ideas by reasoning (Baker, 2002; Walton, 2006), argumentation is often characterized by sudden shifts in contents, references to previous statements, and simultaneous development of different discussion threads.

On the ground of these results, in the following part of the paper we will offer two examples of how learning through argumentation can be considered within a research design. In the first one, we will consider the piagetian test of liquid conservation, assuming that a revisitation of this classical study could offer a possibi lity to consider the argumentation in children's talk beyond Piaget's reductionistic logicism on these matters. The second line will concern an educational situation designed to observe learning through argumentation in the classroom context, inspired by a piagetian task for studying ideas about the physical world.

Argumentation within the laboratory setting: the design of a piagetian test

In order to understand how argumentation can be a tool for learning in the laboratory setting, we assume that in the liquid conservation test Piaget did not really study the quality of children's argumentations, but the result of types of specific conversations between the experimenter and the child. How can we implement a quasiexperimental design for the study of learning through argumentation inspired by the piagetian test of liquid conservation?

Previous studies have underlined the existence of different paths to cognitive development through the establishment of different conversation types during the liquid conservation test (Psaltis, Duveen, 2006). The collaborative problem solving, being a form of social relation that sustains different types of identities and cognitive activities, it is anyway difficult to predict which pathway a particular conversation will follow, and consequently it is not easy to implement a design that could consider all the concerned elements. In order to contribute to this problem in quasiexperimental si tuations, in the following part of the paper we will describe the test of liquid conservation, some analytical dimensions and possible outcomes.

The test of liquid conservation

The liquid conservation is one of the most used tests in the study of cognitive and social development of children (typically 4 to 7 yearsolds). We consider here an experimental procedure (PerretClermont, 1979) that includes a pretest between the experimenter and one child, a second session between the experimenter and two children, and a posttest similar to the pretest. During the first phase, the task requires that two identical glasses (A and A') are filled to the same level and the child is asked whether they each contain the same amount. When the child has established that it is the case, the content of one (A') is poured into another (taller and thinner) glass (B). The child is then asked whether the two glasses (A and B) still contain the same amount of liquid. In the second phase each child who failed to conserve at pretest is allocated to an interaction session with another child (conserving) in order to play together an activity involving sharing out liquid equally. The experimenter gives one child a glass (B), which is taller and thinner than the other child's (glass A) and tells the nonconserving child to pour out equal shares. A third glass (A'), identical to the glass A, is available for their use. Children are invited to discuss and argue about the amount of liquid in the glasses. The activity ends when children agree that they both have the same amount of liquid. Finally, a posttest session follows the same procedure of the pretest for all participants, in order to verify the individual progress of children.

In the design of the setting (see Figure 1), the goal is to assign more relevance to the argumentative processes children use during the test, in order to create the pro per conditions in which the children and the experimenter can coconstruct their argumentation.

Figure 1. Тhe setting of the test of liquid conservation

Child experimenter videocamera table glass A glass A'glass B

To promote the analysis of learning through argu mentation, we suggest to account the following dimensions in the implementation of a design: social and material conditions that could influence the course of the task (such as the gender of the experimenter and of the children, the status of participants, the composition of the dyads, the position of the materials, the participants' possibility to manipulate the objects, the location, the instructions about the task); the possibility to video record the experiment (in order to be able to pay attention to verbal and nonverbal aspects of the interactions); the opportunity to transcribe the interactions or to transcribe a selection of representative samples (in order to identify specific situations in which the use of argumentative moves is a relevant tool for the learning process).

Concerning the analysis of argumentation we suggest, among others, two different levels*.

The first one concerns a macrolevel of analysis used by Felton and Kuhn (2001). The authors have identified two potential forms of development inargu mentation: the enhanced understanding of discursive goals and the application of effective strategies to meet these goals. In particular, they have predicted that initial argumentative dialogues would consist of an exposition that is an articulation and clarification of one's own perspective, in contrast of challenges that seek to identify weaknesses in claims. Another possibility to discover how argumentation can play a main role in the liquid conservation test is to examine the quality of the argumentative process. In this sense, a useful possibility is the model of the critical discussion elaborated by van Eemeren and Grootendorst (2004), in order to identify the different discursive moves that participants can use. This kind of analysis assumes that generally the development of a discussion is char acterized by the following sequential steps: the con frontation stage (in which participants understand that they have different points of views), the opening stage (it is the beginning of the critical discussion, when two different standing points conflict between them), the argumentation stage (when the interactants really engage in argumentative and rhetoric moves), and the concluding stage (when the discussion is concluded and a solution is established). Within this analytical model it is possible to recognize the logic structure of argumentative moves, and the link between the construction of these moves and the «power» (in terms of persuasive force) of the intervention sus tained by a speaker (Rigotti, 2006). This model is useful because it focuses on different elements, such as the communicative context of the argumentative intervention (in terms of institutionalized or interpersonal dimensions) and its relevant factors; the argumentative strategies used by participants (e.g. critical or relational dimensions of the strategic manoeuvring); the communicative instrumentation that concerns the argumentative strategy (for example, the stylistic choices at the linguistic level); and the critical reflection after performing the argumentative intervention. As suggested by Hundeide (1992) «the difficulty of a task as experienced by the individual, coping with it in a particular situation, cannot be assessed from an analysis of the logical structure of the problem or question such as. We have instead to uncover the nesting of premises through microanalysis of message structure» (p. 144).

In the assessment of argumentation in testing con versations, we need techniques able to capture also the dynamic nature of the dialog. In this sense a useful proposal is the coding scheme elaborated by Asterhan and Schwarz (2009) in order to capture collaborative argumentative reasoning as it happens. In the presentation of this microlevel of coding dialog protocols, authors suggest a preliminary distinction between two types of argumentative moves: the nondialectical moves that intend to strengthen and validate the epistemic status of a certain thesis (such as supports and agreements), and the dialectical moves that intend to dispute the validity and strength of a certain thesis or reason (such as challenges and rebuttals). The coding scheme comprises a number of mutually exclusive categories including both types of argumentative moves (claims, request for claims, simple agreements, support, challenges, rebuttals, simple oppositions and concessions, elaborations, requests for information, and information providing). Authors also suggest co ding repetitions, corrections and incomprehensible units separately. Another possible method is the interlocutory analysis (Trognon, 1999) that permits to link a conversational move with an illocutionary act. In this sense, conversation is assumed as the sequential accomplishment of an extension of illocutorylogic. This method is useful to trace the evolution of the child's reasoning through the course of the conversation. It can retrace how participants display their states of mind, at every step of the interaction, adopting specific conversational moves.

We underline that it is always necessary for the researcher to recognize that argumentation produced by participants is also a result of the design. As the setting is crucial, a major attention in the definition of the design can open new modalities of interdisciplinary studies, integrating different methods that permit to analyze in which contexts and at what psychosocial conditions argumentation emerges and is interpreted by the researchers.

In our view, this kind of design will be useful to point out, during the interaction, how partners tend to verbalize part of their thinking allowing some kind of access to their states of mind. A detailed argumentative analysis can permit to understand howpartici pants perceive and manage the relationship among themselves, as well as their understanding of experimenter's intentions. From a cognitive perspective, it will be also interesting to explore the immediate and differed learning processes through the argumentation in the designed situation. For example, cognitive changes from pretest to posttest in a study of Levin and Druyan (1993) have been related to the way children reason independently on the problem during the pretest and the way they reason during the transaction. Authors have suggested that in the case of progression from pretest to posttest a deeper reasoning of a particular response carried out in an attempt to persuade the other of its correctness can increase the child's own confidence in that response; alternatively, in the case of regression, being more convinced of a particular response can lead the child to explore more arguments in itsfavour.

In our idea, this kind of research design and analyses can be extended to other data collection based on con servation with other similar tasks (e.g. the conservation of different discrete quantities). The design can vary dif ferent contextual dimensions, such as the relationship (attribution of the glasses to experimenter and child), and the goals (competition versus cooperation).

Argumentation in the classroom: the case of problem solving in physics

Using argumentative practices at school is common ly accepted as a worthwhile objective, and the benefit of argumentation for learning has been well supported (Schwarz, Neuman, Biezuner, 2000). However, a crucial difficulty relies in the implementation of argumentative practices in the classroom (Viennot, 1989), or even more generally in the implementation of any new educa tional activity in a school context (Garduno, 1997). How to make students commit themselves into an argumentative exchange with their peers, or even more difficult, with their teacher?

We make the hypothesis that many micro situations can be defined within a teaching sequence, where different actors thinking around a common object could develop various meanings, not similar neither compatible to what actors themselves assume they are following conversational rules (Grice, 1979). The fundamental problems of these situations lay in the fact actors do not take the modest attitude of ignorance («I don't understand her/him»). Rather, they actively make sense of what has been told (Bruner, 1996) and understand something else than expected by the interlocutor. Most often, the «something else» has something to do with the original intended meaning, even if it is somehow transformed. We think that our ongoing research line can exploit this particularity of human communication to foster the verbal interaction in the classroom, and ultimate ly promote argumentative structures of dialogue through the design of relevant activities.

To study argumentation in physics can seemirrele vant at first, as for many countries school activities mainly focus on calculating a solution according to a mathematical formal language. However, over the past decade, argumentation in science education has seen a growing interest (for instance, Baker, 1996; Buty, Plantin, 2009; Driver, Newton, Osborne, 2000; Leitao, 2000; Schwarz, Neuman, Gil, Ilya, 2003; Von Aufschnaiter, Erduran, Osborne, Simon, 2007). This interest comes from at least two important findings: firstly, researchers have shown that children start their education with existing ideas about the topics addressed by science curriculum (Driver, Guesne, Tiberghien, 1985; Giordan, Girault, Clement, 1994; Johsua, Dupin, 1989); secondly, case studies on students' ideas of sci ence before and after school education show that they are far from a realistic understanding of the social enterprise and the epistemological foundation of science (Driver, Leach, Millar, Scott, 1996). The introduction of argumentative practices in the classroom is therefore twofold: it can be a mean for making students' ideas emerging and including them in classroom activities; and it can play an important role in teaching students a scientific literacy where argumentation is essential both in the way scientific knowledge is elaborated in a community of researchers (e.g. scientific debates among experts) and in the epistemological nature of the scientific knowledge (e.g. claims must be justified and/or related to evidence).

Why are the students' ideas so important in science education? Looking upon the results of education, a study of Viennot (1979) shows that most well educated young adults are not performing better on problem solving tasks than before their classes, when those tasks are related to their everyday experiences instead of requiring a quantitative answer. These results show that students' ideas that exist previously to school education remain mostly the same and are not transformed by the instruction. In physics, these results suggest that building strong competences of formal language might enable students to perform complex calculation, but do not promote the deep understanding of science necessary to transform their ideas about the physical world. However, this change of idea is crucial to analyze a concrete problem through the concepts of physics. Argumentation -- and more generally social interactions -- in the classroom can be explored as complementary activities to the formal language and calculation training, from which scholars expect moreindept understanding of physics.

On the ground of the abovementioned reasons, we present here general issues concerning a design of research on learning through argumentation in the classroom context. This example of design consists in a sequence planned to offer students the most encouraging educational setting to commit into argumentative interactions. This teaching sequence is not designed in order to make the most efficient lesson for learning relevant physics knowledge: it is rather created to provide rich data for a better understanding of learning processes, through the analysis of the qualities and the roles of argumentation.

Designing a teaching sequence

The first step in the implementation of argumentative practices in the classroom consists in the design of a teaching sequence. In most cases, this design would benefit from a close collaboration with the teacher(s) of the classroom(s). Indeed, the teachers' understanding of the objectives is fundamental for a successful implementation, as well as his/her advice concerning the students' background, their usual way of working and the local challenge and policies. Even if the teacher role is defined in the sequence, we cannot assume before the analysis of data that the teacher role will correspond to the sequence.

Beside this particular aspect, other elements could play an important role and stay out of the researcher's control: for example, the theoretical lessons given before and/or in parallel to the experimental sequence, the evaluation and assessment practices, and different aspects influencing the students' motivation. The teaching sequence will consist in a description of the global frame (e.g. the time at disposal, the objectives of learning, the content of know ledge) and a more precise description of specific activities focusing on argumentation. In order to do so, they should be planned at the critical moment in the sequence where students have elements of knowledge about the questions or problems at stake. A classical way to organize the sequence for having such a critical moment consists in providing students with inquiry based activities, and fostering argumentative discussions through a collaborative social setting made of small groups of students working together (Osborne, Erduran, Simon, 2004). A small group setting enhances the need of expressing and discussing conceptions. Typically, students are set in groups of three to four and are given a common task involving the need to exchange their ideas to achieve a shared answer. The social setting can also be implemented through computermediated interactions among distant individuals or groups, which provide an opportunity for learners to discuss their ideas through written language. The teacher scaffolding and/or the use of computer tools to mediate inquiries or argumentative discussions fit into the global design as resources to engage into activities with a real possibility for stu dents to express their conceptions, test them through an experimental procedure and defend them in a dis cussion with their peers.

An example of a teaching sequence

In this part of the paper we will present an example of a teaching sequence implemented within the international project Escalate* about argumentation and inquiry learning in science education. In this teaching sequence, the learning objectives are defined in terms of transformation of the students' everyday ideas. In order to evaluate these ideas, a questionnaire is made with six questions known in science education litera ture as triggering erroneous answers related to com mon ideas about the physical world (Lemeignan, WeilBarais, 1993). Figure 2 presents one of these questions.

Figure 2. Еxample of question from the questionnaire

All students fill the questionnaire individually before the teaching sequence, and a similar questionnaire is given after the teaching sequence. Both questionnaires are used in similar classrooms to compare the results with the ones of the students having the designed teaching sequence.

The teaching sequence itself is composed of three activities. First, students have an inquirybased session with a piagetian task (Piaget, 1974) adapted for the classroom. The task provides students with marbles of various weights and a slide with a moveable inclination. The play with marbles rolling down the slope, accelerating and eventually hitting eachothers allows interesting experiments about several physics concepts. An instruction sheet guides studentstrough several steps: the sys tematic observation of the phenomenon; the description of the marbles movement in conceptual terms, such as «increase and decrease of velocity»; and the description of physics quantities (velocity, acceleration and forces) in formal language (drawing vectors).

Alternatively, a microworld simulating the same task is used in the same type of activity in order to provide students both with the real situation and an idealistic behaviour of the marbles (see Figure 3). The microworld «Marbles Move» (Kynigos, 2007) offers a simulation window, where the marbles' movement can be visually played, stopped or paused. The velocity is displayed during the movement. On the right side, many parameters can be enabled in order to let students inquire the way they influence the marbles movement, the velocity, and the acceleration.

This task offers the possibility for students to discuss their observations in an argumentative way: various inquiries can be performed with the microworld and used as a reference point of the discourse, and as an interpretative space for students' critical judgements.

The second activity invites students' groups to find a shared answer to situations presented in the questionnaire. As preconceptions are very often emerging from these situations, the instructions to the groups are to dis cuss their previous individual answers before they set an official consensus. In a group of three to four, students always had to handle different ideas about the questionnaire items and to decide which one is the most convincing. For this activity, each group can be equipped with a computer software called Digalo*, in order to construct an argumentative map (see Figure 4). Using this software, all the different groups of the classroom produce a shared map with their answers about the six questionnaire's items, including questions addressed to other groups, counterarguments or supportive contributions. Each time a group is writing on the map, the group makes a choice about the argumentative function (claim, argument) of their own contribution and how it relates to the previous ones (through a system of arrows). Alternatively to the software, a similar argumentative map can be collectively built up on the blackboard.

The third activity sets students in a laboratory work with all the necessary objects (balls, timer) where they have to make experiments about the questionnaire items. Results are written in a report, in which groups are invited to put down their observations, their answers to the initial question and how experimental data can support their conclusion.

Possible data analysis and perspectives

In this research design, besides written data including exercise sheets, experimental reports and argumentative maps, we recommend for the analysis of argumentation to audiorecord each group during the whole sequence dura tion. In addition, video recording of the computer screen is necessary if the research focuses on the use of the computer by students. Other data about context can provide useful information: content of the theoretical course in physics, students' marks, observation of general classroom dynamics and eventually unexpected events.

Data analyses can be performed interrelating different elements of the complex reality that emerges from the sequence. For example, the individual progress can be examined for each student by questionnaires' results or, within group conversations, using the written data compared to the group level progression. However, the main entry into the complexity is based on analyses of groups' verbal interactions, identifying the argumentative structures during the conversation. This approach relies on the assumption, presented earlier in this paper, that argumentation can be used as a trace of learning processes: for example, one can consider if an evidence is used by students in order to argue and to defend their conceptions, or if they interpret their observations in a way that make them match with their previous ideas of the physical world.

Figure 3

Figure 5 presents a picture of the whole research situation, in order to illustrate different aspects possibly recalled in students' argumentative discourses that emerge during the designed situation.

An important aspect of Figure 5 is the students' previous cognitive and cultural background, mostly referred to as their ideas previous to the schooledu cation. However, these ideas are only providing an indicator of this cultural background that is not exhausting the reality it refers to. Taking such an indicator for the cultural background is only justified by the deliberate focus of this particular research on cognitive and social aspects of learning, leaving emotional and other dimensions aside. Later in the sequence, data provide information at a group level about the general difficulty of the task for students, as well as the knowledge and procedures developed, the use of resources, such as the computer and material devices, and finally the production made in order to satisfy educational demands. More precise results about learning processes can be also reconstructed through certain types of dialogue and discourse stimulated within groups.

When argumentation occurs, the analysis can draw indicators of how students cognitively engage themselves into the task, by pointing out when students share their points of view, elaborate concepts, or find productive procedures to achieve the goals of the task. The arrow at the bottom of Figure 5 represents the links that the researcher can draw between various aspects of the argumentative situation: these links include notably the researcher hypotheses about the design (which is represented by a reflective arrow in the illustration), the teacher's expectations, the models of the right acquisition, and the representations of students.

Through the triangulation of data articulated within argumentative discourses, this design can allow the researcher to create an understanding of how learning processes emerge from the whole complexity in which students are immersed. For instance, using the analysis through «knowledge elements» (Tiberghien, Malkoun, 2007), one can identify precise elements of the knowledge to be taught, trace their occurrence through the different activities of the teaching sequence, and describe how they are worked out throughout group interactions, and experimental activities. Another possible analysis, focusing on the verbal content of the group interaction, consists in gathering all references through the transcribed dis course (Blanche Benveniste, 1997) that refers to a particular concept (e.g. weight) and in describing the progressive elaboration of this concept at the individual or group level as a successive construction of meaning.

Conclusion and perspectives

The research lines we have proposed in this paper are two possible ways to explore how the argumentation emerges as a contextbounded activity and as a tool for learning. design laboratory conservation

In the first research design we underlined on the need to observe in great detail the activities organized by the researcher in a laboratory context, in order to make possible the understanding of argumentative interactions in quasiexperimental situations. Besides, piagetian conservation tests have also inspired school curricula and different educational activities, but not always successfully for reasons that are interesting to explore more in depth. In this sense, it would be useful to see how children interpret the same situation and argue around a task when it is given to them not in a laboratory setting, but, for example, in a classroom activity like in our second research line. Combining the two lines of research presented around the same argumentative activities, firstly in laboratory and secondly integrating them in the context of the classroom, can be very instructive about the emergence of argumentation in a given social setting, and on how it relates to learning processes.

The second research design can be easily developed or adapted to various classroom contexts and activities. Two conditions must be respected: the case design should provide the best possibility for argumentation to emerge, and the natural situation should be documented through sufficient data sources for a rich crossing of content in the analysis. More detailed research focusing on particular aspects of the design can be very interesting as well: for example, one could take some activities presented above out of the classroom (like the microworld) to conduct clinical interviews with students in a Piagetian tradition. It will be high relevant to look at the argumentation produced in this dialogue with the researcher on the same task implemented into an ordinary lesson, as we assume they will considerably differ from peer interactions during the lesson. It is through the understanding of these complex interactions occurring in real life situations that our understanding of learning processes can be developed.

In conclusion, we think that the observation of argumentative activities organized in laboratory settings and in classroom situations could contribute to many psychological research on learning processes, involving different dimensions in the field of education for a better understanding of argumentation in interactive situations.


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