Why might students not want to argue in class?

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Episode 501: Keep arguing Florida International University

Argumentation is an important skill in physics, but it can be both intellectually and socially difficult for students. Why might students not want to argue in class?

July 3, 2018

Pedagogy Content
Coping with frustration
Physics Content
Instructor Interaction
STEM-wide audiences

Lesson Contents (2 MB)Student Handout
Transcript, discussion questions, and problem

(2 MB)Specific Lesson Guide
Facilitator's guide for this lesson

(1 MB)General Facilitator's Guide
Background and best practices

(334 MB)Video
Captioned video


Sample Discussion Prompts

  1. What did you notice in this episode? Talk to your neighbor about what you noticed.


  2. The first student to express her concerns (off camera) refers to “majority rule.” Is she unhappy with this principle? Why or why not?

  3. Does the instructor agree that “the majority rule” for this exam, or does he assert a different decision-making process? If different, describe the difference.

  4. Ariana jokes about deceiving her partners in order to get her answer onto the exam. What might Ariana be concerned about, such that she would consider deception?

  5. Earlier, Leon explained that the groups for the exam would be selected by him (not the students) and would not be announced until the start of the exam. Why might that prospect make students unhappy?

  6. In this episode, a number of power structures are proposed, including democracy (majority rule) and meritocracy (the highest-quality answer wins). What other power structures are proposed in this episode – what else might determine who “wins” in this classroom?

  7. What does this episode suggest about why students might not want to argue in class?

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