The structure of discussions that promote reasoning

Clark A. Chinn, Richard C. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Discussions featuring reasoned argumentation among students have the potential to increase students' motivation and to help students learn to reason well. This article analyzes the structure of the argumentative discourse produced when children discuss issues raised by stories they have read. Two complementary approaches are developed to represent the structure of the argumentation. The first approach, the argument network, represents argumentation within groups of students as an interlocking web of premises and conclusions. The second approach, the causal network, represents the argumentation primarily as events linked in a causally connected narrative sequence. We discuss implications of these two approaches for instruction and research. Argument networks and causal networks provide insights into how teachers and students can improve discussions, and they suggest instructional strategies that can promote the development of students' reasoning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-368
Number of pages54
JournalTeachers College Record
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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