Thursday’s seminar started plainly. I gave a mini lecture on argument: how to identify and dissect them, how to construct them. (I need to post my notes as promised.) The students went into semi-sleep mode, that is, they seemed to slump back in their seats, perhaps because this was the first lecture, per se, I’ve given. Then I asked them to deconstruct two articles from the Washington Post. The first article I chose because it was a straightforward argument; the second I chose because it was a good example of a poor argument – the thesis made sense, but the reasoning didn’t lead one there. For the first article I asked them to work in pairs, while the second we did as a whole.
I found that the students weren’t very disciplined at this. They didn’t want to identify the key elements in the argument. Rather, after gleaning the key assertion, they wanted to jump straight to criticize or accept it. I wonder if this is typical of first year students learning argumentation. My research methodology students, typically juniors, seem to find it easier to do this. Something to think about and work on.
P.S. Martha came to class today, not because she was presenting anything, but just because she could. Thanks!