Students' Collaboration during Dyadic Debates in Secondary School

M.J. Marttunen and L.I. Laurinen (Finland)


Collaborative learning, argumentation, chat, debate, and secondary school.


Learning is effectively promoted through collaborative argumentation. This study clarifies how collaborative are argumentative debates among secondary school students. In the study the task of 27 secondary school students was to engage in dyadic debates face-to-face (20 minutes) and through computer chat (40 minutes). The discussion topics were nuclear power and genetically modified organisms. Before the debates the students studied the basic concepts of argumentation and read topic-related articles. The data consists of 24 debates. The students' speech turns (n = 2692) were, first, classified into either on-task or off-task categories. Second, the functional speech acts (n = 2412) in the task-related parts of the debates were analysed into six collaborative and two non collaborative categories. The students' debates were mainly collaborative. They commonly responded to issues put forward by their interlocutor, and presented questions and requested for clarifications or reactions. However, the students only seldom completed each others' ideas and hardly ever recapitulated their debate. The study suggests that the students have the basic cognitive and social prerequisites for collaborative learning situations. However, future learning arrangements should encourage students more to complete thoughts presented by other students and to make recapitulations of their own debate.

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