Formal Student Debating: Does It Work Online?
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Formal debating is a process for argumentation that has a long history of use in classroom settings to promote the development of skills associated with critical thinking and influencing others. In Athabasca Unviersity's Advanced Trends and Issues in Nursing online paced graduate courses, we introducted the concept of fallacies of logic as well as formal debating rules for an assignment to address contemporary issues in nursing practice. Although the aspect of "superior argument" is played down as the purpose is not about winning, emotions and beliefs run high as students attempt to convince their classmates to accept an argument that they may not fully support themselves. Since there was virtually no research available about the effects of formal online debating on studnet learning in graduate education, we decided to investigate. This presentation is a report on our qualitative descriptive study of the use of formal online debate in one offering of this course during the fall semester of 2009. The sample involved 23 of 48 students, representing all 3 sections, each taught by a different professor. Data includes student participants' online debate documents and discussion postings as well as their perceptions about the debate process. Results of analysis to date will be discussed.