Improving Thinking and Writing Skills through Argumentation, Enactive Role Play, and Reflection

Project Title:
Enhancing JC students' critical thinking and writing skills through argumentation, enacted role play in immersive affinity spaces, and reflection
Project ID: LSL 7/06 CYS
Funding: $99,861

The General Paper is a critical component of the pre-university curriculum. It has been a compulsory paper for all students taking the GCE ‘A’ level examination prior to 2006. From 2006, some students will offer the subject Knowledge and Inquiry in lieu of the General Paper. Regardless of which subject a student takes, the skills of argumentative writing and critical thinking are required. Research by Ho (1995) and Ng (1999) on writing pedagogy in the General Paper has found that students pay insufficient attention to the internal structuring of arguments and to the analysis of strengths and weaknesses of arguments.

The proposed research attempts to address the limitations identified above by seeking to enhance JC students’ critical thinking and writing skills through argumentation (Kuhn, 1991; 2005), enacted role play in immersive affinity spaces (Gee, 2005), and reflection (Moon, 1999). The underlying pedagogy to be adopted is based on the central ideas of experiential learning (Kolb, 1984) and enactive texts (Gee, 2001) that provide the basis for reflective thinking and critical writing. Students will use a structured argumentation board (developed in a separate research project) to enhance their argumentation skills. Use of the argumentation board will be interwoven with enacted role play to support students’ meaning making and critical thinking processes. Students will also use the (digitally) captured role play as a context for classroom reflection related to the quality of arguments and the dialogic construction of identity in the role playing scenarios.

Students’ role playing enactions and logged argumentation discourse will also feed back into Dr Ho’s (ELL) course that helps prepare NIE in-service teachers to teach the General Paper at the JC level. They will be used as a teaching resource in that course.

Research questions:
  1. How do students learn GP process skills and knowledge skills by engaging in the learning activities of enactive role play, structured argumentation, and reflection?
  2. What are the learning interactions between enactive role play, structured argumentation, and reflection?
  3. To what extent does enactive role play engage students in semiotic social spaces that effectively promote collaborative peer learning and the development of role identity?
  4. What is the role of the teacher in facilitating enaction, argumentation, and reflection?
  5. What are the contextual factors that facilitate or impede the success of the classroom learning intervention for GP?

Sample screen shots:

The YouTopica immersive environment (based on Second Life)

Students role playing and discussing


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