Enhancing Deliberation Through Computer Supported Argument
Department of Philosophy, University of Melbourne,
Australia; and Austhink
(enlargements/colour versions of reduced/black and white figures in the book)
Figure 5.1: Argument visualization using the Reason!Able software. The software supports rapid and easy construction, modification and evaluation of argument visualizations. The process helps translate abstract logical complexity into simple, colourful diagrams. When used with a touch-sensitive screen such as the SMART Board pictured above, the argument visualizations become manipulable in a very direct sense. Photo: Michael Silver.
Figure 5.2: A small part of the argument tree-in-progress in Reason!Able format, much as it would have appeared to participants during the workshop. A cluster of argumentation bears upon a single primary reason to believe the main conclusion. This illustrates "depth first" elaboration of the arguments. "Villawood" is the name used to refer to the factory, based on the neighbourhood where it is located.
Figure 5.3: The revised argument visualization. This was printed in A1 size, laminated, and sent back to the workplace so that participants and others could easily review the arguments. Notice that even though the individual claims (text within nodes) are illegible, the main structure of the argument is clearly visible at a glance. For example, it is apparent that there is a larger number of primary objections (nodes immediately to the left of the central node) than primary reasons.
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Other Related Resources
Reason! Project Studies, 1999-2002
Reason! version 1. This program was developed by Tim van Gelder and Andy Bulka (programmer) at the University of Melbourne and used in teaching in 1998. On one definition of argument mapping, Reason! v.1 was (to our knowledge) the first dedicated argument mapping software. Many of the key features of Reason!Able were already present in Reason! v.1. However certain design limitations and usability problems led to the building of subsequent versions.
Reason! version 2 was developed in 1999. It incorporates far more educational content than Reason! v.1, but had only a non-graphical "indented hierarchy" representation of argument structures. The immense cognitive burdens imposed on users by this representation for arguments of even moderate complexity led to the development of a third version, Reason!Able.
Donohue, A., van Gelder, T., Cummings, G., & Bissett, M. (2002). (Reason! Project Technical Report 2002/1). Melbourne: Department of Philosophy, University of Melbourne. [PDF]
The report summarizes Reason! Project studies of gains in critical thinking
over one semester of undergraduate education. The main focus is on the
gains when students are enrolled in a CT subject using the Reason!
approach, though we have also conducted studies of students in
traditionally taught CT subjects, and one study of students not enrolled in
CT. The main conclusion is that first-year students using the Reason!
approach gain in CT skills approximately 0.8 standard deviations, as
opposed to 0.2 SD for first-year students not enrolled in CT and 0.3 SD for
students in traditionally-taught subjects.
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