Coffin, C. and Hewings, A.
Engaging electronically: using CMC to develop students' argumentation skills in Higher Education.
Language and Education, 19(1),
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The study reported on here explores the claim that computer conferencing is a valuable environment for students to rehearse academic debates and arguments which can then be drawn on in their written assignments. In order to carry out the exploration, the functional linguistic concept of ENGAGEMENT was employed. ENGAGEMENT comprises six sets of distinct linguistic resources that have been identified in the literature as playing an important role in the negotiation of ideas and attitudes. We compared the use of ENGAGEMENT across two different computer conference groups each employing a different style of tutoring as well as across the two different media (electronic conference discussions and individually written essays). By drawing on these sub-categories we were able to quantify the proportions of each type of resource used and so obtain evidence of students' use of a particular set of argumentation skills, namely the way in which they engage with, and exchange, a range of perspectives on an issue. The pedagogic implications of these findings are discussed.
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