Persuasive Developments: Reflective Judgment and College Students' Written Argumentation

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Title: Persuasive Developments: Reflective Judgment and College Students' Written Argumentation
Author: Overbay, Amy Stephens
Advisors: Nancy Penrose, Committee Member
Ruie Jane Pritchard, Committee Chair
Hiller Spires, Committee Member
Alan Reiman, Committee Member
Abstract: This study investigated the relationship between college freshmen's stage of reflective judgment and the patterns in their written arguments using a mixed-method design with two major and two secondary data collection strategies. The Reflective Judgment Interview (RJI) was conducted with 15 college freshmen enrolled in a composition course that focused on persuasive writing. Participants' essays were examined for patterns in position-taking, evidence-usage, treatment of objections, and rhetorical strategies. Essays were examined 'blind' to participants' reflective judgment scores, and then analyses were compared across reflective judgment groupings. Participants' qualitative interviews and self-recorded reflections on Paper 4 were used to supplement analyses of their essays, and to provide information about contextual factors. Based on assessments made by independent raters, four participants were described as using predominantly pre-reflective judgment, and eleven were described as using predominantly quasi-reflective judgment. Qualitative interviews revealed that participants in both groups had received instruction in persuasive writing in high school, had taken advanced English classes, and were familiar with their own writing processes. However, participants rated as using predominantly quasi-reflective judgment tended to adopt balanced positions, differentiate their views from an authority's, acknowledge the ill-structured nature of the rhetorical dilemma, and respond to objections more frequently than their pre-reflective counterparts. At the same time, findings for both groups of students suggested that the writing context did not support participants' use of sophisticated assumptions about knowledge and justification, in that most essays written by participants in both groups included one-sided positions, an uncritical use of evidence, and superficial attention to the objections of a doubting audience. Based on these findings, the researcher made recommendations for more developmentally-sensitive instruction.
Date: 2003-10-13
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Curriculum and Instruction, English Education

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