Design, implementation and evaluation of a blended argumentation-based simulation module

SHORT DESCRIPTION

The course 'ENP-33306 Environment and Development' requires students to learn and critically assess, from different viewpoints, institutional and political strategies for mitigating environmental impact and contributing to environmental improvement. To do so, students engage in a real-case simulation by taking the role of stakeholders with different interests in natural resources use. To perform well in this simulation, students need to develop argumentation, reasoning, critical thinking, and negotiation skills. Although students enjoy this simulation, the quality of their argumentation, reasoning, critical thinking, and negotiation often remain at a surface level and as a result the teachers often complain about the lack of solid argumentation of their final reports that come from the outcomes of this simulation. The problem is that this simulation is rather static and does not yet cater for interactive and high quality argumentation, reasoning, critical thinking, and negotiation in the discussions of various individuals in different groups who represent interest groups in the simulation. This project seeks to mitigate these problems.

The digital argumentation-based simulation module would supplement the current face-to-face interaction and allow students to better learn and structure their argumentation, reasoning, critical thinking, and negotiation for critical analysis of the political, social, economic, environmental and social scientific dimensions of the environment and development debates.

The digital simulation module would not replace the face-to-face interaction completely. Doing the negotiations in a class-room setting involves skills which cannot easily be practiced in a fully digital environment. However, the simulation module would allow for better and more systematic preparation of the face-to-face simulation settings; provide a way for students to keep track of what has been said and argued during the simulation, include aspects which have (partly) been agreed upon; act as a repository of arguments and information to be used after the simulation, as input for their papers; allow teachers to better assess the individual contributions of each student during the simulation, even when they are relatively ‘quiet’ during the actual face-to-face interaction.

OBJECTIVE

The course ‘Environment and Development’ requires students to learn and critically assess, from different viewpoints, institutional and political strategies for mitigating environmental impact and contributing to environmental improvement. To do so, students engage in a real-case simulation by taking the role of stakeholders with different interests in natural resources use. To perform well in this simulation, students need to develop argumentation, reasoning, critical thinking, and negotiation skills. Although students enjoy this simulation, the quality of their argumentation, reasoning, critical thinking, and negotiation often remain at a surface level and as a result the teachers often complain about the lack of solid argumentation of their final reports that come from the outcomes of this simulation. The problem is that this simulation is rather static and does not yet cater for interactive and high quality argumentation, reasoning, critical thinking, and negotiation in the discussions of various individuals in different groups who represent interest groups in the simulation. This project seeks to mitigate these problems. The digital argumentation-based simulation module would supplement the current face-to-face interaction and allow students to better learn and structure their argumentation, reasoning, critical thinking, and negotiation for critical analysis of the political, social, economic, environmental and social scientific dimensions of the environment and development debates. The digital simulation module would not replace the face-to-face interaction completely. Doing the negotiations in a class-room setting involves skills which cannot easily be practiced in a fully digital environment. However, the simulation module would:

  1. allow for better and more systematic preparation of the face-to-face simulation settings,
  2. provide a way for students to keep track of what has been said and argued during the simulation, include aspects which have (partly) been agreed upon.
  3. act as a repository of arguments and information to be used after the simulation, as input for their papers
  4. allow teachers to better assess the individual contributions of each student during the simulation, even when they are relatively ‘quiet’ during the actual face-to-face interaction.

The aim is to develop the new blended module if possible within the existing digital learning environment at WUR, including Blackboard and/or FeedbackFruits. However, these tools will need to be adapted to accommodate the needs of the new simulation module, while also being intuitive and easy to use. This will require testing of different options and make use of a programmer/ICT expert to find the best solution.

STRONG POINTS

There are a number of important results:

  • Identification of a suitable blended argumentation-based simulation platform (Fablusi)
  • A clearer structure of the simulation by having all data, all arguments and communication tools in one place
  • Easier access to relevant data for students to write their paper in an evidence-based way.
  • The course a whole has been evaluated better than in the last few years (4.5 on general course satisfaction)

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Include an ICT expert on the project team and take sufficient time when seeking out a new platform
  • To include one or two MSc thesis students to be involved in practicalities and preliminary evaluation
  • Every platform has certain advantages and shortcomings

Products

We aim to use the results from the MSc thesis to write a publication.

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