Lesson Objectives: To introduce students to argumentative strategies, and methods of evaluating arguments. This lesson also reinforces the importance of developing arguments when advancing a conclusion.
Total Time: 75 min
Any piece of philosophical writing.
Gordon Harvey’s Brief Guide, Analysis
Pre-Lesson Homework: Have students return to the argument schema from Lesson on Identifying Arguments. Ask them to identify the author’s strongest and weakest premises, and have them write one sentence explaining what makes them strong/weak. How can the author strengthen his argument?
Sequence of Classroom Activities:
Read Harvey’s explanation of an analysis out loud and explain it. Explain its relation to arguments and structure. Explain how it can be used in writing to evaluate an argument. (10 min)
Put author’s argument up on the board again. Consider each premise individually, and evaluate its convincingness. Ask why the author might think these things, and discuss possible reasons for holding these premises. Discuss the importance of understanding (and explaining) an author’s motivations when evaluating her argument. Discuss the importance of casting an author’s argument in its best light when evaluating it. (55 min)
Meta-teach 1: While evaluating the author’s argument together, take note of the strategies used by the author in advancing his argument, and by the class in evaluating it. Emphasize to students that they should use these strategies when constructing and evaluating arguments of their own.
Meta-teach 2: Keep track of the points raised during the discussion. Note what makes for a good objection. Does the point raised bear on the author’s conclusion? Did the author already think of it and respond to it? Are the concerns raised relevant to the author’s point?
Conclude: Evaluate the strength of the author’s conclusion, after undergoing rigorous analysis. Does it withstand scrutiny? Is it made stronger by it? (5 min)
Follow-up: Have students return to their homework. Have them evaluate the strength of the author’s conclusion in light of the objections they raised for her. (5 min)