Advancing Competencies in Argumentation and Problem Solving through Teaching in School using the Example of Culture-Environment Interaction

Principal Investigators: A. Budke, F. Schäbitz

According to the German national education standards "communication" is one of the six areas in which competencies shall be conveyed in Geography classes. Special significance is given to the training of the competence to solve problems through argumentation (DGfG 2008). Argumentation has a great significance in the learning process in schools, because here the students' knowledge pools are individually linked and understood. According to modern theories of learning, learning is a constructive process. The weighing up of former convictions and their re-evaluation against a backdrop of newer insights and observations plays a vital role in this process. Linking existing pools of knowledge to new insights is usually triggered by communication and argumentation in the classroom. Furthermore, argumentation helps with the individual's formation of opinion as well as their identification with certain values. Argumentation is one of the central social and cultural techniques to solve conflicts peacefully, to conduct negotiations, and to act in one's own interests. Thus conveying competence in argumentation is to be seen as an interdisciplinary task in education.

Although skills in geographical argumentation are seen as highly relevant for education, only few actual concepts for conducting classes do exist. Just recently a hypothetical model of competence in geographical argumentation was proposed, a methodical instrument for measuring competence in geographical argumentation was developed, and by analyzing textbooks it was shown that this topic is only marginally targeted by exercises. This might be the reason for the weak argumentation skills of German high-level students, as proven by various empirical studies. Hence competence in geography classes is a currently neglected area of research in geographical didactics. The Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 806, with its cross disciplinary research in the sciences as well as humanities, offers an outstanding basis for developing and evaluating teaching material and concepts. We propose to use the diversity of topics, complex systems, and the various research problems as well as findings of the CRC-806 to develop study units designed to promote problem solving and argumentation skills in the sciences and humanities. We would like to pursue especially the question what kind of teaching materials and sets of units are suitable to support students in formulating scientific problems on their own and promote their argumentation skills. Furthermore, the teaching materials derived from CRC 806 will help to convey how scientific insight is gained. The teaching material and units will be tested and evaluated in a teaching laboratory (e.g. zdi [Zukunft durch Innovation] laboratory at University of Köln), in order to createeffective and concrete concepts further enhancing the quality of geography classes. Beyond that, CRC 806 will receive a good share of public attention ("School meets/needs Science") by presenting the prepared material at schools, on exhibitions, workshops, meetings and conferences.




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RWTH Aachen University

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