Counterargumentation and the cultivation of critical thinking in argumentative writing: Investigating washback from a high-stakes test

Fulan LIU, Paul STAPLETON

Research output: Contribution to journalArticles

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

It is generally acknowledged that counterargumentation is a key factor contributing to the persuasiveness of argumentative essays; however, recent research has revealed that students tend to neglect alternative viewpoints when responding to argumentative writing prompts. This study examines how the washback effect of a high-stakes test is associated with students’ neglect of counterargumentation in their essays. A pretest–posttest design was used on experimental and control groups with 125 participants at a Chinese university. The control group received instruction in argumentative writing (which typically ignores counterargumentation in mainland China), while the experimental group received instruction in argumentation which included counterarguing and refuting. The results of the study demonstrated the efficacy of explicit classroom instruction in counterargumentation. Text analysis on posttest scripts showed that the inclusion of counterarguments and rebuttals was significantly positively correlated with the overall score of an argumentative essay using the evaluative rubric of a high-stakes test. These findings may have important implications for writing prompts and rubrics as well as argumentative writing pedagogy in China and beyond. It is proposed that counterargumentation be considered in the writing prompts and rubrics of high-stakes English tests, and included in classroom instruction on argumentative writing. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-128
JournalSystem
Volume45
Early online dateJun 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Citation

Liu, F., & Stapleton, P. (2014). Counterargumentation and the cultivation of critical thinking in argumentative writing: Investigating washback from a high-stakes test. System, 45, 117-128.

Keywords

  • Argumentative writing
  • Counterargumentation
  • Persuasiveness
  • High-stakes English examination
  • Writing prompts
  • Critical thinking

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