Pam Muñoz Ryan’s young adult novel Esperanza Rising, published in 2000, tells the title character’s story, a 14 year old Mexican girl, who with her mother lose their large estate in Aguascalientes and emigrate to southern California in the 1930s, like tens of thousands of Mexicans did. Esperanza is thrust from an upper-class privileged life into a working class, meager existence, and the servants that she had in Mexico (who make the trip to the United States to re-locate with her) are now her peers.
A significant portion of all of the argumentation done in K-12 education today is rooted in the Toulmin model of argument. Every time you see claim – evidence – reasoning in the curriculum, in any of its multifarious guises, you are in the presence of a descendant of Toulmin. Few curriculum writers or teachers – and even fewer students – have a grounding in Toulmin’s argumentative theory. Because Argument-Centered Education draws on his thinking in our argument-centered resources and pedagogy we believe that it is important to dig a little deeper here.
This is Part 2 of my introduction of the Observation of Argument-Centered Instructional Capacity Inventory, an instrument that helps teachers and administrators know what proficient and masterful incorporation of argumentation and critical thinking throughout curriculum, instruction, and classroom culture specifically looks and sounds like. This allow teachers to take stock of what they are doing well already, and where they want to grow as professionals. And it enables administrators to monitor and support the process of professional capacity building, toward a school that provides authentic college preparation for every student.
Part 1 of this introduction can be found here. Part 2 will pick up with a close examination of the eight items in each of the domains after Curriculum – namely, Instruction and Culture. Then we will discuss the utility of the Form used to tabulate and collect ratings and comments, which formalizes the inventory (whether it is self-performed or not) of current professional capacities.
About five years ago, when we got started with the work we are doing now – first calling it curricular debate, then argument-centered instruction – partner school teachers and administrators asked us two simple but important questions: what are the specific professional capacities that Argument-Centered Education will develop and how will we know that they have, indeed, developed? We undertook the kind of inquiry-driven, analytical process that we try to build into the curriculum that we design with partners on our own argument pedagogy, and we produced the Observation of Argument-Centered Instructional Capacity (OACIC) Inventory.
One of the more under-acknowledged factors in improving student college readiness is the difficulty students have with the language of argument. The language of argument has a very wide Venn Diagram overlap with the academic discourse, the set of terms and rhetorical constructs privileged by standardized testing (like the NWEA, NAEP, SAT, PARCC, etc.), in college classrooms, and (it is generally believed) in the professional workplace. One of the paramount objectives of all college-readiness programs, and of all college prep schools, should be to equip all of their students with a deep understanding of and control over the language of argument.