How undergraduates use an online written guide scaffold when they need to write an argumentation?

Submitted by: Maria Luna
Abstract: Writing an argumentation from contradictory texts is a complex task with strong potential for fostering learning and reflection (Andrews, 2010). Although research has shown that even students at higher education struggle with this type of tasks, they are often proposed with scarce guidance (Mateos et al. 2018). Moreover, open universities and the availability of virtual campuses at traditional or on-site universities are increasing and some authors have used technologies to implement virtual scaffolds (Nussbaum, 2012). This paper presents results from a study consisting in testing an intervention aimed to improve undergraduates’ argumentative writing in a virtual environment supported by Moodle. Specifically, we focused here on students’ representation of the task (Mateos et al. 2008) and students’ use of a written guide.
The participants were 34 undergraduates enrolled in a subject called Psychology of Learning in an online University. In the context of an activity, the participants wrote a preliminary synthesis from two texts which presented conflicting information about a topic; afterwards, the students followed a virtual environment where they answered several questions which guided them through the reading of two new texts and the writing of a second synthesis. The environment provided them also with instructional videos and a graphic mediator. Before and after the intervention, their declared argumentative strategies and their perceptions of self-efficacy in argumentative writing were measured. Finally, they provided an assessment of the aids received and a reflection on their learning process.
The results show that the students improved the degree of integration in their final synthesis and, after the intervention, there were positive changes in their declared argumentative strategy and in their perception of competence. There was also analysed how the students’ used the written guide, specifically, how they answered to different questions of the guide. The most interesting results focus on how these answers were related to the structure and degree of integration of the final syntheses. This study illustrates, among other aspects, how these students represented the task and how the technology has been used and could be improved to implement a successful intervention on argumentative writing in a distance higher education environment.

Keywords: academic writing, instructional design in writing, intervention study, educational technology, writing and reading


Andrews, R. (2010). Argumentation in higher education. Improving practice through theory and research. New York: Routledge.

Mateos, M., Martín, E., Cuevas, I., Villalón, R., Martínez, I., & González-Lamas, J. (2018). Improving written argumentative synthesis by teaching the integration of conflicting information from multiple sources, Cognition and Instruction, 36 (2), 119-138. doi: 10.1080/07370008.2018.1425300.

Mateos, M., Martin, E., Villalon, R., & Luna, M. (2008). Reading and writing to learn in secondary education: Online processing activity and written products in summarizing and synthesizing tasks. Reading and Writing, 21, 675-697.

Nussbaum, E. M. (2012). Argumentation and student-centered learning environments. D. Jonassen & S. Land (Eds.), Theoretical foundations of learning environments (2nd ed.; pp. 114-141). New York, NY: Routledge