I’ve recently begun experimenting with diagramming arguments in my classes–and not my Critical Thinking/Informal Logic classes, but the other more traditional philosophy classes that I teach. I’ve tried using a few different programs to set my diagrams up (Araucaria, Carneades) but so far what works best are color-coded, free-hand “VanGelder-style” diagrams done on a transparency and projected via a document camera. (I’d love to have ReasonAble, but so far I can’t seem to talk anyone into getting it into the budget for me.)
What I’ve found is that diagramming arguments actually seems to work better than setting the arguments out in classical standard form (i.e. premises numbered sequentially with a line under the last premise as in an arithmetic problem, followed by the conclusion, etc.). When I diagram the argument students seem to get a clearer idea of the argumentation in the text, and a better appreciation for the overall structure of the article or chapter. I haven’t been doing it long enough to back it up with trends in test scores or anything like that, but the students tell me it really helps them get a grip on what’s going on in the text. I’ve yet to hear anyone tell me that it confuses them even more.
Is anyone else using argument diagramming/mapping in this way outside of classes where a primary aim is to teach argumentation? If so, how are you doing it and how is it working for you?