Creating Dialectics to Learn: Infrastructures, Practices, and Challenges

  • John M. CarrollEmail author
  • Na Sun
  • Jordan Beck
Part of the Smart Computing and Intelligence book series (SMCOMINT)


We have been investigating the proposition that framing and developing debates about issues, concepts, methods, and theories is a general approach to learning. Instructors, of course, do use debating, but not typically as a pervasive or core activity in a course curriculum. And there are many examples of debate as an informal learning activity, such as debating teams and scientific debates. Indeed, framing debate as a core pedagogical activity can be traced to the Greeks, and the idea is central to modern dialectical constructivism. We have been developing this idea by (1) investigating instances of debating-for-learning practices in the wild, (2) supporting debate and dialectic in university classes with various kinds of tool support that we have appropriated or created, and (3) characterizing what is going on in debating-for-learning, and how students experience such approaches and outcomes. With respect to (1), we are studying the online debate community The Kialo community addresses a wide range of topics and is actively developing community practices for dialectical knowledge collaboration. With respect to (2), we have investigated,,, and our purpose-built tool Critical Thinker as platforms for dialectical constructivist university courses. Our experiences help to articulate a design space of infrastructures and learning activities. With respect to (3), we reflect on our own lessons learned and try to identify research questions for future investigations. In this chapter, we pull together a series of prior papers with reports of recent/current work that is not yet published into an integrative essay format, identifying issues, approaches, and what we have learned about creating dialectics to learn.


Dialectic argumentation Critical thinking Classroom technology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Information Sciences and TechnologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.College of Information Sciences and TechnologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.College of Information Sciences and TechnologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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