Communication: Unconventional Lessons in Logic

Title: Unconventional Lessons in Logic
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Public Speaking, Persuasion
Authors: Nancy Norris, Stephanie Rolain-Jacobs, Susan Kirkham, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Submission Date: May 2, 2008

Executive Summary: Three colleagues who teach the basic speech course at the same university found themselves at the same Lesson Study seminar in the spring of 2006 asking the question: Why aren’t my students’ persuasive speeches very persuasive? The answer was the students did not understand the importance of reasoning, or logos, in a persuasive argument. This report explores the systematic process taken to achieve the following short-term lesson study goal: to develop students’ abilities to effectively construct a convincing and ethical argument for a persuasive speech that contains a well-articulated claim/problem and valid and reliable evidence. The specific learning goals for the lesson include the following:

  1. Define and identify the categories of reasoning as they pertain to persuasion.
  2. Name and identify the different types of fallacies associated with the categories of reasoning.
  3. Integrate this knowledge in order to critically assess persuasive messages in printed media and to make a choice based on reasoned argument, on the validity and reliability of the evidence.
  4. Apply this knowledge to effectively construct a convincing persuasive speech. 

After developing new lecture material and an article analysis activity to allow students to reflect on how persuasion works, an improvement was witnessed in the persuasiveness of their students’ speeches. An unforeseen benefit of the Lesson study was that these colleagues gained a better understanding of not only the subject matter and how their students learn, but of the importance of collegiality and lesson sharing.

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