Title: Teaching Logical Fallacies in the English Composition Classroom
Discipline(s) or Field(s): English
Authors: Mialisa Moline, Elizabeth Schneider-Rebozo, Robyne Tiedeman, University of Wisconsin – River Falls
Submission Date: June 8, 2008
Executive Summary: Sound argumentation is the foundation of rigorous critical thinking and ethical writing. This lesson study analyzes ways to improve student awareness and understanding of logical fallacies, and makes explicit the connection between logic and argumentation. Our lesson study team had two main goals in mind: first, to provide students with the critical thinking tools to support them in identifying logical fallacies when they encounter them and, second, to foster student sensitivity in their own rhetoric and writing to the distinction between sound logic and fallacious logic, valid arguments and invalid arguments. The final lesson design incorporated team findings to make substantive changes to virtually every aspect of the lesson. The lesson in its final version includes four parts: a brief introduction including a two-minute comic video clip of the Monty Python skit known as “The Argument Clinic,” a small-group analysis of a short student-authored argumentative reading containing multiple fallacies (the “Death” essay, which discusses the death penalty), an interactive PowerPoint to alternate between small- and large-group discussion of five common logical fallacies, and a final individual or small-group worksheet that asks students to label examples of logical fallacies. Our team felt that the logical fallacies lesson study was enormously successful; by the end of the second iteration of the lesson, we all felt that student learning was significantly improved. While students of the first iteration responded courteously and expressed positive feelings about the lesson in post-lesson free-write responses, they also revealed a notable amount of confusion about lesson content and purpose. In the second iteration, students demonstrated greater clarity about the underlying purpose of the lesson, and exhibited greater engagement and a higher rate of success in identifying the commonalities and articulating the logical disjunctions in the examples included in the lesson. Overall, students responded much more positively to the second iteration of the lesson, and we attribute this change to improved content, formatting, and delivery.
Below are links to the materials used to teach it.