This is a sample assignment including complete instructions for completion and expectations for grading. In it, students work in small groups to present what they’ve learned about a particular subject using Kialo’s argument tree structure.
This assignment is designed to replace a traditional essay exam, paper, or other writing-intensive activity. This assignment is designed to be completed by small groups of students. However, it can be assigned to students individually simply by removing the references to collaboration and group in the instructions and grading expectations. This assignment is best suited for students ages 14 and above, though younger students may be comfortable completing similar assignments with lower expectations around use of sources and scope and detail of material covered. Groups should generally be given around one week to complete this assignment.
For more information on setting up Kialo assignments of all kinds, see Setting Up an Assignment. You can also explore a demo of a debate for this type of Kialo assignment here. If you’re exploring Kialo for the first time, we also have a set of simple guides to integrating Kialo into your classroom.
Content this article covers:
- Basic Assignment
- Suggestions for Adaptation
Learning outcomes associated with this Assignment:
- Construct and defend a clear thesis
- Organize supporting material into a coherent structure
- Consider and address counter-arguments and conflicting evidence
- Consolidate understanding of content covered in recent classes
- Explore logical connections between ideas to develop cogent arguments
In this assignment, you will be working in groups of five to create a comprehensive guide to one of the topics covered in class. You will do this by creating a multi-thesis discussion on Kialo. This discussion will pose a question, provide at least three possible answers to that question, and outline the main strengths and weaknesses of each of those answers. The purpose of this assignment is not for you to develop new material yourself: rather, it is to show that you have understood and can explain important material covered in class.
Step One: Select a Question and Set Up the Kialo Discussion
Your group should select one of the questions listed in the instructions. Your group will be responsible for responding to and expanding upon the question you select. Once you have selected a question, please create a “Multiple Theses” Kialo discussion. Please copy the text of the question your group has chosen and paste it as the Discussion Title.
Use the Background Information space to briefly summarize the concepts related to the question and some possible answers. This can be revised as your group adds more information.
Step Two: Identify Key Answers to this Question
Your group should now discuss possible answers to the question. These answers will be the top-level thesis claims. Each thesis should posit an answer to the question that we have discussed in class and covered in the texts. You should work as a group to add three selected answers as thesis claims below your main question. Make sure that your answers are clear, concise, comprehensive and distinct from one another. Use the comment and chat features to ensure you all agree that you’ve identified the most important answers to the question.
Step Three: Explain Each Answer
Using nested Pros and Cons, explain the case for and against each answer. Pros to a thesis should put forward the main point that adherents of a particular answer give. Nested Pros should provide additional evidence, clarification of difficult ideas, definitions of key terms, or support from other course material that is indirectly related to your main question. Nested Cons should outline any difficulties that these views encounter, complications with holding their views, contradictory evidence that was covered in class, and key criticisms by opponents of a particular view.
As a group you should be able to develop at least two Pros and one Con for every thesis. Each of these Pros or Cons should have at least two claims below it. As with the previous step, you should use the comment and chat feature to make sure that you all agree that you’ve identified the most important considerations for your question, and explained them as clearly and completely as you can.
Step Four: Review your answers
Once you think you’ve outlined the main answers to a question, go through your notes and the course material to double check your work. Is there content related to your material that you didn’t cover? If there is, discuss as a group whether it is important enough to add in. If it is, where does the information best fit? Additional information that supports a thesis, or a nested claim can be added as a Pro. Likewise, a relevant counterexample can be added as a nested Con claim. Finding the best place for a claim can be difficult. Work together to ensure that the group agrees where the information fits.
By the time you’re done with this phase, your group should agree that you’ve covered all the major material covered in class on a given topic.
In grading your assignments, I’ll focus on three things: content, organization, and collaboration.
In content, I’ll be asking the following questions:
- Do your answers address the important concepts covered by the question?
- Are those answers well explained?
- Do your answers relate to the answers addressed in class? Were concepts and terms accurately explained?
- Were views ascribed to the correct figures covered in class, and were their views accurately explained?
In organization, I’ll be asking the following questions:
- Did you keep your theses distinct? That is, were the answers given to the question clearly different from one another?
- Were Pros and Cons at the lower level clearly structured?
- Did they have a clear relationship to their parent claims and to any supporting evidence?
- Were all claims put on the right side of the argument?
In collaboration, I’ll be looking at how well you worked together.
- Is there clear evidence that everyone contributed to the final shape of the debate?
- Were comments and the chat used to keep students focused and on task?
- Were disagreements resolved respectfully?
Suggestions for Adaptation
Below are some ways to extend this assignment or adapt it to different learning objectives or age groups.
Use as Collaborative Revision
While the basic form of this assignment involves student groups simply submitting their work for grading, this can be easily adapted into students collectively constructing a revision guide for the material covered across an entire course. Instead of allowing student groups to select a question to answer from a list, assign each group a question to answer. When students are finished, they can share the discussions they’ve created with the rest of the class, creating between them a revision guide that covers multiple different subject areas covered in class.
Changes to Scale and Group Size
While this assignment assumes groups of five students completing an assignment over one week, depending on the learning outcomes and weight you wish to place on this assignment, you may wish to modify these assumptions. You may wish to change:
- The number of students in a group - for larger groups, it may be necessary to revise up the minimum number of claims groups are required to create.
- The minimum number of claims students are required to create - increasing the number of claims students are required to create increases the time it will take to complete the assignment and pushes students to dig deeper into the question at hand.
- The time students have to complete the assignment - more time to complete the assignment means more time to consider new arguments or polish content.
- The number of sources students are expected to link or reference - requiring students to find and link sources build research skills and helps students check their instincts and preconceptions about material.
- Whether students complete the assignment during class time or as homework - for younger students, completing this assignment during class time means more support and help when they struggle with a concept. Completing this assignment during class time also reduces the time the assignment takes, as all students are online at the same time to engage with each other.