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What Think-Aloud Protocols Can Teach Us about How People Manage Political Information

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One of the most important skills that our students can learn is how to use multiple, conflicting sources to formulate and defend a position on a political issue. However, when we assign students to do this, all we can see is the final product. Not knowing what it looks like when our students do such an assignment makes it difficult to learn how to help them to perform the task better. In this paper, I report on “think-alouds” done with upper-level political science majors and with introductory-level students. The students use multiple articles about capital punishment to help them form and defend their arguments about capital punishment. They do this while “thinking out loud,” sharing their thought processes as they engage in the task. By comparing how these experts and novices do the task, I can begin the process of understanding how it can best be done; this will help me to design the assignment to better scaffold the work of novices. While the results presented here are speculative, experts appear to do a better job making connections between the sources, and are more effective at critically arguing with the sources. I conclude by outlining next steps in this research agenda.

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student (101), death (84), penalti (63), expert (61), polit (60), one (52), sourc (50), novic (49), think (47), articl (43), punish (42), capit (39), issu (39), would (38), use (38), skill (35), learn (34), murder (34), read (32), inform (31), new (31),
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MLA Citation:

Bernstein, Jeffrey. "What Think-Aloud Protocols Can Teach Us about How People Manage Political Information" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, San Jose Marriott, San Jose, California, Feb 22, 2008 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p245658_index.html>

APA Citation:

Bernstein, J. L. , 2008-02-22 "What Think-Aloud Protocols Can Teach Us about How People Manage Political Information" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, San Jose Marriott, San Jose, California Online <PDF>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p245658_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: One of the most important skills that our students can learn is how to use multiple, conflicting sources to formulate and defend a position on a political issue. However, when we assign students to do this, all we can see is the final product. Not knowing what it looks like when our students do such an assignment makes it difficult to learn how to help them to perform the task better. In this paper, I report on “think-alouds” done with upper-level political science majors and with introductory-level students. The students use multiple articles about capital punishment to help them form and defend their arguments about capital punishment. They do this while “thinking out loud,” sharing their thought processes as they engage in the task. By comparing how these experts and novices do the task, I can begin the process of understanding how it can best be done; this will help me to design the assignment to better scaffold the work of novices. While the results presented here are speculative, experts appear to do a better job making connections between the sources, and are more effective at critically arguing with the sources. I conclude by outlining next steps in this research agenda.

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