Argument Analysis: Analyze the Outcome

One thing I struggle with as an AP teacher is relying too heavily on the released exam prompts.  When I do, I find that I run out of viable prompts for students to use during timed writings and that I end up teaching too much to the test and not the variety of skills needed for strong argument analysis.  The materials that I create on my own are good and interesting but do not generate as much discussion as the AP-released materials.  This is another reason why I love incorporating the GRE prompts into my classroom.  The prompts are complex enough and the arguments intricate enough to adequately replace the AP prompts and still challenge my students to think about the minute details associated with argument analysis. 

Yesterday I suggested that one way to introduce these prompts is to examine the ways in which it is true and the ways in which it is false.  Another way to utilize these prompts is to ask students to examine the outcomes or effects of the position. 

I would offer the following prompt for students to read. 

Claim: Any piece of information referred to as a fact should be mistrusted, since it may well be proven false in the future.  Reason: Much of the information that people assume is factual actually turns out to be inaccurate.

There are many complexities to this prompt that students need to uncover.  As suggested yesterday, I would begin by asking students to paraphrase every word in this prompt because it would cause them to think about what “information” and “fact” truly mean.

After coming up with a shared understanding of the words in the prompt, I would consider asking my students the following questions, which transcend to most of the “Analyze an Issue” prompts:

  1. If true, what is the effect of this statement?
  2. What is implicated by its veracity?
  3. What are potential outcomes of this statement if it is considered to be true?
  4. What evidence complicates this theory?

For students that struggle to see the larger significance of the argument I offer a variety of avenues for them to consider, like economic, political, cultural, ethical, and  historical.  Such as,

  1. What are the economic effects of this statement if it is considered to be true?
  2. What are the ethical implications of this statement?
  3. If true, how can this impact our country culturally?

More sample prompts to consider using:

  1. Some people believe that in order to be effective, political leaders must yield to public opinion and abandon principle for the sake of compromise. Others believe that the most essential quality of an effective leader is the ability to remain consistently committed to particular principles and objectives.
  2. The best way to teach—whether as an educator, employer, or parent—is to praise positive actions and ignore negative ones.
  3. According to a recent report, cheating among college and university students is on the rise. However, Groveton College has successfully reduced student cheating by adopting an honor code, which calls for students to agree not to cheat in their academic endeavors and to notify a faculty member if they suspect that others have cheated. Groveton’s honor code replaced a system in which teachers closely monitored students; under that system, teachers reported an average of thirty cases of cheating per year. In the first year the honor code was in place, students reported twenty-one cases of cheating; five years later, this figure had dropped to fourteen. Moreover, in a recent survey, a majority of Groveton students said that they would be less likely to cheat with an honor code in place than without. Thus, all colleges and universities should adopt honor codes similar to Groveton’s in order to decrease cheating among students.
  4. “A recent study of eighteen rhesus monkeys provides clues as to the effects of birth order on an individual’s levels of stimulation. The study showed that in stimulating situations (such as an encounter with an unfamiliar monkey), firstborn infant monkeys produce up to twice as much of the hormone cortisol, which primes the body for increased activity levels, as do their younger siblings. Firstborn humans also produce relatively high levels of cortisol in stimulating situations (such as the return of a parent after an absence). The study also found that during pregnancy, first-time mother monkeys had higher levels of cortisol than did those who had had several offspring.”

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