Special Issue: Boundaries between dialogic pedagogy and argumentation theory

The two fields of generally defined “dialogic pedagogy” (DP) and “argumentation theory” (AT) are often viewed and studied separately, ignoring the meaningful connections between engaging in authentic dialogue and participating in constructive argumentation. According to theorists of learning such as Michael Billig and Deanna Kuhn, arguing, both in intra- and inter-personal contexts necessarily implies engaging in dialogue. However, how such engagement in constructive argumentation benefits from DP principles and practices is not quite explicit in current research. Similarly, DP researchers often consider argumentative approaches to learning as highly instrumental, which results in a loose combination between dialogic learning and learning to argue studies.

DP is a broadly defined field, with several traditions and practices being involved (Asterhan et al., 2020). The term “dialogue” has often been used interchangeably with the terms “classroom talk”, “discussion”, “communication”, and “dialogical inquiry”, with authors following a strict dialogical paradigm mostly being associated with Bakhtin and authors opting for a communication paradigm being associated with Habermas or the Philosophy for Children program (Lin, 2013). Different theories and paradigms of dialogue emphasize different aspects and functions of it; however, put together, dialogic pedagogy studies tend to focus on features of classroom discourse and climate that favor equal access and participation, legitimization of voices, accountability, community building, and critical thinking (Lin, 2013; Marttunen & Laurinen, 2009; Resnick et al., 2010). Regarding the latter, DP scholars tend to consider critical-argumentative reasoning as a by-product of dialogic behavior, meaning that as partners in dialogue engage in mutually exploring each other’s ideas and negotiating meanings, a great part of such negotiation is potentially critical and constructive, resulting into a more or less deep argumentation. DP studies explicitly aiming at argumentation as a learning goal are scarce.

Dialogic argumentation has been largely defined as a “social and collaborative process necessary to solve problems and advance knowledge” (Duschl & Osborne, 2002, p. 41). Although eristic (disputative) argumentation does exist, and it is highly common both in everyday and classroom peer-to-peer contexts, usually what scholars refer to when they treat argumentation as a pedagogical method is the inquiry or deliberative type of argumentation dialogue (see for example Reznitskaya & Wilkinson, 2017; Felton & Crowell, 2022). Within the growing field of argumentation and education, two main strands are recognized: the one using argumentation as an “instrument” for learning, what is known as arguing to learn, and the other using dialogue as a way to incentivize argumentative reasoning, what is known as learning to argue. Within the latter, pedagogical framings vary from less to more task-focusing, considering arguing as a learning task or goal. A recent review (Rapanta & Felton, 2021) showed that within studies largely defined as “learning to argue”, a great part emphasizes the sensemaking and articulation aspects of argumentative dialogue (broadly defined as dialogue “containing” arguments) much more than its deliberative and persuasion ones. It seems that the boundaries between dialogue, perceived as any type of meaningful interpersonal interaction, and argumentation, perceived as a constructive dialogical interaction, are not, or should not be, necessarily highlighted as restrictive. The two processes, and subsequently the two fields of research, contain or at least complement each other (see also Schwarz & Baker, 2016).

Educational research focusing on argumentative reasoning may be considered far more instrumental than an ontological view of dialogue and dialogic learning as a complex set of meanings, relationships, feelings, spaces, timings, and silences. However, more and more studies confirm that for argument-based teaching and learning to be successful, a consideration of dialogicality in teachers’ and students’ attitudes and behaviors is necessary. Such dialogicality is manifested but not limited to teachers’ dialogic and critical stance (Boyd, 2016; Haneda et al., 2017), students’ querying behaviour (Chin & Osborne, 2008; Omland et al., 2022), asymmetry of knowledge (Kim, 2019), and productive interaction patterns (Howe et al., 2019). Research combining a dialogical with an argumentative pedagogical framing of interaction has brought to light fundamental reasoning effects, such as extensive use of interthinking, namely the development of previous contributions (Littleton & Mercer, 2013), a more evident presence of sophisticated arguments, namely claims supported by clear evidential support and explanations of the links between the claim and the support (McNeill, 2011), and a greater manifestation of metadialogue or metatalk, namely the talk about the quality of the dialogue itself (Hennessy et al., 2016; Kuhn et al., 2013).

Although the aforementioned and other dialogical aspects are shown to be related to effective learning to argue, it is still not clear how and why dialogicality and argumentative reasoning meet or should meet, for pedagogical purposes. We maintain that for dialogue to be (co-)constructive, a framing fostering the production of critical arguments is useful; similarly, for argumentation to be productive, in terms of participation, egalitarianism, accountability, and disciplinary engagement, a pedagogical framing that promotes legitimization of ideas and authentic questioning is necessary. For a successful “marriage” between DP and argumentation research and practice, understanding the boundaries between a “loose” or divergent framing of classroom discourse, opening up the dialogue space, and a “strict” or convergent framing, such as the one that fosters collaborative argumentation, is essential.

This SI will aim to further explore the productive boundaries between dialogic pedagogy and argumentation theory and research, focusing on the following problems (different but related questions are possible as well):

  • How are teachers’ and students’ dialogicality manifested in classroom discourse?
  • How do teachers’ and peers’ dialogical behaviors affect students’ engagement in productive and constructive argumentation?
  • What types/instances of argumentative reasoning/interaction emerge within dialogically framed pedagogical environments?
  • What features of dialogical pedagogy influence a greater manifestation of argumentative reasoning behavior among children, adolescents, and even adults?
  • Can argumentative pedagogical framing help talking and listening become dialogue?

Authors are invited to adopt a clear paradigm of dialogic pedagogy (e.g. Bakhtinian, Vygotskian, Freirian, Habermasian, Lipmanian, etc.) and/or dialogue, and to connect it with one or more ideas from argumentation theory and research, such as dialogue types (Walton), argument elements (Toulmin), argumentive strategies (Kuhn, Felton), critical questions (Walton, Nussbaum), argumentation schemes (Walton, Macagno), argumentation stages (van Eemeren), etc. Contributions are requested to empirically highlight how the two areas meet through mutual fostering and complementarity, as well as possible contradictions and how these are/can be overcome.

Important dates


30th September 2022 -- Deadline for submission of articles (please see authors’ guidelines hereselect the section “argumentation and dialogue” when you do the submission

March 31, 2023, End of review rounds (max. 3): end of March 2023

April 30, 2023, Final submission of accepted papers

May 2023 (tentative) Special Issue publication 


Special Issue Guest Editors

Dr. Chrysi Rapanta, ArgLab, Institute of Philosophy, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9424-3286, GoogleScholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=6k0lN3cAAAAJ&hl=pt-PT, Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Chrysi-Rapanta

Dr. Fabrizio Macagno, ArgLab, Institute of Philosophy, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0712-421X, GoogleScholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=GCJmyngAAAAJ&hl=pt-PT&oi=ao, Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Fabrizio-Macagno

  For inquiries regarding the Special Issue

Dr. Chrysi Rapanta, email: crapanta@fcsh.unl.pt