Support Student Argumentation with us this Spring!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Starting March 20, Drs. Sara Rutherford-Quach, Jeff Zwiers and Erika Moore Johnson at Stanford Graduate School of Education will offer Supporting Student Argumentation in English Language Arts and Social Studies, an online professional development course that focuses on student argumentation. The purpose of this course is to help teachers prepare students, and particularly language learners, to clearly communicate well-structured oral and written arguments about content-area concepts and topics.

During the course, participants will learn to:

  • listen purposefully to assess student argumentation
  • craft effective prompts and create argumentation opportunities within lessons
  • model and build activities for identifying, evaluating, and improving argumentation supports
  • provide productive feedback to students and make instructional changes to strengthen arguments

This argumentation course is based on a previous course offered by Sara Rutherford-Quach and professors Karen Thompson and Kenji Hakuta. The current course has been revised and augmented based on participant feedback and to reflect the content-area specializations. The instructors are associated with the Understanding Language Initiative, which focuses on language, learning, and equity issues across a range of educational settings. The Understanding Language teaching team has been designing and offering online professional development courses for four years, and thousands of educators have now benefited from them. Comments such as these are common:

Before taking this course I never thought of "argumentation" as a positive thing in my classroom. I know that by using this new concept of argumentation I can better prepare my students to state a claim and provide evidence and reasoning in an organized manner that allows them to express their thoughts but also listen to others.

I think a major takeaway for me is the instruction and modeling required to help ELL students create strong arguments. I collaborated with a teacher using sentence stems, and it wasn't enough for some of our students. They need more time to speak and practice their ideas! Also, the idea that sentence stems should further language instead of constrain language is an important takeaway for me.

Including a counter argument in my instructional practice has improved student argumentation speaking and writing tremendously. Another way I have already changed my instruction is by using formative assessments to guide instruction and has led to improvement in the quality of argumentation writing in my classroom.


Our experience shows that the best results are achieved in online courses when participants collaborate in face-to-face settings between the online sessions, such as in organized professional learning communities or during after-school meetings led by district coaches. Classroom teachers and instructional coaches from all grade levels, K to 12, are encouraged to take the course together with their colleagues. Moreover, although this course focuses on English Language Arts and Social Studies, educators from other subject areas may also take the course if they find it applicable. We look forward to working with you soon!

Register today at: