The present study documents dialogic reasoning in the context of the interpretive inquiry-based learning task of Archaeotype, a computer-supported environment for learning ancient history that revolves around two simulated archaeological excavations, the first set in Assyria and the second set in Greece. The study focuses on teacher-led and peer discussions that occur concurrently with classroom engagement in the Archaeotype excavations and examines how evidence-based interpretive reasoning is enacted in dialog.
The data for the study comprise a sequence of discussions recorded over the course of both Archaeotype excavations in two dialogic situations: symposia and dyad discussions. Symposia are periodic whole-class, teacher-led discussions, recorded in the classroom as they normally occur. Dyad discussions are a peer dialogic situation introduced for the needs of the study and conducted repeatedly with the same students in weekly intervals. Data analysis employed a template-driven, iterative procedure of indexing and annotating the dialog transcripts, informed by the grounded theory methodology. A year of daily immersion into the Archaeotype classroom prior to focused data collection was instrumental to the analysis.
The study documented that reasoning in Archaeotype involves a variety of argument forms. While some of these argument forms diverge from a normative model of evidence-based reasoning, Archaeotype participants used them productively to advance their inquiry.
Further, the study documented that the students enacted the overtly uniform dyad task differently in the course of each simulated excavation, as evinced from both reasoning and discursive patterns. In addition, each student developed a distinct individual orientation to the reasoning task.
Differences were also documented between the two excavations in the way the teacher orchestrated the symposia. She created different participation structures for the students in framing the symposia discussion and she emphasized reasoning demands that defined two distinct modes of reasoning: reconstruction and argumentation.
This research sets evidence-based reasoning in inquiry learning that is interpretive, within a unifying framework of reasoning as argument. Further, it demonstrates that, in considering the cognitive dimensions of reasoning fostered in computer-supported inquiry learning environments, closer attention needs to be paid to how the cognitive task is defined by participants in discourse.