Cooperative argumentation: a feminist and critical pedagogical transformation of the argumentation course

Feminists hold that patriarchal perspectives have become institutionalized and normalized as established knowledge because our schools of thought in the Western world have been developed from male and masculine perspectives. Feminist scholars are deconstructing the patriarchal bias that has structured education for centuries by developing new ways of knowing and transforming curriculum to provide an alternative to patriarchal values and practices that permeate education. The purpose of this study is to develop and teach a course on argumentation that is informed by feminist perspectives. This study demonstrates how a feminist paradigm of cooperation and interdependence can function as a framework to redefine argument and broaden its application and understanding beyond traditional adversarial and competitive perspectives. This thesis project investigates literature from argumentation, feminist perspectives on argumentation, critical pedagogy, feminist pedagogy and deliberative democracy to inform the design and facilitation of this "re-envisioned" course. Feminist perspectives on argument are positioned within contributions to contemporary argumentation theory, not critiques that place the feminist ideas outside the conversation. Deliberative democracy informed the design of various class assignments where deliberation and dialogue were practiced. Feminist and critical pedagogy were adopted as research methods to inform the design and facilitation of the collaborative and cooperative classroom and curriculum. Ethnographic observations of the classroom were also made over the term of the course in order to analyze the new argumentation curriculum and the students' reaction to this transformed course. The important themes that emerged in this project centered around the equitable and democratic environment and relationships of the classroom encouraged by a critical pedagogy praxis, concepts of the feminist argumentation curriculum such as empathy and difference, as well as the transformative nature of reframing a traditional course from a feminist perspective.