- Argumentation Theory
- Computer Supported Argument Visualization
- Digital Humanities
- Ethics and Philosophy of Science and Technology
- Wicked Problems
Dr. Michael Hoffmann is an Associate Professor for Philosophy in the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech. His research focuses on tools and educational approaches to foster students’ ability to cope with “wicked problems.” For Rittel and Webber, who coined the term, problems are “wicked” if there is not even a definitive formulation of what the problem is. For example: “Should humanity try to engineer the Earth’s climate?” Or: “Should we develop autonomous lethal robots for the military?” Since we always approach problems from a certain point of view, those problems will be perceived and specified differently as a function of varying knowledge, conflicting interests, world-views, and values.
Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Dr. Hoffmann developed the interactive and web-based argument visualization tool "AGORA-net" (see http://agora.gatech.edu). Currently, the project "Fostering self-correcting reasoning with reflection systems" -- a collaboration with Dr. Richard Catrambone (School of Psychology) and Dr. Jeremy Lingle (CEISMC) -- is supported by a grant from the NSF "Cyberlearning and Future Learning Technologies" program. The goal is to transform AGORA-net into "Reflect!," a new deliberation platform for student teams who work in problem-based learning environments on wicked problems (for details see http://agora.gatech.edu/node/52). Parts of this project will be realized in the VIP Digital Deliberation, a collaboration with Chris LeDantec which is supported by a grant from the Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center (DILAC; more at http://agora.gatech.edu/node/50. For publications see http://works.bepress.com/michael_hoffmann/.
Journal Article – June 2016© 2016 Springer Science+Business Media DordrechtA large body of research in cognitive science differentiates human reasoning into two types: fast, intuitive, and emotional “System 1” thinking, and slower, more reflective “System 2” reasoning. According to this research, human reasoning is by default fast and intuitive, but that means that it is prone to error and biases that cloud our judgments and decision making. To improve the quality of reasoning, critical thinking education should develop strategies to slow it down and to become more reflective. The goal of such education should be to enable and motivate students to identify weaknesses, gaps, biases, and limiting perspectives in their own reasoning and to correct them. This contribution discusses how this goal could be achieved with regard to reasoning that involves the construction of arguments; or more precisely: how computer-supported argument visualization (CSAV) tools could be designed that support reflection on the quality of arguments and their improvement. Three types of CSAV approaches are distinguished that focus on reflection and self-correcting reasoning. The first one is to trigger reflection by confronting the user with specific questions that direct attention to critical points. The second approach uses templates that, on the one hand, provide a particular structure to reason about an issue by means of arguments and, on the other, include prompts to enter specific items. And a third approach is realized in specifically designed user guidance (“scripts”) that attempts to trigger reflection and self-correction. These types of approaches are currently realized only in very few CSAV tools. In order to inform the future development of what I call reflection tools, this article discusses the potential and limitations of these types and tools with regard to five explanations of the observation that students hardly ever engage in substantial revisions of what they wrote: a lack of strategies how to do it; cognitive overload; certain epistemic beliefs; myside bias; and over-confidence in the quality of one’s own reasoning. The question is: To what degree can each of the CSAV approaches and tools address these five potential obstacles to reflection and self-correction?Topoi. 1 - 15. ISSN 0167-7411. DOI 10.1007/s11245-016-9408-x.