Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies


Instructional Design & Technology

Committee Director

Tian Luo

Committee Member

Angela Eckhoff

Committee Member

Jill Stefaniak


Little is known about the role of prompts to help learners solve ill-structured learning problems. Instructors do not devote adequate time to formulate pedagogically useful prompts, and the usefulness of different types of prompt is unclear. The question of whether prompt variation can generate superior argumentative depth has not been resolved. This mixed-methods study, using quantitative and qualitative data collected from 32 students, examined the role of argumentative prompts in the writing of essays based on business case studies. The research questions were: Is there a significant relationship between the type of argumentative prompt and argumentative depth? Is there a significant mediating effect of the frequency of alternative positions on the relationship between argumentative prompt type and argumentative depth? How are types of argumentation strategies utilized within alternative positions as represented in rhetorical prompts versus dialectical prompts? A significant (p < .001) relationship with a large effect size was found between the type of argumentative prompt (rhetorical and dialectical) and argumentative depth. Alternative argumentative positions were found to significantly (p < .001) mediate the relationship between argumentative prompt type argumentative depth with a large effect size. Verification and elaboration strategies were utilized in a similar way across both rhetorical and dialectical prompts. Dialectical prompts did not appear to be more effective than rhetorical prompts when using the evidence strategies. Rebuttal appeared to be utilized more in response to dialectical prompts. The implications are that instructors should ensure that both rhetorical and dialectal prompts are provided in assignments involving ill-structured learning problems.


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