Exploring enablers and inhibitors of productive peer argumentation: The role of individual achievement goals and of gender

Christa S.C. Asterhan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Argumentation has been recognized as an important classroom activity and as a potentially powerful means for learning complex academic content. However, eliciting and sustaining student-to-student argumentive discourse that is both critical as well as constructive is also known to be notoriously difficult. Whereas previous research has traditionally focused on the cognitive, meta-cognitive and task-related antecedents and conditions for productive student argumentation, in the present work we explore two social-motivational factors that may provide insight into this difficulty, namely students’ individual achievement goals and gender. In two separate studies, undergraduate students indicated their intentions to engage in different discourse types when asked to discuss their solutions to a complex topic from astronomy (N = 245, Study 1) or economics (N = 98, Study 2) with a disagreeing peer. In addition to the productive, ideal type of argumentive discourse for learning purposes (i.e., deliberative argumentation), three additional discourse types were targeted that typically ensue, but are considered less productive (i.e., disputative argumentation, quick consensus seeking and private deliberation). The overall pattern of results show that mastery goals (a focus on developing competence and task mastery) are associated with deliberative argumentation and with private deliberation. In contrast, performance-approach goals (a focus on demonstrating competence relative to others) as well as high confidence are associated with disputative peer argumentation. Quick consensus seeking was predicted by higher performance-avoidance goals (a focus on avoiding incompetence relative to others) and lower mastery goals. No consistent gender differences were found. Taken together, the results extend previous work in socio-cognitive conflict settings and emphasize the role of achievement goals in peer argumentation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)66-78
Number of pages13
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • Achievement goals
  • Discourse styles
  • Gender
  • Peer argumentation


Dive into the research topics of 'Exploring enablers and inhibitors of productive peer argumentation: The role of individual achievement goals and of gender'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this