Colleagues: inspired in part by some of Mara Harrell's research (and of course by the work of Tim van Gelder), I will begin including the teaching of argument mapping in my courses this semester. It seems particularly apt for the Informal Logic course that I teach, but I plan to try it to a more limited extent in my section of Intro to Philosophy, as well.
Rather than representing arguments in the classic
format, argument maps use lines, arrows, and boxes to represent visually the relationships between an argument's premises, intermediate conclusions, responses to objections, and main conclusions. I don't know enough sophisticated HTML to code an argument map here. So, for illustration, here's an example courtesy of the Wikipedia entry on argument mapping: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Traffic_congestion_straw_man.png (the conclusion is at the top of the map; the supporting premises are below the main conclusion). There are several software tools -- some available gratis; others not -- for creating argument maps. The hand-and-pen method seems to work, too.
I can see several possible advantages to teaching students how to map the arguments they'll encounter. It seems especially useful for more complex arguments and/or for students who describe themselves as visual learners. But I'd like to hear, from anyone who's used or taught argument mapping for a while now, about some of the challenges that you encountered. Did you choose (or avoid) a particular software tool? What were some of the limitations of argument maps? Did you have a way to assess their effectiveness in helping your students reconstruct and evaluate arguments? If so, then what did you find?