PLE4: Module 1

PLE 4: Creating a persuasive argument


The ability to advocate effectively depends upon being able to articulate a position clearly and make a persuasive argument. This activity is designed for participants to learn how to make a brief but substantiated persuasive argument on behalf of an issue or change in practice.

  • Be able to articulate a position and make a persuasive argument
  • Be able to select meaningful metaphors, symbols or stories to frame a persuasive argument
  • Be able to evaluate how others’  use these to support or oppose an issue
  • Be able to strengthen one’s own persuasive argument by taking into account the nature of support or opposition

Essential question

                  What is an effective persuasive argument?


In this activity, participants will learn to construct a persuasive argument to foster change or promote a solution, particularly on behalf of historically-marginalized students.

This activity should take about 1-2 hours.

Learning environment

This PLE is designed to be completed in a large classroom or other large setting, where there are Smart boards or newsprint available for small groups to work. The room should also be flexible enough to allow participants to post their political group maps and enable a gallery walk among all participants.

Pre-session work

Participants are to come to this session ready to develop a persuasive argument for the issue they identified in PLE 2.  As a pre-assignment, participants are to find and bring in two or more examples of persuasive arguments, both print-related, like letters, blogs and briefs, and media-related, like video clips, PSAs and Facebook pages.


This PLE consists of three parts. First, participants will explore the role and nature of a persuasive argument, construct a set of attributes for a persuasive argument (including framing). Next, they will review examples of strong and weak arguments, and practice drafting a letter or brief that frames a persuasive argument on behalf of an issue or proposed change in practice. Third, participants will reflect on the importance of metaphors, symbols and stories in making a powerful argument.

    1. Discussion about a persuasive argument

The instructor will facilitate a brainstorming discussion about the role and nature of a persuasive argument in advocating for policy, action or other types of change. Using the following questions, the instructor might ask the participants to work individually, in small groups, or a whole group discussion to identify key elements and ideas:

What is the role of a persuasive argument in advocacy?

What is the nature of an effective persuasive argument in advocacy? What are the primary elements?

How (or in what ways) might a persuasive argument need to be different (if at all) when made on behalf of different target groups—e.g. marginalized groups (e.g. racial/ethnic or low-income students, families and communities)—or different issues (e.g. special education, early childhood education)?

How (and in what ways) might a persuasive argument need to be varied for different audiences?

At the conclusion of the discussion, the instructor could draw on the course readings for additional points and identify points raised by participants that had not surfaced in the readings.

    1. Develop expectations for an effective persuasive argument.
      • Elements of an effective persuasive argument
      • Identification of the target audience for the persuasive argument
      • use of symbols, stories, and metaphors to frame an argument effectively for the target audience.
      • How marginalized groups are recognized or portrayed
      • How the media mechanisms contribute to an argument’s persuasion and appeal to the target audience.

As a pre-assignment, participants are to find and bring in examples of persuasive arguments, both print-related, like letters, blogs and briefs, and media-related, like video clips, PSAs and Facebook pages.

Participants are to work in small groups (3-4) to generate a list of attributes:

Participants are to compare and contrast the examples they found to inform their idea generation efforts. They are also to compare how the mechanism of communication (print or media-related) contributed to the persuasiveness of the arguments—both for the types of issues and types of arguments.

Each group then shares out, building on each others’ ideas to generate a single list of qualities.

The instructor then adds recommendations and guides the group to consider the role of metaphors, symbols and stories in constructing a powerful argument, drawing on the reading assignment.

    1. Drafting a persuasive argument.

Participants are to return to their small groups and begin to draft a persuasive argument—in the form of a letter, brief, flyer or pamphlet—for their identified issue or proposed change in practice (as developed in PLE 2).  They are then to complete the written argument as an assignment.

Next, participants are to design a media-related strategy (such as twitter, Facebook or blog) or a 30-second public service announcement to identify an issue and create a persuasive argument.

Finally, participants are to outline the common arguments against their issue or policy and rebuttals they would make. Participants should then compare and contrast the arguments made, including the frameworks, symbols and metaphors used to communicate the arguments. As an extended activity, participants can share out the two or more sides as argued about their issue, either as a debate or as feedback from the group about which arguments are most persuasive and why. 


Participants are to write a 1-2 page brief or letter making a persuasive argument for policy and action on behalf of an issue or change in practice (or alternatively, a twitter feed, Facebook page, or blog or 30-second public service announcement).

Guidelines on writing a persuasive argument will be generated in class, and incorporate points listed in the evaluation rubric below. Participants will use these in constructing their own persuasive argument.

Follow up class activity (2 hour activity) 

In a follow up activity, participants present their argument (written or visual) to a subgroup of the class (e.g. in groups of 3 or 4) and obtain feedback on the effectiveness of their argument (using the evaluation rubric below). Participants can then revise and submit their persuasive arguments to the instructor for assessment.

Field work extension

This activity can be extended into field work by having participants present or otherwise launch their persuasive argument—by submitting an editorial, mailing letters, presenting to boards or legislators, or launching a PSA or other web-based message. For field work purposes, the participants would need to log their time and follow up work involved in this advocacy effort.

Required reading

Lakoff, G. (2004). Don’t think of an elephant! Know your values and frame the debate. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing. (chapter 1)

Dunlap, L. (2007). Undoing the Silence: Six Tools for Social Change Writing. Oakland, CA: New Village Press. (chapter 4, plus appendix)

“Advocacy Guide” found at:

– “LEAP Communications Tool Kit” found at:

Suggested links

For suggestions on writing a persuasive argument, see:


      The Basic Principles of Persuasive Writing

      Writing an argument.

Evaluation rubric

The following rubric will be used to evaluate the persuasive argument.






Clearly describes an issue or priority





Frames the issue effectively, connecting to powerful symbols, metaphors or related issues





Argues persuasively on behalf of historically marginalized groups





Provides relevant data to explain the issue or priority





Provides a framework for the issue or priority that is connected to a goal





Addresses specific policy making /decision-making system





Addresses specific policies





Identifies action to be taken





Clarifies connection to specific interest group(s)





Takes into account criticisms or opposition of the issue and policy and provides rebuttals





Uses persuasive language effectively





Uses print or media-related mechanism effectively to enhance the persuasive argument