Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Research in College Science Teaching: Cognitive Levels and Reasoning

Research in College Science Teaching: Cognitive Levels and Reasoning. This is an interesting ERIC Digest that I believe has applications towards information literacy.

From the site:

Teaching students to reason, to think critically, to solve problems in science has long been a concern at all levels. There is often an implicit assumption that college students operate at the formal level. The research reviewed for this digest deals with this issue. The studies presented represent a sample of the research in this complex area. The sample is in no way exhaustive, nor can it be claimed to represent all areas of investigation. Rather, it is intended as an indication of the current state of the art with cognitive level or development of the learner as a common thread.


The relationship between measured formal thought and that required to understand formal concepts in college level physical science was studied by Boram and Renner (1985). Using individual interview tasks, 49 students enrolled in a physics course for elementary teachers were evaluated for their abilities to use: (1) combinatorial logic, (2) separation and control of variables, (3) proportional reasoning, and (4) reciprocal implications. During one semester, the students were given experiences with 30 physics concepts; six of these concepts dealing with torque, electricity, optics, and heat were used in the research. Understanding these concepts required using one or more of the characteristics of formal thought.

Analysis of the data led the investigators to conclude that a non-significant relationship exists between formal thought characteristics required to solve a problem and demonstrating the possession of those characteristics. When success on each of the interview tasks was correlated with success on each of the other interview tasks, all correlations were significant and moderately high, leading to the conclusion that success on a problem which requires formal thought depends on an overall formal thought structure.

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