ERIC Number: ED298805
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1988-Apr
Reference Count: N/A
The Nature and Development of Informal Reasoning Skills in College Students.
An analysis of informal reasoning and examination of teaching practices looks at ways to improve reasoning skills in college students. Teaching students to reason more effectively is an important but difficult goal of higher education. Reasoning consists of complex skills which must be taught. Effective instruction is based on two key features: (1) a model that specifies the product of reasoning and the skills involved in informal reasoning; and (2) direct instruction of skills and close supervision and guidance of students during the acquisition of reasoning expertise. A distinction between formal and informal reasoning is offered. Most arguments college students encounter use informal reasoning. The structure of informal arguments is broken down into six essential elements (claims, grounds, warrants, backing, modality, and rebuttal). Informal reasoning skills and knowledge are explained in terms of analytical skills, evaluative skills, constructive skills, and topic knowledge. Common problems students have in informal reasoning include: underdeveloped mental models of argument structure, inadequate use of evidence, underdeveloped arguments, and errors in logic or faulty inferences. Teaching informal reasoning requires: providing students with a model of reasoning that clearly specifies the skills to be learned; organizing skills into a rough sequence based on their function and complexity; direct instruction of reasoning expertise; frequent opportunities to practice reasoning; and precise feedback. A suggested sequence for teaching these skills is outlined, its purpose is to teach students to analyze, evaluate, and construct informal arguments. Some complications of this teaching endeavor include the knowledge versus skills issue and the problem of transfer or generalization. Contains 13 references. (SM)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the National Institute on Issues in Teaching and Learning (12th, Chicago, IL, April 24-27, 1988).