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Article

Patrick C. Kyllonen

Reasoning ability refers to the power and effectiveness of the processes and strategies used in drawing inferences, reaching conclusions, arriving at solutions, and making decisions based on available evidence. The topic of reasoning abilities is multidisciplinary—it is studied in psychology (differential and cognitive), education, neuroscience, genetics, philosophy, and artificial intelligence. There are several distinct forms of reasoning, implicating different reasoning abilities. Deductive reasoning involves drawing conclusions from a set of given premises in the form of categorical syllogisms (e.g., all x are y) or symbolic logic (e.g., if p then q). Inductive reasoning involves the use of examples to suggest a rule that can be applied to new instances, invoked, for example, when drawing inferences about a rule that explains a series (of numbers, letters, events, etc.). Abductive reasoning involves arriving at the most likely explanation for a set of facts, such as a medical diagnosis to explain a set of symptoms, or a scientific theory to explain a set of empirical findings. Bayesian reasoning involves computing probabilities on conclusions based on prior information. Analogical reasoning involves coming to an understanding of a new entity through how it relates to an already familiar one. The related idea of case-based reasoning involves solving a problem (a new case) by recalling similar problems encountered in the past (past cases or stored cases) and using what worked for those similar problems to help solve the current one. Some of the key findings on reasoning abilities are that (a) they are important in school, the workplace, and life, (b) there is not a single reasoning ability but multiple reasoning abilities, (c) the ability to reason is affected by the content and context of reasoning, (d) it is difficult to accelerate the development of reasoning ability, and (e) reasoning ability is limited by working memory capacity, and sometimes by heuristics and strategies that are often useful but that can occasionally lead to distorted reasoning. Several topics related to reasoning abilities appear under different headings, such as problem solving, judgment and decision-making, and critical thinking. Increased attention is being paid to reasoning about emotions and reasoning speed. Reasoning ability is and will remain an important topic in education.

Article

There are clear theoretical and practical implications of the way people make inferences and decisions. In addition, there are a variety of very different developmental theories that attempt to model how the underlying competencies change over time. The starting point for these discussions is the well-documented tendency for people to make a combination of “logical” and “nonlogical” inferences and judgments. Logical inferences refer to conclusions that are logically valid, which are theoretically at least a product only of the syntactic structure of the components of the inference. Nonlogical inferences are inferences that reflect personal knowledge and/or individual biases, and that produce conclusions that are not necessarily valid. Scientific and mathematical disciplines rely on the use of logically valid inferences, and the existence of strong tendencies towards making nonlogical inferences has clear educational implications. One of the most common ways of understanding the interplay between these two forms of inference are general dual process frameworks, which postulates the coexistence of two systems of making inferences, a heuristic and an analytic system, that function very differently and can produce different responses to the same problem. The analytic system is generally considered to be responsible for the potential to make logically valid inferences. However, there are a variety of developmental theories that provide different approaches to how logical reasoning may develop. The key concepts for each theory are very different, and it is important to understand how these differences can be articulated, in the light of the key empirical results. Finally, each of these different approaches has very different educational implications.

Article

Some of the most complex and challenging problems that arise for educational leaders are actually “leadership dilemmas.” This type of dilemma, which must be owned by the leader, contains a strong tension between a desire to achieve the goals of the organization and simultaneously preserve positive relationships. Performance appraisal is one of the main contexts in which this dilemma arises for the leader. In most cases it is not recognized or is avoided because of its potential to create conflict and unpleasantness. Common avoidance approaches include polarizing the strands of the dilemma and attending to either an organizational demand or a relationship concern, and in such cases the problem is only partly solved and resurfaces at a later date. Because there is often a high level of anxiety experienced by both parties in staff appraisal situations, the avoidance of dilemmas is ubiquitous and poor performance is not confronted. Consequently, many significant issues that impact on student learning are not attended to effectively, and these problems persist and recur. When educational leaders are motivated to deal with these extremely difficult problems, they must engage in a learning loop that allows them to reflect on and change values that do not lead to long-term problem resolution. They must be willing to surface and confront the conflict inherent in a leadership dilemma. This involves understanding the nature of a leadership dilemma and being able to analyze the defensive theory of action that blocks learning when conflict is present. It involves knowing about and practicing an alternative theory of action that can guide efforts to be productive in addressing the problem. In order to manage leadership dilemmas, specific skills for double-loop learning, such as the Triple I approach, must be acquired and internalized so that productive conversations can occur.

Article

Cognition refers to knowledge and associated inferential processes, ranging from elementary forms of perception to advanced forms of reasoning. Metacognition, a term used since the late 1970s, includes both knowledge of cognition and regulation of cognition. Knowledge of cognition includes both general knowledge of cognition and knowledge about one’s own cognition. Regulation of cognition includes planning, monitoring, and evaluation of one’s cognitive processes and products. Metacognition is crucial to and intertwined with many aspects of cognition even in the preschool years, when children are already developing theories of mind. Much of cognitive development is the development of metacognitive knowledge and self-regulation. Educational efforts abound to teach metacognitive skills, promote metacognitive development, and/or take student metacognition into account in designing instruction. Epistemic cognition is knowledge about the fundamental nature of knowledge, especially the justification and truth of beliefs. Research on epistemic development beyond childhood shows progress from objectivist to subjectivist to rationalist conceptions of knowledge. Objectivists appeal to foundational truths that can be observed, proved, or learned from the authorities. In cases of disagreement, someone must be wrong. Subjectivists recognize that knowledge is constructed, and conclude from this that truth is entirely relative to the constructor’s subjective point of view. “Truth” in any stronger sense is deemed a myth, because we all have our own equally valid perspectives. Rationalists acknowledge the subjective construction of knowledge and the perplexities of truth but maintain that some beliefs are better justified than others and that we can make progress in understanding. Research in child development shows that children proceed through a similar sequence in constructing intuitive theories of mind, suggesting that epistemic development may be a recursive process in which people reconstruct subjectivist and rationalist insights at multiple levels. Epistemic development is generally seen as the result of self-regulated processes of reflection and coordination. Research in educational psychology has highlighted individual differences in epistemic beliefs and has shown the value of active inquiry and peer argumentation in promoting epistemic progress within and across diverse fields of study.

Article

Educational research on how children and adolescents make sense of the social world and how this social–cognitive ability develops across time and cultural contexts remains in its infancy. An important question for psychoeducators and developmentalists is how to best measure the diverse multidimensional and interconnected social–cognitive skills among children and youth. Research that explores social–cognitive skills such as theory of mind (ToM), self-regulation, and moral reasoning such as deception within the context of education explores this question. ToM refers to the ability to understand others’ mental states to explain behavior, and self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate or control one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions. The measurement of multidimensional topics such as self-regulation and ToM is important for educators to help students learn important life skills such as perspective-taking and empathy. Such social reasoning skills will help students navigate the complex social landscape of the school. Multidisciplinary, transcultural, and mixed-method longitudinal studies provide fruitful investigations into the development of social–cognitive abilities and how this plays a role in children and adolescents developing a sense of self, relationships, and their understanding of others as intentional beings. Further systematic research is needed to explore the role of social–cognitive and metacognitive processes within young people’s personal, social, and educational worlds. In summary, future research needs to explore new interdisciplinary and dynamic developmental frameworks that aim to ignite new theories and empirical tests that build on extant models of neurobiological susceptibility and child and adolescent brain development. To advance research in applied developmental social neuroscience, interdisciplinary collaboration among developmental cognitive neuroscientists, educators, and clinicians must increase. For example, developmental scientists who work with cross-cultural, longitudinal samples could be recruited for scanning, whereas neuroscientists’ extant data sets could be made accessible to developmental scientists and educators. Such shared research could then be applied to the educational setting and provide opportunities for prevention and intervention models and assessment tools aimed to foster young people’s social–cognitive development.

Article

Richard E. Mayer

Problem solving refers to cognitive processing directed at achieving a goal when the problem solver does not initially know a solution method. A problem exists when someone has a goal but does not know how to achieve it. Problems can be classified as routine or non-routine, and as well-defined or ill-defined. The major cognitive processes in problem solving are representing, planning, executing, and monitoring. The major kinds of knowledge required for problem solving are facts, concepts, procedures, strategies, and beliefs. The theoretical approaches that have developed over the history of research on problem are associationism, Gestalt, and information processing. Each of these approaches involves fundamental issues in problem solving such as the nature of transfer, insight, and goal-directed heuristics, respectively. Some current research topics in problem solving include decision making, intelligence and creativity, teaching of thinking skills, expert problem solving, analogical reasoning, mathematical and scientific thinking, everyday thinking, and the cognitive neuroscience of problem solving. Common theme concerns the domain specificity of problem solving and a focus on problem solving in authentic contexts.