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Understanding and assessing reasoning as a mid term assignment.
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Running head:  Reasoning to Learn in the Classroom

Reasoning to Learn in the Classroom and Assessment

Michael Roberson

Lesley University, Calhoun, Georgia

Prof. Triplett/ECOMP 6102

July 8, 2007

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Reasoning and the ability to reason in the academic context is critical for student success in education.  The problem in education appears to be that educators are not identifying patterns of thought that should be assessed as pertinent to education. Some students are failing in their academic performance due to an inability to reason or think critically on standardized tests.  Therefore, it appears that many students are not being trained to problem solve or think critically.  If educators want to add fuel to their teaching approach in the classroom they can begin by incorporating student self-assessment and peer assessment activities.

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What is Reasoning?
“That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”
                                                                                                    Albert Einstein
The Encarta Dictionary defines reasoning as, “the use of logical thinking in order to find results or draw conclusions.”  My simple definition of reasoning is, the patterns of thought that lead to a conclusion.  Therefore, based upon my simplistic definition reasoning can be thought of as a cognitive tool that processes our experiences.
         The type of reasoning discussed in this context is logical reasoning.  There are two types of logical reasoning described in Dr. Stiggins text, deductive and inductive. The Wikipedia defines deductive reasoning as: ... reasoning in which the conclusion is necessitated by, or reached from, previously known facts. If the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. This is distinguished from abductive and inductive reasoning, where the premises may predict a high probability of the conclusion, but do not ensure that the conclusion is true.
The Wikipedia defines inductive reasoning as: ... the process of reasoning in which the premises of an argument are believed to support the conclusion but do not ensure it. It is used to ascribe properties or relations to types based on tokens (i.e., on one or a small number of observations or
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experiences); or to formulate laws based on limited observations of recurring phenomenal patterns.
         Inductive reasoning is also know as inductive logic, and is the process of reasoning in which the evidence for forming the basis of a disagreement or dispute.  Deductive reasoning is where the conclusion is arrived at by incorporation of factual knowledge.  The end result is that if the premise is true then the conclusion must also be true (S. Muggleton and L. De Raedt).
         At this point in the discussion you may ask, “What does this have to do with education?” In tying all this together, Dr. Stiggins believes that it is possible to teach students to reason in an academic setting. Educators must come up with ways to assess reasoning, problem solving, and critical thinking.  Dr. Stiggins believes that educators must begin by defining the specific patterns of reasoning that students are expected to demonstrate (Sparks, 1999).  Each subject content must be matched to fit the reasoning requirement.  For example, math and science require different reasoning techniques.
         A research study that was conducted in England discovered that the best instructional practices used student self-assessments and peer assessments which complimented formative assessments (testing at regular intervals) lead to enhanced performance across the board (Sparks, 1999).  This approach was

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effective because it targeted low performers and helped them through self-assessment to strengthen weaknesses. 
         Dr. Stiggins states that the challenge is to consistently match methods of assessment to the intended target (see chart below).

Dr. Stiggins believes that students must be in charge of their learning (pg. 17) and that students remain/regain self-confidence if they know and understand where they are now in relation to the target (pg 19, 45).

         The reasoning patterns that Dr. Stiggins has formulated are as follows:
1.          Analytical Reasoning - able or inclined to separate things into their constituent elements in order to study or examine them, draw conclusions, or solve problems. 
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2.          Synthesizing or generalization – combining different elements into a new whole. 
3.          Comparative Reasoning - based on or using comparisons of different elements or types in the investigation of something known.
4.          Classifying or Categorizing - to assign things or people to classes or groups. 
5.          Induction and Deduction – Induction is a generalization based upon observed instances, or the making of such generalizations.  Example:  This cat is black. That cat is black and, A third cat is black. Therefore all cats are black.  In contrast, deduction is the drawing of a conclusion from available information.  Example: All men are mortal. Joe is a man. Therefore Joe is mortal. If the first two statements are true, then the conclusion must be true.  In inductive reasoning the pattern is to move from the general to the specific.  In terms of critical thought questioning using this pattern, an instructor may ask the question (synthesize) “create an alternate ending to the story that follows the same theme.”
A sample lesson of an induction/deduction lesson plan is included as follows:
Title: Word Problem Procedure
Tool Kit Challenge: Presenting and practicing literacy learning strategies
Tool: Deduction/Induction
Grade: 9-12
Content Area: Math, Science
Source: Excerpt from ESL Math and Science for High School Students

The Word Problem Procedure (WPP) helps English learners to understand and use learning strategies, including deduction/induction. The format is as follows:
Word Problem Procedure
•          Choose a partner or partners. Write your names above.
•          Choose a problem. Write the problem in the space below.
•          One student reads the problem out loud. Discuss the vocabulary and circle words you don't understand. Write the words below. Use a dictionary for help. Ask your partner or teacher for help.
•          What does the problem ask you to find? Write this below:
•          What should you do to solve the problem? Add? Subtract? Multiply? Divide? Write this below.
•          Solve the problem below.
•          Check your answer below.
•          Explain your answer to your partner(s). Write your explanation below.
•          Explain your answer to the class.
•          Write a similar problem on the back of this page.

         In contrast to Dr. Stiggins theories on reasoning stands the work of Dr. Benjamin Bloom’s conceptualization of learning.  Dr. Bloom’s theory is categorized into three domains: affective learning (growth in feelings or emotional areas (Attitude), behavioral learning manual or physical skills (Skills), and cognitive learning mental skills (Knowledge).  Dr. Bloom’s theories on learning have stood the test of time even though there was no concrete method for determining when learning takes place in the learning environment (McGee, 2000).
Also, Dr. Stiggins (1997) theorized that “there can be no effective assessment until we bring[ing] students into the assessment process . . . demystifying the meaning of success in the classroom. . . [and] acknowledge[ing] that students use assessment results to make the decisions that ultimately will determine if school does or does not
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work for them” (p. 19).  Stiggins also contends that “no single method can serve all of our assessment needs at all levels” (p. 88).  “In selecting the appropriate assessment involves setting clear achievement targets and choosing the method that provides the most direct view of student performance—that permits the strongest inferences from the assessment results to the actual status of the achievement target” (Stiggins, 1997, p. 88).
In light of Dr. Stiggins research and impact upon education, teacher preparation programs are beginning to include content and instructional practices in terms of the development of thinking in children and other learners. The outcome of Dr. Stiggins influence upon education can only result in the development of a core of educators that guide their students in thinking critically without fear of standardized testing.

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Bloom, B. (1984).  Taxonomy of education objectives. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Collins, Cathy, & Mangieri, John N.  Teaching thinking: an agenda for the twenty-first century / edited by Copyright 1992 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
McGee, Keli Hite.  Cognitive learning in the presence of immediacy: An exploratory study of the relationship between perceived and actual cognitive, Fairbanks, Alaska, May 2000. 
Osborne, Alan R.  , Gerald M. Reagan,  Logical Reasoning: An Education Goal Theory into Practice, Vol. 12, No. 5, Teaching the Young to Think (Dec., 1993), pp. 263-265.
Spencer, Philip Original Web Site Creator / Mathematical Content Developer:    April 19, 1999.
Stiggins, Richard J. (2005). Student-Involved Classroom Assessment (4th Ed.). 
         Amazon Press.

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