Monday, March 30, 2009

Cultivating Expertise In Informal Reasoning


Argument mapping technology was introduced in a quasi-study of informal reasoning of first year university students in Australia. Operating under the premise that informal reasoning "appears at quite an early age and continues to develop through secondary and tertiary education...few people manage to become highly proficient." Informal reasoning was likened to a social tennis player: without dedicated practice and guidance, the athlete will never reach full potential. Thus, after initial training "experience in a domain is not related to the level of expertise."

Van Gelder argues informal reasoning skills are achieved to the extent that one engages in large amounts of deliberate go beyond ordinary competence. He postulated an increase in informal reasoning practice would have a positive effect on overall reasoning skills. To test his postulation, he utilized argument mapping software as a method to used in conventional logic instruction. The main benefit of using argument maps was to "enhance the quantity and quality of feedback" in reasoning activity.

The results of his study indicate students made substantial gains in informal reasoning skills. Participants gained approximately as much over one semester as they would have over 3-4 years of university study. Also, the amount of gain was positively to amount of practice.

The author does admit the results do not establish that deliberate practice is necessary for advanced expertise in informal reasoning.
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