Cognitive Process Instruction: Research on Teaching Thinking Skills

By Jack Lochhead; John Clement | Go to book overview

Problem-Solving Strategies And the Epistemology of Science
Gene D'AmourOne of the primary aims of cognitive process instruction is to teach students "good habits of thought," because education is more than the simple accumulation of facts: it involves developing the ability to actively and independently learn from experience. Three basic questions, then, face the cognitive process educator:
What thought processes are actually used by students?
What thought processes ought students to use--that is, what is a "good habit" of thought?
What educational strategies are most likely to help students move from their actual habits to better habits of thought?

Those who make observations of human problem solving or attempt to mechanically simulate human problem solving appear to be trying to answer question 1. Such efforts give hope that we can unlock puzzles about actual thought habits. However, in this paper I intend to concentrate, not on the first question, but on the latter two.

One approach to the solution sought by question 2 is to study clear models of ideal thought processes--those which characterize the methods of the physical sciences, for example--and then to isolate the essential elements of such processes. Since it is difficult to deny that the "scientific method" illustrates a model of good thought habits, these tactics should be important to the cognitive processes educator. This paper examines two characterizations of the scientific method: 1. that of the inductivists which, I argue, is incorrect, and 2. that of the critical fallibilists, which I support. I shall attempt to show that the cognitive process view of learning is compatible with the critical fallibilist view, but not with the inductivist position.


THE INDUCTIVE HABIT OF THOUGHT

The best-known characterization of the scientific method is that of induction: once sufficient facts have been accumulated through observation, an inductive generalization is made--a form of higher knowledge is reached. Many basic science texts present the history of science from this highly organized, rarefied perspective. Newton is said to build upon and supplement Galileo; Einstein erects his new theory on the "foundation" of Newton; old theories are embedded in new theories as science expands and progresses in an orderly fashion ( Kuhn, 1962). The inductivist perspective can be analyzed by being broken down into five tenets:

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