A. B. Arons
In most text materials, homework problems, and lecture presentations encountered in college-level study of natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, it is tacitly assumed that the students are already in command of a variety of thinking, reasoning, and linguistic processes. An attempt is made in this paper to identify and make explicit some of the more important tacit assumptions. Among the assumed capacities are reasoning patterns characterizing Piaget's category of formal operations, but there are also expected patterns of still higher complexity and sophistication.
In recent years the administration of Piagetian tasks in logical reasoning has revealed that a very large proportion of college students tend to use predominantly concrete as opposed to formal patterns of reasoning. This observation points to a profound discrepancy between most secondary-school- and college-level course content on the one hand, and the actual student reasoning patterns on the other: most course presentations assume that students are generally prepared to utilize formal reasoning processes.
Efforts are currently being made to devise ways of enhancing formal reasoning skills and to reduce this discrepancy. This suggests that one should examine in greater detail the common assumptions about modes and processes of student reasoning--beyond the Piagetian examples--which are implicit in college-level course materials. Bloom ( 1956) defined a taxonomy of educational objectives which encompasses some general skills and defines a very broad framework for curriculum design. My objective is different; it is to help isolate those reasoning abilities which are commonly and often inappropriately assumed to exist in all college students. What varieties of thinking, reasoning, and linguistic skills are tacitly assumed to be already available to the students? What further skills can be identified as implied objectives in undergraduate instruction?
Putting aside questions concerning the extent to which such reasoning capacities may or may not be developed in the student population, and also deferring questions about possible methods of instruction that might foster the development of such skills, this paper concerns, itself only with identifying what____________________