What do we mean by Reasoning?
Reasoning—the kind of logical, analytical, explicit disciplined thinking that schools often focus on. There is a lot of interest at the moment in ways of teaching thinking, and such ‘Show your working’ kinds of thinking are a very important part of the good learner’s toolkit, although not the be-all and end-all of learning. In fact, research suggests that secondary schools have not been very successful at developing students’ ability to think logically in real life.
It turns out to be quite difficult to free any kind of thinking or learning skill from its ties to the particular setting and subject matter in which it was originally practised.
Nevertheless, being able to construct logical arguments or make practical use of Venn diagrams, for example, is very useful, and good learners need practice at using such tools in the context of their real-life concerns.
A well formed Reasoning habit involves being ready, willing, and able to:
- Resist jumping to conclusions;
- Seek justifiable evidence to shape sound, well-honed arguments;
- Scrutinise your assumptions;
- Seek evidence and counter evidence, look for false steps and carefully draw conclusions;
- Remain suspicious, doubting and self-doubting in order to avoid unwarranted certainty;
- Convey your logical thinking clearly, through dialogue, symbols, analogies, prose and pictures.
So, at a less abstract level, students need to learn the inclination to resist impulsive responses; to respond logically and thoughtfully; to apply logic by explaining, justifying and, ultimately, proving what they think; to utilise a range of reasoning tools; and to develop strategies for presenting their reasoning to others persuasively. When looked at from these diverse angles growing reasoning moves well beyond encouraging a student to ‘think it through’.
Spot the Reasoners in your classes
Just to get you tuned in – have a quick think about ‘Reasoners you may know’. Make a note of students you know who display these characteristics. Becoming a teacher who develops students’ learning power means developing a keen awareness of the subtleties of your students’ learning behaviours.