Hypothesis testing in students: Sequences, stages, and instructional strategies

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Abstract

Six sequences in the development of hypothesis-testing conceptions are proposed, involving (a) interpretation of the hypothesis; (b) the distinction between using theories and testing theories; (c) the consideration of multiple possibilities; (d) the relation of theory and data; (e) the nature of verification and falsification; and (f) the relation of truth and falsity. An alternative account is then provided involving three global stages: concrete operations, formal operations, and a postformal “metaconstructive”stage. Relative advantages and difficulties of the stage and sequence conceptualizations are discussed. Finally, three families of teaching strategy are distinguished, which emphasize, respectively: (a) social transmission of knowledge; (b) carefully sequenced empirical experience by the student; and (c) self-regulated cognitive activity of the student. It is argued on the basis of Piaget's theory that the last of these plays a crucial role in the construction of such logical reasoning strategies as those involved in testing hypotheses.

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