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Abstract

A central purpose of education is to improve students' reasoning abilities. The present review examines research in developmental psychology and science education that has attempted to assess the validity of Piaget's theory of formal thought and its relation to educational practice. Should a central objective of schools be to help students become formal thinkers? To answer this question research has focused on the following subordinate questions: (1) What role does biological maturation play in the development of formal reasoning? (2) Are Piaget's formal tasks reliable and valid? (3) Does formal reasoning constitute a unified and general mode of intellectual functioning? (4) How does the presence or absence of formal reasoning affect school achievement? (5) Can formal reasoning be taught? (6) What is the structural or functional nature of advanced reasoning? The general conclusion drawn is that although Piaget's work and that which has sprung from it leaves a number of unresolved theoretical and methodological problems, it provides an important background from which to make substantial progress toward a most significant educational objective.

All our dignity lies in thought. By thought we must elevate ourselves, not by space and time which we can not fill. Let us endeavor then to think well; therein lies the principle of morality. Blaise Pascal 1623-1662.