New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Why do Students Fail in Formal Reasoning: Steps to Broadening the Explanatory Perspective

Tobias Häberlein, Albstadt-Sigmaringen University of Applied Sciences (Germany)


We face a growing level of heterogeneity in Students level of ability to understand formal knowledge, to follow formal reasoning und ability to understand formal languages, e.g. the language of mathematics, programming languages or logic calculi. Our overall question is: What is the way to help the – say – weakest group of the students? Closely connect to this question is the question: “What prevents those students to understand?”.

We suggest to approach these questions in the spirit of constructivism and get away off viewing the student behavior (like: “passivity”, “problems in following formal reasoning” etc) as deficits. We suggest to view it as meaningful reactions to their environment. We show how this approach leads us to gain more insight into possible solutions. And dependent on which environment (i.e. the student and its peer students; the student and its family of origin; the student and the university system) we focus, we show how to gain different parts of the puzzle and different answers to the question on how to support the student. More precisely, if we consider the student in the system with its peer, and if we appreciate the influences of the peer group on a student, we could suggest techniques like “pair-programming”-based exercises or techniques to intercommunicate with peers on the learning process. If we consider the student in the system of its family of origin, we could appreciate the fact, the process of individuation against the family of origin is connected to the process of individuation in formal thinking which again is a prerequisite for academic success. This claim is supported by the philosophical system of Ludwig Wittgenstein. If we claim, that better individuation leads to greater academic success then we have to support students in individuation. Finally, if we consider the student in the system with the university then we come the suggestions like strengthening the didactical concept of the university and development of mission statements how to approach didactics. 


[1]  Gregory Bateson, “Steps to an ecology of mind”, University of Chicago press, page 5. 
[2]  Kent Beck: “Extreme Programming Explained. Embrace Change.”, Addison-Wesley Longman, Amsterdam 2004, Page 58
[3] Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Philosophische Untersuchungen”, Paragraph 43.
[4]  Rolf Arnold: “Bildung nach Bologna“, Springer VS, ISBN-13: 978-3658089771.

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