Evaggelia Frydaki, Exploring the causes of low ability in reasoning development in postgraduate students, Προσχολική & Σχολική Εκπαίδευση, 4|2016, 196-211


It has been argued that what marks the fully literate person in modern societies is the ability to reason effectively about what one reads and writes in order to extend one’s understanding of the ideas expressed by developing reasoning. Although current literacy theory and practices are being fundamentally altered (multiliteracies, multimodality) and put aside explicit instruction on argumentation, this capacity remains a fundamental element of literacy and of critical literacy. On the other hand, both experience and research findings reveal increasingly poor argumentation of students and their low ability to develop reasoning in the school and University context.  A qualitative case study was carried out during the spring semester 2014-2015 in the Post-graduate Program “Theory, Praxis and Evaluation of Educational Work” (Department of Education, University of Athens, Faculty of Philosophy, Education and Psychology). A task assigned to 17 post-graduate students in the course of Teaching Literature triggered the conduct of the present research. Students were asked to indicate a number of strategies to support literary reading, drawing criteria from the Vygotskian theoretical concept of Zone of Proximal Development, as well as scaffolding instruction theory. In these tasks we found that students had problems using the criteria and evidence reasoning; they simply described some literary reading strategies without developing a rationale on why they are seen as supportive. The poor argumentation of almost all post-graduate students’ work, which the 17 students recognized during the process of correction, led us to investigate the causes from the subjective perspective of those involved. That is the purpose of the research: to reveal the causes to which the post-graduate students themselves attribute their low ability to use criteria, to argue and develop reasoning. The main sources of data for this case study were the focus group discussion with 11 students of the above mentioned group, and 17 individual semi-structured interviews. The method of analysis used is grounded theory. The qualitative data were analyzed without an existing theoretical framework, by the method of constant comparison, so that they could develop by themselves some theoretical considerations that would contribute to the understanding and the interpretation of the phenomenon. The categories emerged open, axial and selective coding became the basis for theoretical perspective literacy as a socially constructed process. Key findings highlight the causes of their low ability to develop reasoning and attribute it to: a) the new social literacy practices resulting from evolving web technologies and primarily b) school practices which do not promote personal or critical thinking, but the skill of the students to know how to say "what must be said" about everything, thus weakening their cognitive as well as language use abilities. These results suggest the need for a research focus on the processes by which literacy is constructed in everyday life, through conversational exchanges and the negotiation of meanings in many different contexts of schooling.  

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