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Cultivating Expertise in Informal Reasoning

van Gelder, T. J., Bissett, M., & Cumming, G. (2004). Cultivating Expertise in Informal Reasoning. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58, 142-152.


People generally develop some degree of competence in general informal reasoning and argument skills, but how do they go beyond this to attain higher expertise? Ericsson has proposed that high-level expertise in a variety of domains is cultivated through a specific type of practice, referred to as “deliberate practice.” Applying this framework yields the empirical hypothesis that high-level expertise in informal reasoning is the outcome of extensive, deliberate practice. This paper reports results from two studies evaluating the hypothesis. University student participants completed 12 weeks of deliberate practice in informal reasoning. Quantity of practice was recorded by computer, and additionally assessed via self-report. The hypothesis was supported: Students in both studies showed a large improvement, and practice, as measured by computer, was related to amount of improvement in informal reasoning. These findings support adopting a deliberate practice approach when attempting to teach or learn expertise in informal reasoning.


This was the most "serious" publication to emerge from the years of work in the Reason Project at the University of Melbourne (roughly 1998-2005), aimed at establishing whether critical thinking instruction can be made truly effective and affordable using argument mapping.  However it is important to realise that this presents only a portion of the empirical results we gathered during that time.  For more complete summaries, you should also consult:
Tim van Gelder,
Jan 18, 2009, 4:44 PM