Increases in Scientific Logical Thinking Skills in a Program for Pre-Service Teachers

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Conference Proceeding

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For over a decade, Wright State University has educated middle school teachers seeking science as a teaching concentration area by requiring them to take a series of ten quarter-hours inquiry based science courses program of science-education courses taught using inquiry to teach both science content and pedagogy. A study was undertaken to determine if these courses were helping pre-service teachers to develop logical-thinking skills such as principles of conservation, controlling variables, probabilistic, proportional, correlational, and combinatorial reasoning. These skills have been correlated with an individual’s ability to acquire new science concepts.

This study involved 139 students enrolled in the first course in the sequence (SM145) and 122 students enrolled in one of the last courses (GL346). Students took a two-tier multiple-choice test, the Group Assessment of Logical Thinking (GALT). Of these, 22 students had taken the test in both classes; 217 had taken the test in only one or the other. The scores from each group were separated: 22 paired scores were used as part of a longitudinal study, and the 217 unpaired scores were treated as a larger, cross-sectional study.

The students in SM 145 had a lower average total GALT score (12.44 out of 21) than those in GL 346 (15.24 out of 21). SM 145 students also had significantly lower proportional reasoning sub-scores (2.22 out of 6) than the students in the advanced class (4.27 out of 6). The average sub-scores for controlling variables were also lower for students in SM 145 (2.40 out of 4) than for GL 346 students (3.09 out of 4). This increase in scores is interpreted as mostly due to learning how to think logically about science as a result of taking the ten inquiry based science courses. This gain was also partly caused by attrition: if students with weaker logical thinking skills were more likely to drop out of the program, the average of the remainder would increase by default.

However, attrition was not a factor for the smaller longitudinal study, which showed a similar increase in total GALT scores from SM 145 to GL 346 (13.3 to 15.1 out of 21) and in proportional reasoning (3.27 to 4.14 out of 6) and controlling variables sub-scores (2.05 to 2.91 out of 4).


Presented at the 2011 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN.

Paper Number 164-11.

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