Does Higher Education Improve Student Scientific Reasoning Skills?

  • Lin DingEmail author
  • Xin Wei
  • Katherine Mollohan


An ultimate goal of higher education is to prepare our future workers with needed knowledge and skills. This includes cultivating students to become proficient reasoners who can utilize proper scientific reasoning to devise causal inferences from observations. Conventionally, students with more years of higher education are expected to have a greater level of scientific reasoning. Also expected traditionally is that studying science and engineering or attending top-rated universities can better promote students’ scientific reasoning than studying other majors or attending lower ranked institutions. In this study, we used Lawson’s Classroom Test of Scientific Reasoning (LCTSR) with 1,637 Chinese students in different years of study, different fields, and different university tiers. It was found that regardless of which major or university students entered, their scientific reasoning measured by the LCTSR showed little variation across the entire 4 years of undergraduate education. Simply put, there was little association between tertiary-level learning and scientific reasoning. This study calls our attention to the status quo of higher education and motivates researchers across the globe to look into this issue in their own nations.


Scientific reasoning Content learning Higher education 



This study is partially supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF Grant No. DRL 1252399).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Teaching and LearningThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Physics Editorial DepartmentPeople’s Education PressBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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