Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


College students--Interviews; Cognition--Ability testing; College students; Reasoning (Psychology)--Testing; Interviews;


The developmental theory of Jean Piaget provides a paradigm for evaluation of the reasoning abilities of an individual. The overall aim of Piaget's work was to delineate the sequence of the development of intelligence, particularly the ability of a subject to interact successfully with complex problems or to deal with simple problems in more efficient ways. To this end, this study investigated the validation of a new interview task as an instrument for assessing the formal reasoning abilities of college students. The new task, patterned after a game called MasterMind, requires the subject to deduce the color and location of four colored pegs, comprising a hidden code, using inferences made from responses made after each attempt. Solution of the Hidden Code task incorporates the use of hypothetico-deductive logic, combinatorial lattice structure, and propositional, four-group structures. According to Piaget's ontogenesis of cognition, these logico-mathematical structures are required for formal reasoning. The Hidden Code task was validated against two other tasks used to ascertain the presence of combinatorial analysis structure in formal reasoning subjects, namely the Chemical task used by Piaget and the Electronic task developed by Deluca as an equivalent to the Chemical task.

The results of the administration of these tasks to 36 subjects in clinical interviews supported the hypothesis that the Hidden Code task prepared for this study was a valid instrument for recognizing formal reasoning ability. Analysis also revealed that there appeared to be no carryover of learning from the Hidden Code task to any of the other tasks and that the gender of the subjects was not associated with performance on the Hidden Code task.

As an extension of the interview tasks available to investigators of cognitive growth, the Hidden Code task provides another means of identifying and describing the reasoning ability of students in the classroom. With this and other tools, instructors can develop an information base upon which instructional and curricular decisions can be made, both the immediate needs as well as future designs, so that the individual may achieve realization of his or her potential.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Specialist in Education


Science Education Program

First Advisor

Roy D. Unruh


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Date Original


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