A hypothetico‐deductive theory of science and learning

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This article presents a simple, cognitive theory of science and learning. The first section of the paper develops the theory's two main propositions: (i) A wide range of scientific activities rely heavily on one type of reasoning, hypothetical thinking, and (ii) This type of reasoning is also useful to students for learning science content. The second section of the paper presents a taxonomy of multiple‐choice questions that use hypothetical thinking and the third section of the paper tests the theory using data from a college biology course. As expected by the theory, student responses to 24 scientific reasoning questions were consistent with a one‐dimensional psychometric construct. Student responses to the scientific reasoning questions explained 36% of the variance in exam grades. Several directions for additional research are identified, including studying the psychometric structure of scientific thinking in more detail, performing randomized, controlled experiments to demonstrate a causal relationship between scientific thinking and learning, and identifying the relative contribution of other factors to success in college.



college, hypothetico-deductive, learning, reasoning, science


Kalinowski, S. T., & Pelakh, A. (2023). A hypothetico-deductive theory of science and learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 1–27. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.21892
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