7 Improving Creative Thinking Using Instructional Technology

Computer-Aided Abductive Reasoning

Gary Shank, John Minor Ross, Wesley Covalt, Scott Terry, and Elaina Weiss

Editor’s Note: Shank, G., Ross, J.M., Covalt, W., Terry, S., & Weiss, E. (1994). Improving Creative Thinking Using Instructional Technology: Computer-Aided Abductive Reasoning. Educational Technology, 34(9), 33-42.

“How do we conduct ourselves when we are faced with what thinking will not solve (Brent , 1993, p. 343)?” This question is answered through a creative approach that C. S. Peirce called abductive reasoning. Unfortunately, cultivating creative thinking skills faces considerable difficulties that are associated with developing and practicing the necessary techniques. To broaden the use of abductive techniques, the authors created a computer program to both teach and serve as a real world tool for finding novel solutions to problems that “thinking will not solve.” Discussed are the problems, the tools, and initial feedback and findings from early adopters.

This article has two purposes. Our first purpose is to briefly introduce the concept of abductive reasoning and to argue for the importance of this type of reasoning for instruc­tional designers in education. Our second purpose is to document the processes of developing a computer program we call the Abductive Reasoning Tool (ART) and to describe our efforts in testing and refining its operation.

In relation to our first purpose, abduction per se can and should play an important role in instruc­tional design and delivery. While we will detail an introductory overview to abductive reasoning later in the paper, we would like to briefly describe three key benefits that abductive reasoning can bring to the instructional design process. The first benefit is that  abduction is not some arcane and obscure mode of cognitive operation but is instead a mode of reasoning  that all of us use on a regular basis in an  unreflective  and unarticulated way. Therefore, by gaining a richer understanding of abductive processes and activities, we gain a deeper  insight into types of  cognition that, up to now, have been lumped together in such amorphous and unsystematic categories as “intuitions,” “hunches,” and “guesses.”

The second benefit is that abductive thinking allows us to pursue design strategies that are inherently nonlinear. Since abduc­tive conclusions are, by their nature, hypothetical, they allow more flexibility than is currently found in most instructional design procedures. We can concentrate on designing instructional systems that are plausible at the outset, instead of having to make sure our systems conform to strict logical rules of linear development. The third and final benefit is that abductive methods can be used to develop research tools that allow us to study the  instructional design process in new and creative ways (Shank, 1987).

In relation to our second purpose, the ART program itself is beneficial for at least three reasons. First, ART allows educators to help students learn and understand the basics of abductive logic-a topic that is not  well known in the educational research literature but whose importance as a mode of reasoning will most likely increase as awareness of the power and usefulness of abductive reasoning increases. Second, research into the use and opera­tion of ART sheds light not only on ways to use the program itself, but also on areas of cognition which have been hard to assess and examine using more traditional modes of thinking and reasoning. Finally, ART demonstrates one of the ways that technology and education can be combined to encourage and enhance higher order thinking and creative skills.

In 1991, Shank and Ross developed the first version of ART for use on MS-DOS personal computers (cf. Ross &  Shank, 1993). As a result of a development grant in 1993, we were able to create and field test the Macintosh version of the program, or MacARf. For all intents and purposes, ART and MacART are identical, and so we will refer to both  programs under the generic “ART” label. ART is an example of a computer program called “freeware” in that anyone who wishes to have a copy can have it and use it for free, and can distribute it to others,  so  long as identification and liability waivers for use remain attached to the program. Since its develop­ment, ART has been distributed to over 160 beta  users in  the  United States , Canada, England, Scot­land, Denmark, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Hong Kong, Japan, and Australia.

Basic Principles of Abduction

ART was designed to allow users to understand the basics of abduction and practice the use of abductive reasoning. Because abductive reasoning is relatively unknown in educational research circles, some clarification of the nature of this logical process will be offered.

Abduction was first systematized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the American logician and philosopher, C.S. Peirce (Peirce, 1955; Sebeok & Umiker-Sebeok, 1983; Tursman, 1987). At various places in his writings, Peirce calls the logic of hypothesis formation and discovery by a number of names, including hypothetic inference, hypothesis. and retroduction. His roost common coinage, though, is that of abduction (cf. Fann, 1970). Peirce defined  abduction  as  the way that people are able to resolve surprising states of affairs into ordinary circumstances (Peirce, 1955):

The surprising fact, C, is observed:

But if A were true, C would be a matter of course,

Hence, there is reason to suspect that A  is  true. (p. 151)

Peirce also thought of abduction in terms of the concept of hypothesis, as reflected in the following passage:,”…[a]ny proposition added to observed facts, tending to make them applicable in any  way  to other circumstances than those under which they were observed, may be called a hypothesis” (Peirce,1955, p. 150). For  Peirce, an hypothesis is ultimately an account of how ordinary circumstances are understood. The end product  of such  an  account is an intuitive “guess” as to the reason that a particular pattern of experience was found, and that “guess” can then serve as the basis for empirical test. Therefore, Pierce is systematizing a mode of reasoning that may describe processes we might initially think of as being inherently unsystematic. In other words, Peirce’s definition of abduction allows us to get a handle on such processes as “following a hunch,” “making an educated guess,” or “trusting one’s intuitions.”

At first glance. there does not appear to be much difference b tween Peirce’s account of abduction and the project of modern educational research. We make theoretical guesses that are then tested. Where Peirce advances the project is in the step of moving from the realm of ordinary experiences to the development of an hypothesis in the first place. This systematic application of abduction has been called “the logic of discovery” (Hanson, 1958). This type of logic attempts to unify the process of hypothesis formation with the subsequent use of deduction and induction to test and modify those hypotheses. Even more importantly, Peirce showed that abduction is systematically related to the more traditional modes of reasoning (i.e., deduction and induction). Peirce felt that the role of abduction was to help develop more systematic and adequate hypotheses from experiences.

The following example can help illustrate the nature of the abductive syllogism in more concrete terms. The following simple syllogisms are modified from an actual example used by Peirce. First,  let us look at a deductive syllogism:

All the beans in this bag are white.

This bean is from the bag.

This bean is most certainly white.

His version of an inductive syllogism is:

This bean is from the bag.

This bean is white.

All the beans in this bag are probably white.

Finally, the abductive syllogism would take the form:

This bean is white.

All the beans in this bag are white.

This bean is possibly from the bag.

Deductions operate toward certainty through true statements, induction operates toward verification through meaningful observations, and abduction operates through experiences as given in order to establish some meaningful hypotheses about the states of affairs behind the observations. The first two modes of logic have been explored extensively in education and research, but abduction  is comparatively unexplored.

There has been some inquiry, however, into the nature of abduction. In addition to being described as the logic of discovery (Hanson, 1958), abduction has also been characterized as the logic of reasoning to the best possible explanation (Harman, 1965), as well as the logic of inference used by detectives and diagnosticians (Bonfantini & Proni, 1983; Caprettini, 1983; Ginzberg, 1989). Recent efforts have attempted to link abduction to other modes of reasoning (Holland, Holyoak, Nisbett, & Thagard, 1986) to establish procedures for using abduction as a problem-solving algorithm (cf. O’Rorke, 1990) and to detail the role of abductive thinking and strategies in the development of an educational semiotic (Cunningham, 1987; Cunningham, 1992; Shank, 1992; Shank, in press).

The Development of the ART Program

The implications of ART to instructional design and educational settings have been discussed in some depth elsewhere (Ross & Shank, 1993), but they bear some consideration here. First, ART can help address the need  for creativity, albeit a focused type of creativity in instructional design. Second, ART can help instructional design students tackle design tasks both creatively and systematically. Finally, ART allows both the designer and the classroom teacher the chance to use a self­-directed tutorial-driven tool for incorporating abductive reasoning into ordinary educational settings.

Abduction and Creativity

If   we  look   at the original statement defining abduction, we see that Peirce insisted that we “do” abduction in those cases where we find ourselves dealing with surprising circumstances, and we need a rule to account for those circumstances. This definition, however, is too restrictive in specifying what abduction actually is. Shank (October, 1993) argued that abduction is actually the default mode or ground state of cognition, in that anytime we “perceive” some experienced thing as an example of a category, then we are abducing the nature of that thing. For instance, if a person walks into a room and sees an object with four legs and a seat, then the person abduces that the object is not some unique and puzzling and surprising phenome­non in the world, but unreflectively applies the rule “things with four legs and a seat are chairs.” The person thereby concludes, in a perfectly straightforward and non­ creative way, that the object seen is a case of a chair. Therefore, many if not most actual abduc­tions that people perform are fairly mundane and non-creative.

Given that most abductions are not particularly creative, then creative abductions represent a subcategory of the general set of abductions. What makes creative abductions creative, and how can we foster the development of these creative abductions? The key lies in the source of the rules for making the abductive inference. If the rules are part of our generally held domain of understandings about the world and the ways that we function in that world, then our abductions will be straightforward and non-creative. So, rules such as “things with four legs and a seat are chairs” lead to such abductions as “this thing I see is a chair.” Therefore, if we want our abductions to be out of  the  ordinary, then we need to use rules that are also out of the ordinary.

One way to try to make sure that a particular rule is out of the ordinary is to select that rule which is less commonly used. When we are trying to categorize an object, such as a chair, then it helps to have a tried and true rule. When we are trying to think of something new about a familiar concept, such as learning, then tried and true rules lead us down old, familiar, and well-trodden paths. Consider the following pair of examples. In each case, the question “how can students learn about history?” is asked.
In the first example, the question is addressed by using a traditional rule about learning, to yield the following quasi-syllogism:

Situation: What can students learn about history?

Rule: Learning is the passage of facts from teacher to students.

Case: Learning about history involves the passage of historical facts from the teacher to the student.

This is a perfectly sound abduction, and it describes the ordinary way that history learning occurs in schools. But suppose we want the learning of history to be a different phenomenon than the passage of historical facts from teachers to students. In this case, we need a new rule. Furthermore, the further the rule is from the “ordinary” case of transmission of facts, the more unique and creative the abductive resolution will be. As an example, consider the much less common rule that learning is “the extraction of information from narratives.” Then, our quasi-syllogism might look like:

Situation: What can students learn about history?

Rule: Learning is the extraction of information from narratives.

Case: Learning about history involves the extraction of information about history from stories that they experience.

Two things are of immediate importance. First, to the  extent that the second rule is less common, the results of instantiating that rule will be more creative for students and teachers alike. In this case, the learning of history via the extraction of information from narratives will be perceived a being more creative for the students and will involve a more creative pedagogical approach for teachers. The second point is that the nature of the rule and the resultant abductive inference will affect the role of the instructional designer who is trying to facilitate either process. In the first case, the designer is concerned with the efficient and effective transmission of information, while in the second case, the designer has to be concerned with helping the students extract information from narratives.

The final stage of the creative process, and one that directly involves the ART program, is to move all the way to the end of the “less common” process. The best way to ensure that a rule is uncommon in an abductive  setting is to apply it arbitrarily. In this fashion, the abductive inference becomes more of a case of discerning something fundamental about the meanings of cognitive processes themselves, because the arbitrary application of a rule requires a profound and extended reflection into the phenomenon at hand in order to get  anywhere at all. This can be demonstrated with a final example. In this case,  the rule of learning is arbitrarily determined to be that “learning is like watching waves roll onto the beach.” So, the quasi-syllogism is:

Situation: What can students learn about history?

Rule: Learning is like watching waves roll onto the beach.

Case: Learning about history involves the extraction of information about history as if that information were waves that roll onto the beach.

On one hand, this logical conclusion seems nonsensical. There is no a priori reason to consider learning as if it involved information that was analogous to waves rolling onto a beach. But since human beings are compelled to render propositions about the world into meaningful formats, then what has been called the Law of Juxtaposition is operating here. This law implies that human beings will automatically strive to abduce meaningful connections between any two ideas, no matter how arbitrary their connection (Shank, 1988; Shank, in press).

The use of arbitrary rules to create new insights into the nature of a process puts an additional burden on any instructional designer. Can a designer use an arbitrary rule such as the idea of “waves on the beach” to design instructional materials to help students learn in new and more insightful ways? And, if this is a useful endeavor for instructional designers, can we facilitate their access to these arbitrary rules? These are the twin goals of the ART program.

Learning Abductive Reasoning via the ART Program

ART allows the user unfamiliar with abduction to learn about this mode of reasoning from a self-contained tutorial and to practice the mode of reasoning. Figure 1 illustrates a typical set of hypertext tutorial and help screens.

It sets up abductive practice by randomly and arbitrarily juxtaposing the user’s stated area of interest with a generic aphorism from the program’s database of over 1000 such statements. These aphorisms were taken from collections of aphorisms that are in the public domain to avoid copyright infringement complications. Once the juxtaposition has been made, it is the task  of  the user to forge an insight that correlates these two arbitrarily linked statements. According to theory in educational semiotic, this juxtaposition will lead users to come up with more  creative insights into topics, by virtue of the natural human tendency to try to resolve two meaningful statements in terms of each other (Shank, 1987; Shank, 1988; Shank, in press).

In order to show how the ART program works, the following example was generated from the program itself. The user starts by defining a “Topic” which is a statement about which the user desires some fresh insight.

For example, a Topic might be:

“How can abduction be used in education?”

The computer then randomly selects a “Reflection” aphorism from its database and pairs it with the original topic statement. In this case, the Reflection selected by the computer was:

“Knowledge of manners does not bring with it knowledge of [human]kind.”

 

Figure 1. Tutorial screen from the MS-DOS ART program.

 

The whole point of pairing an arbitrary reflection with the original topic is to allow the user to feel the compulsion of meaning in trying to reconcile two statements in terms of each other. Through that compulsion toward meaning, quite often the user does find something fresh and new to say about the topic. When that happens, the new statement is recorded in the “Insight” box. An Insight here might play off the idea of manners as a formal system and conclude:

“Neither abduction as a formal system, nor education as a formal system can tell us separately all we need to know about students. We need to combine knowledge and practice from both to broaden our understanding.”

Note that there are many other possible insights that could be derived.

The following examples illustrate actual screens from the MS-DOS version of ART. In these examples, the same topic is used, first  with one reflection (see Figure 2) and then with another reflection (see Figure 3).

At the end of the process, all three statements  can  be  printed out as labeled. In the MS-DOS version, the output is routed to a notepad for printing. An example of such a notepad for the first reflection follows in Figure 4.

 

Figure 2. Program screen for first reflection from the MS-DOS ART program.

 

Figure 3. Program screen for second reflection from the MS-DOS ART program

Figure 4. Notepad output for second reflection from the MS-DOS ART program.

 

Field-Testing the ART Program

As noted earlier, over 160 beta versions of ART were sent out world-wide. Most of the input dealt with revising and improving the actual ART program. Suggestions included the use of more contemporary quotes in the database, eliminating sexist language, more careful proof-reading, and suggestions for improving the help screens and tutorial. In addition to these suggestions, two remote sites agreed to test ART qualitatively with students, and to report upon the results of these tests. In addition, a local site test was performed. The local site test and one remote test worked with undergraduate students, and the second remote site dealt with adult learners. We decided to use “ordinary” students rather than instructional design students, primarily due to the greater availability of regular students, but also to establish the general utility of the program. If the program presented problems of use, we wanted to find those problems at the most general level. These results are presented next in some detail.

Testing ART with Undergraduates

Ben Ostrov, an English professor in Hong Kong, implemented the remote undergraduate test site. He used the program with three students. Two of the students (“Helen” and “Winnie”) were Chinese, and one (“Johnny”) was a visiting American student. In this test, Ostrov generated two reflections for each topic. It is important to keep in mind that the two reflection statements are drawn at random from the computer databank. Below is an example of one of the Hong Kong ART runs with the student named “Johnny”:

Type your Topic statement below and press Start

Topic Statement: Humor

Reflection #1: The surest sign of being born with great qualities, is to be born without envy.

Reflection #2: To speak  little  and to say enough is the first difficulty of an orator.

Type your Insight below  and then press Print, if  you  want to print, or Second Reflection, for more reflections

Insight #1: Don’t think too highly of yourself, it could be fatal.

Insight #2: Mean what you say and say what you mean.

Insight #3: Never take yourself too seriously, life is too short.

Ostrov points out that ART was  very difficult for his sample. He says:

I think this software is too challenging for students,  they had great difficulty. Despite my explanation, Helen did not understand it during the  first trial. I then explained it  again. On her second attempt, she seemed to handle it much better than the other two. Watching the three of them working with ART, I found I could discover insights much more easily than  they did. If ART is meant primarily for student use, I believe that it is not adequate because the reflections are too remote from the topics for them. I say this even though only one of the three is a native speaker of English [Johnny]. He did have difficulty, and while the other two are not native speakers, their English is at a high level of fluency. Helen is a member and stage speaker of the victorious Chinese University English Debate Team and Winnie’s English ability is even better than that of Helen. Of course, three people is a very limited sample from which to make a generalization. However, as I claimed before, I find ART useful. It works as you intend. The remoteness of the reflection from the topic does stimulate insight. I think the utility of the software depends on one’s age and educational level, if not analytical skill. (Ostrov, personal communication)

From these findings, it seems as if ART might be a difficult tool for students to use independently of professorial feedback. This may be due to the novelty of the mode of logic, or it may suggest that the tutorial needs to be enhanced. If the problem were due to the complexity of the logic alone, then simply presenting students with reflections when the students give their topics should be a difficult challenge.

To test this possibility, we selected five local undergraduates. One of the co-authors and each of the undergraduate test students sat at a computer monitor and sent the senior author a Topic statement via e-mail. The senior author then submitted the Topic statement to ART, which generated two reflections. We used two reflections per student in order to replicate the Hong Kong conditions. These reflections were then sent to the student sent  to the student as an e-mail message, and the co-author at the scene relayed each reflection in tum to the student.

Our data suggest that students can at least deal with the logic, even if they could not master the tutorial segment of the  program. An example of one of the abductive sequences follows:

Student: Greg

Type your Topic statement below and press Start

Then press Second Reflection

Topic: What are existential concerns?

Reflection #1: [Humankind] never rises to great truths without enthusiasm; the cold heart argues and constructs nothing; it may be that warmth of feeling is as necessary as clear thinking to the making of a true philosopher.

Reflection #2: The performance of duty is only guaranteed to the extent to which nature has made it a want, or society an interest.

Type your Insight below

Insight: Yes, but without some inspiration, even “warmth of feeling” may be somewhat worthless. Enthusiasm and desire are great, but unfortunately, we are forced to operate within our limitations. Oh well, who said that life was gonna be fair. Just an afterthought, consider those who have the ability to appreciate/love good music, art, literature, etc., but have no ability to create any of their own.

The irony seems to be that students, when presented with the task apart from the realization that it is a particular exercise in logic, seem to do much better than when they feel that it is part of a task in logical analysis. We need to do further research to see if it is the act of labelling the logic that seems to make the task harder, or whether there is a problem with the “user-friendliness” of the interface itself.

Testing ART with Adult Learners

The last field test in this sequence comes from the work of Glenn Humphreys, who used ART with adult learners in Canada. His findings are fascinating and are presented at some length:

Last week, I had an interesting episode with a student where ART was used as an ancillary support device within an English course. A student named ‘Bill’ was working on a unit which required him to make a set of observations on his reading of a book. Specifically he was asked to record and analyse patterns in the ‘miscues’ (re. Ken Goodman’s work on reading) he noticed himself making. He was then to analyse any ‘trends’ that he thought he could see in these miscues. The idea of this unit is to help students generate a set of common language terms which they can use to become consciously aware of their reading practices in reference to certain text genres. These terms are generated. of course. through the student’s inspection of the trends in the miscues in consultation with the teacher. In effect, there are two objectives to this work: (1) assist the student to develop insights into his/her reading characteristics, (2) assist the student to develop an understanding of, and some facility with, the sense-making process of analysis itself. In short, the unit involves instruction in the use of common language as a tool for ‘thinking.’

Anyway, Bill had a hell of a time with this assignment.  He told me that when he first tried the assignment on his own he was recalling his days as a young kid in English classes. He was apparently (he said) used to the kind of simple assignment where you read a story. and then did questions which only involved looking up the answers In the story Itself. In short. he simply wasn’t used to English assignments with a strong creative thinking component. I suppose that you might wish to loosely identify this type of thinking as a close approximation to a very simple form of ‘deductive’ thinking?

In any case, I launched into a conversation with Bill where I attempted to explain the idea of surveying a field of observations that one has originally created. One then attempts to spot ‘trends’ for which one then invents descriptive ‘labels’ (category terms). Bill didn’t seem to be catching on. Clearly this ‘metacognitive’ discourse was not useful.

The next day, I decided to try him out on ART in order to see whether this would provide him with an activity which could be used as a basis for further ‘metacognitive’ discussion. So, I set Bill up on the computer, and he went through just a couple of the sequences. It seemed to help, because when we took a look at the work he was doing on the assignment the following day, he was starting to accept the step in the assignment where the miscues were listed and described.

During discussion with him, we discussed further the way category terms were to be generated for similar miscues. We talked about it in terms of ‘inventing labels’ for the groups of similar miscues. (NB. This was a term used in an earlier unit of a roughly similar sort). Bill very definitely was less frustrated and confused by the assignment. It seemed to be making sense to him at this point.

I asked him, after this, whether ART had helped at all. His comment was that ‘It is just a way to help you figure things out for yourself.·

What I am fascinated by is the very complex relationship between action, thought,  and language in this particular episode. It seems as if ART provided us with a common activity which provided some sort of exophoric reference for the ‘metacognitive’ language in our conversations—which then allowed us to collaboratively create a vocabulary which the student found suitable for articulating an understanding of his reading/thinking processes. (Humphreys, personal communication).

In the example above, we see some of the same types of difficulties that Ostrov had reported with his Hong Kong students, yet here the difficulties were ameliorated by the use of ART as a cognitive “freeing” process. In the following example, we can see how Humphreys works with another adult learner in using ART several times to help the student work through some issues:

I was up in Fran’s ‘Personal Life Management’ classroom today. Fran had gotten interested in experimenting a bit with ART after our presentation on this program earlier today. One of her students was attempting to work with the program.

Apparently the student was attempting to use the program as a sort of ‘dialogue partner’ for a discussion topic related to productive attitudes that students might wish to adopt as job seekers. I gather that Fran had a seminar (or something) on the topic of how one might try to present oneself to prospective employers.

The student had originally started with a very general question: ‘What is a good attitude?’ I noticed this written up in the topic box of the computer. I suggested to Debby (student) that the computer program might be more productively interactive if she were to try rephrasing her question. I explained to the student that the best way to regard the ART program might be as a ‘creative thinking, problem solving’ procedure, a form of ‘brainstorming.’ In other words, the program would NOT provide the student with ‘right or wrong answers,’ but would encourage the student to articulate her own ideas. Consequently, the best type of question would be a personal question related to the specific life experience of the questioner.

As a result of this short discussion, Debby produced the following computer screens (my observations are included in square brackets):

TOPIC: What am I going to do when I graduate?

[Student’s reformulated question. This reformulated question was the result of an ‘instructional conversation’ (see Ron Gallimore) between student and teacher where the computer program was defined as a certain type of semiotic tool used to mediate the student’s personal reflection.]

REFLECTION: That which we acquire with most difficulty we retain the longest.

[Debby actually looked through, and dismissed, four previous comments before deciding that this item was useful. The student is exercising personal control over the computer program. This may have resulted from the unique way in which the program-as-semiotic-tool was defined during the initial instructional conversation between student and teacher in this particular activity setting. In other words, the initial instructional conversation between teacher and student defined the ART program as a SUBSERVIENT semiotic tool. This is quite different from the controlling role which many “drill-and-test” computer programs seem to assume.]

INSIGHT: Even without a job you have accomplished a challenge. The harder you work for something, the more you appreciate it. (Glenn added this: So even if you didn’t get a good job, you will be proud of finishing your education.)

[What was interesting here is that the student  came  up  with the first sentence.  The teacher, as another partner to this discussion, couldn’t resist talking to Debby about this. This led Debby to ‘dialogically’ (see Jim Wertsch) spin off what I said to produce the second sentence. I then spun off this to produce the third sentence. This illustrates the way the ART program was used within this activity setting as one component within a three way instructional conversation between (1) student. (2) computer program, and (3) teacher.]

This particular episode again seems to illustrate how the ART program may be used as an ancillary learning tool within a school program—in this case as part of a ‘life management’ course. In this particular episode the teacher helped the student to define the computer program as a semiotic tool which had a specific, but limited, function within a larger ongoing process of ‘instructional conversation’ between teacher and student. (Humphreys, personal communication).

In both of Humphrey’s examples, we see that he plays a crucial role in serving as a moderator and interpreter for his students. This, along with Ostrov’s findings, seems to suggest that ART may indeed be a bit premature as a finished reasoning tool. In other words, we may need to develop materials in abductive reasoning that are more tutorial, more rote-oriented, and less free form. Alternatively, we may use something like the ART program as a tool to enhance our ability to work with students on such difficult topics as the formal presentation of abductive reasoning. The computer program can help us by selecting reflections at random—a task that is often very difficult for meaning-oriented humans to do. We feel that the second alternative represents the most effective use of ART at this current time.

Current Directions in Refining ART

We have already modified the MacART version of ART to reflect some of the concerns shown in our findings. MacART 2.0.1 is currently in final development. Some of the key features of MacART 2.0.1 is its enhanced visual interface, its improved tutorial segment, and the fact that it allows users to create and use their own databases of reflections. By allowing the user to create  and use a personal database, MacART 2.0.1 becomes more user-friendly, since the problems with usage based on the unfamiliar nature and meaning of many of the reflection aphorisms can be avoided.

We believe it is important to address the topic of abductive reasoning within current instructional design programs. Abductive thinking can help foster and enrich creative and insightful reasoning. An understanding of abduction in relation to the other two modes of reasoning can also help students realize that creative thinking is not idiosyncratic or the result of a gift of talent, but can be dealt with as systematically and formally as any other mode of reasoning. The advantage of tools such as ART is that they allow teachers the opportunity to direct students to these activities at an individual level, and still provide room for the teacher to interact and enhance learning. In short, the strengths of ART are the strengths of educational technology in general. That is, they expand, rather than limit, the crucial role that teachers play in the learning process.

Note: MacART 2.0.1 has been installed at NIU.

To access a copy of the program, FTP to: nirvana.acs.niu.edu. There you can locate the program in: utilities/mac/Hypercard/MacArt2.0.1.sit.hqx The file will need to be unstuffed and binhexed.

References

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Fann, K. T. (1970) Peirce’s Theory of Abduction. The Hague, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff.

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Gary Shank is at Northern Illinois University. John Minor Ross is at Indiana University-Kokomo. Wesley Covalt, Scott Terry, and Elaina Weiss are at Northern Illinois University.

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Improving Creative Thinking Using Instructional Technology Copyright © by Gary Shank, John Minor Ross, Wesley Covalt, Scott Terry, and Elaina Weiss. All Rights Reserved.

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