The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which student level of cognitive competency (as measured by their scores on the discipline specific level III test) is related to faculty attitudes toward instructional goals and role as well as to the cognitive level of teacher-created course examinations. So that the study may be understood within the context of the existing work in the field, this chapter presents a review of the general literature on the development of cognitive competency and on the relationship of cognitive competency to classroom testing and to instructional goals and the instructional role. Also, since the covariate of this study is a measure of critical thinking skills, the review also examines pertinent work in this area.
Development of Cognitive Competency
Cognitive development is that process of growth in thought processes that enables people to acquire and use knowledge about the world (Piaget, 1951, 1952). The early work in this field was accomplished by Jean Piaget who divided the development of cognitive processes into several stages taking place from birth to and sometimes through adulthood.
The Piagetian stage that is pertinent to this study is what Piaget termed the stage of "formal operations." This stage is said to be the culmination of cognitive growth which can take place from as early as the age of 11 to as late as full adulthood. At this stage, people are no longer limited to mental transformations of concrete objects. They can abstract form the reality of a problem and consider alternatives or alterations in the problem.
In formal thought, ideas begin to dominate concrete experimentation. Students' thinking processes are more able to find answers to questions. Although Piaget's notions have been refined over the years, psychologists, educators, mathematicians, chemists and physicists all continue to study the development of formal operations in order to gain insight int...