Teacher Tools and Tips
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Teacher Tools and Tips
Tools, tips and practices to share with teachers
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How to teach all students to think critically - Phys.Org

How to teach all students to think critically - Phys.Org | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills.
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Students Learn to Fail—and Recover—at Calif. School

Students Learn to Fail—and Recover—at Calif. School | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
Educators at a Los Angeles-area high school believe teaching students to "fail productively" will equip them for success in the long run.
Sharrock's insight:

How do you track the changes you have made in yourself to promote problem solving behaviors in your students?

"Learning to Fail" is almost a cliche now, but do we really support learners in ways that they actually learn from failure?

In the article, it is shared that "students who were allowed to struggle with new problems on their own first were better at evaluating different variations of the problem and using different methods to solve it, and they showed deeper understanding of the underlying mathematical concepts. In observations of the classes, Mr. Kapur said teachers "consistently underestimated" students' ability to muddle through to answers on their own." Saying platitudes after a student doesn't succeed is not support. There are practices and systems that need to be in place.  What are those practices and systems?

Can teachers really change themselves to become the kinds of supporters students need so that they can learn through failure? What can you do to make those changes? What changes have you made so far? 

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Common Core in Action: 10 Visual Literacy Strategies

Common Core in Action: 10 Visual Literacy Strategies | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it

Visual literacy is a staple of 21st century skills, which state that learners must "demonstrate the ability to interpret, recognize, appreciate and understand information presented through visible actions, objects and symbols, natural or man-made." Putting aside the imperative to teach students how to create meaningful images, the ability to read images is reflected in the following standards.

 

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How to Stimulate Recall of Prior Learning Infographic

How to Stimulate Recall of Prior Learning Infographic | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
The How to Stimulate Recall of Prior Learning Infographic refers to Gagné’s 3rd event of instruction and presents ways teachers can determine students' prior knowledge.

Via Grant Montgomery
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Anita Vance's curator insight, February 5, 2014 2:13 PM

Some ideas to share to enhance student learning.  Additional possibilities to create those important links!

Anita Vance's curator insight, February 5, 2014 2:14 PM

Some ideas to share to enhance student learning.  Additional possibilities to create those important links!

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6 Routines to Support Mathematical Thinking

6 Routines to Support Mathematical Thinking | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
This series is one of my favorites; in each classroom we watch students collaborate, explain their reasoning, test their ideas, and enjoy the problem-solving process.

Via Anna Hu
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Anita Vance's curator insight, January 22, 2014 8:30 AM

These ideas promote a mindful atmosphere for learning.  While they may be aimed at math, you may take the concept to other areas, too!

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Attribution Theory - Simply Psychology

How do we attach meaning to other's behavior, or our own?  This is called attribution theory. For example, is someone angry because they are bad-tempered or because something bad happened?

“Attribution theory deals with how the social perceiver uses information to arrive at causal explanations for events.  It examines what information is gathered and how it is combined to form a causal judgment” (Fiske & Taylor, 1991)

Sharrock's insight:

This theory was explored in Thinking Fast and Slow. Saying it is psychological transference seems to be inaccurate. In the book, it was introduced as the person's ability to attribute actions and intentions, even emotions, to objects. In the study shared, there was a large triangle, a two other smaller shapes. They were animated. children viewing the animation readily interpreted the large triangle as a bully that was bullying a smaller shape and that the other shape came to help defend against the bully. They were only shapes. They didn't even have faces. Kahneman also shared that this attribution did not occur with people with autism. 

 

This tendency to attribute intentions can create problems when dealing with using anecdotes as evidence and may be the cause of disagreements. I'm still reading Kahneman's book, but I do wonder how attribution theory and transferance are related as models.

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Thinking Skills  Vocabulary and Definitions

PART IV. CORE THINKING SKILLS

Thinking skills are relatively specific cognitive operations that can be considered the "building blocks" of thinking. The following (1) have a sound basis in the research and theoretical literature, (2) are important for students to be able to do, and (3) can be taught and reinforced in school.

FOCUSING SKILLS - attending to selected pieces of information and ignoring others.

1. Defining problems: clarifying needs, discrepancies, or puzzling situations.
2. Setting goals: establishing direction and purpose.

INFORMATION GATHERING SKILLS - bringing to consciousness the relative data needed for cognitive processing.

3. Observing: obtaining information through one or more senses.
4. Formulating questions: seeing new information through inquiry.

REMEMBERING SKILLS - storing and retrieving information.

5. Encoding: storing information in long-term memory.
6. Recalling: retrieving information from long-term memory.

ORGANIZING SKILLS - arranging information so it can be used more effectively.

7. Comparing: noting similarities and differences between or among entities.
8. Classifying: grouping and labeling entities on the basis of their attributes.
9. Ordering: sequencing entities according to a giver criterion.
10. Representing: changing the form, but not the substance of information.

ANALYZING SKILLS - clarifying existing information by examining parts and relationships.

11. Identifying attributes and components: determining characteristics or the parts of something.
12. Identifying relationships and patterns: recognizing ways elements are related.
13. Identifying main ideas: identifying the central element; for example the hierarchy of key ideas in a message or line of reasoning.
14. Identifying errors: recognizing logical fallacies and other mistakes and, where possible, correcting them.

GENERATING SKILLS - producing new information, meaning or ideas.

15. Inferring: going beyond available information to identify what may reasonably be true.
16. Predicting: anticipating next events, or the outcome of a situation.
17. Elaborating: explaining by adding details, examples, or other relevant information.

INTEGRATING SKILLS - connecting and combining information.

18. Summarizing: combining information efficiently into a cohesive statement.
19. Restructuring: changing existing knowledge structures to incorporate new information.

EVALUATING SKILLS - assessing the reasonableness and quality of ideas.

20. Establishing criteria: setting standards for making judgments.
21. Verifying: confirming the accuracy of claims.

Sharrock's insight:

This page is incredibly useful. I would like to explore some of these concepts with colleagues in a professional learning group/community/team. We should reflect on them, research ways to facilitate critical thinking skills. This list includes global terms and specific terms. Combining the specific terms under the global terms, thinking processes, and core thinking skills may provide some powerful insights into how we might best support student learning.

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Learning to Learn: fighting cognitive biases | Scoop.it Blog

Learning to Learn: fighting cognitive biases | Scoop.it Blog | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it

In a world with more information than ever, figuring out how to use the brain to its fullest potential, as well as filling it with as much knowledge as possible, is the main focus of a vast amount of people in this world.

 

I’ve made it clear on many occasions that I believe in the importance of being a perpetual learner. One of the key activities associated with learning is exploring and understanding the way the human brain functions, and using the results of this to properly hack the critical thinking process. For example, did you know that something called a cognitive bias exists? This term refers to the tendency to think in certain ways.

 

Cognitive biases range from the bandwagon effect – when truths are accepted because a large amount of people also accept them – to the confirmation bias – when people believe information that confirms what they think or believe in. According to those who study psychology and behavioral economics, hundreds of cognitive biases exist. It’s necessary to educate ourselves on these biases so that we can overcome them and make sure we’re thinking as clearly and critically as possible when it comes to decision making and information processing.

 

Critical thinking is an increasingly important skill that has been overlooked by many as information becomes more accessible and superfluous. Today, a critical thinker is able to set him or herself apart by lending his or her brain to the many others who have not yet figured it out. Becoming this “thought leader,” if you will, is beneficial in many ways, including the ability to gain the trust of those with whom you wish to connect as well as the authority in the space in which you have established your expertise.

 

Click headline to read more--


Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc
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Going Meta On Historical Thinking | s-usih.org

Going Meta On Historical Thinking | s-usih.org | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
About a month ago someone posted a talk by John Toews, University of Washington professor of History and former director of its Comparative History of I...

Via Lynnette Van Dyke
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How to Mind Map Yourself

How to Mind Map Yourself | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, humans have been using methods to tap into the mind's ability to associate and imagine outcomes in order to find coherent solutions. Mind mapping is one modern day approach that draws on associations...
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Start Living More As Your Future Self

Start Living More As Your Future Self | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
How often do you think about your future self? It could make all the difference in how happy and successful you are later in life.
Sharrock's insight:

This kind of "orientation" towards preparing for you future self has an impact on decision making. It worked on some students in middle school. Many years ago, after reading "Flowers for Algernon", we did an activity that did something similar (since Charly realized his fate). It was a great opportunity to prompt thoughts on planning for a future. There is other literature that might work well as a springboard into college and career readying (not quite readiness), so that students are already impacted emotionally and intellectually, primed for the right mindset for planning. To clarify and raise the stakes, I suggested that Charly's loss was similar to dying. 

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Critical Thinking for Kids

Critical Thinking for Kids | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
Bloom's Taxonomy critical thinking questions. I am in love with this!!! :)

Via John R. Walkup
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John R. Walkup's curator insight, April 28, 2014 3:16 PM

A nice set of questions that teachers can ask to reach across a wide range of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Ivon Prefontaine's curator insight, April 28, 2014 8:09 PM

I found the critical thinking we undertook with students was bringing them back to the "right answer" per the curriculum. Is this real critical thinking?

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How to Train Your Mind to Think Critically and Form Your Own Opinions

How to Train Your Mind to Think Critically and Form Your Own Opinions | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
"Critical Thinking" may sound like an obnoxious buzzword from liberal arts schools, but it's actually a useful skill. Critical thinking just means absorbing important information and using that to form a decision or opinion of your own--rather than just spouting off what you hear others say. This doesn't always come naturally to us, but luckily, it's something you can train yourself to do better.
Sharrock's insight:

share with students, read it for yourself, share with friends and relatives. Writing instruction is a good place to review this. 

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13 Ways to Keep Your Debt from Holding You Back

13 Ways to Keep Your Debt from Holding You Back | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it

Penelope Trunk writes: I have tons of debt after launching four companies. There has never been a launch that didn't mess up my personal finances. Most entrepreneurs have no credit- I am like that as well - so I have

Sharrock's insight:

That's just amazing and horrifying to me. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman explores Prospect Theory, the Endowment effect, and loss aversion. However, taking "the plunge" entails more than I thought. But it has to be worth it, right?

 

comments at the end of the article might help shape decisions as well.

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Robert Fisher Teaching Thinking homepage

This article explores what metacognition is, why it is important and how it develops in children. It argues that teachers need to help children develop metacognitive awareness, and identifies the factors which enhance metacognitive development. Metacognitive thinking is a key element in the transfer of learning. The child's development of metacognitive skills is defined as meta-learning. Meta-teaching strategies can help mediate the metacognitive skills of children, help to stimilate children's metacognitive thinking. The article draws upon reserch currently being undertaken in London schools on raising achievement in thinking and learning through developing the metacognition of children as learners in schools.


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Ivon Prefontaine's curator insight, December 13, 2013 11:51 AM

This looks like an interesting article.

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10 Scientific Blunders That Could Shake Your Faith in Science - The Epoch Times

10 Scientific Blunders That Could Shake Your Faith in Science - The Epoch Times | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
The history of science teaches us to question what we think we know. Some scientists who made great discoveries in history were ridiculed and dismissed. Some scientific "facts" have been proven false.
Sharrock's insight:

this could generate a discussion about science, the scientific method, and politics. this article's title seems to have an agenda as well. 

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HowStuffWorks "Anger and Analytics"

HowStuffWorks "Anger and Analytics" | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
Does anger lead to better decision making? New research says it's possible. Learn how anger can affect people's decision making process.
Sharrock's insight:

There are benefits to anger. What???

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Lynnette Van Dyke's curator insight, October 25, 2013 10:53 AM

Photo courtesy Forgiss/Dreamstime If this guy got a little mad, would he figure out the answer to what’s puzzling him?

Anger and Analytics: Conclusions

Judging from these tests, it appears that when distinguishing between various arguments, angry people disregard information that's irrelevant to the quality of the argument, such as its source. Neutral subjects, however, give undue preference to those clues. In their report, Dr. Moons and Dr. Mackie wrote that "angry people were routinely sensitive to variations in argument quality" [Source: Sage Publications]. In other words, they pay attention toheuristics or cues that really matter -- argument quality, facts provided, et cetera. Contrary to common belief, anger can now be seen as a "motivator" of analytical thinking, rather than a barrier [Source: Sage Publications].

The UCSB study shows that anger can help boost analytic thinking as angry subjects more often ignore less useful information. But why? If you think about it, there is an underlying logic. Anger is an emotion that demands a response. Sometimes that response can be harmful or violent. But sometimes it can be constructive -- in this case, a desire to find a solution by focusing on thinking analytically. And as we saw in the third test, even people who weren't analytically inclined saw a boost in their reasoning ability when they got a little peeved. The study also points out that angry people often have a desire to see someone punished, a feeling which could motivate them to rank one argument above another [Source: Sage Publications].

 

Other studies, some of which are cited in the Moons-Mackie study, have also found positive benefits to anger. Dr. Jennifer Lerner of Carnegie-Mellon University has studied the effects of anger extensively. She has found that responding to a stressful situation with a reasonable amount of anger can make people feel more in control and more positive. (It's worth noting that in their study, Dr. Moons and Dr. Mackie didn't see that high level of certainty among subjects.) Dr. Carol Tavris, a psychologist and author of a book called "Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion," says that anger certainly has a positive role to play in society. She cites the women's suffrage movement as an example [Source: APA].

In everyday life, we often hear people saying how small eruptions of anger, or expressing frustration when it occurs, is more healthy than bottling it up until it boils over dramatically. Expressing anger can lead to healthy discussions, moments of insight and understanding. It's also usually a better response than one of the alternatives -- fear.

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Less serious legal research – Slaw

Less serious legal research – Slaw | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it

Why is it that legal texts turn off many eager readers? Sometimes this is due to their inherent complexity. No one can reasonably expect to obtain a simple overview of the Canadian tax system. It is complex and so are the rules that enforce it. Sometimes, legal information is made unnecessarily complex. One could think that plain language is heresy amongst authors of primary legal information. Even though court cases stand closest to common everyday communication, a trend becomes apparent that court opinions are getting longer and more complex. Public access analysts say that it has become a challenge for judges and justices, public information officers, and members of the bar to make sure that the public understands what is expressed in a court opinion. Evidently, contracts are among the less legible documents. 

Sharrock's insight:

Although this page basically reviews Canadian law, it offers an important rationale for learning critical thinking skills and explains the problems of overly complex legal language. "Public access analysts say that it has become a challenge for judges and justices, public information officers, and members of the bar to make sure that the public understands what is expressed in a court opinion." So, there is problem in understanding the law and its interpretation as well as the reasoning involved in judgments, among other decions made in the courtroom. 

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Legal Intelligence

Legal Intelligence | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
There are a lot of great resources for primary law online, both free and fee. However, to get legal analysis and cutting edge thinking on current legal topics there are also some great resources for free online.

Via Bonnie Hohhof
Sharrock's insight:

We should expose students to these kinds of resources as part of their common core learning pursuits. They do two things: these resources introduce students to laws, making connections between the government and citizenship. The second takewaway from reading these resources is the exposure to critical thinking. People need to learn that laws are interpreted and applied, not simply memorized and followed. Teachers can facilitate the learning of vocabulary, "context", logic, and reasoning. Students might also begin to access their imaginations, exploring how laws might impact their lives. People observe a great deal but don't know how to reflect on those experiences within domains. Psychology and sociology can focus some of that reflection, using vocabulary terms, models, and theory, Occassionally, a gifted teacher might find ways to apply maths. This isn't only about rational thinking. It is also about developing social and emotional intelligence.

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Sharrock's curator insight, October 21, 2013 8:13 AM

We should expose students to these kinds of resources as part of their common core learning pursuits. They do two things: these resources introduce students to laws, making connections between the government and citizenship. The second takewaway from reading these resources is the exposure to critical thinking. People need to learn that laws are interpreted and applied, not simply memorized and followed. Teachers can facilitate the learning of vocabulary, "context", logic, and reasoning. Students might also begin to access their imaginations, exploring how laws might impact their lives. People observe a great deal but don't know how to reflect on those experiences within domains. Psychology and sociology can focus some of that reflection, using vocabulary terms, models, and theory, Occassionally, a gifted teacher might find ways to apply maths. This isn't only about rational thinking. It is also about developing social and emotional intelligence.

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How to Increase Higher Order Thinking | Reading Topics A-Z | Reading Rockets

How to Increase Higher Order Thinking | Reading Topics A-Z | Reading Rockets | Teacher Tools and Tips | Scoop.it
Parents and teachers can do a lot to encourage higher order thinking. Here are some strategies to help foster children's complex thinking.

 

Strategies for enhancing higher order thinking

These following strategies are offered for enhancing higher order thinking skills. This listing should not be seen as exhaustive, but rather as a place to begin.

Take the mystery away

Teach students about higher order thinking and higher order thinking strategies. Help students understand their own higher order thinking strengths and challenges.

Teach the concept of concepts

Explicitly teach the concept of concepts. Concepts in particular content areas should be identified and taught. Teachers should make sure students understand the critical features that define a particular concept and distinguish it from other concepts.

Name key concepts

In any subject area, students should be alerted when a key concept is being introduced. Students may need help and practice in highlighting key concepts. Further, students should be guided to identify which type(s) of concept each one is — concrete, abstract, verbal, nonverbal or process.

Categorize concepts

Students should be guided to identify important concepts and decide which type of concept each one is (concrete, abstract, verbal, nonverbal, or process).

Tell and show

Often students who perform poorly in math have difficulty with nonverbal concepts. When these students have adequate ability to form verbal concepts, particular attention should be given to providing them with verbal explanations of the math problems and procedures. Simply working problems again and again with no verbal explanation of the problem will do little to help these students. Conversely, students who have difficulty with verbal concept formation need multiple examples with relatively less language, which may confuse them. Some students are "tell me" while others are "show me."

Move from concrete to abstract and back

It can be helpful to move from concrete to abstract and back to concrete. When teaching abstract concepts, the use of concrete materials can reinforce learning for both young and old alike. If a person is able to state an abstract concept in terms of everyday practical applications, then that person has gotten the concept.

Teach steps for learning concepts

A multi-step process for teaching and learning concepts may include (a) name the critical (main) features of the concept, (b) name some additional features of the concept, (c) name some false features of the concept, (d) give the best examples or prototypes of the concept (what it is), (e) give some non-examples or non-prototypes (what the concept isn't), and (f) identify other similar or connected concepts.

Go from basic to sophisticated

Teachers should be sure that students have mastered basic concepts before proceeding to more sophisticated concepts. If students have not mastered basic concepts, they may attempt to memorize rather than understand. This can lead to difficulty in content areas such as math and physics. A tenuous grasp of basic concepts can be the reason for misunderstanding and the inability to apply knowledge flexibly.

Expand discussions at home

Parents may include discussions based on concepts in everyday life at home. The subject matter need not relate directly to what she is studying at school. Ideas from reading or issues in local or national news can provide conceptual material (for example, "Do you think a dress code in school is a good idea?").

Connect concepts

Teachers should lead students through the process of connecting one concept to another, and also putting concepts into a hierarchy from small to large. For example, if the concept is "Thanksgiving," a larger concept to which Thanksgiving belongs may be "Holidays," and an even larger (more inclusive) concept could be "Celebrations." By doing this level of thinking, students learn to see how many connections are possible, to connect to what they already know, and to create a web of concepts that helps them gain more clarity and understanding.

Compare the new to the already known. Students should be asked to stop and compare and connect new information to things they already know. For example, if they are about to read a chapter on electricity, they might think about what they already know about electricity. They will then be in a better position to absorb new information on electricity.

Teach inference

Students should be explicitly taught at a young age how to infer or make inferences. Start with "real life" examples. For example, when a teacher or parent tells a child to put on his coat and mittens or to get the umbrella before going outside, the adult may ask the child what that might mean about the weather outside. When students are a little older, a teacher may use bumper stickers or well-known slogans and have the class brainstorm the inferences that can be drawn from them.

Teach Question-Answer Relationships (QARs)

The Question-Answer Relationships (QARs) technique (Raphael 1986) teaches children to label the type of questions being asked and then to use this information to assist them in formulating the answers. Two major categories of question-answer relationships are taught: (1) whether the answer can be found in the text — "In the Book" questions, or (2) whether the reader must rely on his or her own knowledge — "In My Head" questions.

In the book QARs

Right There:
The answer is in the text, usually easy to find; the words used to make up the questions and words used to answer the questions are Right There in the same sentence.

Think and Search (Putting It Together):
The answer is in the story, but the student needs to put together different parts to find it; words for the questions and words for the answers are not found in the same sentences; they come from different parts of the text.

In my head QARs

Author and You:
The answer is not in the story; the student needs to think about what he/she already knows, what the author tells him/her in the text, and how it fits together.

On My Own:
The answer is not in the story; the student can even answer the question without reading the story; the student needs to use his/her own experience.

The QAR technique helps students become more aware of the relationship between textual information and prior knowledge and enable them to make appropriate decisions about which strategies to use as they seek answers to questions. This technique has proven to be especially beneficial for low-achieving students and those with learning differences in the elementary grades (Raphael 1984; Simmonds 1992).

Clarify the difference between understanding and memorizing

When a student is studying, his parents can make sure that he is not just memorizing, but rather attempting to understand the conceptual content of the subject matter. Parents can encourage the student to talk about concepts in his own words. His parents can also play concept games with him. For example, they can list some critical features and let him try to name the concept.

Elaborate and explain

The student should be encouraged to engage in elaboration and explanation of facts and ideas rather than rote repetition. His teachers and parents could have him relate new information to prior experience, make use of analogies and talk about various future applications of what he is learning.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Students should be encouraged to make a visual representation of what they are learning. They should try to associate a simple picture with a single concept.

Make mind movies

When concepts are complex and detailed, such as those that may be found in a classic novel, students should be actively encouraged to picture the action like a "movie" in their minds.

Teach concept mapping and graphic organizers

A specific strategy for teaching concepts is conceptual mapping by drawing diagrams of the concept and its critical features as well as its relationships to other concepts. Graphic organizers may provide a nice beginning framework for conceptual mapping. Students should develop the habit of mapping all the key concepts after completing a passage or chapter. Some students may enjoy using the computer software Inspiration for this task.

Make methods and answers count

To develop problem-solving strategies, teachers should stress both the correct method of accomplishing a task and the correct answer. In this way, students can learn to identify whether they need to select an alternative method if the first method has proven unsuccessful.

Methods matter

To develop problem-solving strategies, teachers should give credit to students for using a step-wise method of accomplishing a task in addition to arriving at the correct answer. Teachers should also teach students different methods for solving a problem and encourage students to consider alternative problem-solving methods if a particular strategy proves unrewarding. It is helpful for teachers and parents to model different problem-solving methods for every day problems that arise from time to time.

Identify the problem

Psychologist Robert Sternberg states that precise problem identification is the first step in problem solving. According t o Sternberg, problem identification consists of (1) knowing a problem when you see a problem and (2) stating the problem in its entirety. Teachers should have students practice problem identification, and let them defend their responses. Using cooperative learning groups for this process will aid the student who is having difficulty with problem identification as he/she will have a heightened opportunity to listen and learn from the discussion of his/her group members.

Encourage questioning

Divergent questions asked by students should not be discounted. When students realize that they can ask about what they want to know without negative reactions from teachers, their creative behavior tends to generalize to other areas. If time will not allow discussion at that time, the teacher can incorporate the use of a "Parking Lot" board where ideas are "parked" on post-it notes until a later time that day or the following day.

Cooperative learning

Many students who exhibit language challenges may benefit from cooperative learning. Cooperative learning provides oral language and listening practice and results in increases in the pragmatic speaking and listening skills of group members. Additionally, the National Reading Panel reported that cooperative learning increases students' reading comprehension and the learning of reading strategies. Cooperative learning requires that teachers carefully plan, structure, monitor, and evaluate for positive interdependence, individual accountability, group processing, face to face interaction, and social skills.

Use collaborative strategic reading

Collaoborative Strategic Reading — CSR (Klinger, Vaughn, Dimino, Schumm & Bryant, 2001) is another way to engage students in reading and at the same time improve oral language skills. CSR is an ideal tactic for increasing reading comprehension of expository text in mixed-level classrooms across disciplines. Using this tactic, students are placed into cooperative learning groups of four to six students of mixed abilities. The students work together to accomplish four main tasks: (1) preview (skim over the material, determine what they know and what they want to learn), (2) identify clicks and clunks (clicks = we get it; clunks = we don't understand this concept, idea or word), (3) get the gist (main idea) and (4) wrap up (summarize important ideas and generate questions (think of questions the teacher might ask on a test). Each student in the group is assigned a role such as the leader/involver/taskmaster, the clunk expert, the gist expert, and the timekeeper/pacer (positive interdependence). Each student should be prepared to report the on the group's conclusions (individual accountability).

Think with analogies, similes, and metaphors

Teach students to use analogies, similes and metaphors to explain a concept. Start by modeling ("I do"), then by doing several as a whole class ("We do") before finally asking the students to try one on their own ("You do"). Model both verbal and nonverbal metaphors.

Reward creative thinking

Most students will benefit from ample opportunity to develop their creative tendencies and divergent thinking skills. They should be rewarded for original, even "out of the box" thinking.

Include analytical, practical, and creative thinking

Teachers should provide lesson plans that include analytical, practical and creative thinking activities. Psychologist Robert Sternberg has developed a framework of higher order thinking called "Successful Intelligence." After analyzing successful adults from many different occupations, Sternberg discovered that successful adults utilize three kinds of higher order thinking: (1) analytical (for example, compare and contrast, evaluate, analyze, critique), (2) practical (for example, show how to use something, demonstrate how in the real world, utilize, apply, implement), and (3) creative (for example, invent, imagine, design, show how, what would happen if). Data show that using all three increases student understanding.

Teach components of the learning process

To build metacognition, students need to become consciously aware of the learning process. This changes students from passive recipients of information to active, productive, creative, generators of information. It is important, then for teachers to talk about and teach the components of the learning process: attention, memory, language, graphomotor, processing and organization, and higher order thinking.

Actively teach metacognition

Actively teach metacognition to facilitate acquisition of skills and knowledge. It is important for students to know how they think and learn. Teach students about what Robert Sternberg calls successful intelligence or mental self-management. Successful intelligence is a great way to explain metacognition.

In his book entitled Successful Intelligence, Sternberg lists six components of successful intelligence:

Know your strengths and weaknessesCapitalize on your strengths and compensate for your weaknessesDefy negative expectationsBelieve in yourself. This is called self-efficacySeek out role models — people from whom you can learnSeek out an environment where you can make a differenceUse resources

Several resource books by Robert Sternberg are available on higher order thinking. The following books should be helpful and are available at local bookstores or online.

Successful Intelligence by Robert J. SternbergTeaching for Successful Intelligence by Robert J. Sternberg and Elena L. GrigorenkoTeaching for Thinking by Robert J. Sternberg and Louise Spear-SwerlingConsider individual evaluation

Many students with higher order thinking challenges benefit from individual evaluation and remediation by highly qualified professionals.

Make students your partners

A teacher should let the student with higher order thinking challenges know that they will work together as partners to achieve increases in the student's skills. With this type of relationship, often the student will bring very practical and effective strategies to the table that the teacher may not have otherwise considered.

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Evaluation/Assessment

If consistent use of some of the above strategies does not seem to help a student, it may be worthwhile to consider having a comprehensive neurodevelopmental evaluation conducted by a qualified professional. Problem identification is the first step in problem solution; thus, if the problem is not accurately identified, the solutions that are attempted often will not reap rewards for the student and those working with him.

A comprehensive neurodevelopmental evaluation performed by a licensed psychologist should serve as the roadmap for parents, students and professionals working with the student. It should provide a complete picture of his attention, memory, oral language, organization, graphomotor/handwriting skills and higher order thinking. It should also include an assessment of the student's academic skills (reading, written language and math) and his social and emotional functioning. The evaluation should not only provide an accurate diagnosis but also descriptive information regarding the areas of functioning noted above.

When seeking professional services for an evaluation, it is important to understand what constitutes a good evaluation and also the purpose of the evaluation. Evaluations conducted by public school systems are generally for the purpose of determining whether a student meets criteria for a special education classification. Evaluations conducted by many private professionals are performed for the purpose of determining whether the student meets diagnostic criteria according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. While both of these types of evaluations are helpful in their own ways, they are generally not sufficient for providing the best roadmap. Therefore, parents should be informed consumers and ask questions about what kind of information they will walk away with after the evaluation has been completed.

The focus of an evaluation should be to address concerns and provide answers to specific questions asked by the parents and the student, and to identify the underlying causes of problems. For example, if the student has problems with reading comprehension, is it because she cannot decode the words, she has insufficient fluency or vocabulary, or she cannot understand discourse because of difficulty with attention or memory? It should also identify the student's strengths as well as challenges and specific strategies for managing these challenges.

A good evaluation should glean information from multiple sources such as interviews, questionnaires, rating scales and standardized tests. Contact CDL for more information about neurodevelopmental evaluations at (504) 840-9786 or learn@cdl.org.

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