Thinking and learning

Sitting at a seminar with 17 educationalists, Yoram Harpaz and Adam Lefstein exploring their ideas about education and learning.

The focus of Adam and Yorum’s recent work is the Community of Thinking Programme (fertile questioning) started by an Intel funded projects to develop a model of learning focussed on thinking. This lead to the building of a new school to demonstrate the model an since then work with many other schools to implement change towards the model developed.

My notes on Adam and Yorum’s presentation.

What is the foundation of good thinking? What are the most important elements of good thinking? How shall we teach good thinking? There are many definitions of what is good thinking and how can it be taught.

Three approaches:

Skills approach.Skilful thinking

Dispositions approach. Skills not so important. Dispositions or intellectual character make the difference, that is the ability to think systematically, analystically, evaluatively, or what is often termed critical thinking

Understanding approach. Dispositions or skills not important. Knowledge and understanding of knowledge is important. Good thinking is good understanding of topics thought about.

Framework to teach the three elements make up the Community of Thinking Programme.

Skills
Main elements – the main role of the teacher is to allow demonstration or exemplifying – learning based on practice.

Disposition
Main elements – not primarily based on practice! Based on whom you are and can be developed through interaction and subsequent internalisation. Initially takes place through interaction with people we love, respect, admire. The main role of the teacher is to be a good role model.

Understanding
Main elements – not knowledge in a ‘positivist’ sense, but knowledge about understanding things (a relatavistic definition). The main role of the teacher is to stimulate self-directed enquiry.

Which approach is best? Ironically the understanding approach is the most important approach to thinking – that is gaining knowledge. This does not negate the importance of skills and dispositions but these should not be the primary focus.

Skills are a focus for schools because they are easy to teach! Disposition and understanding are much harder to teach and so tend to be not focussed upon.

An interesting discussion about the implications for diffrent domains ensued. This was problematic as the participants were using diffrenet discourses both ecternally and internally for thinking and discussing the issues. In effect, the balance of the three elements in use are different in the different domains.

These complexities mean that if we want to be effective we have to be brave and focus on one strategy. Part of this is an emabrace of sociatal and cultural elements of learning (group and collaborative work), but individual cognitive work is also important – an internal dialogue based on previous knowledge.

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