If thinking is seen as a complex skill or set of skills, it is reasonable to assume that "thinking is something that may be done well or poorly, efficiently or inefficiently, and also to assume that how to do it better is something that one can learn." ------------------------------------------------------------------------ TOMORROW'S PROFESSOR(SM) LISTSERV "desk-top faculty development, one hundred times a year" STANFORD UNIVERSITY LEARNING LABORATORY (SLL) http://sll.stanford.edu/ Note: Previous Listserv postings can be found at: http://sll.stanford.edu/projects/tomprof/newtomprof/postings.html ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Folks: The excerpt below looks how to teach better thinking skills to students and the different strategies used by expert and novice thinkers. It is from "BETTER TEACHING, MORE LEARNING: Strategies for Success in Postsecondary Settings," by James R. Davies. Copyright © 1993 by American Council on Education, Series on Higher Education Published by ORYX Press, 4041 North Central at Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ 85012-3397. http://www.oryxpress.com/ All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. Regards, Rick Reis email@example.com UP NEXT: Planning the Successful Federal Proposal Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning ----------------------- 777 words --------------------- TEACHING THINKING pp 182-184. If there are many types of thinking and many reasons for engaging in thinking, it is not surprising that people ask if such an important activity can be taught. The prospects for teaching thinking depend, once again, on what is meant by "thinking," and how thinking is related to intelligence. As Raymond Nickerson points out, "intelligence" and "thinking ability" are not necessarily synonymous. "Intelligence relates more to the 'raw power' of one's mental equipment. Raw power is one thing, and skilled use of it something else."1. Thinking involves not only the raw power of intelligence, but tactics and knowledge of content (the subject one is thinking about) as well.2. Or put still another way, thinking involves operations, knowledge, and dispositions.3. If a distinction can be made among the various elements of thinking, it would appear that even if nothing (or very little) can be done to improve the raw power of intelligence, perhaps something (or very much) can be done to improve operations, use of relevant knowledge, and dispositions. If thinking is seen as a complex skill or set of skills, it is reasonable to assume that "thinking is something that may be done well or poorly, efficiently or inefficiently, and also to assume that how to do it better is something that one can learn."4. Nickerson compares learning to think, to learning a complex athletic skill, i.e., enlarging "the number of pre-coded motor programs that the player can call upon to meet the demands of the moment...If thinking skills are really learned behavior patterns, we might expect an analogous effect of training, namely an enlarging of one's repertoire of pre-coded intellectual performance patterns that function relatively automatically in appropriate contexts."5. Seen this way, thinking skills appear to be something that can be learned and, therefore, taught. If thinking skills can be learned, it may be instructive to examine what differentiates skilled thinkers from novice thinkers. What do good thinkers do? A significant amount of research compares what novice and expert thinkers do. Citing many of these studies as evidence, Joanne Kurfiss summarizes the findings as follows: Novice-expert studies reveal striking differences between the two groups and striking similarities within groups, regardless of discipline. For example, experts work at the level of principles and plans before plunging into the intricate details of a solution. They may explore a number of possible representations of a problem before they commit to a particular solution....Experts treat a solution plan as a hypothesis, checking their progress frequently to avoid a "wild goose chase." Experts also use heuristics to advance understanding of the problem. Successful problem solvers aggressively seek connections between the present problem and what they already know. Novices, in contrast, exhibit tendencies that preclude success, such as categorizing the problem on the basis of superficial features, failing to include all elements of the problem in their representation, using trial and error instead of analysis and quitting.6. Two concepts embedded in this summary of findings deserve further elaboration-"heuristics" and (though not mentioned specifically) "meta-cognition." Heuristics are general "rules of thumb" that can be used for guiding the thinking process.7. For example, "try to find out first what kind of problem this is, before seeking a solution," may be regarded as a heuristic, a rule of thumb that usually works. Expert thinkers use heuristics. Furthermore, expert thinkers become aware of their own thinking through an overall monitoring process known as meta-cognition, which has been defined as "the use of strategies to monitor and control attention and memory, and to make decisions about how to proceed on a task.8. Stated more simply, meta-cognition is "being aware of our thinking as we perform specific tasks and then using this awareness to control what we are doing.9. Examples of meta-cognition include "planning, predicting, checking, reality testing, and monitoring and control of one's own deliberate attempts to perform intellectually demanding tasks."10. Expert thinkers, as opposed to novices, have learned to be effective in using heuristics and in employing meta-cognitive skills. In recent years, a number of formal "thinking skills programs" have been developed and deployed, mostly in school settings, but also in postsecondary settings.11. Some of these programs emphasize thinking skills in general (such as employing heuristics or using meta-cognition skills), whereas others emphasize thinking within a particular discipline or field of study. Can thinking skills be taught without using a formal program? Although formal programs provide a specific, well-thought-out structure and often include carefully developed and well-tested materials, surely any teacher who is determined to teach thinking skills can begin to do so by using inquiry and discovery strategies. To do so, however, one must begin by arranging classroom settings so that thinking can occur. Notes: 1) Nickerson, Perkins, and Smith, Teaching of Thinking, p. 44. 2) D.N. Perkins, "thinking Frames: An Integrative Perspective on Teaching Cognitive Skills" in Baron and Sternberg, Teaching Thinking Skills, p. 57. 3) Barry Beyer, Practical Strategies, p. 20, 25. 4) Nickerson, Perkins, and Smith, Teaching of Thinking, p. 45. 5) Ibid., p. 46. 6) For a detailed listing of the studies from which this summary of findings is drawn, see Kurfiss, Critical Thinking, pp. 30-31. 7) Beyer, Practical Strategies, p. 19. 8) Kurfuss, Critical Thinking, p. 42. 9) Marzano, et al., Dimensions of Thinking, p. 9. 10) Nickerson, Perkins, and Smith, Teaching of Thinking, p. 103. 11) Some of these thinking skills programs include Feuerstein's "Instrumental Enrichment" Program, the "Structure of Intellect" Program based on the work of Guilford, Science...A Process Approach," "BASICS," "LOGO," "Philosophy for Children," and many others. Among those programs specifically designed for higher education settings are "project Intelligence," a collaborative project involving a company, Harvard University, and the Venezuelan Ministry of Education; "Patterns of Problem Solving," developed by the Psychology Department at the University of Cincinnati; the "Cognitive Studies Project" at Manhattan Community College; the "Portable Patient Problem Pack" (P4), developed by Burrows and Tamblyn for medical students; ADAPT," developed by a group of professors at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln; "DOORS," patterned after ADAPT; "COMPAS," a cooperative project of a consortium of seven community colleges; "SOAR," developed for the sciences at Xavier University; "DORIS," used with freshman at California State University, Fullerton; and a number of programs that deal with written and spoken language. For a useful brief description of these and other thinking skills programs, see Nickerson, Perkins and Smith, Teaching of Thinking, Part II, Chapters 6-10. See also Paul Chance, Thinking in the classroom: A Survey of Programs (New York Teachers College Press (1986).