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Facilitating complex thinking: Broad instructional strategies that stimulate complex thinking

Module by: Kelvin Seifert. E-mail the author

Summary: This module provides a useful framework for understanding the options available for planning and implementing instruction, especially those plans and implementations that facilitate complex thinking.

Because the forms of thinking just described—critical thinking, creativity and problem solving—are broad and important educationally, it is not surprising that educators have identified strategies to encourage their development. Some of the possibilities are shown in Table 1 and group several instructional strategies along two dimensions: how much the strategy is student-centered and how much a strategy depends on group interaction. It should be emphasized that the two-way classification in Table 1 is not very precise, but it gives a useful framework for understanding the options available for planning and implementing instruction. The more important of the two dimensions in the table is the first one—the extent to which an instructional strategy is either directed by the teacher or initiated by students. We take a closer look at this dimension in the next part of this chapter, followed by discussion of group-oriented teaching strategies.

Table 1
Directed by student(s) more
Emphasizes groups somewhat more
Cooperative learning, Inquiry, Discovery learning Self-reflection, Independent study, Concept maps
Lectures, Direct instruction, Madeline Hunter's “Effective Teaching” Mastery learning, Textbook readings, Advance organizers, Outlining, Recalling, relating, and elaborating
Emphasizes individuals somewhat more
Directed by teacher more
Table 2: Definitions of Terms in Table 1
Lecture Telling or explaining previously organized information—usually to a group
Assigned reading Reading, usually individually, of previously organized information
Advance organizers Brief overview, either verbally or graphically, of material about to be covered in a lecture or text
Outlining Writing important points of a lecture or reading, usually in a hierarchical format
Taking notes Writing important points of a lecture or reading, often organized according to the learning needs of an individual student
Concept maps Graphic depiction of relationships among a set of concepts, terms, or ideas; usually organized by the student, but not always
Madeline Hunter’s “Effective Teaching” A set of strategies that emphasizes clear presentation of goals, the explanation and modeling of tasks to students and careful monitoring of students’ progress toward the goals

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