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«Facilitating Higher-Order Thinking: Synthesizing Pedagogical Frameworks for the Development of Complex and Coherent Conceptual Systems Michael A. ...»

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The physics lessons studied by Constantinou and Papadouris were hands-on, problem-based and inquiry-based. Students worked in groups of four and interacted with electrical components to build circuits; instructors guided them in developing theoretical models of the electrical processes by helping them to spot inconsistencies in their reasoning and to negotiate epistemological difficulties (without suggesting particular problem resolutions). Analysis of the resulting digital videos produced some interesting results; it was seen that students sometimes failed to consider empirical observations when formulating theoretical hypotheses, and some even failed to make the observations which were specified in the protocols. This epistemological difficulty demonstrated to the researchers that the principles of systematic scientific analysis escaped these students, who relied instead on a group leader to produce an (erroneous) intuitive explanation of the phenomenon under observation (the heat generated by a circuit). In addition to this difficulty, some students never appreciated the importance of consensus on the measurement of each observation, again demonstrating a failure to appreciate the importance of empirical data in forming conclusions. A third epistemological barrier to learning was the evident failure to appreciate the importance of rejecting one of two mutually contradictory models, which demonstrated a lack of appreciation for engagement in rigorous inquiry processes. As a result, a great deal of conceptual difficulty was encountered in producing cogent explanations of heat distribution in the circuit being studied.

While the results of this case study should only be generalized with great caution (given the small sample and short duration), it provides an instructive example of research on the use of technology to support and facilitate cognitive development. The type of evidence gathered here seems be useful for providing empirical evidence on how people learn (or fail to learn); the study uses sophisticated video technology to study higher-order learning, and this is a very useful tool for qualitative research.

Creating a software product is a complex task, and teaching software production represents an opportunity for embedded instruction in higher-order thinking. Liu (2003) studied the design, implementation and evaluation of instructional support for developing cognitive skills in elementary, middle school and high school students who were studying multimedia technology in a context of problem-based learning. Her research used a longterm, mixed-methods approach; her students learned the theory and practice of design and analysis, and engaged the design of multimedia products. Liu claimed "some encouraging results in enhancing cognitive skills development" (p. 37).

First, the four stages of product development (planning, design, production and implementation) were discussed with students, and each phase was undertaken as a collaborative effort between artists, designers, programmers and managers.

Brainstorming was succeeded by design, production, evaluation and revision, and applications were produced in an authentic simulation of real-world systems analysis and design. Liu's techniques required students to collect enough information, and acquire sufficient skills (including reflection, organization and project management), to create useful educational products. In the process, the participants responded to questionnaires about their participation in each phase, and the products were evaluated according to their content (complexity and appropriateness), their structure, their screen design, use of media, and originality. Some students agreed to produce concept maps that reflected their thinking (before and after their learning experiences); some students, teachers and parents participated in interviews. Reported measures demonstrated significant gains in design skills, and fourth-grade students who collaborated in designing their projects seemed to demonstrate "better understanding of the importance of planning and collaboration" (p.

33) than those who worked in a teacher-centred design environment.

Jonassen, Strobel and Gottdenker (2005) described the benefits of model construction with regard to facilitating conceptual change, noting that building conceptual models (semantic, mathematical or dynamic) can facilitate the appreciation of multiple alternative representations of relationships between structures, processes and beliefs. Conceptual change (the reconstruction of personal mental frameworks, schemata and perspectives) can be made evident through the construction of increasingly sophisticated models. The process of building and examining theories of relationships (reifying our conceptual frameworks in language and imagery) allows for the testing of our ideas about dynamic processes, and for the rejection of incoherent assumptions and inferences. Comparing different models of a process allows for the examination of different interpretations of the relationships between conceptual (and real-world) structures; unworkable models can indicate the need for reconceptualization of a mental framework by demonstrating a dysfunction (an inconsistency between the model's action and its expected functionality). "When expected values do not result from the model, learners are faced with a cognitive conflict that they must resolve. Resolving that conflict is a rich example of the conceptual change process" (p. 26). Jonassen et al. pointed out that metacognitive self-regulatory processes are galvanized by the activities involved in building and testing models of dynamic cognitive structures.

Fishman, Marx, Blumenfeld, Krajcik, and Soloway (2004) explored the failure of K-12 schools to implement cognitively oriented technologies to foster learning and higher-order thinking, concluding that innovations have not been developed and tested in ways that support school reform. While problems of implementation have been addressed at the level of classroom (or several classrooms), technological innovation cannot be successful without integration into larger (systemic) contexts, including teacher education, pedagogy assessment and curricular reform. Without consideration of issues of usability, "the field lacks a bridge between... development of learning technologies and the broad-based systemic use of these innovations in schools... [T]his calls for an augmented research agenda designed to enhance the usability of technological innovations developed by the research community, with positive consequences for scalability and sustainability" (p. 45). Usability refers to ease of use by teachers and students, and is a primary requirement for technological tools; sustainability refers to the question of whether teachers are willing and able to use an innovation over the long term, and scalability describes whether or not a tool is suitable for widespread use. Fishman et al. argue that research must not only examine learners, teachers, and classes, but (if innovations are to be accepted), it must be expanded to use schools and school systems as units of analysis. Measures at the systemic level may include instructional vision, technical access and support, collaboration between teachers, leadership, support for teachers, ease of adoption, and reporting of technology use. "We need to define questions that explicitly address issues of sustainability and scalability, if we hope for innovations to enter into widespread use..." (p.48).

Other Qualitative Analyses of The Pedagogy of Cognition Paul, Elder and Bartell (1997) surveyed faculty at California universities and colleges, concluding, "... there is a serious problem in preparing teachers for critical thinking instruction in California's K-12 schools" (p. 103). These authors recommended

that the following education policies be adopted:

1. Information that fosters awareness of, and commitment to, teaching for CT should

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2. Professional development courses on preparing teaching faculty to teach CT should be provided as "appealing opportunities" (p. 89).

3. Strong accreditation standards for teacher preparation in CT should be established. Teacher preparation for CT instruction should be strengthened and reinforced by creating career-long credential expectations.

4. Teaching credential examinations should include knowledge and skills related to

–  –  –

While this list of policies seems to go beyond current practices at most educational institutions, it appears to be a useful set of guidelines.

Manconi, Aulls and Shore (2008) interviewed six teachers (two each from elementary, secondary and university levels) who used inquiry instruction, and two adult educators who did not employ inquiry techniques, reporting, "The noninquiry teachers interpreted guidance differently from the inquiry teachers. Instead of questioning their students, [the former] considered guidance to mean helping their students by showing them how to do things or indicate to them the correct response" (p. 263). On the other hand, "Teachers who possessed a clear conception of an inquiry approach to teaching were able to transfer their knowledge and their expertise to their students, who could then better understand what is involved and intended in the inquiry process" (p. 267).

Ruiz and Fernando-Balboa (2005) reported that, although some physical education teacher educators claimed to practice critical pedagogy (CP), fewer than half of those interviewed expressed a clear understanding of the principles and purposes involved in CP. These authors noted, "This lack of understanding of CP might be an important factor contributing to its limited success in physical education teacher education" (p. 243).

Ball & Wells (2006) describe the evolution of pedagogical practices in public education, arguing that the "didactic lecture-style format of large introductory classes" (p.

188) can be replaced by more effective teaching strategies. These authors recommend a neo-Vygotskian social theory of education that focuses on the processes of learning (as well as the objects of study and student work projects), and they argue for co-operative (rather than hierarchical) learning structures. They emphasize the importance of metacognition, which they describe as a "strategic awareness or reflection" (Ball & Wells, 2006, p. 190) with regard to one's individual learning processes and the results of those processes. The course they described {Introduction to Theories of Education for undergraduate students in a California university) was designed to provide opportunities for practical activities and conscious reflection; weekly lectures were supplemented by small section meetings and by study groups of four to six students, who kept learning journals as an aid to reflection and inquiry. Debate was strongly encouraged, and final grades were based on portfolios of work products.

Ball & Wells point out that the course organization focused the responsibility for forming learning goals on the students, that the skills of goal-formation are extremely valuable, and that the process allowed for the creation of learning goals that were "personally and socially relevant" (2006, p. 194) to the students. They report that the participants found the course to be quite different from other introductory courses (as they were required to define problems and to create the purposes for their activities); the authors consider that the metacognitive work involved in these processes enable "a deeper and more connected kind of sense-making" (Ball & Wells, 2006, p. 195), and they were pleased with the results, which demonstrated to them that the students engaged in "thoughtful and productive collaborative work" (p. 197).

Ball & Wells' emphasis on "sensemaking" through argumentation, and on metacognitive awareness, exemplify the pedagogical commitments that support and facilitate higher-order cognitive development.

... [S]ensemaking... is initiated when people become aware of more and more varied cues, conceive of multiple meanings and seek to find some way to integrate or organize them... [TJhose students who were able to move beyond previously established expectations about their role and what would count as legitimate evidence or successful learning were able to find relevance and to integrate multiple meanings by adopting a dialogic and metacognitive stance toward their own learning, and thus come to a more complex understanding of how people learn generally.

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Inferences There is a large corpus of coherent descriptions of human cognition; we can understand a great deal about thinking. This is fortunate, because we need to understand thinking if we are to enable metacognition (cognitive self-monitoring and selfcorrection), which is an essential focus of the pedagogy of higher-order thinking.

The research described above represents a small percentage of the work produced by a large and vital research community, the members of which are dedicated to improving the quality of educational processes. This evidence of commitment, by a large number of researchers and practitioners, to the benefit of future students is heartening;

even if the quality of the educational practices described above is far superior to that delivered in most schools, we are informed that (at least) some students are receiving high-quality cognitive and metacognitive support from informed and capable educators.

We may hope that, as a result of a great deal of excellent work performed by these dedicated researchers and practitioners (and many others like them), the cogent theoretical views that they have brought to the field, and their most effective methods, will become widespread before very long.

Above all, it is important for educators to keep in mind the cautionary advice presented by Dickey (2005): technological tools do not produce educational benefits;

rather, tools may be administered appropriately, with optimal timing, and their use may be closely monitored and managed by well-educated educators. Technology is no educational panacea; educators must learn to support students in managing their own learning, and the learning required to administer the use of technological aids (with optimal effectiveness) places a burden on teachers, teacher educators, and school administrators, according to the use of each application.

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