«Facilitating Higher-Order Thinking: Synthesizing Pedagogical Frameworks for the Development of Complex and Coherent Conceptual Systems Michael A. ...»
Sterman (2001) noted (in the context of business management), "All too often, well-intentioned efforts to solve pressing problems create unanticipated side effects. Our decisions provoke unforeseen reaction. The result is policy resistance, the tendency for interventions to be defeated by the response of the system to the intervention itself (p. 8, original emphasis). To Sterman, complex systems thinking provides tools to produce "sustainable benefit" in terms of reforming bad institutional policies. "For many, the solution lies in systems thinking - the ability to see the world as a complex system...
With a holistic worldview, it is argued, we would be able to learn faster and more effectively, identify the high leverage points in systems, and avoid policy resistance" (pp.
Hubball, Collins, and Pratt (2005) reported on an innovative faculty development program at the University of British Columbia, which was designed to provide faculty members "with a means of looking more deeply at the underlying values and assumptions that constituted their philosophical orientations to teaching" (p. 57). Faculty learned to develop critically reflective teaching practices, to think critically about curricula and about pedagogical issues, to articulate their values and beliefs, to recognize the value of inclusion and equity, to design responsive courses, facilitate active learning, and to use a variety of communication, teamwork and leadership skills. Assessment on the Teaching Perspectives Inventory indicated that "the various... activities did promote an expanded conceptualization of teachers' views of their professional roles... suggesting an expanded mindfulness of how and why these teachers went about their instructional duties" (p. 70). However, "For many faculty members the request to reflect critically on their teaching was an unfamiliar and daunting task... the objects and processes of critical reflection were not self-evident to our participants" (p. 75).
Cleveland-Innes and Ernes (2005) have called for higher education curricula to focus on outcomes that relate to the development of competent lifelong learners. Faculty should focus on providing opportunities for students to manage their own learning; "The key identifier of a learner centered curriculum is the inclusion of outcomes related to knowledge and skill about human development" (p. 87). The authors specify three pedagogical objectives that serve this purpose: clear objectives must be specified for content mastery and skill development; students must learn about learning; and "a learner centered curriculum will offer a breadth of opportunities that demonstrate all possible mechanisms for learning, and offer 'blended' choices of curriculum delivery... In other words, higher education will accept the responsibility of developing individuals who are able to design and manage their own learning and growth" (p. 87). Thus faculty must become "well versed in the tenets of supporting learning... In addition, faculty will support increased responsibility for students, rewarding learning by increasing student control over the learning process" (pp. 101-102).
To support students in learning to manage their lives responsibly, Sternberg (2001) argues that schools should teach "for wisdom," which he describes as "the application of tacit as well as explicit knowledge as mediated by values toward the achievement of a common good through a balance among (a) intrapersonal, (b) interpersonal, and (c) extrapersonal interests, over the (a) short and (b) long terms, to achieve a balance among (a) adaptation to existing environments, (b) shaping of existing environments, and (c) selection of new environments" (Sternberg, 2001, p. 231). He points out, "An important part of analytical thinking is metacognition. Wisdom seems related to metacognition, and it is, because the metacomponents involved in wisdom are similar or identical to those that follow from other accounts of metacognition" (Sternberg, 2001, p. 233). These "metaknowledge components" comprise a particular set of skills: (a) recognize a problem, (b) define the problem, (c) gather/represent information about the problem (d) form a strategy, (e) allocate resources, (f) monitor the solution, and (g) evaluate feedback (Sternberg, 2001). Sternberg recommends that schools should teach for wisdom, because knowledge is insufficient for human satisfaction and happiness, we need to incorporate "considered and deliberate values" in our judgments, and students who benefit from learning to think wisely will be better equipped to create better communities. Sternberg provided 16 principles as bases for instruction, which include teaching independent thinking, recognizing other's interests and one's own values, balancing interests, thinking dialectically and dialogically, recognizing common good, resisting undue influences, and encouraging and rewarding wisdom.
Inferences Regarding Designing Instruction In consideration of the above, there appears to be a growing consensus that transmission (recall and recognition) models of teaching and learning are insufficient with regard to designing instruction to support and facilitate higher-order cognitive development. Rather, new technologies and new approaches to instructional design provide means for learning communities to provide cognitive scaffolding, affective support, and a sense of belonging that encourages students to engage in their own cognitive growth. Furthermore, educators and administrators need to think critically about the quality of undergraduate education in social sciences, faculty development should be clearly oriented towards higher-order cognitive skills development, and university administrators should manage their institutions out of their original purpose (to indoctrinate students into established lore) and into a paradigm of continual and active inquiry into better means of supporting the higher cognitive development of their undergraduate cohorts.
Qualitative Research Methods Denzin and Lincoln (2005) have described qualitative research as "a situated activity which locates the observer in the world. It consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that make the world visible" (p. 3). By creating a series of representations (field notes, observations, recordings, etc.), we can "triangulate" our interpretations, comparing them with each other to infer consistently meaningful perspectives. "Research strategies implement and anchor paradigms in specific empirical sites or in specific methodological practices, such as making a case an object of study" (p. 25). The focus of research is placed on verisimilitude, caring, practices, and dialogues;
the individual views (rich descriptions and deep details) of the participants can be synthesized into useful interpretive frameworks.
Describing some useful standards for qualitative research, Rubin (2000) wrote, "A chief strength of qualitative inquiry is the depth of understanding that it can provide.
Manuscripts... should report observations and findings in a thorough manner that enables readers to gain an in-depth understanding of the phenomena being studied and that provides a compelling case for the author's interpretations" (p. 174).
Johnson (1997) speaks to considerations of the validity of qualitative research, which on his account concerns the production studies that are "plausible, credible, trustworthy, and, therefore, defensible" (p. 282). Researchers must avoid having their biases distort their interpretations of research data, biases which may otherwise lead them to write whatever results they want to find. A key to overcoming this obstacle is reflexivity, critical self-reflection that allows researchers to "monitor and attempt to control their biases" (p. 284). Another method for combating bias is negative sampling, the search for, and explanation of, examples that disconfirm researcher expectations.
Descriptive validity refers to the accuracy of researchers' accounts of events, and investigator triangulation requires the use of multiple observers to ensure that recorded events actually occurred. Interpretive validity describes the accuracy of the portrayal of the meanings that participants attach to their activities and their reports; participant feedback (or member-checking, Lincoln & Guba, 1985) may be used to ask the participants to verify a researcher's interpretations of an interview or observation.
Theoretical validity refers to "the degree that a theoretical explanation fit the data and, therefore, is credible and defensible" (p. 286).
Methods Used in Field Research Babbie (1999) points out that field research is appropriate for studying attitudes and behaviours in their natural settings. "One of the key strengths of field research is the comprehensiveness of perspective it gives researchers. By going directly to the social phenomenon under study and investigating it as completely as possible, they can develop a deeper and fuller understanding of it" (p. 262).
Brenner, Brown and Canter (1985) note that interviews provide unique opportunities for researchers and participants to understand each other, since surveys do not allow for participants to inquire into the meanings of questions, nor for researchers to request clarifications of responses. However, Dilley (2000) wrote that, although few instructors of courses in qualitative methods focus much attention on the act of interviewing, "Good interviewing... opens new voices, new vistas, new visions..."
(p. 136). Babbie (1999) also emphasizes the importance of qualitative interviews in eliciting information from participants, noting, "Interviewing needs to be an integral part of [the] field research process" (p. 270). Tierney and Dilley (2002) note, "Qualitative interviewing can be used to gain information that cannot be obtained using other methods... Surveys... lack the depth of understanding that a qualitative interview provides" (p. 454). The point is to understand not only the events that occur, but also the personal contexts in which they unfold; teachers may be a rich source of material on pedagogical practices, sharing their experience of what works in the classroom. "[RJather than assuming that policy analysts or school principals can define the educational context, researchers now focus in their interviews on understanding [teachers'] interpretations of reality" (Tierney and Dilley, 2002, p. 459). Students are also legitimate sources of pedagogical data, and there has been a "movement to include the voices of those being educated in the learning process.... educational researchers have revised their research designs to include those who actually experience the educational process..." (Tierney, and Dilley, 2002, pp. 458-459). The interview experience may even be empowering to the participants since "We expect that researchers with critical predilections will...
attempt to foster interview respondents' abilities to alter their personal or educational situations if they wish to do so" (Tierney, and Dilley, 2002, p. 466).
Creswell (2002) describes grounded theory design as "a systematic, qualitative procedure used to generate a theory that explains, at a broad conceptual level, a process, an action, or interaction about a substantive topic... A 'process theory' explains an educational process of events, activities, actions and interactions that occur over time (p.
439). Strauss and Corbin (1998) describe the steps in grounded theory research as labelling the portions of data that are relevant to the inquiry (open coding), relating the categories to various sub-categories (axial coding, which entails "linking categories at the level of properties and dimensions," p. 123), and selective coding, "the process of integrating and refining the theory" (p. 143). The purpose is to produce a set of interrelated concepts, reducing the data "from many cases into concepts and sets of relational statements that can be used to explain, in a general sense, what is going on...
The essential element is that categories are interrelated into a larger theoretical scheme" (pp. 145-146).
Creswell (2002) defines a case study as "an in-depth exploration of a bounded system (e.g. an activity, event, process or individuals) based on extensive data collection" (p. 485), and a collective case study (or multiple instrumental case study) as research in which "multiple cases are described and compared to provide insight into an issue" (p.
485). Analyses of case studies may use description and thematic analysis to interpret observational and interview data; cases are located within a larger context that frames the purpose of the study.
Hicks (1994) describes analytic induction (AI) as "an inductive specification of a general theoretical framework" (p. 86). Attributed to Robinson (1951), "classical" AI recommended the use of hypotheses as a "gateway to a process of theory-building rather than as a fixed target in a one-shot test" (Hicks, 1994, p. 88). The emphasis is on negative sampling and negative case analysis, where disconfirming evidence is sought that demonstrates weaknesses in a hypothesis; hypotheses are reformulated when necessary to provide insightful descriptions of social processes. Denzin (1989) points out that AI "provides a method by which old theories can be revised and incorporated into new theories... [and it] forces a close articulation between fact, observation, concept, proposition and theory" (p. 169). It also "leads to developmental or processual theories, and these are superior to static formulations... Sociologists need theories and models of proof and inference that interpret social process" (pp. 169-170).
Inferences Regarding Pedagogies of Higher-Order Thinking The literature on qualitative research indicates that qualitative designs are suitable for observing and describing distinctions between poor and excellent instructional environments/interventions, and that teachers and students can collaborate with researchers to produce research data that provides insight into pedagogical practices associated with higher cognitive development.