Social Teaching Strategies

The College Classroom from the Perspective of Cognitive Psychology,” by Rogert Bruning, in Handbook of College Teaching: Theory and Applications, 1995,

“Teaching Dialogically: Its Relationship To Critical Thinking in College Students,” by Susan Reiter , in Student Motivation, Cognition, and Learning, 1994.

Notes on two chapters, including one by a UNL faculty (and a co-academic of the man I profiled Coming Anarchy under). While reading these articles, I was especially curious for any similarities to evolutionary psychology or to classroom democracies.

“Social communities are perhaps the only effective way in which ‘dispositions for thinking’ can be shaped.” (Bruning 1995 4)

“A community-of-learners approach to developing cognitive abilities also adds to the motivation to perform intellectually. Until very recently, research in cognitive psychology had emphasized ‘cold cognition’ — the processes of learning, comprehension, problem solving, and decision making. Newer models include not only purely cognitive processes but also motivational ones (e.g. Ames & Archer 1998, Dweck and Legget 1989, Pintrich 1990, Schallert 1991).” (Bruning 1995 5)

“Unlike the associationist-behavioral view, which focused on environmental influences on behavior or “conditions of learning. cognitive psychology seeks to understand the mind’s structures and processes (Bruning 1995 3)

“Just as there was faith in the ability to generalize from simple to complex learning, there was faith in the continuity between animals and humans — that principles derived from study of the former would contyribute to our understanding of the latter.” (Bruning 1995 5)

“This recognition has come from pedagogical trial and error than as a deducation from cognitive theory; the most successful programs for developing critical thought have been those involving social interaction.” (Bruning 1995 4)

“Large domain-specific networks of knowledge are necessary, but not sufficient, for effective problem solving. Knowledge becomes fully functional only when it is linked to actions — proceduralized — and these actions become automatic. In our college classes, we need to aim beyond simply imparting knowledge. Teachers need to help students discuss and clarify meaningful information, critique their own and others’ thinking, and express their thoughts in letters and papers.” (Bruning 1995 8)

“Schemata are hypothesized mental frameworks that give organization to incoming information, that guide attention and perception, and that limit or enhance the leaner’s ability to understand information.” (Bruning 1995 8)

“Rumelhart (1991) has outlined several features of schemata. First, schemata can contain a wide variety of information, from simple to highly complex. Second, the information in schemata is organized in hierarchical fashion. Third, schemata drive the interpretations that individuals make of their experiences. And fourth, schemata contain slots, some of which have fixed values and some of which have optional values,” (Bruning 1995 8)

“In a prototype of empirical research that used the framework of schema theory, Pichert and Anderson (1977) had individuals read a description of a house from either the perspective of a prospective home buyer or a burglar.” (Bruning 1995 9)

“No general problem-solving approach, no matter how potent, appears to be able to substitute for specific knowledge about the topic in question — that is, for so-called domain-specific knowledge.” (Bruning 1995 9)

“Domain knowledge often is further grouped into two subcategories: declarative knowledge (knowledge of the semantic information about the domain, or “knowledge of what”) and procedural knowledge (knowledge that links declarative knowledge to specific performances of domain-related tasks, or “knowledge of how” — the ability to turn declarative facts and concepts into action).” (Bruning 1995 10)

“On the other hand, cognitive research has made it clear that our cognitive systems have severe limitations. Humans can basically pay attention to only one thing at a time.” (Bruning 1995 10)

“We interact with the world in a very flexible, adaptive way, not on the basis of inflexible, computer-like algorithms. Our cognitive system, we find, is at its best in helping us adapt to a world in which information often is imprecise, sometimes even conflicting.” (Bruning 1995 2-3)

“Using cooperative learning and shared work may require a fair degree of readjustment in our thinking; college teachers have traditionally honored individual achievement, and individual achievement only. However, many cognitive processes — such as thinking strategically, giving reasons, clearly expressing ideas and justifying them, and writing and speaking effectively — can only develop in a social context, in a community of learners that applies community-process criteria.” (Bruning 1995 19)

“Educational research has yet to substantiate which specific types of direct critical thinking methods are most effective for college students.” (Reiter 276)

“It incorporates mayn specific recommendations in the critical thinking literature, including (1) electing multiple perspectives through instructor questioning [refs] (b) requiring that students weigh various alternatives through role-playing techniques [refs] and (c) asking students to devise arguments against positions that they favor (Brookefield, 1987, Deloz 1986).” (Reiter 276)

“In summary, the two-way interaction data suggest that the treatment works only with students who report that they are highly motivated.” (Reiter 299)

“Therefore, underling beliefs in course task value may shape a student’s decision to engage in dialogical instruction, and enhance or diminish its effect on his or her critical thinking.” (Reiter 301)

“The perception by students that course tasks used in dialogical instruction have little utility or value may lead to student apathy and disengagement. Instead of creating dissonance within the student, the student may simply remain disengaged and unmoved by stimulus.” (Reiter 302)

“Quellmalz (1987) suggests that in order for classroom inquiry approaches (like dialogical instruction) to be succssful, student smust be engaged in ‘sustained inquiry,’ if they are to acquire ‘strategic patterns’ in critical thinking (p. 95). Sustained inquiry may entail infusing dialogical instruction, at some level, as part of every class period (eg, asking students to being ecah class period by stating a position and then articulating an opposing one).” (Reiter 302)

“Extrinsic rewards for demonstraing critical thinking should be carefully considered when using direct critical thinking interventions like dialogical instruction. Clearly, it sends one message to students to encourage dialogical thinking in class discussions. It sends quite another to also require dialogical thinking skills ont he assignments, papers, projects, and exams that constitute a student’s final grade.” (Reiter 303)

“Based on instructor logs and videotypes of treatment semester instruction, student participation seemed to rise rather than fall after role modeling sessions, whether handled awkardly or well.” (Reiter 305)

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