Abstract Thinking Of Concrete Concepts

Program Standard 4

4. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning. 

4.1 Element – Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy

2.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher’s plans and practice reflect familiarity with a wide range of effective pedagogical approaches in the discipline.

Educators are charged with the complex task of helping students learn new concepts. However, this does not mean that teachers should merely present students with facts to study and memorize. Instead, they must find ways to present information through meaningful learning experiences that will equip students with the ability to transfer their learned skills from the classroom to real world situations. Bruner (1971) called for “an approach to learning that allows the child not only to learn the material that is presented in a school setting, but to learn it in such a way that [he or she] can use the information in problem solving” (p. 70). For students to be able to engage in complex reasoning they first must be able to look at straightforward concepts abstractly. One way that teachers can get students involved in this kind of thinking is through the synectics teaching model.

This strategy employs the use of metaphors and analogies to deepen students’ examination of topics. Educators use it to develop students’ thinking by having them investigate concrete notions in abstract ways. There are two manners in which to use synectics in the classroom: to produce a new idea out of something familiar or to make unfamiliar knowledge relatable (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, p. 160). Both of these approaches lead students to think more critically about any given topic and incite them to view concept exploration as a highly involved process. This type of learning also invites students to examine their own thought development. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) stated in reference to synectics that, “students learn to think about their problem solving processes and gain a measure of metacognitive control over how they solve problems” (p. 149). This type of intentional cognitive exploration can help students develop better critical thinking skills that will transfer more readily to a variety of situations and extend beyond the classroom.

Bruner, J. S. (1971). The Relevance of Education. New York: Norton. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Joyce, B.R., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015) Models of Teaching (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

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