Facilitating Complex Thinking

Chapter Summary: Facilitating Complex Thinking

Looking broadly at this chapter, you can see that choices among instructional strategies are numerous indeed, and that deciding among them depends on the forms of thinking that you want to encourage, the extent to which ideas or skills need to be organized by you to be understood by students, and the extent to which students need to take responsibility for directing their own learning. Although you may have personal preferences among possible instructional strategies, the choice will also be guided by the uniqueness of each situation of teaching—with its particular students, grade-level, content, and purposes. If you need to develop students’ problem solving skills, for example, there are strategies that are especially well suited for this purpose; we described some. If you need to organize complex information so that students do not become confused by it, there are effective ways of doing so. If you want the students to take as much initiative as possible in organizing their own learning, this too can be done.

Yet having this knowledge is still not enough to teach well. What is still needed are ideas or principles for deciding what to teach. In this chapter we have still not addressed an obvious question: How do I find or devise goals for my teaching and for my students’ learning? And assuming that I can determine the goals, where can I find resources that help students to meet them?

Teaching involves numerous instructional strategies, which are decisions and actions designed to facilitate learning. The choice of strategies depends partly on the forms of thinking intended for students—whether the goal is for students to think critically, for example, to think creatively, or to solve problems. A fundamental decision in choosing instructional strategies is how much to emphasize teacher-directed instruction, as compared to student-centered models of learning. Teacher-directed strategies of instruction include lectures and readings (expository teaching), mastery learning, scripted or direct instruction, and complex teacher-directed approaches such as Madeline Hunter’s effective teaching model. Student-centered models of learning include independent study, student self-reflection, inquiry learning, and various forms of cooperative or collaborative learning. Although for some students, curriculum content and learning goals may lend themselves toward one particular type of instruction, teaching is often a matter of combining different strategies appropriately and creatively.


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