Mediation of Meaning

Mediation of Meaning

James T. Kinard, Ph.D.

Title and Subtitle

Mediation of Meaning and Its Impacts on Teachers and Students

Name of Scholar /Expert

James T. Kinard, Ph.D. in Electroanalytical Chemistry, M.S. in Theoretical Physical Chemistry, B.S. in Chemistry and Mathematics. Currently president and co-founder of RMT Laboratory, formerly professor of chemistry and mathematics, principal investigator for research projects funded by National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy , U.S. Bureau of Mines, and Agency for International Development.

Creator and Author of the Theory and Practice of Rigorous Mathematical Thinking

Rigorous Mathematical Thinking is a cognitive psychology-based process that connects with a person’s unique mental makeup to empower the individual to:

  • Become a self-motivated analytical-critical thinker;
  • Develop proficiency in big ideas in mathematics; and
  • Demonstrate strategic competence in complex real-world problem solving.

RMT Laboratory is a mathematical thinking laboratory of big “IDEAS”. The Laboratory begins in the human mind and extends into the universe of natural phenomena and man-made activity, where patterns and relationships abound.



Mediation of meaning is an instructional process by which the teacher guides and engages his or her students to investigate and understand the significance and purpose of the learning activity, lesson, or task. The central focus of mediation of meaning is to charge the activity or object with value and energy, which makes it relevant to each student.

Why is Mediation of Meaning important for better thinking and learning in the classroom?

Mediation of meaning stimulates each student to develop personal interest and curiosity in thinking to promote understanding of what is taking place in the classroom. Early in ongoing mediation of meaning, students begin developing task-intrinsic motivation (performing a task or an activity as a goal in itself, solely for the joy inherited in its performance).

With continued mediation of meaning in the classroom, students’ task-intrinsic motivation graduates to intrinsic motivation, which is nurtured through a crystallization of the process of problem-solving. The students’ motivation is detached from and independent of the extrinsic probing by the teacher. Each student has now acquired his or her learning agency.

What is Mediation of Meaning?

Mediation of meaning is a strategy that teachers may use to actively engage students in developing thinking and learning in the classroom. The teacher mediates meaning when he or she guides and stimulates the students to investigate and understand the significance and purpose of the learning activity, lesson, or task. Mediation of meaning transforms the content of the academic subject into process.

How can Mediation of Meaning be applied in the classroom?

The teacher can accomplish the mediation of meaning by:

  • Openly demonstrating his or her interest and emotional involvement as he or she guides and scaffolds students to discuss the importance of the activity, task, or lesson;
  • Making explicit the underlying strategies and skills involved in producing students’ understanding of the task, activity, or lesson;
  • Encouraging students to use their everyday language and spontaneous concepts to express the meaning they are deriving from the task, activity, or lesson;
  • Energizing stimuli in the activity or lesson by changing their frequency and/or intensity;
  • Using nonverbal behavior (position, facial expression, level and inflection of voice) to convey meaning;
  • Guiding students to construct their individual illustrations, diagrams, and or pictures that capture the meaning they are deriving from the activity, task, or lesson;
  • Openly acknowledging the meaning expressed by students’ responses.


Mediation of meaning is an instructional process by which the teacher guides and engages his or her students to investigate and understand the significance and purpose of the learning activity, lesson, or task. Through mediation of meaning, transformation takes place at three levels:

  1. The academic content is transformed into process;
  2. The classroom is transformed into a dynamic learning community;
  3. The teacher becomes more creative and effective, while the students acquire learning agency.

A Modified Chinese Proverb

Tell me and I’ll forget;

Show me and I’ll remember;

Engage me through Mediation of Meaning and I’ll understand!


RMT Publications

James T. Kinard and Gwendolyn D. Gibson Kinard, Engaging Learners in Building Cognitive Functions that Achieve Mathematical Academic Standards”, a book published by RMT Laboratory, Inc., 2018.

James T. Kinard and Alex Kozulin, Rigorous Mathematical Thinking: Conceptual Formation in the Mathematics Classroom, a book published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. July 2008.

Kinard, J.T. (2006). “Creating Rigorous Mathematical Thinking: A Dynamic that Drives Mathematics and Science Conceptual Development”, Transylvanian Journal of Psychology, Special Issue No. 2, Supplement No. 2, pp 251 – 266.

Kinard, J.T. and Kozulin, A. (2005). “Rigorous Mathematical Thinking: Mediated Learning and Psychological Tools”, Focus on Learning Problems in Mathematics, Vol. 27, #3.

Kinard, J.T. and Falik, L. (Book accepted for publication). Thinking Rigorously: Necessary and Possible for All Learners, ICELP Press, Jerusalem, Israel.

Kinard, J.T. and Falik, L. (1999).  “The Fourth R: Creating

Rigorous Thinking through Mediated Learning Experience and

Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment Program,” Life Span and Disability, 2(2): 185-204.

Kinard, J.T. (1998).  “Cognitive, Affective, and Academic Changes in Specially Challenged Inner-City Youths Through Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment with Mediated Learning Experience,” Proceedings of the International Conference on Educational Advancement for Youth at Risk.  Held in Jerusalem, Israel.  July 1998.


Contact Information


Cell: 1-773-450-6876

Land Line: 1-773-241-6325