INTENTIONALITY / RECIPROCITY: The Generator and Catapult of Mediated Learning Experience

Name of scholar/expert:

Gwendolyn D. G. Kinard, Ph.D.

About Dr Kinard

Gwendolyn Kinard’s professional journey includes earning a Bachelor degree in Chemistry, a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Public Policy Analysis with an Specialization in Education Administration.  She has professional teaching licenses from pre-school through High School in the disciplines of Chemistry/Physical Science, Political Science/Civics, and Special Education.  Dr. Kinard has certification as a Trainer of Trainers in Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment, and has completed courses in Feuerstein’s Dynamic Assessment and Instrumental Enrichment-Basic.  She worked as an industrial chemist before entering the teaching profession and has been an educator and administrator at the pre-college level and an adjunct professor and researcher at the university level.

Introduction:

Professor Reuven Feuerstein created a powerful theory of structural cognitive modifiability (SCM), that lays the groundwork for mediated learning experience.  SCM proposes that: 1) a basic quality of being human is to be adaptable; 2) that each person can be modified, regardless of obstacles; 3) learning takes place through direct and mediated learning experiences; 4) learners are transformed or modified by learning experiences; and 5) this modifiability helps one to learn how to learn.

 

Humans are naturally equipped and motivated to learn through direct exposure to their environment (observe an infant or toddler).  An individual is a member of a group by reason of birth. Because there is an existence of stimuli within (“the self”) and without (“in the world”), the need for MLE arises.  Beginning with the nurturing of the infant with physical food and love, this interaction between mother and child, father and child, siblings (the nuclear family), and significant others (the village), the mediated learning experience can manifest itself.

 

This framework of interactions is shaped and characterized by culture.  Culture can be described as a complex and intricate system of norms, standards and control mechanisms to which members assign meanings, values and significance to patterns of knowledge, skills, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs.  Culture also includes material artifacts produced by human society and transmitted from one generation to another (Pai, Adler, 2001).

 

The transmission of culture from generation to generation is primarily the work of the nuclear family, but it is heavily influenced by the institutions and customs representing the society in general.  Human societies have a need to perpetuate their culture.  MLE, as presented by Professor Feuerstein, provides a powerful and dynamic tool to construct a bridge between home and school.

 

However, to understand how to use MLE to create the bridge, there has to be role definition of education and schooling.  I propose, that for the learner, education is fundamentally a cognitive process that originates and is nurtured by the home and village or community first.  Alex Kozulin (1998), states that generally, education is the process by which a novice acquires an individualized version of his or her group’s culture.” The larger society’s mechanism for transmitting culture is primarily through schooling.

 

So, the question emerges, how does Feuerstein’s MLE create a bridge between home and school for the learner?

 

What is intentionality/reciprocity?

The first criteria of Feuerstein’s MLE is that of intentionality/reciprocity.  Intentionality/Reciprocity is a part of the triad comprising the universal criteria of MLE (the other two are transcendence and mediation of meaning).  According to Feuerstein, these criteria are universal because they do not depend on the content nor the modality of mediation.  In other words, mediation at this level does not have to be restricted to speaking, it can be non-verbal, nor does it have to be cognitive, it can be emotional, or attitudinal.

Fundamentally, all mediated learning interactions must be intentional, and that intention is to transcend from the current situation or position of thought or action in the learner to a future desired state. The goal of these interactions must lead to transformation within the individual.

  • The primary conditions of an MLE interaction are framed through Intentionality and reciprocity.
  • The mediator, mediatee and the stimuli are transformed through intention.
  • The mediator is purposeful and carefully develops plans to motivate the mediatee(s) to share and engage in the purpose.
  • Effective intentionality/reciprocity catapults the MLE into deeper more enriched interactions between the mediator(s) and mediatee(s) and creates the path for the development of other MLE criteria.

Through intentionality, the mediatee or teacher creates an atmosphere that transforms mediatee/students’ mistakes into opportunities for deeper learning.

 

Why is intentionality/reciprocity important for better thinking and learning in the classroom?

The reality in the homes of so many children and also in general society is that mediation has not fully occurred, thereby producing deficiencies in the child’s intellectual, emotional, attitudinal, motivational and behavioral development.  Therefore, children are not prepared to engage in formal schooling because they lack the tools and competencies (skills, attitude and behaviors) to fully participate.

  • “A human mediator makes learning intentional…teaching strategies and principles entrenched in learning material rather than just facts and notions, and providing transfer of these cognitive strategies and principles to new material and new situations in different content areas and subjects”,(Gindis, 2003, p.210).
  • When the teacher has embraced and understands the importance of intentionality, their approach to lesson planning, lesson implementation and assessment is substantially enlightened.
  • When both teacher/mediator and student(s)/mediatee(s) share the same intention, the mediatee has a much better chance of full participation in the learning experience.
  • One of the major purposes of MLE is to correct deficient cognitive functioning or thinking skills. Intentionality/reciprocity initiates this mediation through the generation of powerful questions.
  • MLE is most effective in engaging student reciprocity through the selection of thoughtful and penetrating questions.
  • Intentionality/reciprocity provides an excellent opportunity for the building of relationships between teacher and student and student and student.
  • The student or mediatee becomes aware of the learning process through the intentionality of the mediatee.
  • Internalizing this awareness of the learning process leads to self-reflection (metacognition), insight, and to higher levels of modifiability.
  • Mediators/teachers can create a common language to improve school-home communications.

Parents and families can be invited to collaborate in preparing activities that improve home-school communication.

How can intentionality/reciprocity be applied in the classroom?

Through intentionality/reciprocity teacher, student and the learning content can be transformed into valuable life-long experiences.  Applications of intentionality in the classroom can be:

  • Relationship Building:
  • Through student pre-lesson and post-lesson reflections: KWL–what do you know, what do you want to know, what have you learned?
  • “Getting to know you” games
  • Small group collaboration on social and emotional learning activities, hobbies, interests, etc.
  • Classroom Climate Improvement
  • Planning for student roles and responsibility in planning classroom standards of behavior and class social (non-academic) activities.
  • Planning for student roles and responsibility in planning classroom academic tasks.
  • Increasing student engagement and participation
  • Creating rotating student leaders in academic and non-academic activities
  • Creating time for student reflection and discussion
  • Engaging students in debates on relevant issues and topics
  • Increasing student ownership for their own learning (agency)
  • Creating classroom and individual goals for learning and achievement
  • Scheduling time for individual student conferencing
  • Teaching students to ask thoughtful questions
  • Increasing students’ vocabulary and language usage [home and school language(s)]

Conclusion

 Intentionality/Reciprocity is the most fundamental of Feuerstein’s MLE criteria.  It is the generator of MLE and is implied across the criteria.

  • Its primary purpose is to transcend;
  • It must be informed and infused with meaning to be purposeful.
  • Intentionality/Reciprocity demands that the mediator create a learning environment that fosters a feeling of competence in the learner(s).
  • The mediator/teacher must intentionally model self-control and regulation of behavior through the delivery of well-planned lessons, activities, and assessments.
  • Intentionality/reciprocity necessitates sharing behavior of teachers and students, by the creation of partnerships in teaching and learning.
  • The mediator/teacher is intentional in conscious individuation by creating opportunities to value and address each students’ unique needs.
  • Goal planning naturally facilitates reciprocity when the mediator is intentional in understanding the critical role that goal planning has in student participation and their investment in their own learning.
  • The mediator must be intentional in creating learning experiences that are challenging and promote student reciprocity to the need for self- change.

 

There is no doubt that Feuerstein’s Mediated Learning Experience criteria of intentionality/reciprocity is a powerful and dynamic mechanism to generate the movement for transformation of not only learners, but teachers, parents and even communities.  Parents, teachers, school administrators and community leaders can become intentional in the need to choose an optimistic alternative, by engaging children, adolescents and adults in a feeling of belonging to create community in which all villagers become aware of oneself and others as entities of change.   Let it begin with you!

 

Visit our Tools and Recommended Reading pages for  recommended and applicable literature sources on this topic. 


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Mediating learning experiences in a school context

Is your school challenged with ill-disciplined learners who lack interest?

 

In this blog staff members from the Bellavista School in Johannesburg share how the principles of Feuerstein’s Mediated Learning Experience (MLE) helped them to foster the quality of their educational environment.  Although Bellavista is a small private remedial school, how they have implemented MLE and its applied systems, in the context of a developing country, remains exemplary.

 

Who are the authors?

  • Alison Scott (Executive Principal): BPrim Ed; FDE Rem Ed; Bed Hons; FIE Practitioner;
  • Miriam Wilder (Dean of School): BA; Dip Spec Ed; FIE Practitioner;
  • Lauren Davis (Director Cognitive Education; Speech and Language Therapist): BA Speech and Hearing; FIE Practitioner

Alison Scott (Executive Principal)

Miriam Wilder (Dean of School)

Lauren Davis (Director Cognitive Education; Speech and Language Therapist)

Why the foregrounding of MLE at Bellavista?

“founded by fathers who believed in the potential of their children […] continues to permeate the ethos of the school […] we deploy skilled mediators of learning […] culture of care […] since 1994, deployed tools or programmes that are aligned with our philosophy to assist us in the bridge from the theories of cognitive education to practice in our various disciplines.”

Introduction to Bellavista School

Bellavista School is a small school in Johannesburg for learners with mild to moderate barriers to learning that have impacted on their progress in the mainstream education system. The school is 53 years old, founded by fathers who believed in the potential of their children who were in a mainstream school that was not meeting their needs. They sought teaching methods that would access their sons.

That founding ethos continues to permeate the ethos of the school. The belief that it is potential that directs the goals established for the child, so effectively that, with the right support and intervention, the child can participate in mainstream education again.

The purpose of driving therapy, teaching and learning is to shift the barriers.

Informed by the theories of Vygotsky and Feuerstein, particularly that social mediation assists any learner through their personal zone of development. Specifically, wrestling with new knowledge in a manner that Piaget might call ‘disequilibrium’ or Greenberg might identify as the ‘Feeling of Challenge’, to a point of internalising this knowledge and/ or skill as one’s own. Mastery, or the ‘Feeling of Competence’, affords a person the opportunity to apply the knowledge or skill to new situations, thus progressing in their learning.

At Bellavista School, we deploy skilled mediators of learning who are health professionals and specialist educators. We also partner with parents or caregivers to take this pedagogy forward.

Over the years, there has been an increasing opportunity within our school to take our philosophy and infuse it not only to our culture of care, but to our curriculum and therapy goals. To do this, the school has, since 1994, deployed tools or programmes that are aligned with our philosophy to assist us in the bridge from the theories of cognitive education to practice in our various disciplines. The school has invested in, and earnestly sought to grow the capacity of our professional staff.

Each person interacting with a child is mindful to be enabling: enabling belief; enabling participation, enabling access.

Why is the foregrounding of MLE essential?

“We want our children to be confident and independent thinkers, to question and analyse things deeply and to become world changers.”

The theory of Mediated Learning Experience (MLE) was developed by Professor Reuven Feuerstein of blessed memory. In order to define MLE it is necessary to understand his theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability (SCM), which underlies this method of teaching children.

SCM holds the belief that people regardless of their age or limitations, have the ability to be modified in the structure of their brains and that new neural pathways can be created. MLE has the power to facilitate these changes.

The Mediated Learning Experience is different to direct learning in which children interact with the environment through incidental learning and trial and error.

We know that information changes rapidly; we can run an internet search for anything; and, what we know to be true or fact today, may be different over time. We need to teach children how to be independent thinkers and learners in the world.

The Mediated Learning Experience is an interactional process between a child and a mediator who interposes themself between the child and stimuli and mediates the world to the child by framing, selecting, focusing, guiding, asking questions and making connections. The mediator leads and guides the child to explore their thinking, solve problems, plan, consider all aspects, draw conclusions, plan organise and set goals. This learning is intentional, reciprocal and meaningful, and the purpose of MLE is for the child to bridge what they have learnt into other situations.

The Mediated Learning Experience has a set of 12 parameters (each of these parameters will be unpacked in the future blog posts and podcasts):

Within the school environment, we need to teach our learners all of these things. This will allow them to be deep thinkers who can problem solve and grapple with all types of information and situations with which they are faced. We want our children to be confident and independent thinkers, to question and analyse things deeply and to become world changers.

Overcoming challenges

“intensive and continuous training […] the practitioner’s perspective begins to shift from one of being the sole proprietor of knowledge to that of a mediator who interfaces with the child and environment before them in a reciprocal and ongoing process of learning.”

Bellavista School encompasses the ethos of developing children who are constantly engaging in their ability to think deeply about how, what, why and where they learn. Mediated learning experience offers the opportunity for one to develop the child’s ability to think metacognitively, i.e., thinking about one’s thinking.

To infuse this ‘way of being’ into the school, and by extension reach the children, it is crucial to involve the teachers and in our instance our therapists as well. Professional development is, therefore, core in this respect.

For teachers to become effective mediators, the concepts of MLE are addressed through intensive and continuous training. In doing so, the practitioner’s perspective begins to shift from one of being the sole proprietor of knowledge to that of a mediator who interfaces with the child and environment before them in a reciprocal and ongoing process of learning. A continuous cycle of growth in one’s perception, understanding and thinking occurs. From our perspective, as the teachers/therapists are exposed to these learning opportunities themselves, they too shift in the way they approach a situation or concept, as well as how they view the child and the infinite possibilities that exist to enable the child to reach his/her potential. Without exception, our staff engage in training that facilitates an understanding of MLE, expressing how they feel changed – sometimes it is not even of a tangible nature. However, the growth professionally and the way people work with the children is palpable in their approach. Further, as we have scheduled MLE with a key focus on the Cognitive Functions in our curriculum and scheduled lessons, the staff feel better equipped over time to evaluate their practice, as well as the efficacy of their lessons, be this within a class or on an individual basis for the children. The latter would occur on a therapeutic level.

Our key focus is always that of intentionality. Why we apply the Mediated Learning Experience strategies and how these link to the cognitive functions of Input, Elaboration and Output are important to us as curriculum designers. Using these criteria as a theme through our lessons gives us insight with regards to the child’s thinking and processing. This, in turn, enables us to determine whether the child requires further opportunity to explore a particular aspect of the thinking process, where the child requires further support or extension.

Integral to our belief is that of walking the journey with the parents or primary caregivers. The role that they play in the Mediated Learning Experience offers the children the opportunity to experience and express their learning across situations, emphasising that learning is not situation-specific. The involvement of the caregiver creates the bridge for meaningful and lasting growth for the children over time, which we would refer to as transference, one of the key components of MLE. Towards this end, it is essential to include parents in their own development and understanding of these concepts. This enables them to perceive their children in this light and value that learning is a continuous process. In this respect, we host parental training on a bigger and small group basis, to enable us to engage in this mutual partnership in the care and belief in their child’s potential.

What are the signs that indicate the successful implementation of MLE?

·       children begin to ask questions with intention […]

·       a sense of wonder […]

·       inner motivation to learn […]

·       engage in constructive debate or pose hypothetical questions […]

·       growing in their awareness of their world and understanding […]

·       raised scores in standardised tests […]

·       raised empathy […]

·       low reports of bullying and very few actual incidents.”

Anecdotal reports arise from parents who often comment that their children begin to ask questions with intention. They often note that when they offer the child the opportunity to reflect on his/her own question, then more often than not they see their child experience a sense of wonder as the realisation dawns that he/she knows more than he initially thought, which in itself perpetuates an inner motivation to learn. In other instances, parents have observed that their child begins to ask questions and engage in constructive debate or pose hypothetical questions about the world about them, challenging their parents to engage more intently and give thought to their responses as adults. Sometimes, even believing at first that their child is becoming ‘cheeky’. When they as parents understand the MLE opportunities afforded to the children within school, they have the realisation that their children are growing in their awareness of their world and understanding through engaging thinking more deeply. The language the children use is indicative of their growing internalisation of the concepts of MLE mediated to and with them.

Our observations over time include a level of measurable impact. We are seeing raised scores in standardised tests where we have worked with focus; e.g.; our leavers score high on Similarities in the WISC-VUK. We note raised empathy and also increased usage of language and terminology for thinking leading to metacognition across all ages 5-14 years. Teachers note the emergence of powerful questions from children and observe that children meditate for their peers spontaneously over time. As an organisation, we have low reports of bullying and very few actual incidents. Schools receiving our children comment on ‘strategies’ that our alumni come with when transitioning to the mainstream, including grit and resilience.

Recommended resources and literature

We believe strongly in a collaborative approach and continued learning. We continue to learn from the life-changing work of  Professor Reuven Feuerstein, Dr Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, Professor Lou Falik and many of their inspiring co-authors. Professor Katherine Greenberg’s work forms a crucial part of our learnings and practice. Dr David Martin and Dr Jeanne Zehr have contributed enormously to our training. Some references to books that we use include:

  • ‘You Love Me!!.. Don’t Accept me as I am,’ Reuven Feuerstein, Yaacov Rand and Raphael.S. Feuerstein
  • ‘The Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment Program,’ Reuven Feuerstein, Raphael S. Feuerstein, Louis Falik, Yaacov Rand
  • ‘Mediated Learning Experience- Guidelines for Parents,’ Reuven Feuerstein, Yael Mintzker, Rafi Feuerstein
  • ‘Feuerstein on Autism’ Edited by Refael S. Feuerstein
  • ‘The Cognitive Enrichment Advantage’ Katherine H. Greenberg

About Digital Reading Platforms: Discussion with Prof. Kathleen A. Roskos and Prof. Jeremy S. Brueck

Name of Scholar / Expert:

Prof. Kathleen A. Roskos

Prof. Jeremy S. Brueck

Who are Prof. Kathleen A. Roskos and Prof. Jeremy S. Brueck?

Kathleen A. Roskos, PhD, is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Education and School Psychology at John Carroll University, where she teaches courses in reading assessment and intervention. Formerly an elementary classroom teacher, Prof. Roskos has served in a variety of educational roles, including as director of federal programs in the public schools, department chair in higher education, director of the Ohio Literacy Initiative at the Ohio Department of Education, and a coprincipal investigator of several Early Reading First federal projects. Prof. Roskos studies early literacy development, teacher learning, and the instructional design of professional development for educators, and has published research articles, chapters, and books on these topics.

Jeremy S. Brueck, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in educational technology, primary grades education and educational leadership. In 2014, he received the Ohio Board of Regents Best EdTech Collegiate Innovator Award. He has been researching the use of ebooks, digital media, mobile devices and the development of transliteracy skills in the design of high-quality language and literacy-rich environments for over a decade. His current research examines digital media platforms in terms of platform affordances, digital architecture of media, and dashboard analytics.

Why is it essential that parents, teachers and practitioners know about ebooks and digital reading platforms?

 We are in the midst of the smart device revolution. Beyond just mobile phones, society in 2020 brings with it household items and fashion accessories equipped and ready to connect. Today’s youth have left live television behind. Media consumption has shifted from network television to digital on demand streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and others. Children are consuming media via device, whether it is music via Spotify on their phones, or video via YouTube on laptops and Chromebooks. As such, digital reading platforms have begun to emerge to take advantage of the connected child. Tech-savvy parents and teachers can provide children and students with anytime-anyplace access to thousands of age-appropriate titles, which in the near future, could be accessed by toddlers from a touchscreen on the refrigerator door.

Literacy in this digital age is also much more than interacting with solely traditional print materials. In addition to the books, newspapers and magazines past generations are all comfortable with, we now interact with digital text, ebooks, blogs, websites, video and audio. These additional components mean literacy in this smart device revolution is not a linear process, but more of a hyperlinked experience, with an emphasis on locating information, reading, processing, validating, find links to other relevant information and then moving on.

What does it mean for children that are learning to read and interact with a variety of forms of literacy materials? How will children interact with literacy in the environment of the smart home? How does this impact the way that we can teach kids how to read, write, communicate and be literate? Do we need to have different expectations for what it means to be literate in our world today? Questions such as these must be considered as we move forward in the world of teaching and learning, specifically in the area of literacy and reading.

Online reading programs are fast becoming part of students’ reading experiences at school and beyond. Despite a growing number of cloud-based digital reading programs in the educational marketplace, we know surprisingly little about their quality as curriculum products for supporting young readers’ development. The practical knowledge that school leaders need to make good decisions about the wide range of digital materials flooding into the educational marketplace is slim. Our research focuses on the effectiveness of ebook platforms as literacy curriculum resources. Our central aim at this time has been to provide descriptive information to an emerging knowledge base on this topic. Our future work hopes to merge learning theory with design theory to provide a practical toolkit for the evaluation of digital reading platforms.

What is an ebook and digital reading platform and how can it enhance better thinking and learning?

 Ebooks possess digital features designed to provide evidence-based instruction. For example, an ebook or other online text that offers animations to support the text would be similar to an adult or teacher who offers explanation of what is happening within a story. Having students repeatedly use the Read-to- Me feature of an ebook would be akin to a teacher offering repeated reading of a text to support understanding of story plot. Ebooks can scaffold the reading experience for learners of all ages, enabling literacy instruction to occur at times and places that are outside the classroom and embedded “within the book”.

Digital reading platforms are software as a service (SaaS) which enables children and adults to read, write, communicate and interact with electronic text. Beyond that, these platforms provide a comprehensive web and mobile interface to license and deliver content to districts, schools, teachers, parents and students anywhere at any time. A learning management system (LMS) is the backbone of the digital reading platform and is used to deliver, manage, assess, and record learning and progress via the Web. Digital reading platforms leverage the affordances of an LMS to deliver content, handle registration and administration, and provide skills gap analysis, tracking and reporting.

Research has shown that ebooks offer several high level design features beneficial for young learners, such as (a) oral reading with text highlights that illuminate the nature of print (e.g., word boundaries); (b) hotspot activation aligned with text; (c) a dictionary option that allows repeated action by the child; and (d) a game mode separate from text mode. The multimedia features in ebooks can improve inference skills in story reading and the game-like interactivity in ebooks can stimulate story comprehension and word learning, especially when children’s attention is guided to these purposes. Ebooks have also been shown to motivate children to be active readers. When using ebooks, children tend to more naturally investigate words, images and interactives in the reading environment. It seems the ebook may invite play, and this is a powerful motivator for engaging with print.

In addition to features found in a print book, ebooks provide scaffolding through narrations, animations and interactive media, which support young children who are developing emergent literacy skills. Scaffolds in ebooks include searching capacity, hyperlinks, audio and visual enhancements, and in some cases, hot-spot pop-up definitions for words. For users with learning difficulties or disabilities, ebooks offer text-to-speech capabilities and print highlighting, as well as allowing changes in font size, features which are not possible in print books.

Regarding ebooks and digital reading platforms, what have you found are some of the biggest challenges parents, teachers and practitioners face?  What are some recommended ways to overcome them?

 The role of ebooks in the teaching of reading is emerging. The ebook with its growing number of affordances introduces not only new possibilities into the reading experience (e.g., highlighted text, embedded audio and video), but also a new level of accessibility anytime, anywhere. An entire ebook collection can be archived on a small, mobile device that literally houses a pocket size library. Instructional guidance for effective teaching with ebooks, however, is scant, leaving teachers to trial and error efforts at incorporating ebooks into their routine practice. As a result, the ebook can easily become edutainment in an already packed instructional day.

Digital reading programs consist of a learning platform (affordances), an ebook collection (digital books), screen pages (digital enhancements) & a dashboard (analytics). There are a growing number of digital reading platforms containing large ebook collections available for schools and districts to choose from. These digital reading platforms are increasingly used as curriculum resources for independent reading at school and home, although benefits for students’ reading motivation and skill are still unclear. We know very little about their quality as curriculum products for supporting young readers’ development.

Research has centered primarily on digital book quality overlooking other digital resources found in digital reading platforms, such as dashboard analytics. Few studies have critically examined these cloud-based reading systems as resources for promoting reading practice. Fewer still examine how they are impacting students’ overall print & digital reading skills.

One problem for researchers & educators alike is availability of dependable tools that describe the nature of these programs. Analytic tools are essential for defining, specifying & reporting how well these programs perform. Analytic tools are the precursors of practical, everyday tools; they organize what we know from research into categories and criteria that can support systematic and trustworthy observation of a product, process or event. They are an essential step in creating reliable, valid assessment tools for evaluation of curriculum products (books and instructional materials).

Potential challenges faced by those who wish to move towards teaching in an ebook-equipped classroom can include technical difficulties, distracting animations, audio that is not connect to the text, and digital book handling difficulties.  It is important for parents and teachers to understand they may encounter these types of challenges when using ebooks but to know that the cognitive affordances of ebooks outweigh them. To overcome the challenges and take full advantage of the opportunities ebooks offer, parents and teachers should adjust their selection criteria, focusing on selection of high quality ebooks for use with children. Pay close attention to the scaffolds provided in ebooks and ensure the interactive elements are well intentioned for learning to read by thoroughly previewing ebooks prior to use. Select only the best ebooks to use with children.

Ebooks provide an opportunity for storybook reading without direct adult participation. Parents and teachers should make ebook selections based on genre, content area connections and digital features that enhance literary content. They should focus on selecting ebooks that contain animations, illustrations and audio that support the text. Parents and teachers should be wary of ebooks that contain audio, multimedia or interactivity that is superficial to the story and refrain from using ebooks with distracting digital features at home or in the classroom.

Teachers should use ebooks to adapt and extend traditional comprehension and oral reading practices they are already familiar with to support learning. One way to get started is through the use of Before, During and After (B/D/A) reading strategies. Teachers can use a number of familiar shared book reading activities with ebooks, such as the introduction to the title, author, and illustrator on the initial screen page of the ebook. With this approach, evidence-based instructional techniques, such as making predictions, asking/answering questions, learning new words, linking to prior experience, and discussing print and picture can be retained.

What are some of the important signs that will indicate to parents, teachers and practitioners the successful functioning/implementation of ebooks and digital reading platforms?

Presently educators and publishers have relatively few assessment measures for reviewing and evaluating digital reading program quality. This lacking research-based tools for reviewing and vetting digital reading programs impedes informed decision-making in choosing digital resources for purposes of teaching and learning. Our most recent study from Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology advances this aspect of curriculum product evaluation. It tests an existing set of tools with the goal of improving them for application under real conditions and combines them to create a prototype screening instrument for wider scale testing in field studies. The study’s results help us to gain ground, in that the tool set visualizes and makes concrete theoretical ideas and research describing important qualities of digital reading programs, however, there is much more work to be done.

There is that saying among builders–to do the job right you need the right tools. Presently there is an acute shortage of the “right” tools to assess and evaluate digital reading programs. This matters because one of the major steps to ensuring effective use of digital reading products is to make sure they are of good quality in the first place. And to ensure quality, we need evaluation tools that analyze program components, and inform critical review. Good assessment tools can help to unlock teacher productivity, creativity and innovation in using digital reading programs effectively to develop engaged readers and ensuring a rich e-reading environment in the classroom.

Visit our Tools page for  these scholars’ recommended and applicable literature sources on digital reading platforms.


Prof. Brueck may be contacted at brueckje@mountunion.edu


Disclaimer for the International Association of Cognitive Education (IACE)
If you require any more information or have any questions about our site’s disclaimer, please feel free to contact us by email at info@ilearnthinking.org

Disclaimers for IACE
All the information (on our website, social media sites and e-mails) is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. Although our intent is always to provide accurate information that is theoretically sound and practically relevant, IACE does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on our website, social media sites and e-mails, is strictly at your own risk. IACE will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website, social media sites and e-mail messages.

From our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you can visit other websites by following hyperlinks to such external sites. While we strive to provide only quality links to useful and ethical websites, we have no control over the content and nature of these sites. These links to other websites do not imply a recommendation for all the content found on these sites. Site owners and content may change without notice and may occur before we have the opportunity to remove a link which may have gone ‘bad’.

Please be also aware that when you leave our website, other sites may have different privacy policies and terms which are beyond our control. Please be sure to check the Privacy Policies of these sites as well as their “Terms of Service” before engaging in any business or uploading any information.

Consent
By using our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you hereby consent to our disclaimer and agree to its terms.

Update
Should we update, amend or make any changes to this document, those changes will be prominently posted here.

About Growth Mindset: Discussion with Dr Jeanne Zehr

Name of Scholar / Expert:

Dr Jeanne Zehr

Who is Dr Jeanne Zehr?

Dr Zehr is the Executive Director of the MINDCAP Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She and her team of 10 professionals serve children and adults who have a multitude of cognitive challenges such as ADHD, autism, brain injury, trauma, as well as gifted underachievers. Her 40 years of experience in public education as a special education teacher and school administrator provides a wealth of wisdom when meeting with those who desperately wish to help their loved one. The MINDCAP team has been trained in all levels of the Feuerstein program, LPAD, growth mindset, and neuroplasticity.  Dr. Zehr is an international senior trainer for the Feuerstein Institute in Israel and has trained in 10 countries including South Africa, Netherland, Australia, Denmark, Italy, France, South Korea, and Cambodia.

What is Growth Mindset and how can it enhance better thinking and learning?

Think of a rocket ship with two rocket boosters. The main rocket, for me, is the Feuerstein Program. The two rocket boosters are mindset and neuroplasticity. By front loading work with our clients by first using the rocket boosters, we believe we accelerate the success of the Feuerstein program. Dr. Carol Dweck, from Stanford, published her research on two mindsets that people probably hold. About 45% of all people are one and 45% are the other.

A fixed mindset is what people have who believe their intelligence has reached its potential and there is not much room for improvement. “I am what I am.” This is identifiable by the age of 10. The other 45% hold a growth mindset. They believe they can improve their ability to learn, it will just take some effort. They tend to not be as afraid of failure and enjoy challenges. Obviously, as Dweck followed these people through life, she discovered those with a growth mindset achieved higher levels of success in life. Those with a fixed mindset may also achieve high levels, but they exhibited much more stress. Their success came with a higher price tag. It is possible to shift your mindset, but it takes awareness and effort to do so.

Regarding Growth mindset, what have you found are some of the biggest challenges parents, teachers and practitioners face?  What are recommended ways to overcome them?

Teachers thought, at first, that all they had to do was tell children to try harder. If a growth mindset is all about effort, let’s tell them to work hard!  That actually, can backfire, and Dweck supports this. What if the child does not have the required skills to begin with?  This is where Feuerstein comes in. At MINDCAP we are sure to help clients build the strategies they need while we encourage effort and hard work. Effort and Strategy are both important for achieving success.

When a child tells a teacher or parent, “I can’t do this” or “I’ll never be able to do this.” our response needs to be very carefully worded. Instead of saying “I know, math is really hard, isn’t it?” our response should be “Well, you just haven’t learned how to do it YET!”  The key word here is YET!

What are some of the important signs that will indicate to parents, teachers and practitioners of the successful implementation of growth mindset methods?

You should hear very specific language in a growth mindset home, workplace, or school. A good acronym for FAIL is First Attempt At Learning. If parents and teachers can reduce the stigma of first failures, that is the start of a growth mindset!  Instead of hearing “I’m not good at this,” do you hear “What am I missing?”  Instead of “I give up!” do you hear “I will try a different strategy!”  Instead of, “This is too hard,” do you hear “This will take some time and effort”?  Student language and teacher talk is very different in a growth mindset classroom. Challenge, effort, and try again are examples of what is said. You wouldn’t hear a teacher say, “Well maybe you’re just not a math person” or “Science just doesn’t seem to be her thing.”

What are some recommended and applicable literature sources on Mindset?

The best resource is “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck. She authored this book for the lay person as well as the professional in education or psychology. I refer my parents to it quite consistently if I believe they will read it and take something away.

Resources that will help parents and teachers on the topic of Growth Mindset

  1. “Instead of, try thinking of” table
  2. Mindset Check-up
  3. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
  4. Growth Mindset: Comfort Zone Circles

Tools that will help parents and teachers on the topic of Growth Mindset

If you Google “growth mindset” you can discover a plethora of resources and articles that are easy to access and use. A website that offers excellent resources for children is https://www.mindsetworks.com  and one for high school and college age is https://trainugly.com.  Train Ugly has excellent videos for the older learner and helps all of us understand the science of fear and how fear is the number one barrier to learning

Another helpful resource is James Anderson: http://www.mindfulbydesign.com/

 


Disclaimer for the International Association of Cognitive Education (IACE)
If you require any more information or have any questions about our site’s disclaimer, please feel free to contact us by email at info@ilearnthinking.org

Disclaimers for IACE
All the information (on our website, social media sites and e-mails) is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. Although our intent is always to provide accurate information that is theoretically sound and practically relevant, IACE does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on our website, social media sites and e-mails, is strictly at your own risk. IACE will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website, social media sites and e-mail messages.

From our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you can visit other websites by following hyperlinks to such external sites. While we strive to provide only quality links to useful and ethical websites, we have no control over the content and nature of these sites. These links to other websites do not imply a recommendation for all the content found on these sites. Site owners and content may change without notice and may occur before we have the opportunity to remove a link which may have gone ‘bad’.

Please be also aware that when you leave our website, other sites may have different privacy policies and terms which are beyond our control. Please be sure to check the Privacy Policies of these sites as well as their “Terms of Service” before engaging in any business or uploading any information.

Consent
By using our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you hereby consent to our disclaimer and agree to its terms.

Update
Should we update, amend or make any changes to this document, those changes will be prominently posted here.

About Brain Food – the role of proper nutrition in the cognitive development and functioning of learners: Discussion with Prof Louise van den Berg

Name of Scholar / Expert:

Prof Louise van den Berg

Who is Prof Louise van den Berg?

Prof Louise van den Berg is an Associate Professor and the head of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics in the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, South Africa.  She has more than 30 experience in the field of nutrition.  She is passionate about the role of nutrition, student wellness, and the prevention of chronic disease of lifestyle.

Why is it essential that parents and teachers know about proper nutrition for cognitive development?

When we talk about cognitive development, we are referring to how children think, explore and figure things out, in other words, we are talking about the development of knowledge, skills, problem solving and dispositions in children, which help them to think about and understand the world around them.

Brain development begins shortly after conception and continues throughout early childhood and into adolescence and early adulthood. Diet, first of the pregnant mother and then of the child after birth, plays a crucial role in the forming and shaping of brain tissue and nerve connections that underlies cognitive development. Cognitive development, in turn, determines their cognitive functioning, which plays a crucial role in academic achievement.

It has long been known that deficiencies during childhood, of protein, certain fatty acids or specific vitamins and minerals are associated with poor developmental performance, resulting in low school achievement and psychological problems.

Newer research also links specific foods and specific dietary patterns directly to more subtle levels of cognitive functioning, for example to cognitive processing, and specifically to what is called cognitive functioning.

Cognitive functioning is vital because it involves processes like working memory, verbal memory, attention and planning abilities.  The link between food and cognition plays out in the long run – in other words, the type of diet that a child follows habitually affects his/her cognitive functioning, but also in the short term, meaning that what a child ate for breakfast, for example, can affect their cognitive function on a given day.

What is brain food (food that enhances cognitive development)?

Recent systematic reviews beautifully summarize the answer to this specific question. A systematic review is a specific type of research tool that allows us to look at and evaluate the findings of all the studies that have been done on a specific topic.

The systematic reviews on the effect of food and diet on cognitive functioning shows that a diet that contains lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish (sardines, pilchards, salmon, mackerel and to a lesser extent tuna) and ample amounts of fibre, improves cognitive functioning, in other words, has a positive effect on working memory, planning abilities, and the ability of children to focus their attention. In contrast, the review found that specific dietary patterns significantly inhibited these cognitive functions. Diets with such adverse effects were rich in less-healthy snack foods (like crispy chips, crackers and biscuits, sweets), as well as sugar-sweetened beverages (including fizzy drinks, sports drinks, cordials), processed meats (Viennas, Russians, polonies, ham), as well as fried foods, refined food, and takeout foods (typical fast foods and street foods like slap chips, Schambane/Kota (hollowed out half loaf of bread filled with fried chips, egg, Russian  and garage pies)

Another systematic review of all studies about the role of breakfast in cognitive functioning found that breakfast is essential for memory and overall accuracy in school tasks. It is interesting to note that children and adolescents have a much higher average blood flow to their brains than adults.  This increased blood supply is necessary to deliver a steady stream of glucose and oxygen, both of which their brains burn much faster than adult brains.  In addition, children and adolescents have higher sleep demand than adults, meaning that if they go to bed earlier than adults, they have long periods of overnight fasting, which can deplete stores of glucose (also called glycogen stores) overnight. Children and adolescents, therefore, wakeup running low on brain fuel, making breakfast before school vital for their cognitive functioning. However, research also shows that not any old breakfast will suffice; it has to be low GI – in other words, food that breaks down slowly to ensure a slow, steady flow of glucose, instead of a spike.

How can parents and teachers practically apply the use of proper nutrition to advance cognitive development?

Firstly, parents, caregivers and teachers should teach and model good eating habits and find ways of motivating children and adolescents to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fatty fish like pilchards, while at the same time limiting their intake of unhealthy snacks, fast foods, processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages.  Furthermore, parents and caregivers can ensure that learners eat a low GI breakfast en take a low GI lunchbox to school (especially primary school children and very active adolescents).

Ways that one can do this practically is to replace, first of all, high GI breakfast cereals like corn flakes, rice crispies or sweetened pops, with low GI breakfast cereals such as oats, All bran, or Muesli.  Also adding some dairy to the cereal, like milk or yoghurt, lowers the GI of the meal. Interestingly, Maize porridge has a very high GI, but if you make it the night before, let it cool down completely, and then reheat it, the GI becomes much lower. In addition to cereal and milk, a good low GI breakfast includes some fresh fruit. To further lower the GI, you can also add a little low-fat protein like a boiled, poached or scrambled egg with some vegetables.  Sliced apple with some peanut butter dip is a favourite go-to on, particularly busy mornings.

Also, send children to school with a healthy, low GI lunchbox.  To prevent the morning rush, the lunchbox can be packed the night before and kept in the fridge.  A tip that works is to involve the children in making a list of healthy possibilities that can go in the lunchbox and posting this list in the kitchen so that you can quickly come up with ideas.  Then keep the kitchen stocked with the ingredients.  A tasty lunchbox contains variations of a whole-wheat starch, vegetables and fruit, a little dairy and a small portion of low-fat protein.  For example, a lunchbox can be a whole wheat sandwich or a brown tortilla wrap, or even a pasta salad. You can spread it with homemade or store-bought hummus, low-fat mayonnaise, low-fat cottage cheese or mashed avocado and add tomato, cucumber, lettuce and a slice of cheese or egg. Limit fat and oil to one small serving. For fruit – you can include a whole fruit or fruit kebab, or small fruit salad. Vegetables can take the form of raw pieces with a dip of cottage cheese or hummus. You could make small quiches with includes eggs, cheese and vegetables.  All children like a little treat as well, this can be homemade popcorn, nut granola, some dried fruit, a small handful of nuts, or peanuts and raisins.

Another lovely snack is taking a slice of whole wheat bread, cutting off the crusts, flattening it a bit by rolling it with a rolling pin or glass, then spreading it with peanut butter and rolling it around a peeled banana.  Some kids like the whole banana dog and others prefer to have it sushi-like slices. To drink, diluted fruit juice, milk or low-fat flavoured milk or in winter, hot chocolate with low-fat milk are good choices.

The role of school-based tuck shops

As you will notice, the healthy options listed above are quite the opposite of what is sold in most school-based tuck shops. Unfortunately, research has shown over and over that the food environment in and around the schoolyard influences the way school children will eat.  We, as parents and teachers, therefore, have an obligation and a right to influence what is sold at these tuck shops.  Unless we change the food environment that learners find themselves in at home and school, we will not succeed to improve children’s eating habits.

The role of supplements

Parents often make the mistake of thinking that a poor diet can be remedied by supplements. The billion-dollar supplement industry would certainly like us to believe that, and that is what they promote through advertising.  However, research consistently shows that a healthy, varied diet on its own, far outperforms an unhealthy diet plus supplements.  The truth is that healthy foods contain thousands of components that work together towards health, including cognitive functioning, and no supplement can yet capture all of these benefits.

 

Visit our Tools page for  Prof’s van den Berg’s recommended and applicable literature sources on proper nutrition for cognitive development


Prof Louise van den Berg’s contact details are as follow:
Tel: +27(0)51-401-3316
Email: vdBergVL@ufs.ac.za


Disclaimer for the International Association of Cognitive Education (IACE)
If you require any more information or have any questions about our site’s disclaimer, please feel free to contact us by email at info@ilearnthinking.org

Disclaimers for IACE
All the information (on our website, social media sites and e-mails) is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. Although our intent is always to provide accurate information that is theoretically sound and practically relevant, IACE does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on our website, social media sites and e-mails, is strictly at your own risk. IACE will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website, social media sites and e-mail messages.

From our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you can visit other websites by following hyperlinks to such external sites. While we strive to provide only quality links to useful and ethical websites, we have no control over the content and nature of these sites. These links to other websites do not imply a recommendation for all the content found on these sites. Site owners and content may change without notice and may occur before we have the opportunity to remove a link which may have gone ‘bad’.

Please be also aware that when you leave our website, other sites may have different privacy policies and terms which are beyond our control. Please be sure to check the Privacy Policies of these sites as well as their “Terms of Service” before engaging in any business or uploading any information.

Consent
By using our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you hereby consent to our disclaimer and agree to its terms.

Update
Should we update, amend or make any changes to this document, those changes will be prominently posted here.

About play-based learning: Further Discussion with Dr Stef Esterhuizen

Name of Scholar / Expert:

Dr Stef Esterhuizen

Who is Dr Stef Esterhuizen? 

I am a Senior Lecturer at the North-West University, where I act as Programme Leader of the Foundation Phase / Early Childhood Development and Education.

I had 20 years teaching experience before commencing my career at the NWU in 2005. I lecture undergraduate students and am study leader for post-graduate students. I participate in several national and international conferences and published chapters in various books. I consider myself as a life-long learner and attend and complete various workshops and courses, among others, Thinking Maps (David Hyerle), Habits of Mind (James Anderson), Six Bricks (Bent Hutcheson, Care for Education), Innovative teaching strategies (ADS), Theories of Potential (Prof Deborah Eyre), etc.

I was involved in research projects such as Schools as Thinking Communities (Prof Mary Grosser) and High Performance Learning (Prof Mary Grosser and Prof Mirna Nel). Currently I am involved in the Bafenyi Project: Early Childhood Care and Education: the holistic development of young children (Prof Mariette Koen), where play-based learning is one of the focus points.

I intensely believe that all children can achieve their maximum potential through apposite instruction that enhances cognitive and critical thinking skills. My research interest is the improvement of teaching and learning practices of prospective teachers and care-givers to enhance cognitive development in children from birth to 9 years. I strongly believe that this could be attained by learning through play from a very young age.

Click here to read the first part of our discussion with Dr Stef Esterhuizen.

 

What about Technology?

We are living in a digital time where cell phones, iPads and computer games are popular ways to spend time. Unfortunately parents have to be mindful about the use of screen time for their children, because of the negative influence on the social, physical and cognitive development of the young child.

Figure 8 summarises some of the negative aspects in the development of the young child.

Figure 8: Negative impact of technological devices on the holistic development of the child

Research indicates that children from birth to 2 years of age should not be exposed to screen time at all, children 2 – 5 years should have limited screen time of less than 1 hour per day.  Avoid screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime, due to the potential melatonin-suppressing effects on adults, as well as children. Some recommendations are given in Figure 9.

Figure 9: Recommendations for screen time

(WP Wahl, 2019)

 

Visit our Tools and Research and Other Articles pages for Dr Esterhuizen’s recommended and applicable literature sources on Play-based learning. The figures used above are also available there. 


 

Disclaimer for the International Association of Cognitive Education (IACE)
If you require any more information or have any questions about our site’s disclaimer, please feel free to contact us by email at info@ilearnthinking.org

Disclaimers for IACE
All the information (on our website, social media sites and e-mails) is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. Although our intent is always to provide accurate information that is theoretically sound and practically relevant, IACE does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on our website, social media sites and e-mails, is strictly at your own risk. IACE will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website, social media sites and e-mail messages.

From our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you can visit other websites by following hyperlinks to such external sites. While we strive to provide only quality links to useful and ethical websites, we have no control over the content and nature of these sites. These links to other websites do not imply a recommendation for all the content found on these sites. Site owners and content may change without notice and may occur before we have the opportunity to remove a link which may have gone ‘bad’.

Please be also aware that when you leave our website, other sites may have different privacy policies and terms which are beyond our control. Please be sure to check the Privacy Policies of these sites as well as their “Terms of Service” before engaging in any business or uploading any information.

Consent
By using our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you hereby consent to our disclaimer and agree to its terms.

Update
Should we update, amend or make any changes to this document, those changes will be prominently posted here.

About play-based learning: Discussion with Dr Stef Esterhuizen

Name of Scholar / Expert:

Dr Stef Esterhuizen

Who is Dr Stef Esterhuizen? 

I am a Senior Lecturer at the North-West University, where I act as Programme Leader of the Foundation Phase / Early Childhood Development and Education.

I had 20 years teaching experience before commencing my career at the NWU in 2005. I lecture undergraduate students and am study leader for post-graduate students. I participate in several national and international conferences and published chapters in various books. I consider myself as a life-long learner and attend and complete various workshops and courses, among others, Thinking Maps (David Hyerle), Habits of Mind (James Anderson), Six Bricks (Bent Hutcheson, Care for Education), Innovative teaching strategies (ADS), Theories of Potential (Prof Deborah Eyre), etc.

I was involved in research projects such as Schools as Thinking Communities (Prof Mary Grosser) and High Performance Learning (Prof Mary Grosser and Prof Mirna Nel). Currently I am involved in the Bafenyi Project: Early Childhood Care and Education: the holistic development of young children (Prof Mariette Koen), where play-based learning is one of the focus points.

I intensely believe that all children can achieve their maximum potential through apposite instruction that enhances cognitive and critical thinking skills. My research interest is the improvement of teaching and learning practices of prospective teachers and care-givers to enhance cognitive development in children from birth to 9 years. I strongly believe that this could be attained by learning through play from a very young age

What is Play-based learning and how can it enhance better thinking and learning?

In Figure 1 a chaotic scene, according to the principal and parent, awaits them. Meanwhile, the teacher knows exactly what she is doing.

 Figure 1 depicts a classroom where play-based learning takes place. (Picture from unknown source. Adapted from challenges2013.weebly.com. Date of access 18 Nov 2019).

What is play?

In order to understand play-based learning, we firstly have to define play. According to various theorists and researchers, the definition of play is as follows (Burgemeester, 2019; Charlesworth, 2014:53 – 55; Excell & Linington,2015:191; UKEssays, 2018; UNICEF, 2018):

“Play is a spontaneous, creative, natural, biological and highly enjoyable action that both humans and animals engage in and is significant in the way learning takes place.”

The benefits of play are enormous (Burgemeester, 2019; Charlesworth, 2014: 35 – 55; Excell & Linington,2015:191; UKEssays, 2018; UNICEF, 2018):

  • play is regarded as the highest level of child development, because of its spontaneous nature of thought and feeling (Froëbel);
  • children’s learning evolves naturally through play and their knowledge and thinking is extended through play;
  • play and kinaesthetic movements establish complex neural pathways in the developing brain (Gesell);
  • play is a way in which children face reality, obtain necessary skills and address obstacles creatively (Erikson);
  • children are most receptive to learning during play and exploration and will therefore learn to persist in order to learn something new or solve a problem;
  • cognitive development and the learning of language are best acquired in appropriate environmental stimuli where they extend their oral language(Piaget; Vygotsky);
  • play develops children’s ability to regulate their own thought processes and problem solving strategies (Vygotsky);
  • through play, children learn literacy, numeracy and life skills practice, develop their imagination and creativity and experiment and make discoveries in a non-threatening way;
  • during play, children engage with the perspectives of others as they negotiate roles and solve problems while making sense of real life situations; and
  • children use all their senses during play and develop fine and gross motor (small and big muscle) skills essential for successful learning.

Three stages in the development of play by means of assimilative acts are identified. (Burgemeester, 2019; Excell & Linington, 2015).

  • Sensory motor or practice play: This type of play commences in infancy and is acknowledged to continue throughout life. Sensory motor play is seeking pleasure and exploring the senses, involving the repetition of activities.
  • Symbolic / Pretend / Fantasy play: This type of play, also known as make believe play, begins at the end of the young child’s first year where they are able to give a different meaning to an actual object. Where a child pretends to be something (like a doctor or mother) or imagines that an object is something that is it not (such as a box for a car or a scarf for hair). Symbolic play is typical of the preschool preoperational child. Pretend play engages many areas of the brain because it involves various domains of learning, including socio-emotional, cognitive, language, and sensorimotor development. Many cognitive strategies are demonstrated through pretend play, such as joint planning, negotiation, problem solving, and goal seeking.
  • Games with rules: Children start to make and agree to rules that will guide their play, and create their own games and rules. This type of play is typical of children from age six and onwards.

So, why should play and learning be integrated?

Research over the past years indicates that human development from birth to 8/9 years are the most important years during which the foundation of cognitive skills, emotional well-being, social competence and sound physical and mental health is laid.

Figure 2 summarises during which age groups the most important developmental abilities take place.

Figure 2: Development of important abilities

Research on play and brain development therefore supports that “active, physical and cognitively stimulating play” provides a place for cognitive skills to advance (Anon, 2017; Bauer, 2013).

What is play-based learning?

Play-based learning is not an obstacle or barricade to academic learning, nor is it lazy teaching. It is not a space where you put children in a room filled with toys where they jump from activity to activity and the teacher is disengaged and spends most of the time managing behaviours.  When play-based learning is done well, the classroom becomes a teacher. A place where every activity and object are placed in the space with a specific purpose to add to the learning and scaffold information across the curriculum.

Play-based learning provides various opportunities for children to understand their world by means of inquiry, exploration, interaction and problem solving. It develops and enhances children’s content knowledge, social skills, competencies and imperative dispositions to learn how to express and manage their emotions. Purposeful play experiences can be created to construct deeper learning experiences that a child will remember and internalise. Children learn best through first-hand experiences and when they engage in real-life and imaginary activities, play challenges children’s thinking. Play-based learning motivates and empowers young children to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning, as they desire to explore new paths. They are motivated and empowered to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning, as the desire to explore originates from their developing sense of identity.  Young children who have reached a sense of autonomy, use their initiative to solve problems through play. The main purpose of play-based learning, is to motivate, stimulate and support children’s development of skills, concepts, language acquisition, communication and concentration. High-quality classrooms that utilize play-based, hands-on learning activities are well-planned o, intentional spaces. The different levels of learning that children are able to get into during play, is more meaningful than completing worksheets, especially in the pre-school years (Anon, 2017; Charlesworth, 2014:53).

By means of intentional planning and by presenting appropriate materials, toys and activities, the teacher, parent or care-giver enhance play experiences that create powerful connections and naturally build on all domains of child development. Real-life experiences enhance the child’s spontaneous play. Curriculum-generated play experiences are purposefully planned to help children learn certain skills and concepts. Play-generated curriculum activities emerge from children’s spontaneous interests, activities and questions. The teacher, parent or care-giver have to increase children’s thinking to higher levels by asking open-ended questions, challenging their ideas and providing feedback.  An example of a planned lesson on symmetry, can be as follows. The teacher asks his/her children to work in pairs. Each pair bake their own cupcake, measuring the flour (in gram), the sugar and salt (by teaspoon), and the milk (in millilitre or cups). They mix it and put it in a baking pan. Throughout this process the teacher explains why flour is measured in gram and milk in litre / millilitre. She explains the time the cupcakes have to be in the oven, the temperature, etc. She also talks about safety in the kitchen and near the oven. She can address opposites, such as hot and cold. The children decorate the cupcakes with icing (sensory activity, measuring the icing in grams), mix it with water or milk (measuring in millilitre) and ask them to take 4 smarties (number sense) for each cupcake. During the activity, the teacher and children are constantly busy with discussions, questioning, answering, explaining, etc. Now the teacher can ask a question, such as “There is only 1 cupcake between the two of you. What can we do that both of you can have some cupcake?” The teacher can now introduce symmetry. Cut the cupcake in half. Children can also “divide” their friend’s face symmetrically with their fingers, or painting the one half of their faces. During this lesson, the teacher integrated mathematics, language and life skills. Each child was actively involved. The teacher decreased disciplinary problems and increased confidence and hands-on-learning (Anon., 2017; Bauer, 2013; Zosh, Hopkins, Jensen, Liu, Neale, Hirsch-Pasek, Solis, & Whitbread: 2017). Assessment by means of observations and checklists can be done.

Often unplanned learning situations emerge. Teachers, parents or care-givers should never let a learning opportunity vanish and should take advantage of children’s natural curiosity and excitement to guide them toward topics and ideas that interest them as illustrated in the examples below:

Example 1:

A boy arrives at school with his father’s builder measuring tape. All the children surround him to see and touch it and to hear the clicking sound it makes. The teacher observes the discussion that is taking place and listens to all the remarks made by the children. Later the day, the teacher asks if the boy could show her the measuring tape. She asks questions such as: What is this? Whose is it? What is it used for? How does it work? The teacher asks the boy to open the tape, and asks the following questions: What is written on the tape? What does it mean? Where can we use it? What else can we use it for? The teacher gives them opportunities to “measure” various objects, such as the carpet, the door, and the book shelve, etc. The teacher takes them outside to use it there. Once again asks questions such as “Will it be long enough?” Why / Why not? If not, what plan can we make to measure an object longer than the tape?

During this experience, children are challenged to solve problems, think critically and creatively, develop number sense, spatial relations, perceptual skills, enhance vocabulary and language skills, learn to wait their turn, to listen, to ask questions, etc. All of these are imperative skills for successful learning. The children never experienced failure or fear. They were encouraged to participate and to take a risk and they feel good about themselves and are happy! The children will go home and tell their parents and siblings all about their experiences at school.

Example 2:

Mommy is baking a cake for Daddy’s birthday. Ilse asks her mommy what she is doing. Her mommy takes out another apron, put it around her little body and explained every step of the cake baking process. She asks Ilse to weigh and measure the cake flour and feel and taste the structure. Asks her to fetch 2 eggs from the fridge, breaks it, to feel the structure, to taste it, and tells her about the egg yolk and egg white, allows her to whip it and mix it with the cake flour, sugar, salt and bicarbonate of soda and with milk.  She asks her questions, such as: What does the flour/egg/dough taste like? Did the flour change colour? Why?  She tells her about the oven, the degrees of Celsius and the time the cake has to bake in the oven. She allows her to decorate the cake.

In this scenario Ilse does not only experience the loving bond with her mother, her vocabulary, sentence structuring, number sense and scientific knowledge about the baking process are enhanced. She learned about measuring ingredients in gram, litre, millilitre, counting, etc. But most of all, she feels important and valued… she baked a cake for her daddy! Ilse will go to school and tell her friends and teacher all about her experiences at home.

Example 3:

Mpho’s father is working in the garden. Mpho asks his father what he is doing. His father states that he is making a vegetable garden, and invites Mpho to help him. Together the two of them choose which vegetable seedlings or small plants have to be planted where. They prepare the ground, use soil and make rows in which they will plant (categorise) the various vegetables. Mpho experiences bonding with his father, learns about the various vegetables they are planting, plans where and how they should plant the vegetables, and counts how many vegetables will fit in a row, how many rows of vegetables are there all together, how deep should the seedlings or small plants be planted, the different kinds of sand, which type of sand is the best for vegetables, how much water should be used, how many times a week it should be watered, etc. Mpho can even make a graph to follow the growth of the plants. In the end he can enjoy food with his family which has been “provided” by him and his father.

Extremely important skills were learned in this relaxed, loving, safe, stress-free environment. He learned language, mathematics and life skills without even knowing he is learning. Planning, organising, problem solving, thinking skills and language skills were enhanced in this learning environment. Mpho learned as he discovered, created and imagined. His father helped him to build new understanding and expand his thinking. Mpho will go to school and tell his friends and teacher about his experience.

Play-based learning has certain characteristics as represented in Figure 3 (Charlesworth, 2014:54; Grosser & Esterhuizen, 2015; Zosh et al., 2017;):

Figure 3: Characteristics of play-based learning

  • Enjoyment: Enjoyment is a key element of play. The child should find pleasure, thrill and a positive emotion when playing. Usually the child would show interest in things that makes him happy.
  • Meaning: Children’s actions have meaning, even if they are playing or learning. When a child finds meaning in an activity, he will be able to connect it to something he already knows.
  • Engaging and self-motivating: Play involves active, engaged mind-on thinking and is driven by what the child wants to do. If a child enjoys something, he will be motivated to explore it further. Engaged children can reflect on their learning and see the benefits of learning.
  • Inferential thinking: For example, what will happen if we do not water our vegetable garden? Where else can we find vegetables? What else can we plant in our garden to eat?
  • Social interaction: During play children are actively involved – physically, verbally and cognitively. It is therefore the opposite of passively taking in information. Pretend play vs reality is a very important aspects. It involves social interaction with peers and adults. Research shows that social interactions early in life set the stage for learning and development throughout life. Positive interactions with others help build neural foundations for developing healthy socio-emotional regulation. It promotes plasticity in the brain to help cope with challenges later in life and activates the neural pathways in the brain which is critical for teaching and learning interactions.

 As the above reading and various research done on play-based learning show, it can no longer be ignored that play-based learning holds numerous benefits for children from birth to 8 years and above.  Figure 4 summarises the benefits of play-based learning.

Figure 4: Benefits of play-based learning

Through play-based learning, real-life factual knowledge experiences will lead to deeper learning as represented in Figure 4 (UKEssays, 2018; UNICEF, 2018; Zosh et al., 2017). Play evokes innovation and creativity as children explore and experiment, clarify and construct knowledge leading to a deeper understanding that connects with their prior knowledge.

 Figure 5: Play-based learning leads to deeper learning

Unfortunately, play-based learning is not understood and positively accepted by all role-players. Some family, school and curriculum-developing settings regard play as less important and therefore influence children’s play opportunities. Nowadays, parents are anxious and expect more from their children’s performance academically, on the sports field, as well as in cultural activities. They believe play is a waste of time, therefore playtime has decreased and structured activity-times have increased. Parents, as well as children spend more and more time on their cell phones and computers and parents do not feel it is safe for their children to play outdoors without supervision (Bauer, 2013; Charlesworth, 2014:54; Grosser & Esterhuizen, 2015; Zosh et al., 2017).

Regarding Play-based learning and cognitive development, what have you found are the biggest challenges parents, teachers and practitioners face?  What are the best ways to overcome them?

Some of the challenges and solutions are summarised in Figure 6 below.

What are the most important signs that will indicate to parents, teachers and practitioners the successful functioning/implementation of Play-based learning on the cognitive development of children?

Children that have been exposed to play-based learning and have developed enhanced cognitive skills, will present with the following, as illustrated in Figure 7.

Figure 7: Characteristics of children with enhanced cognitive skills (Photo from https://favim.com/image/1169872/)

 

Visit our Tools and Research and Other Articles pages for Dr Esterhuizen’s recommended and applicable literature sources on Play-based learning. The figures used above are also available there. 


The January 2020 blog will further the discussion on play-based learning, with the focus on technology and the influence it has on the development of a young child. 


Disclaimer for the International Association of Cognitive Education (IACE)
If you require any more information or have any questions about our site’s disclaimer, please feel free to contact us by email at info@ilearnthinking.org

Disclaimers for IACE
All the information (on our website, social media sites and e-mails) is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. Although our intent is always to provide accurate information that is theoretically sound and practically relevant, IACE does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on our website, social media sites and e-mails, is strictly at your own risk. IACE will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website, social media sites and e-mail messages.

From our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you can visit other websites by following hyperlinks to such external sites. While we strive to provide only quality links to useful and ethical websites, we have no control over the content and nature of these sites. These links to other websites do not imply a recommendation for all the content found on these sites. Site owners and content may change without notice and may occur before we have the opportunity to remove a link which may have gone ‘bad’.

Please be also aware that when you leave our website, other sites may have different privacy policies and terms which are beyond our control. Please be sure to check the Privacy Policies of these sites as well as their “Terms of Service” before engaging in any business or uploading any information.

Consent
By using our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you hereby consent to our disclaimer and agree to its terms.

Update
Should we update, amend or make any changes to this document, those changes will be prominently posted here.

About Text Structures: Discussion with Estelle Brettenny

Name of Scholar / Expert:

Estelle Brettenny

Who is Estelle Brettenny? 

Estelle Brettenny is a passionate occupational therapist (B.OT. M.OT. PDME) with more than 40 years of clinical experience. She has been specialising in metacognitive therapeutic intervention and learning health for Generation Z learners (older primary school learners, high school learners and students) since 1998. She is a certified trainer in the Cognitive Enrichment Advantage (CEA) (since 1997) and Thinking Maps (since 2011) and has completed numerous courses about the development of thinking and learning.

For more than twenty years, she has also been conducting extensive cognitive education training (the development of metacognition, thinking and learning) of educators and professionals in various provinces of South Africa.  She was part of the Board of the International Association for Cognitive Education (IACESA) for two decades (as President from 2013-2015), she is a founding member of Thinking Schools South Africa (TSSA) and an Honorary Member of the Institute for the Advancement of Cognitive Education (IACE).

As there is a real need for individuals of all ages to adapt their thinking and learning processes to keep up and remain healthy in this ever-changing world, she has integrated her knowledge and experience into a user-friendly approach, the BE MORE approach, which is suited for learners, parents, educators and professionals.

The BE MORE Approach incorporates a Mediational Coaching Approach, a Metacognitive Approach, a REAL Thinking and Learning Approach and a Functional Medicine Approach and is used in a variety of practical services and opportunities to empower individuals and groups.  Her focus is on: REAL Thinking and Learning to BE MORE.

For more information visit her website: http://www.brettenny.co.za

Please note:

The focus of this Blog will be on Text Structures. The Blog is therefore deliberately approached from a Text Structure perspective as text is written with a specific intent by the authors.

What is Text Structure in books and notes and how can it enhance or hamper learning?

Text structure refers to the way that information is organised in a text. Like builders use different structures to build a building (e.g. bricks, steel, cement, glass, etc.), authors use different text structures to build text. Myer (1975) was the first to describe different types of expository (informational) text structures (Roehling et al., 2017). According to various sources the most common text structures are: Description; Compare and Contrast; Sequence; Cause and Effect; and Problem and Solution; although the terms and definitions for these structures have varied across researchers (Meyer, B.J.F. and Ray, M.N. 2011; Roehling et al., 2017; Williams, 2017; Williams, 2018).  Each text structure has typical signal words (or clue words) that signal the text structure to the reader. The following signal words can for example indicate a Cause and Effect text structure: because, as a result, is caused by, if…then, outcome, so, thus, therefore, etc.

Signal words are also referred to as transitions and they act as road signs to help readers navigate a text. The transitions signal to the reader how the next idea or detail is related to the previous one.

Text structure instruction has been researched and refined over a period of more than four decades by Myer and her colleagues as well as other academic scholars. A meta-analysis of text structure instruction by Hebert et al. (2016) as cited by Roehling, et al. (2017) concluded that text structure instruction is an effective way to enhance expository (informational) reading comprehension and this is critical for academic success. Myer and Ray (2011) state that there is substantial and consistent evidence that text structure instruction increases recall from expository text; that the quality of the recall is better; that learners have increased understanding and use of signalling words; that learners can identify main ideas better and produce better summaries; etc. Text structure instruction also changes the type of ideas that learners underline as important and it even changes their eye movements while reading.

Despite of all the benefits associated with text structure instruction, understanding expository text is often a massive challenge for learners, especially for learners with language or other difficulties. Children are more exposed to narrative texts before they start school, e.g. watching TV and movies, listening to bedtime stories, etc.  Narrative texts usually follow a single structure with a series of events. If children were not exposed enough to other text structures before they enter school, they might experience problems when they have to read more informational texts in school.  When they reach Grade 4 they have to deal with expository text to a greater extent and the text become more unfamiliar, complex and challenging than those in narrative texts.  Thousands of learners struggle to understand and learn expository text (not only learners with diagnosed reading and learning difficulties).  Dymock (2005) provides a summary of key findings from research and mentions that many learners experience problems comprehending expository text as they cannot see the basic structure of the text and they get lost in the words. Learners who have a good understanding of expository text structure on the other hand have fewer problems with comprehension.

Unfortunately there are also numerous factors, related to how text is organised in books and classroom notes that can hamper learning from expository text (as discussed in the next section).

Regarding Text Structures in books and notes, what are some of the biggest challenges that learners, parents, teachers and practitioners face?

I recently (October 2019) did a small-scale survey with numerous parents, some educators and professionals to determine the top two problems that they experience with school books and classroom notes and how these problems affect learners.  The following themes regarding the main problems were identified:

  • The organisation of information in books and notes are not always logical and effective;
  • Text books and classroom notes are not always complementary;
  • Information in books and notes is incomplete sometimes;
  • The academic language used in books is often challenging;
  • The relevance of the work is not always clear; and
  • The print and appearance of the text are not always effective.

 

According to the information received from the survey, the above mentioned problems can lead to learners feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.  They often struggle with learning and waste a lot of time.

The above mentioned survey results link with literature. Although we might assume that school books and notes are written effectively, there is ample evidence in literature that this not the case. Williams (2018) state that textbooks are often badly organised and poorly written and learners must get information from disorganized text. The fact that expository text is organised in a variety of structural patterns, also leads to a serious challenge for many learners.  There are structural clues within the text, some easy to identify and some rather subtle.  When the text is not well structured, learners must expend cognitive resources on creating their own organisation and this might not always be effective (Williams, 2018).

Teachers, parents and practitioners are often oblivious to these challenges that learners face and are often unaware of the role of deliberate text structure instruction.  According to research learners require direct instruction in how to go about comprehending more complex expository text structures and teachers play an important role to develop and enhance these skills (Dymock, 2005).

As an occupational therapist, specialising with older primary school and high school learners for the past 21 years, the development of thinking and learning skills have always been infused in my metacognitive therapeutic intervention process. I have been trained in various approaches to develop metacognition, thinking and learning skills and is an experienced cognitive education practitioner and therapist.  Due to my own skills and my longstanding awareness of the problems with textbooks and classroom notes that are often badly organised and poorly written, I have been able to educate my clients and the parents of my clients about these challenges.  I use approaches that can enhance thinking and learning and the understanding of text (cognitive) structures (e.g. Thinking Maps) that enable learners to cope better with the challenges in text books and notes. There are however not enough practitioners or interventionists that fully understand the role of books and classroom notes to enhance or hamper learning and parents often compensate for these problems by doing summaries for younger children or relying on ‘band-aid’ approaches to support their children when they cannot keep up.

My opinion is that learner intervention alone cannot change the root cause of this problem that is affecting thousands of learners.  We are facing an even bigger dilemma with education (than what we have already) in South Africa (and world-wide) if authors of text books and teachers that create classroom notes are not aware of the importance of text structure and if deliberate text structure instruction is not infused in teaching.  Despite the advances in technology it has been said in the book, The Future of (almost) Everything (Dixon, 2019) that paper will still be with us for a long time and that busy executives still prefer to print out lengthy board papers or contracts.  They can read printed pages up to ten times faster than their on-screen speed to find what they are looking for and their recall is better with paper (Dixon, 2019).  Dixon also states that to make sense of the streams of data we are bombarded with daily, we need to know how to identify patterns (that could be indicated by text structures and signal words), see context, interpret, analyse, summarise, conclude, etc.

We must therefore address the problem with school text books and classroom notes and infuse deliberate text structure instruction in classrooms from primary school level.  This might be happening in certain countries, but it is definitely not happening in the average primary school class in South Africa and in many other countries.  Learners will be prepared more effectively for high school, for tertiary education and the world of work if they can comprehend expository text structures better.

My opinion is that deliberate and explicit text structure instruction should happen before an approach such as Thinking Maps is introduced. Despite being an experienced Thinking Maps trainer and practitioner, the most common challenge my clients (and the parents that sit in during sessions) verbalise when they have to deal with challenging expository text is: “I am not sure which Thinking Map I must use.” Lots of learners fall back on previous rote learning methods without adequate support.  Many learners also do not like ‘mapping’ of any kind but if they understand text structure it could help them to organise their work in a more meaningful way and create sensible headings and key questions when they make summaries even if they do not map the structure.

What are some recommended ways to teach children about Text Structure?

  1. Parent Education: Parents of pre-school children should be educated so that they can introduce different text structures from an early age during story reading, everyday activities, talking, etc.
  2. Text Structure Instruction: Teachers should be trained to infuse deliberate text structure instruction in class. The following 6 basic steps can be followed (more detail and practical examples can be obtained in the video of the talk on Books and Notes can Enhance or Hamper Learning as well as from other resources on the internet):

1. Explain what is text structure;
2. Introduce one text structure at a time, as well as signal words and mapping of the structure;
3. Practice all text structures and signal words in various and fun ways (without content and with subject content);
4. Increase the challenge level;
5. Teach superordinate and sub-ordinate structures; and
6. Use common terms for text structures in all classes and in the whole school.

  1. Intervention programmes: Programmes for at risk learners should be developed. The CATS (Close Analysis of Text Structured Texts) was developed in 2008 by Joanna Williams and her students (Williams, 2017). It is not a formal programme that can purchased but the basic concepts and principles could be used to develop similar interventions in South Africa and other countries.
  2. Visual Resources: Visual resources can be used by practitioners and teachers to do text structure instruction. The Visual Resource below (in which the story of The Three Little Pigs was used as an analogy) is part of a talk to illustrate how text structure instruction can be done in a classroom situation. A ±1½ hour video recording of this talk titled Books and Notes can Enhance or Hamper Learning has been done and will be available soon.
  3. Writing of Text Books and Classroom Notes: Most importantly, deliberate attention must be given to the writing of text books and creation of classroom notes by authors and educators so that text structure instruction is infused as part of the content so that the process of text structure instruction in schools will be a more natural and an easier process. The back of the Visual Resource provide:

a. Ten Basic Guidelines for Overall Structure of Classroom Notes/Books; as well as
b. Ten key Tips to Create Logical Content for Classroom Notes.

(Please refer to Resources (Tools) to download a landscape copy of this Visual resource)

What are some of the important signs that will indicate to parents, teachers and practitioners that learners are becoming more aware of Text Structure to enhance their own learning?

  • Learners will be able to identify the structure of a text and use signal words/clue words to help them with this process;
  • Learners will be aware of the fact that signal words can be misleading and that they need to reflect about the overall structure of a paragraph or main idea;
  • Learners will be able to form mental images that will help them to understand informational text easier;
  • Learners will be able to discriminate between different text structures in one paragraph or main idea;
  • Learners will be able to identify main ideas and supporting facts easier;
  • Learners will find learning, summarising and recall easier (with or without ‘mapping’);
  • Learners will cope better with creative writing tasks or writing of essays in Life Sciences or History, etc.;
  • In general learners will be able to comprehend expository text easier and feel less frustrated and overwhelmed and (hopefully) also achieve better results.

Visit our Tools and Research and Other Articles pages for Ms Bretteny’s recommended and applicable literature sources on Text Structures. 


Ms Brettenny’s Contact Details are as follow:
Cell: 082 430 7956
Email address: estelle@brettenny.co.za
Physical Address:
1 A Stepping Stone Street
Everglen
Durbanville
South Africa
7550
www.brettenny.co.za


Disclaimer for the International Association of Cognitive Education (IACE)
If you require any more information or have any questions about our site’s disclaimer, please feel free to contact us by email at info@ilearnthinking.org

Disclaimers for IACE
All the information (on our website, social media sites and e-mails) is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. Although our intent is always to provide accurate information that is theoretically sound and practically relevant, IACE does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on our website, social media sites and e-mails, is strictly at your own risk. IACE will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website, social media sites and e-mail messages.

From our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you can visit other websites by following hyperlinks to such external sites. While we strive to provide only quality links to useful and ethical websites, we have no control over the content and nature of these sites. These links to other websites do not imply a recommendation for all the content found on these sites. Site owners and content may change without notice and may occur before we have the opportunity to remove a link which may have gone ‘bad’.

Please be also aware that when you leave our website, other sites may have different privacy policies and terms which are beyond our control. Please be sure to check the Privacy Policies of these sites as well as their “Terms of Service” before engaging in any business or uploading any information.

Consent
By using our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you hereby consent to our disclaimer and agree to its terms.

Update
Should we update, amend or make any changes to this document, those changes will be prominently posted here.

About Thinking Tools and classroom communication: Discussion with Dr Cas Olivier

Name of Scholar / Expert:

Dr Cas Olivier

Who is Dr Cas Olivier? 

Dr Cas Olivier is a specialist on the thinking brain. In his work, he demonstrates how twenty-eight inborn thinking tools are integrated and holistically employed in thinking processes. This approach provides thinking roadmaps to gear learners towards developmental mindsets, and this thinking tools programme is registered with the South African Council for Educators.

He provides national and international online Thinking Tools sessions to teachers, parents and learners, as well as businesses and entrepreneurs.

He is the author of The DNA of Great Teachers and a co-author of Critical Thinking: A Multi-Dimensional Approach in the Context of South Africa. His book Potential Development using Thinking Tools: The Key to Flipped Teaching was released on 1 November 2019. An extract is available here.

What is Thinking Tools classroom communication and how can it enhance better thinking and learning?

The rule on verbal communication is clear: one person can communicate with only one person at a time. Experience has taught us that a father cannot simultaneously attend to his child and his wife telling him what happened during the day. He can either speak to the one or the other. A CEO cannot talk to a manager and her personal assistant at the same time.

Traditional teachers simultaneously talk to all the learners in their class when they teach. They regard this as their claim to fame. They claim that they were trained during their studies to teach classes. This is true – not that they can teach a whole class at a time, but that they were taught to do it. After they have taught a topic to a class, they ask checking questions at the end to determine which learners have arrived at the destination and which did not. It is not clear why they ask checking questions at the end of the lesson, because it is too late to rectify or remediate misunderstandings or information that was not grasped.

Regarding classroom communications what have you found are some of the biggest challenges parents, teachers and practitioners face?  What are recommended ways to overcome them?

Notwithstanding the fact that there is no evidence that one person can communicate with a group and can guarantee that the message is understood in full, teachers keep on teaching classes. When starting the explanation, the teacher regards the class as a group, which creates an ambiance – or the mood of the teacher versus the class. These classes provide the ideal hiding place for learners who do not understand the work. It is common knowledge that troublesome people, in this case learners, flourish in groups, which leads to disruptive unproductive noise that subsequently has a negative impact on classroom management.

This paradigm is based on communication as it happens in real-life settings. The rule on verbal communication is clear: one person can communicate with only one person at a time. Therefore, thinking tools teachers’ communication paradigm informs them that they can only teach one learner at a time. They refrain from presenting and explaining, for example, PowerPoint slides, one after the other, because they know learners’ brains work in hyperlinked ways which defeat all linear spoon-feeding attempts.

Thinking tools teachers’ primary task during communication is to carefully listen and respond to individual learners’ inner speech, whether intentional or unintentional. This is contrary to teacher-centred teachers who are under the impression that they can simultaneously communicate with all the learners in the class. Because they have not yet made the paradigm shift towards thinking tools teaching, they defend themselves by saying that there is not enough time to talk to each learner, especially with bigger classes, and still be able to cover the curriculum. There is no evidence or reason to believe that when a person becomes a teacher, the person receives superpowers and is then able to communicate with a class.

Learning is driven and guided by scaffolding questions by the teacher. Such questions are not randomly asked and neither are learners bombarded with a series of preset questions. Questions are asked one at a time. Each question is a formative assessment question custom-designed and directed at an individual learner. Since teaching is primarily about relationships, it is imperative that the teacher addresses each learner on their name when asking a question or starting a conversation.

What are some of the important signs that will indicate to parents, teachers and practitioners the successful functioning/implementation of classroom communication the Thinking Tools way?

Teachers are often surprised by how well the class engages and how the discipline improves when they start asking questions to individual learners instead of directing questions to the class. Calling learners on their names means that 1) the teacher respects them and expect the same respect in return, 2) the teacher recognises them, and 3) the teacher is silently signalling that no one can hide in the crowd. The latter is key in maintaining good classroom discipline.

Visit our Tools and Research and Other Articles pages for Dr Olivier’s recommended and applicable literature sources on classroom communications and Thinking Tools. 


Dr Olivier’s Contact Details are as follow:
Cell: +27(0)83-259-2857
Email address: cas@learningdesigns.co.za


Disclaimer for the International Association of Cognitive Education (IACE)
If you require any more information or have any questions about our site’s disclaimer, please feel free to contact us by email at info@ilearnthinking.org

Disclaimers for IACE
All the information (on our website, social media sites and e-mails) is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. Although our intent is always to provide accurate information that is theoretically sound and practically relevant, IACE does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on our website, social media sites and e-mails, is strictly at your own risk. IACE will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website, social media sites and e-mail messages.

From our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you can visit other websites by following hyperlinks to such external sites. While we strive to provide only quality links to useful and ethical websites, we have no control over the content and nature of these sites. These links to other websites do not imply a recommendation for all the content found on these sites. Site owners and content may change without notice and may occur before we have the opportunity to remove a link which may have gone ‘bad’.

Please be also aware that when you leave our website, other sites may have different privacy policies and terms which are beyond our control. Please be sure to check the Privacy Policies of these sites as well as their “Terms of Service” before engaging in any business or uploading any information.

Consent
By using our website, social media sites and e-mail messages, you hereby consent to our disclaimer and agree to its terms.

Update
Should we update, amend or make any changes to this document, those changes will be prominently posted here.

About Academic Language: Discussion with Elsefie Wranz

Name of Professional:

Elsefie Wranz

Academic Background

BA (Linguistics + Afr Ndl (SU)); B Speech therapy and Audiology (SU); Dip Spec Ed (Learners with special Ed Needs (SU); M Phil (Health Sciences Education) Stellenbosch University
Trained in Neuro-Developmental Therapy (NDT – Bobath method)

Who am I?

I am a speech-language therapist and audiologist at a school for learners with special education needs for the past 25 years. I have worked with learners from pre-school to Grade 12. For the past twenty years I have dedicated most of my time to language intervention for the older learner with specific language challenges in both reception of language and written expression.  I have a passion to support the deaf learner with academic challenges, particularly language challenges.  I have been trained as a Hi Hopes Home interventionist; a home-based program which serves parents and families with deaf babies.  I was one of the first trained mentors as well as one of the first three Hi Hopes trainers in Africa.  I am a part-time clinical tutor and lecturer at the Dept of Speech-language and Hearing therapy since 1996.

I have been a member (2000) and board member of International Association for Cognitive Education in South Africa since (2001 – 2018).

What is the significance of Academic language versus Casual language for the school-going child and how can the enhancement of both above-mentioned language competencies improve better thinking and learning?

Noam Chomsky viewed the acquisition of language as a swift transition from the inception stages to the age of 3,6 years of age – which claimed that most children should have typically mastered the basic structure of their language in that period. Berman (2009), however, in his research declared that language development continues well into adolescence and beyond. This language growth may be a product of incidental learning through exposure to learning materials as well as direct instruction to target specific language skills (Dockrell & Messer, 2004; Cummins & Yee-Fun, 2007).

Westby (1985) described the language journey of the young child as “in the pre-school years children learn to talk and as they move into school they talk to learn”. The notion of different language abilities required by children to function within the school system became a popular theme; school requires of a child to master social-interactive or casual language as well as academic language.  Scheele, Leseman, Mayo and Elbers, (2012: p 419) stated that the ability to use and understand academic language (AL) is a prerequisite for school success.

Van Kleeck (2014) distinguishes between Casual Talk (ST) and Academic Talk (AT) as two registers of oral language where AT is emphasised a very important readiness and predictor skill for later academic success. Cummins (1984) described the two registers as a cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) and basic interpersonal communication skills (BICL) to explain the research results of bilingual children who were fluent in conversational skills but achieved poorly on verbal academic performance.  One can describe CT is the everyday social language used during everyday life among friends and to get things done. AT, on the other hand, constitutes the language use when one is teaching and learning, enabling teachers and other adults to convey, and children to develop and show, their ideas and knowledge. Academic language is also the language that is heard in lecture halls and found in text books.  Academic oral language should form the basis for academic written expression.

One of the major ways in which AT relates to later academic success is that it forms a critical and foundational skill to later reading comprehension, which on its own provides an essential part of school success.

The biggest challenges that parents, teachers and practitioners face are:

 … to improve the quality of Academic language skills are that the art of academic language is not directly taught to children at school level, yet it is required of learners to master both the casual language (social-interactive communication) as well as the more formalised and structurally more complex language of text books, lectures, essay writing, oral presentations, debate and public speaking. Not all children enter pre-school of school familiar with the requirements of academic language.  Van Kleeck (2014) viewed academic language as part of the hidden school curriculum – being a very important aspect of the curriculum but not taught directly or explicitly to learners.

For the learner with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) the challenges to mastering one language is already difficult, to acquire another register of academic language – not taught/instructed directly – would pose significant challenges. For the academically at risk child, it is simply unfair to wait until he is in the foundation phase to be concerned about academic language as he is already in danger to face academic challenges.

What are the best ways to overcome the challenges?

The role of the speech-language therapist, the teachers and the parents are of critical importance here.  The collaborative relationship in the pre-school class of the speech-language therapist and the teacher should be reinforced to develop and foster the use of AT in the classroom. As language practitioners speech-language therapists can make the knowledge of AT explicit to teachers at the inception of Grade R so that at-risk learners may be identified early (van Kleeck, 2014).  If teachers are made aware of the need to develop AT in young learners, the early and efficient nurturing of AT may benefit all children at risk for academic difficulties as well as those with language impairment (van Kleeck, 2014). Children who are afforded participation in classroom talk may develop a positive self-identity as a learner (Stables, 2003).

Schleppegrell (2001) stated that “many teachers are unprepared to make the linguistic expectations of school, explicit to learners”. The inclusion of instruction to foster academic language from pre-school age already should be included in teacher training. The training of teachers should include direct focus on the explicit training of academic language to children who are at risk for academic underachievement (Bunch, 2013; Cummins, 2014).

The empowering of teachers as well as parents in the instruction of academic language should be part of professional development programmes for teachers and parents at school.

The responsibility of fostering academic language so that learners may  successfully progress through school rests with:

The school system and authorities responsible for teacher training

  • Teacher training (for all phases) should include skills training to directly target tuition of academic language within the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS).
  • Teachers must make learners aware of the additional requirements of academic language
  • Teachers must teach the respective vocabulary, concepts and complex sentence structure of a specific subject explicitly

Speech-language therapists

  • Should start teaching and supporting learners with Academic language development as soon as possible in Grade R
  • Use the concepts, vocabulary and respective thinking that is required for each subject and teach explicitly
  • Teach phonological awareness (decoding for later reading) and print awareness explicitly
  • Teach higher order oral language skills to support the comprehension of more complicated reading and to enable learners to use language inferentially (van Kleeck, 2014).
  • Focus also on the process of thinking (how?, why?, what next? questions), and concentrate on metacognitive skills (teach about thinking using the appropriate terminology referring to thinking skills – ask learners to explain how they reached a conclusion, support the gradual process of reaching more complex thinking by acknowledging what is already said and prompt the learner to progress to a more complex level of thinking).
  • Focus on empowering parents with knowledge about academic language and how they can contribute to their child’s academic language competency.

Parents

  • Engage child in talk – concentrate on the explanation of how and what they are thinking about. Choose subjects that are known to the child, but also venture away to more unknown subjects to stimulate their thinking and interest.
  • Ask open-ended questions – spark creativity and higher level thinking and support the child’s thinking process by providing new and novel ideas.
  • Read to your child, have discussions about the topic, characters and the world issues in the book.

What are the most important signs that will indicate to parents, teachers and practitioners that Academic language is intact?

  • More talk
  • More complex use of oral language as well as written expression
  • Greater sentence and vocabulary complexity
  • Longer mean length of utterance
  • More elaborated language
  • More use of passives
  • More discussion and understanding of complex concepts
  • More decontextualized language
  • More meta-language use
  • Using content/subject specific vocabulary and showing understanding of concepts under discussion
  • Displaying their knowledge by explaining and using precise terms
  • Being able to describe a thinking process and use of thinking language
  • Being able to answer open-ended questions and avoiding closed set responses
  • More topic elaboration                (summarised from van Kleeck, 2014)

Visit our Tools and Research and Other Articles pages for Ms Wranz’s recommended and applicable literature sources on Academic Language.


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