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. 


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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.

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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.


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 Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning (SRL): Discussion with Estelle Brettenny

Name of professional:

Estelle Brettenny

Who am I?

I am a passionate occupational therapist (B.OT. M.OT. PDME) with more than 40 years of clinical experience. I have been specializing in metacognitive therapeutic intervention and learning health for Generation Z learners (older primary school learners, high school learners and students) since 1998. I am a certified trainer in the Cognitive Enrichment Advantage (CEA) (since 1997) and Thinking Maps (since 2011) and have completed numerous courses about the development of thinking and learning. For more than twenty years, I have also been conducting extensive cognitive education training (the development of metacognition, thinking and learning) of educators and professionals in various provinces of South Africa.  I was part of the Board of the International Association for Cognitive Education (IACESA) for two decades (as President from 2013-2015), am 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, I am currently integrating my 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.  My focus is on:  REAL Thinking and Learning to BE MORE. For more information you can visit my website: http://www.brettenny.co.za

What is Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) and how can it enhance better thinking and learning?

This blog will focus on Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) that is the key to move from superficial learning to deeper learning and learner autonomy. The concepts of SRL and learner autonomy have attracted a lot of attention in the past two to three decades from academic scholars and there are numerous different theories or schools of thought to explain why some learners are more successful than others.  Zimmerman (1990) outlines three key feature of definitions of SRL:

  • The systematic use of metacognitive, motivational and/or behavioural strategies;
  • A ‘self-oriented feedback’ loop in which students monitor the effectiveness of their learning methods and strategies; and
  • How and why students choose a specific strategy. Unless the outcomes of using specific strategies are sufficiently attractive, students are generally not motivated to self-regulate.

Cubukcu (2009) proposes that one of the major causes of student’s failure in their learning is the lack of self-regulation. Self-regulated learners, on the other hand, are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, can motivate themselves to engage in, and improve their learning (Guidance Report, Education Endowment Foundation, 2018). SRL will help learners to learn in their best way and to achieve academic success. It is also a life-long learning skill and essential in the work place and for life in general.

Regarding Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning (SRL): What are some of the biggest challenges that parents, teachers and practitioners are faced by?

Based on my extensive clinical experience and work with learners, parents, educators and professionals, it is my opinion that the average professional, educator or parent are not always aware of or knowledgeable enough about the deeper meaning of self-regulated learning or how to empower learners practically to become more self-regulated.  If you do not know how to recognize a lack of self-regulated learning and/or you are not a self-regulated learner yourself, you cannot successfully help others to become more self-regulated. Literature provide evidence that support my view (Effeney, Caroll & Bahr, 2013; Rajabi, 2012; Zimmerman, 1998; Zimmerman, 2002).

The dilemma is that more and more learners are receiving extra lessons, have tutors, take medication and/or receive therapies and interventions. I have witnessed the exponential growth in the tutoring industry over the past 20 years and parents are desperately seeking help to equip their children with the skills to learn and cope academically. Many parents pay large sums of money for study method courses that do not explicitly and deliberately develop SRL and they are often disillusioned if the marks of the children do not improve. I am inundated with referrals on a daily basis of parents that have done too much for too long for their children (and cannot do it any more); or that have allowed their children to develop bad habits of thinking and learning (often unintentionally); or that are really keen to equip their children with skills to think and learn better but do not have the skills to do it themselves. The concept ‘self-regulated learning’ is seldom used to describe the needs or problems of the learners and parents are often oblivious to the reasons why their child is underachieving despite numerous interventions.  Learners often describe the reason/s for underachievement as ‘I am just lazy’ or they are described by others, as ‘lazy’ when they actually display many of the typical characteristics of underachievers (as discussed in literature). 

These characteristics of underachievers include a lack of: Goal setting and planning; time management; learning strategies; self-evaluation; seeking help or information; and self-motivational beliefs. Underachievers are also more impulsive, have lower academic goals, are less accurate in assessing their abilities, are more self-critical, less efficacious about their performance and tend to give up more easily than achievers. They are often more anxious, have a lower self-esteem, tend to be passive and require more external approval (Cubukcu, 2009; Rajabi, 2012; Zimmerman, 1990; Zimmerman, 2002).

Unfortunately there are thousands of school learners (and tertiary education students) in classrooms that lack SRL, educators are burdened by this situation but few educators effectively equip learners to learn on their own and to develop strategies for SRL. 

What are recommended ways to develop Self-Regulated Learning?

The Guidance Report on Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning (complied by the Education Endowment Foundation) outlines 7 recommendations that can be used by primary and secondary schools (and beyond). The first two recommendations suggest that:

  • Teachers (or parents, practitioners, etc.) should acquire the professional understanding and skills to develop their learners’ metacognitive knowledge; and that
  • Teachers must explicitly teach learners metacognitive strategies, including how to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning.

A critical aspect in the development of SRL involves the use of metacognitive self-questioning and metacognitive self-talk.  Nilson (2014) refers to SRL as ‘your own little secret’.  It stirs from within you and it is the voice in your head that asks questions about your learning. Learners must be taught how to ask these kind of questions and how to use metacognitive self-talk.

A starting point for educators and practitioners (and parents) is thus to understand more about metacognition and SRL. Due to time constraints they do not always find time for research or reading about important topics.  I develop visual resources in my practice on a regular basis and these resources can also be used by parents, educators and practitioners.  As I strive to develop SRL with all my referrals as part of my metacognitive therapeutic intervention process, I have developed a visual resource for Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning too (that links with the recommendations mentioned above and other literature sources).  This A4 laminated resource consists of a colourful visual representation on the one side and on the back is shortened guidelines about key concepts to understand and mediate the visual.  I use this resource in my work with learners to help them to become more aware and knowledgeable about SRL and the critical role of metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive regulation as part of the process. Areas that require attention can be identified and then cognitive and metacognitive strategies can be developed (Refer to the resource on Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning and the guidelines about the key concepts).

Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning (Visual Resource)

The visual resource has been reduced for reading purposes in this blog, but it is normally in A4 landscape format. Direct enquiries to estelle@brettenny.co.za


Visit our Tools and Research and Other Articles pages for Ms Bretteny’s recommended and applicable literature sources on Metacognititon and Self-regulated learning.


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 Computational Thinking: Interview with Dr Magda Kloppers

Name of scholar/expert:

Dr Magda Kloppers

Who am I?

I am a senior lecturer at the Vaal Triangle campus of the North West University in South Africa.  I am a member of Optentia, research entity on the Vaal Triangle campus in the programme:  Inclusion, Capability and Optimal functioning.  My field of scholarship is cognitive education, critical thinking dispositions, creating environments that are conducive for teaching and learning, computational thinking and Mathematics. I am currently involved in a project on High-performance learning as well as the use of videos in African languages to increase performance in Mathematics.

What is Computational Thinking, and how can it enhance better thinking and learning?

This input will focus on Computational Thinking (CT), a universally applicable attitude and skill set everyone should be eager to learn and use, considering the rapid changes and challenges posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) leading to drastic changes in how we live, work and communicate. The 4IR is characterised by a fusion of technologies that ‘blurs the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres’.In the same way that Critical thinking skills and dispositions need to be taught explicitly, Computational thinking is not different.  Teachers should allow space for the development of computational thinking to teach students to think in a way that will enable them to access and understand the technologies of the future.  Four cornerstones of Computational Thinking can be identified.
Firstly, decomposition
, which invites students to break down complex problems into smaller, more straightforward problems.
The second cornerstone is pattern recognition
, which guides students to make connections between similar problems and experience.
Thirdly, abstraction invites students to identify relevant information while ignoring unrelated or irrelevant details.  Lastly, students use algorithms when they design simple steps to solve problems. These four cornerstones draw upon the concepts fundamental to computer science and the integration of technologies. One way in which CT can be advanced is through play.  A follow-up podcast will focus on the value of play to advance CT.


Figure: Image adopted from Computational Thinkers (Available online: https://www.computationalthinkers.com)

Regarding Computational Thinking, what have you found are the biggest challenges parents, teachers and practitioners face?  What are the best ways to overcome them?

Parents, teachers and practitioners should not confuse Computational Thinking with computer programming or coding, although programming and coding are some of the ways to teach CT.  In essence, CT is conceptualising a set of cognitive and problem-solving skills, and applies to many subject areas, for everyone everywhere and can be taught without a device. It is how humans think, not computers; it is a fundamental skill, not a rote skill; it is about ideas, to be creative and not the artefacts. Parents and teachers should also take the time which students can stay focused into consideration and not burden them with tasks which are beyond the concentration span of the child.  An example of where decomposition can be used is when a learner is requested to describe a scenario of planning a birthday party for girls, or a weekend camp for boys.  The learners can be assisted to break down the situation into smaller steps and guide their thinking by drawing a visual representation.

In Pattern recognition children will be able to identify commonalities between objects or experiences. Pictures of fruit and vegetables can be printed, and learners should be able to tell the differences and commonalities. Learners should be able to group the fruit and the vegetables, tell which ones are round, yellow, green, red etc. or which vegetables grow above and below the ground.  This skill can help learners to solve future problems and to make predictions about the world.

Abstraction helps learners to identify relevant and important information and sort through ideas to identify what information can be used. A story with fallacies can be told to learners, and afterwards, they should have the ability to verbalise the errors and motivate their answers.   Formulating this strategy is a valuable skill for learners to manage the overload of information and to determine what is accurate, valid and relevant.

Algorithms imply the creation of sequential rules to follow to solve a problem. Here you can ask learners to identify the steps they take when they wake up in the morning and get ready for school, or what steps they will take when they make a cup of tea or coffee.  The sequence of the actions are essential, and everything needed to perform the action should be indicated.

What are the most important signs that will indicate to parents, teachers and practitioners the successful functioning/implementation of Computational Thinking?

Daily fun and creative activities can be used to instil CT in learners.  If learners can explain their thought processes sequentially and break complex problems down into smaller steps, it is an indicator that learners have the skill of CT.  When learners can come up with different solutions for the same problem and can select the best solution, it is also an indication of mastery of the problem.


Visit our Tools, Recommended Readings and Research and Other Articles pages for Dr Kloppers’ recommended and applicable literature sources on Metacognititon and Self-regulated learning.


Dr Kloppers may be contacted at Magda.Kloppers@nwu.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.

Interview with Prof Mary Grosser, Extraordinary Professor in Cognitive Development and Critical Thinking Development

The Institute for the Advancement of Cognitive Education conducted an interview with Prof Mary Grosser; Extraordinary Professor in Cognitive Development and Critical Thinking Development at the North West University in South Africa in April 2019.  She also serves on the IACE Advisory Board. 

Prof Grosser’s interview is helpful to create a better understanding of the term cognitive education, and what the difference is between cognition and meta-cognition, and between lower-order thinking and higher-order thinking.  Understanding these basic concepts will help parents, teachers and practitioners to develop better thinking and learning.  This blog is a summary of the most important points Prof Grosser highlighted during the interview.

What does cognitive education mean?

  • Developing thinking processes (cognitive and metacognitive) in learners to help them to become independent and self-regulated learners in terms of their school work, but also to enable them to be better equipped to solve problems and make good decisions as part of daily life.
  • Teach learners to understand how their minds work.

What are the thinking competencies learners need to acquire?

  1. Lower-order: Lower-order competencies include having skills to effectively:
    – Pay attention to information: Staying alert and conscious during learning.
    – Perceive information: Using all senses to become aware of information.
    – Memorise information: Storing information for retrieval later.
  1. Higher-order competencies: Ability to apply different thinking skills tolearning (flexibility) that requires more challenging competencies to process information than merely memorising, such as comparing information, classifying information, analysing information, thinking critically about information.
  2. Feelings, dispositions, attitudes: Dispositions such aswillingness, motivation, self-confidence, inquisitiveness, accuracy, systematic working ways, empathy, responsibility, accountability, ethical conduct, skills to work with others, positive attitudes towards learning; open-mindedness, fair-mindedness, excellent communication skills, better cooperative learning skills, etc. play an important role in effective learning, and in contributing to the societies we live in.

In short, essential competencies include two things, namely the development of skills (lower- and higher-order) that involve the “head” (mind) and dispositions/feelings/attitudes that involve the “heart” (emotions).

What is the difference between cognitive and metacognitive processes?

Cognitive actions/processes involve all thinking actions that we engage in, such as making decisions, solving problems, interpret information, or responding to questions.

It is always necessary to evaluate and assess ones thinking or answers (reflect about one’s thinking) to establish if it makes sense if it is logic, meaningful and significant. This evaluation and reflection process is called metacognition.

An important aspect of metacognition is that one needs to have the skills and strategies know what to do if one’s thinking does not make sense, solve problems incorrectly, misinterpret information or responding in an incomplete way to questions.

What is the difference between teaching for, of and about thinking?

  • Teaching FOR thinking involves the creation of school-wide and classroom conditions (and home) that support thinking development. We need to make time for the teaching of thinking.
  • Teaching OF thinking focuses on the explicit instruction and modelling of thinking skills/strategies and dispositions to learners, and not just expect learners to acquire them without purposeful teaching.  For example, Teaching learners strategies to become skilled at paying better attention (lower-order skill), making comparisons (higher-order skill), working accurately (disposition)
  • Teaching ABOUT thinking helps learners to become aware of their own and others’ thinking processes (meta-cognitive processes).  Teach learners strategies to assess their own thinking and to self-correct their thinking.

Why is it important for parents, educators and practitioners to develop better thinking and learning today?

We are educating/preparing learners to cope with the challenges of the 21stcentury. The 21st-century learner needs thinking skills and dispositions to deal with the following challenges: Learning and academic challenges, personal life challenges, societal and global challenges.

The 21stCentury Learner needs skill to/to be …

Learners also need skills and dispositions to deal with the challenges of the fourth Industrial Revolution

  • Grade 1 learners of 2019 will be in Grade 12 in 2030. We do not know what the world will look like then – totally unpredictable. We need to prepare learners to do anything, not something.
  • Understanding and coping with a digitally focused life – interaction with digital media.

Conceptual Age

1990s: Working with sophisticated tools and technologies

Today: Working with information overload

 

Looking at the aforementioned, one can make the following classification of what a learner will need to cope with learning and the challenges of the 21stcentury and the fourth Industrial Revolution.

Thinking skills

(cannot be taught by computers)

Digital skills Personal skills and dispositions

(cannot be taught by computers)

Job-specific skills
Critical thinking

Problem-solving

Decision making

Digital literacy

Computer programming

Online learning

Coding

Communication

Motivation

Responsibility

Reliability

Empathy

Industry knowledge

Workplace technology

Technical skills

Teachers, parents and practitioner still need to play an essential role in mediating and modelling good thinking skills and dispositions to learners, as computers and technology cannot teach thinking skills and dispositions.

What are the most important tips you can give to parents, educators and practitioners to develop better thinking and learning?

  1. Developing thinking processes intentionally – make time for it. Developing better thinking that would contribute to better learning has to become part and parcel of daily living, also at home.
  2. Taking hands with teachers and other practitioners to reinforce and strengthen the development of better thinking and learning.
  3. Becoming knowledgeable about different tools to develop thinking competencies (skills, dispositions).