Teacher's Question of the Week
Q: Is there a lesson plan using the Elements of Reasoning?
A. The following excerpt is taken from the SBCC Student Success grant materials. Go to <lss.sbcc.net>, and select "Student Success", then "1999", and finally "Problem Solving". An entry on the Elements of Reasoning will be there, as will be several other entries on the same topic.
options for use of the materials exist ranging from minimal to maximal time
use in class. The following options range from smallest to largest amount
of in-class time use:
Introduce the "Elements of Reasoning" worksheet by making an overhead
of a blank form, and generate a problem, issue or question from the class.
By engaging the class in discussion based on the concepts, vocabulary and
prompts on the worksheet, a class consensus may be developed about what to
enter under each category.
the class needs more direct instruction due to unfamiliarity with the vocabulary
words and concepts, the instructor should first present a completed worksheet
based upon a real question, issue or problem important to him or her. (One
example I use is how can Alaska maintain the pristine purity of the natural
environment while enhancing the basic quality of living, i.e. housing, urban
planning, medical and social services, etc., by developing alternative economic
ventures, other than the oil pipeline.)
The words on the worksheet are integrated in class lectures and discussions to promote familiarity with the terms and more thorough thought processes.
The students (after being introduced to the worksheet in class) may be asked
to use the "Elements of Reasoning" worksheet to prepare and organize
ideas prior to writing one of the class essays. One option is to require students
to hand in the worksheet as part of a draft on which teacher suggestions can
be made for revision; another option is to require that the worksheet be turned
in with the final copy.
The students use the "Elements of Reasoning" to prepare a report
on an issue, question or problem to solve. They research outside sources for
the "Information" category, including interviewing individuals knowledgeable
in the field pertinent to their chosen topic. They explore their own assumptions
and point of view, as well those of authors and interviewees. They focus their
discussion of the issue, question, or problem in light of certain important
concepts. (They can use the Concept Diagram from the DSPS 77: Writing &
Reading Strategies course packet to develop concept formation, if needed.)
Students consider all the data, devise solutions to the problems, and think
clearly about short-term and long-term implications of their conclusions.
student is responsible for presenting his or her reasoning on the topic to
the class. If the class is small, students should sit in a circle; if the
class has a large number of students, divide into small groups of about seven.
After the presentation, the students ask the presenter questions, and the
presenter takes charge of the discussion. Usually the instructor doesn't have
to intervene unless the group is veering off the topic or clearly wasting
precious time and the presenter is not conscious of it. The discussion usually
brings out a variety of perspectives. The leader should make an attempt toward
the end of the given time to summarize the discussion and note any questions
that are worthy of further pursuit.
student should fill out a feedback sheet to be given to the presenter. The
instructor can design the feedback page to fit desired objectives, but usually
sections asking for an overall response and for suggestions for further study
should be included. The instructor may wish to collect the feedback sheets
first before distributing them as they are usually quite interesting; however,
some students may prefer to keep the feedback confidential.
Structure: One of the decisions the instructor makes is how many students
to have in each group if the class roster is large. Since each student needs
time to present and lead the discussion, two students can report in one 90
minute class period and one student can realistically report in one 50 minute
class (in order to develop a meaningful, in depth dialogue). This means if
there are seven students per group, this could take seven class periods in
a 50 minute class, with time for the instructor to present some material at
the beginning. Or it would take 3.5 class periods for a 90 minute class. I
found that it was well worth the time in class because each student distinctly
feels the responsibility to organize a good report and direct the discussion
well, and participants must use active listening skills and raise questions
that show an understanding of the concepts and terms on the worksheet. Students
are receptive to each other, and much is gained from a student-run discussion.
Many interesting and even shocking facts come out pertaining to social issues
that the instructor may not very easily elicit through teacher-directed discussion.
It is important to observe and guide the discussion to support students who
are having a difficult time when necessary.
Problems: One of the problems that arises is students may focus on personal
narratives for the sake of verbal expression rather than develop critical
thinking skills through dialogue. The instructor has to decide what is allowable.
For example, if a student clearly needs to express emotions in relation to
an issue, i.e. date rape or homelessness, it is wise to allow that discussion
to progress, with an eye to drawing out options for solving problems. Referral
to Health and Wellness may be necessary at times. It is important for the
student in charge not to let one individual dominate the discussion but to
draw out comments, perspectives and ideas from all students in the group in
a non-threatening way through questioning.
Another problem might be that students have little background in critical thinking and confuse it with daytime TV discussions. The instructor then needs to continue to use the terms in class discussion and role model thinking aloud about any type of issue, question or problem to provide more background for students throughout the term. See also the entry on "Reflection" under the Wellness category; encourage students to devote a definite amount of time reflecting daily.
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