Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Metaphors Provide a Metacognitive Tool for Promoting Higher Order Thinking Skills

Previously, prospective and in-service teachers were encouraged to eliminate frustration, anxiety, and tension (FAT) in the classrooms in favor of optimizing a learning environment approaching nirvana (LEAN).  Perception, memory, and learning, are entwined in the quest to optimize learning at the highest (deepest) levels.  By rethinking or replacing older, less functional traditions or metaphors and using stories to create new mental images, a learning organization is able to move toward positive change.  This is due to images created through metaphorical language influencing thought processes.  For instance, Jung (1964) wrote extensively on the instinctive nature of symbolic thought, suggesting symbols transcend cultures. 
Likewise, storytelling provides an integral tool as an organizational change strategy because stories have the potential to create experiences whereby a strategy is comprehended more personally (Adamson, Pine, Tom & Kroupa, 2006).  Therefore, “storytelling builds stronger teams and a stronger sense of community” (p. 36).  How does your educational institution utilize organizational metaphors for optimizing deep learning? 

A common complaint regarding NCLB (2002) has been the steady slide into teaching the breadth rather than depth of the curriculum.  This is metaphorically chastised as "teaching to the test."  Marzano and Waters (2009) called for a narrowed curriculum whereby in each grade less breadth of the curriculum is addressed but more thoroughly covered.  Addressing this, it is hoped the Common Core Standards will be successful in providing more opportunities for critical, higher-order thinking skills (Bloom, 1956). 

Schools now “celebrate” the pending annual AYP tests through test preps and letters to parents, reminding them to ensure their children have a good breakfast and receive plenty of sleep.  Would this be the main traditions celebrating critical thinking skills at an acclaimed, highly effective school?  What events, tradition, schemes, or metaphors promote critical thinking in your school and classroom? 

Many institutes of higher education find adult learning benefits from a scheme or model for promoting critical thinking as based on the Perry Scheme (Perry, 1968).  The model is comprised of nine stages within four levels of cognitive ability: dualism, multiplicity, relativism and commitment to relativism.

·       Dualists think in terms of black and white or right and wrong.  They perceive the need for an objective truth.  They avoid group discussions because they find them to be a waste of time.

·       Multiplists, by contrast, believe that truth is completely subjective.  Everyone’s opinion or experience is legitimate.

·       Relativists believe that truth is contextual, therefore what is right or wrong is relative to a particular context or frame of reference.  Since students at this level are able to evaluate the merits of a particular position based on available data, and circumstances can change at any given moment, their thinking is very fluid.

·       Commitment to relativism is the final stage, whereby individuals are very self-aware and view knowledge as progressive and evolving.  New information is constantly being compiled, evaluated, and synthesized and therefore new knowledge replaces previous thoughts and beliefs.  Philosophically, this level relates to scientific inquiry.

Acronyms and mnemonics were previously highlighted as two psychological tools utilizing social interactions within an educational environment for effectively reducing neurological overload and increasing learning of desired goals.  Metaphors provide another effective metacognitive tool.  As a figure of speech providing an implied comparison, the effective educator can utilize metaphors to increase utilization of vocabulary, promote higher order thinking, and reinforce a desired commitment to relativism. 
To cite:

Anderson, C.J. (August 6, 2013) Metaphors provide a metacognitive tool for promoting
           higher order thinking skills [Web log post]
           Retrieved from http://www.ucan-cja.blogspot.com/

Adamson, G., Pine, J., Tom, V. S., & Kroupa, J. (2006). How storytelling can drive strategic
                 change. Strategy & Leadership, 34(1), 36-41

Jung, C. G. (1964) Man and his symbols London, England: Aldus Books in association with
               W.H. Allen

Lavoie, R. (1989) How difficult can this be? F.A.T. City--A learning disabilities workshop DVD
               Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhzh9kt8z7c
Marzano, R. & Waters, T.(2009).  District leadership that works. Bloomington, IN: Solution
                Tree Press
Rapaport, W.J. (2011) William Perry's scheme of intellectual and ethical development.
                Retrieved from http://www.cse.buffalo.edu/~rapaport/perry.positions.html