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Mark Burke is CEO and founder of mynddset

X and Y Graph on Teaching, Thinking, Learing and Instructional Design

By Mark T. Burke

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending time with Drs. Derek Cabrera and Laura Colosi http://www.idsrp.com/.  Together, they’re on a mission to get kids thinking.  Having visited and worked with countless schools, their message is one with credibility and simplicity….Kids Can’t Think.  In fact, Derek teaches as Cornell University and reports that even at that level, students can’t think. 

Our job as educators is to help students unlock their thinking abilities through practices that develop habits. Regardless of the subject we teach, we must “teach” kids to THINK.  And, yes, I believe we absolutely must do so in all forms of educational delivery including online learning as well as in the classroom and in hybrid environments.

Derek’s presentation included this slide.  Wow, he was right when he said, “You could spend years discussing and dissecting this slide.”  

So how do you use this slide?  Think about something you want to teach students that is rather low on the scale of “intangibility.  You can certainly connect that concept with a student’s prior knowledge and most likely, students will assimilate the new concept rather quickly.  Now, think of something largely intangible, such as teaching musical expression.  Providing some type of formal or informal immersion activity will be required to get the students to grasp the concept. In the case of BEING a musician, our goal goes beyond grasping the concept by requiring students to actually demonstrate the concept in their own performance. Again, we won’t help them if we don’t provide instructional experiences that align with the concept. 

There’s a great discussion going on now at NAfME’s LinkedIn page.  I asked participants to discuss techniques for educating students to be “professional musicians” and “personal musicians.”  While there are many great concepts, the problem is getting down to the level of detail on how to actually perform the instruction.  For example, if we want to teach students what it’s “like” to be a working musician, we must ensure we deliver instruction that gives us a chance to accomplish the desired goal.  In this case, story telling may be great, but it will fall short of providing sufficient instruction for this topic.  Story telling alone, as demonstrated by this graph, is a tool for rather tangible concepts.  “Being a working musician” is not a tangible concept at all. So, we will need to provide an immersion activity for the students at some level.  An eye opener?  For sure…. 

Derek’s graph can show us how we may not be aligning the right teaching strategy with the concept we are attempting to teach.  For this benefit alone, I think this graph is invaluable.  There are other uses.

Another use is to help us determine instructional development time.  If we need to teach an intangible concept, we will need to devote more time to building and managing the instruction (time is demonstrated on the bottom axis).  Schools and companies alike should pay particular attention.  We’re trying to teach students how to be musician in pull out lessons once a week, while kids spend every day, at least 1 period a day learning how to add and subtract.  Both are important, but our educational efforts are out of balance with the intangibility of what we are trying to teach.

For companies, especially those developing online learning, looking for a quick guide to development time and effort, pay particular attention. If we want to raise online learning to a status of helping kids learn to think, we have to commit the time and efforts to building instruction that aligns with higher levels of intangibility.  We can’t teach kids to become thinkers by investing in online learning that does little more than tell stories.

There’s just so much to talk about on this graph.  I hope it helps you as much as it has me.  Of course, Derek and Laura would love to hear from you.  So, please stop by their site and mention you saw the chart here, at my site.  Tell them Mark Burke sent you and that you want to learn more about DSRP.  You won’t be disappointed.  




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