If students are to achieve the objectives of higher order thinking, then they must develop the abilities which make this possible. Achievement of the objectives within the C.E.L.s cannot happen unless time and effort is spent helping students learn the prerequisite skills/abilities.
Beyer argues that an effective curriculum on thinking skills should introduce a limited number of skills/abilities (three to five) at each grade level. Students are not able to learn to the mastery level more than five skills per year. By providing a sequenced development of skills/abilities from the primary years to the secondary years, a scope and sequence can ensure that students master the necessary number of skills/abilities to allow them to become independent, critical and creative learners.
|Beyer, B. (1984). Improving thinking skills: Defining the problem. Phi Delta Kappan, (65)7, 486-490.|
Only one or two skills are prescribed for each grade so the course can be adapted to make it suitable for the class being taught. Skills/abilities are introduced gradually throughout each course. This allows students to learn the skill at the beginning of the course, to practise it, and to use the skill independently. Students are expected to achieve some measure of independence in the use of skills prescribed for each grade level.
Grade Nine: Categorizing, Classifying, Generalizing, and Inferring
Two skills/abilities that are greatly emphasized throughout the middle years are categorizing and classifying. While categorizing (creating a group or class within a system) is inherent in conceptualizing, it should also be taught as a skill basic to critical and creative thinking. Classifying (the process of arranging groups or classes according to some system) is another basic skill taught throughout the middle years (most particularly in grade 9) because it is a fundamental prerequisite to the skill of analysis. The skills of generalizing (noting common elements among cases or data being studied) and inferring (using a generalization made from data/cases to draw implications or form conclusions about that or another case) are also emphasized in grade nine.
Grade Ten: Analyzing and Hypothesizing
In grade 10 the skills of classifying and inferencing are carried on, reinforced, and used as the basis for developing the ability to analyze and hypothesize. Students will be taught to classify data using grids and/or concept maps. Once they can do this, they are in a position to draw inferences about relationships within the data. These inferences become the basis for an hypothesis.
Grade Eleven: Dialectical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, and Conflict Resolution
In grade 11, the skills of analysis and hypothesizing continue to be stressed and used to develop the abilities to think dialectically and to solve problems. Given the controversial nature of many of the world issues students will be studying and because students will be entering a world which requires the ability to think about issues that are complex and many-sided, students will need to learn to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. Dialectics and its related processes of creative problem solving, decision making, and conflict resolution are logical extensions of hypothesizing and analyzing. Students who have been introduced to these skills in previous years will learn to define the different sides of a dialectic and then analyze the sides for logical consistency. Students doing creative problem solving can use inferencing and hypothesizing to define the alternatives in a problem and then use analytical grids to decide upon the best course of action. Much the same process occurs in decision making and conflict resolution, the other two major skills of grade eleven social studies.
Grade Twelve: Dialectical Thinking and Evaluation
Canadian Studies 30 represented by History 30, and Social Studies 30 continues to emphasize the ability to think dialectically. Canada is a pluralistic society which has many fundamental divisions -- geographic, cultural, and ideological. On most issues, it is usual to have to choose between competing points of view, each supported by well reasoned arguments. Students need to learn the skills of dialectical thinking so that they can analyze and evaluate competing arguments with the purpose of determining which argument is better or determining whether the initial arguments are part of a larger more inclusive argument which takes precedence over the initial arguments. It is necessary for young people to learn to think dialectically to prepare them to play a significant role in the affairs of Canadian society.
Canadian citizens face a barrage of carefully crafted arguments supporting various points of view, some of which are legitimate and some of which are propaganda. Students need help in developing the capacity to distinguish between the two. Students in grade 12 will be formally taught the skill of evaluation. As part of that process they will practise using the concept of criterion (which has been used systematically in grades 9, 10, and 11) as the basis on which people make evaluative judgments about the legitimacy of a point of view. There is an important conceptual distinction between opinion and judgment. A judgment is a conclusion about something which is based on preselected criteria or standards as a reference while opinion is a conclusion based on personal attitudes.
Scope and Sequence of Intellectual Abilities
Note: The chart below does not mean an intellectual ability assigned to one grade level would not be used at another grade level. All of these abilities (and others) will be used to some degree in each grade. The intent is to provide a scope and sequence chart of basic intellectual abilities which is developmental so the abilities introduced in one year will serve as the basis for the abilities to be learned in subsequent years.
Adapted from Hannah, L. & Michaelis, J. (1977).
A Comprehensive Framework for Instructional Objectives:
A Guide to Systematic Planning and Evaluation.
Menlo Park, CA: Addison - Wesley, pp. 13-16
Mastery Learning of Skills/Abilities
The objective for each year is for students at each grade level to master one or two intellectual abilities well enough so they can use the abilities independently. In assessing student progress in the abilities, a teacher should determine whether a student is able to use the ability independently or whether the student is at a more preliminary stage. It is important to reinforce and build on the achievements of previous years so that students' abilities grow over their school careers.
In the social studies program students deal with skills/abilities in four stages:
being formally introduced to the skill/ability;
practising using the skill/ability in a number of situations;
achieving independent use of the skill/ability; and,
maintaining and expanding the use of their skill/ability.
Teachers may wish to use the descriptors of introducing, practising, achieving independent use, and maintaining and expanding in a checklist or rating scale to chart student progress. Until the mastery level is achieved, students should not be expected to perform the skill with full effectiveness.
Adaptation of Intellectual Demands to Student Ability
Many students in grade 12 will have moved into Piagetian formal operations while others will be in the transitional stage between concrete and formal operations. Again, as in all secondary programs, consideration must be given to this reality. Thus objectives must be interpreted and strategies used in ways that do not challenge students beyond their ability.
The grade 12 social studies and history courses have been designed around the learning cycle. It is important that skills/abilities (and concepts) be introduced to students using concrete material that is familiar. Then students will be able to concentrate on the concepts and the skills/abilities rather than having to learn new material as well.
Effective Teaching of Skills/Abilities
There are many approaches to teaching skills and abilities, each with advantages and disadvantages. One approach that is useful because of its "common sense" nature was devised by Barry Beyer. These assumptions are built into the grade 12 social studies and history programs. Beyer assumes a skill is learned best when students:
are consciously aware of what they are doing and how they do it;
are not distracted by other inputs competing for attention;
see the skill modeled;
engage in frequent, but intermittent (not massed), practise of the skill;
use feedback received during this practise to correct their use of the skill;
talk about what they did as they engaged in the skill;
receive guidance on how to use a skill at a time when they need the skill to accomplish a content related goal; and,
receive guided opportunities to practise the skill in contexts other than that in which the skill was introduced.
What this means for teaching is that skills will not be mastered by students unless teachers are prepared to use a definite strategy aimed at mastery learning.
Skills should be introduced in a way that shows the student these skills can accomplish tasks related to the subject matter. The purpose of this is to demonstrate to the student that the skill is useful.
Next the teacher should explain the skill in detail showing the student exactly what the skill is, its purpose, and the procedures involved in using the skill.
The teacher should demonstrate the skill, preferably by modelling it in a class situation.
Once these steps have been completed, students should be given opportunities to apply and practise the skill using the course content they are studying.
(Note: Most research indicates clearly that skills have to be learned in the context of actual course content. Skills learned in isolation from content will not automatically transfer to any content that may be selected later.)
As part of their practise, students:
should be coached in the use of the skill; and,
should be given opportunities to think about the effective use of the skill.
Beyer, Barry. "Improving Thinking Skills - Practical Approaches". Phi Delta Kappan. April, 1984.