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Chapter 1 Five Minds for the Future

James A Bellanca Solution Tree Press ePub

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Educational institutions change very slowly. In some ways, this conservatism is positive; it discourages faddism and encourages educators to build upon tried-and-true methods. Of course, such conservatism can go too far. I remember a revealing experience I had in China more than twenty years ago. I was invited to observe a college course in psychology and was dismayed to find that the class consisted entirely of students simply reciting the textbook content verbatim. Afterward, with the interpreter by my side, I engaged in a ten-minute debate with the instructor. I emphasized that the students all knew the rote material and suggested that it would be far more productive to raise provocative questions or ask the students to draw on the memorized material in order to illuminate a new phenomenon. The instructor was not the least bit convinced. Indeed, after we went back and forth, she finally cut off the discussion with the statement, “We’ve been doing things this way for so long, we know it is right.”

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3 Complex Thinking

James A. Bellanca Solution Tree Press ePub

The concept of complex thinking is complex in itself. Complexity involves the sophistication of the language used, including word choice and sentence structure, as well as the level of discipline-based concepts. With complex thinking, the student is expected to not only read with literal clarity but also to interpret what is implied. Complex thinking requires skill in determining the author’s perspective and purpose, the inherent bias, the nuance of tone and tenor, and the real meaning of the words on the page as crafted by the author, with intended or unintended persuasion. Complex thinking can be seen as the ability to cut through the abstract ideas presented in order to discern them in concrete ways. It helps the student grasp the underlying meaning of the concept.

All too often, texts are complex in vocabulary and concepts, and students with little background knowledge are lost before they begin the comprehension process. When narrative or informational texts combine discipline-specific vocabulary, sophistication in structure, subtle tonality, dense meaning, and intentional nuance, they can create frustrating barriers to student understanding.

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Medium 9781936763351

Chapter 9 Assessment Systems for Deeper Learning

James A Bellanca Solution Tree Press ePub

Chapter 9

Assessment Systems for Deeper Learning

Linda Darling-Hammond and David T. Conley

Reform of educational standards and assessments has been a constant theme around the world. As part of an effort to keep up with countries that appear to be lengthening their educational lead over the United States, the nation’s governors and the Council of Chief State School Officers issued a set of Common Core State Standards in 2010. Their purpose is to specify the concepts and skills needed for success in the modern world. These internationally benchmarked standards seek to create fewer, higher, and deeper curriculum goals that ensure more students are college and career ready.

This goal has profound implications for teaching and testing. Genuine readiness for college and 21st century careers, as well as participation in today’s democratic society, requires, as U.S. President Obama has noted, much more than “bubbling in” answers on a test. Students need to be able to find, evaluate, synthesize, and use knowledge in new contexts; frame and solve nonroutine problems; and produce research findings and solutions. The rapidly evolving U.S. workplace increasingly requires students to demonstrate well-developed thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, design strategies, and communication capabilities. These are examples of so-called “21st century skills” that education reformers, business spokespeople, higher-education leaders, and others have been urging schools to pursue—skills that are increasingly in demand in a complex, technologically connected, and rapidly changing world. Yet college faculty have noted that first-year college students are often lacking these critical-thinking and problem-solving skills (Conley, 2005, 2014; Lundell, Higbee, & Hipp, 2005).

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4 Comprehensive Thinking

James A. Bellanca Solution Tree Press ePub

When applied to how people think, the adjective comprehensive signals the type of thinking that is both broad and deep—all encompassing. Comprehensive thinking provides us with a full grasp of the subject matter. In short, comprehensive thinking enables us to get the whole picture and comprehend it fully. For instance, if the topic of a seminar investigates the relationship of two different cultures, attendees will need to think comprehensively to understand the topic’s full ramifications, infer connections that are not immediately apparent, and compare or contrast the similarities and differences in each culture. In these ways, attendees discover the full meaning of the relationships between the two cultures.

The three thinking skills in this proficiency are essential for the development of student comprehension: (1) understand, (2) infer, and (3) compare and contrast. The first, understand, is the skill that enables the student to dig deep into a significant topic or to answer a big question. The skill leads to the “I got it” element regarding the relationship between content and process.

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Chapter 8 Problem-Based Learning: The Foundation for 21st Century Skills

James A Bellanca Solution Tree Press ePub

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Recently, I noticed several magazine advertisements that summarized for me why it is so important to challenge today’s students to become skillful problem solvers. The first advertisement depicted a serene Antarctic scene: an iceberg looking like a tall ship, high bowsprit facing into the winds, with surrounding ice in wonderful shades of blues and whites. The ad was by Kohler, a manufacturer of plumbing supplies, telling readers that if they substitute their usual shower head spraying 2.75 gallons of water per minute for one using only 1.75 gallons per minute, they can save 7,700 gallons of water per year (Kohler ad, 2009).

This advertisement led me to consider some current issues and critical problems that need solving in the wider world, such as conservation of natural resources, the United States’ overreliance on foreign fossil fuels, and the need to develop alternative sources of clean, renewable energy.

In more ads for U.S. manufacturers, I noticed the following headlines:

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