Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Intuitive, Critical and Analytical Thinking in Elementary

The A.M.I. Journal 2014 – 2015, Theme Issue: The Montessori Foundations for The Creative Personality, has an article in it called "Intuitive and Analytical Thinking" by Jerome Bruner.  It was first published in The Process of Education, 1960. After reading it, I thought about the elementary children and three different types of thinking: intuitive, critical and analytical. Analyzing these three different types of thinking is a critical issue that may not often be spoken about together and may even be more intuitively practiced by some without even realizing it with respect to the elementary classroom. My reflections and research on this topic will not be comprehensively covered in this blog post. Instead, my goal is to wet the whistle, inspire with a nugget and walk away just as we should in the classroom. I will touch on each type of thinking, at least one application in the elementary classroom, and a call to consciously implement opportunities for our students to practice and identify these types of thinking.

Dictionary.com defines critical thinking as disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence. Research shows that the definition has changed over the decades, but one thing remains constant. That is a need to provide effective solutions to complex problems. The elementary classroom provides opportunities to foster this skill all day long. Let’s look at the characteristics of fairness and justice. Conflicts and questions are constantly arising in the classroom. What is fair and just to a 6 or 7 year old might not be enough or the same for an eleven or twelve year old. Group discussions are great to show different points of view and to let children experience what the different ages think about the same topic. However, here is an example of a one-on-one opportunity.

“Mr. Matt, how come the little kids never do any work, or help clean up, says one student?” My reply is that, “First of all, there are no little goats in our classroom (with a smile). Let me understand what you are saying here with your statement to me. You mean that you think that the lower elementary children never do any work or clean up. And by never are you saying that I’m not teaching them, they do not listen, and it is not fair?” Her reply was, “No, I know you teach them, and they do not never do work or clean.”  So I asked, “Then what do you mean?”

“They can just be loud, and they move around more than us, and compared to us, the older children, they barely help clean.”  I answered her by saying, “Those are all good observations. This is what I think about when I hear you say those things. When you were their age, you were the same exact way. You used to get frustrated with the older children for getting frustrated with you.  So you clung more to the children that were your age and younger. In the same exact way that you are coming to me now, there were children who came to me who you remember.  They said the same thing about you and your friends.

Anyway, remember how we have spoken about how humans have a lot of things about them that are the same?  Well, at the age of all the children in this classroom, being fair and just is very important. So, what you are thinking that is unfair and unjust, some of the younger children might be thinking that what they are doing is fair and just.” “How can that be, she asked?” I inquired, “Well, let me ask you a question instead. What could you do to be solution-focused to make yourself feel better?”

After some thought, she concluded, “I could probably sit down and do work with them, I could like be their partner for part of the day and maybe during clean up. If other people feel the same way, then we could partner with the younger children.” “Another thing for you to keep in mind is, are you judging them based on your standard of getting work done and cleaning up and not what the ability of a seven year old might be?”  With an amazed look on her face, she said to me, “I had never thought of it like that.”

“I appreciate you coming to me with a critical issue for you that always comes up in the elementary classroom. There might be more for you to think about on this topic. Who knows, you might help make the dynamics even better than they already are in the classroom." With that, this student was satisfied, and replied, "okay Mr. Matt," and went on to her work again.

Throughout the year I have really been contemplating different types of thinking and how they seem to be less and less evident in students over the past couple of years, at least less than I remember when I first started teaching. So, I started to make it a mission of mine to delve deeper into understanding different types of thinking and how to deliberately foster them more in the classroom. This is why I decided to write about intuitive, critical and analytical thinking.

Over the last couple of months I've posted "Connecting to the Heart Through Awareness" and "Effectively Connecting with Students at the Heart Level," So, as mentioned in the previous posts, I will continue to talk more about perception, mindfulness and connecting at the heart as well as experiences with that and how it all came together.  However, I wanted to do a little segue: a three part post on critical thinking, analytical thinking and intuitive thinking. Then I plan to tie everything together in time for the 2016 - 2017 school year.

As always I look forward to your comments!


Marina said...

Beautiful. What a nice reminder to allow opportunities for the children to find their own solution.

Matthew Simberg said...

Thank you, I appreciate your comment. That was one of my hopes that this post would serve!