Sunday, September 11, 2016

Intuitive, Critical and Analytical Thinking in the Elementary Classroom - Part 2

My last post was about critical thinking. After doing much research on intuitive, critical and analytical thinking I decided that it makes sense to combine intuitive and analytical thinking for this post. A person can do one without the other, but to be as proficient and successful as possible we need to utilize both. There has even been a term that has been coined to combine both, which is "design thinking." In an article called, “The Design of Business,” the author states that “design thinkers observe the world, imagine alternatives, and bring them into being.” Critical and analytical thinking actually complement each other. 

Analytical thinking is used to break down a complex idea into a series of steps. This is done to create an overall conclusion. For example, a person would ask why something is the way it is and then come to a so called scientific conclusion. Whereas intuitive thinking is not based on time, it’s dynamic, looks at the big picture, and is subjective. A metaphor for understanding what intuitive thinking is would be like when you see with your eyes and observe the whole environment at once. If you think about it, you might notice a brief moment before you start judging and identifying people and things.

In that moment is where you are “seeing the big picture.” Whereas, utilizing analytical thinking would be where you begin to focus in on something specific. Or, you might ask why something is the way it is and then take steps to figure it out. Being in a Montessori Environment definitely nurtures and supports the development of these ways of thinking. A book entitled, “Thinking in English: A New Perspective on Teaching ESL,” in part, talks about the success of the Montessori Method and that many other types of teachers, parents and children testify to Montessori’s Methods. It states that, “We give recognition to the innate intelligence of the student and acknowledge that students can and do teach themselves many things that are necessary for survival through intuitive learning.” 

This is in reference to the freedom given in this environment for the child to explore with material. When we give the children the freedom to explore with their hands, their minds are satisfied by the action of movement. They are given the space to think about what they are working with and adapt when a road block or question arises to do as Montessori said the child wants, “help to do it by myself.” This is also a key to fostering independence and practical life skills. 

These are all important components of a Montessori Education, when really, these should be common place components of education in general. Furthermore, my understanding is that she did not want her findings to be coined as a method. Since our traditional education methods are continuing to go in the opposite way, meaning away from supporting a human’s natural tendencies, you can see the effect it is having on our present college level generation. It is terrifying to think what statistics will look like when our present elementary aged children are in college.


In a Montessori classroom setting the child is free to explore. They are free to make mistakes and learn from them to understand why. Concentration and socialization is encouraged, not interrupted or stifled. Guides and heads of Montessori schools should think of ways they already foster different types of thinking, so it is a more conscious effort. In fact, I have a request for any guide, parent or head of school. Would you comment on examples of how any of these types of thinking are or can be fostered in a Montessori classroom? I would like to compile a list and share it with other online groups that could possibly benefit.

Additionally, we should be thinking of how to more directly encourage activities, such as team-building exercises. They are great ways to foster several wonderful qualities and types of thinking. While a Montessori school experience can naturally foster team building through its group work, I think in this day and age we need more diverse experiences. There is more than one way to learn how to divide or multiply in the classroom among other academic activities. Our schools should come up with a couple of outdoor or indoor team-building activities. For instance, especially at the beginning of the year, I find it helpful to take the Upper elementary on a camping trip designed for team building or a day trip centered around team-building and communication at a local camp.

As always, I look forward to your comments and your insight into examples of how any of these types of thinking are or can be fostered in a Montessori classroom. I really think bringing more educators the awareness of consciously fostering different types of thinking could be of great value for all. Understanding what faculties we are using helps us to become more aware of ourselves. As it is believed Socrates said, “Know Thyself.” Some would argue that is one of the most important things we can do and pass on for our children to take the journey to do themselves.


3 comments:

Alan Simberg said...

I enjoyed reading your blog Matthew and I hope it will be read by and influence educators all over the world. I also think politicians could benefit from reading and embracing the concept of team building you identified.

Iseult Catherine O'Brien said...

Hello Matthew Simberg. I read with great interest your Blogs on critical and analytical thinking in early school years. I studied Montessori Teaching and Supervision, but was unable to work with children as I was struck by a migraine in 2009, which remains to date. This is a tangent, but the short version is that I tutor young people who, for whatever reason, are having difficulties staying in second level education. I use what I learnt in my Montessori studies. I observe closely, listen carefully, and get to know my student. Frequently, these young people have been written off by some, and all have very low self-confidence. I use lots of material. Being addicted to postcard collecting, I find spreading out a very mixed array of cards on a table while we read and talk our way through a poem, can be very helpful. A student will choose cards which appeal in the context of the poem, and then we discuss what there is in each card that brings the emotions and ideas to the surface for the student. Young people also love to work on large Mind Maps, with lots of colour. We may be no closer yet to answering a set question on 'What do you believe is the main theme of this poem, giving three examples'. But we are in the heart of the poem, in the heart of the student's ideas and emotions. Does this sound familiar to you? All the various materials we use to explore the set curriculum, expand the types of thinking my students do. For example, they become awakened to the sensation of emotions being transmitted to them by a man who died a week before Armistice Day, 1918, Wilfred Owen. They immerse themselves in the mud and lice; and then become angry and outraged at the unfairness, cruelty, carelessness, and utter waste of young lives. Of course, the above does not contribute to answering the questions you posed, but I wanted you to know that for some young people, who have never really been given a fair chance, Montessori Methods, starting at teenage years, open minds and hearts, make eyes shine, and cheeks glow! Regards, Iseult Catherine. O'Brien

Matthew Simberg said...

Hello Iseult Catherine O'Brien,

I really appreciate that you shared your story and gave some input. It's okay that you did not contribute to answering the questions I posed. I think what you are stating is true. In fact, it is true for any age, especially those of us who decide to take the training(s). What you are saying makes sense to me and I see where you are coming from!

P.S. Migraines are rough, I know several people who are debilitated by them, hang in there. And, Thank you for letting me know you are out there doing the great work you are doing with these youths!