Tag Archives: thinking

Thesis / Antithesis / Synthesis for essay writing

While researching Marxist ideology for revision lessons on the Russian Revolution, I came across the idea of thesis/antithesis/synthesis as an argumentative framework.

I have since used it successfully in my classes. I think the notion of Dialectics and thesis/antithesis/synthesis fits in well with my other ideas about essay writing (they are nothing new, I’ve just recast them in my own way: TEAC).

diagram

What is dialectics?

Dialectics of any sort is a means of trying to resolve a paradox.

It’s important first of all to understand the difference between a paradox and a contradiction. Two things contradict if they CANNOT co-exist. A person cannot be male AND not-male. That is a contradiction. A paradox is something that SEEMS to contradict but which may possibly have some middle ground. A person might be male and female, for example, if they are a hermaphrodite (they have both sets of sex organs).

That, in a nutshell, is what dialectics does. To learn about something, it considers something that is almost its opposite, and then tries to figure out what the compromise is between the two. So perhaps you’d figure out the meaning of life by comparing it to the meaning of death. But that’s getting off-topic. a

What is dialectical materialism?

Marx was a materialist. To him, the only things worth considering were real, physical things that you could see and lay your hands on. So ideas and knowledge were pointless, unless those idea were put to work and produced results. This is why most of Marx’s work has to do with money and work, instead of some of the more airy ideas that are usually associated with philosophy.

So if you’re tasa materialist, one of the dialectics you are going to be really interested in is the contrast between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. How is it that some people have lots of material stuff and some people don’t? And what is the inevitable outcome of such a situation? Marx even went so far as to describe all of human history in the terms of this materialist dialectic.

Feudalism, to Marx, was a struggle between the aristocrats (haves) and the peasants (have-nots). Slave labour works to produce things to an extent, but skilled labour produces things better. A capitalist system recognises and rewards skilled workers more highly than unskilled ones, so in his view all feudal systems were doomed to eventually become capitalist ones.

But a capitalist system still has a dialectic. There are haves (the owners of the factories, which he called ‘bourgeoisie’) and the have-nots (the workers). So how will this inevitably be resolved? Marx thought that eventually the workers would simply stop working for the bourgeoisie and work only for themselves. All workers would then be owners, and there would be no more dialectic – a permanent, stable system that he called ‘socialism’.

To him, this was inevitable. Trying to resist this transition would only make the transition harder. There are, however, many criticism of dialectics as a whole and Marx’s conclusions in specific, so exactly how inevitable it really is can still be a matter of protracted debate. b

What is thesis/antithesis/synthesis?

In our case, we are going to use thesis, antithesis and synthesis as an argumentative tool, and it can be used very effectively as an essay writing framework:

  • Thesis – a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved
  • Antithesis – the negation or contradiction of the thesis
  • Synthesis – the resolution of the conflict between thesis and antithesis

Student activity:

Pick a thesis.  Use your knowledge, handouts, your notes and the internet to do the following:

  • Support your thesis with two or three key points, quotes or explanations.
  • Write a credible antithesis and support it with two or three key points, quotes or explanations.
  • Write a synthesis which expresses your reasoned conclusion.

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  1. http://askeveryone.ca/.question$6748319  (back)
  2. http://askeveryone.ca/.question$6748319  (back)

Cultures of Thinking PD program, with Ron Ritchhart

I have become part of a semester long professional development project called “Cultures of Thinking”. It is lead by Visible Thinking and Harvard Project Zero researcher Ron Ritchhart. It focusses on creating an environment where “a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular, day-to-day experience of all group members.” a.

One of the key components of this program is class observation – not to evaluate the teacher but to learn and become more aware of your own habits, cultures and teaching strategies. Our first day consisted of two sessions, in the morning we were introduced to the cultures of thinking program and questioning techniques. The second was a plenary session in which teachers from four schools came together to learn about how to objectively and non-judgmentally observe a lesson and how to record data so that it is useful for the person/school being observed.

My notes and relevant resources are below.
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  1. See more at: http://www.pz.harvard.edu/projects/cultures-of-thinking#sthash.Lw4Gagmy.dpuf  (back)

Motivation, mindset, students’ efficacy

dweck mindsetTeachers play a vital role in fostering a positive attitude towards learning. John Hattie, Carol Dweck and Daniel Pink have done great work on researching student efficacy, mindset and motivation.  In this post, I have collated some of their ideas.

Carol Dweck is the key authority regarding the growth mindset. She makes the following points:

  • Fixed Mindset self-esteem is about feeling good about yourself, often in relation to the perceived lower achievement of others
  • Growth Mindset self-esteem is about having the courage & determination to address weaknesses
  • Confidence & self-efficacy comes from mastery of problems through resilience, not from false self-esteem
  • Growth Mindset Teacher: “I am not interested in judging how good your work is, I am interested in the quality of your learning”

Hattie suggests that self-efficacy, aspirational, and other psychosocial influences account for considerable variance in academic achievement.
a Dweck shows how to address this by promoting a Growth Mindset in the classroom. Continue reading

  1.  Self-Efficacy and Academic Achievement in Australian High School Students: The Mediating Effects of Academic Aspirations and Delinquency. By Annemaree Carroll, Stephen Houghton, Robert Wood, Kerrie Unsworth, John Hattie, Lisa Gordon, and Julie Bower. URL:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19027942  (back)

Kuhlthau, the research process

uncertainposterHave you  experienced that moment where an academic task or question seemed so big that it made you slightly anxious? I have, and I see my students go through it too. Research essays, the IB Extended Essay and the IB Internal Assessment are all big academic inquiry processes where students are required to research and grapple with a large amount of information that has to be distilled and synthesised into a coherent and sophisticated argument.

Professor Carol Kuhlthau has researched the research process. I find her notion of the “uncertainty principle” very interesting and recognisable. She describes it as follows: 

“Uncertainty is a cognitive state that commonly causes symptoms of anxiety and lack of confidence. Uncertainty and anxiety can be expected in the early stages of the information searching process. Uncertainty, confusion, and frustration are associated with vague, unclear thoughts about a topic or problem.

As knowledge states shift to more clearly focused thoughts, a parallel shift occurs in feelings of increased confidence. Uncertainty due to a lack of understanding, a gap in meaning, or a limited construct initiates the process of information seeking”

(Kuhlthau, C. C. (1993). Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services. Norwood, NJ: Ablex., p. 111)

 

Below is a visual representation of the uncertainty experienced during a research / inquiry process: Continue reading

Ron Ritchhart’s Eight Thinking Continua

Thinking clip art#1Eight thinking continua, By Ron Ritchhart. Cultures of Thinking Project. Harvard Project Zero, 2008. This is a great tool to assess deep thinking. I find it particularly useful for the assessment of essays and written work. I have created a rubric based on Ron Ritchhart’s continua in a Word Doc.

Download the file: Thinking Continua Assessment_Ron Ritchhart

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SOLO Taxonomy

solo intro

I have introduced SOLO taxonomy to my Year 7 students when we started the Rome Project. This is a inquiry based unit which encourages students to think like a historian and formulate their own answer to the question: “What caused the break-up of the Roman Empire in 476AD?”

The students really seemed to get it and referred to the different stages during their research. This is one of the resources I used to explain SOLO to the kids:

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