Reflections on Chapter 9, Complex Thinking

Reflection on Complex Thinking, Chapter 9

This was interesting reading for me, as a new teacher in a special education setting. Why? It provides new insights on types of thinking, and methods of developing these different types of thinking, in the classroom. It describes models for the general education classroom, but certainly, as is the case with the other chapters in Seifert’s book, it also provides parallels to the special education classroom. If I were to have read this chapter a few months ago, and then been asked whether this subject had any relevance for students with disabilities, my response would have been “no.”  In fact, however, I have seen countless examples of creative thinking and problem solving on display in very different ways in the classroom I have been student teaching in.

For example, I found Seifert’s discussion of critical thinking (Section 9.2), at work in the way my 7-12 class has been scaffolding main idea and main character concepts in the story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Most students have been able to understand the difference between protagonist (hero, Ichabod) and antagonist (villain, Brom) with repetitive group discussion and question and answer techniques. How? By using a familiar story that is a part of their experience: we compare and contrast these concepts with Batman (hero), the Joker or Riddler (villain). Most students can recall and connect these concepts from day to day during the discussion at the beginning of the period.  Thus, they are using convergent thinking (9.3) in connecting these common core concepts to the different stories. The tricky part is the teacher knowing for certain how well the transfer of knowledge is actually taking place and how well it is being retained by some students; in essence to what degree are all students using metacognition strategies for “thinking about thinking and for monitoring the success and quality of one’s own thinking.”(Section 9.2) The other tricky part, as Seifert details in the chapter in a general sense, is how do you get 100% of the students in a mixed ability group, more specifically those needing paraprofessional assistance, to think and act in more complex ways (and how is that defined?).

Seifert’s debate on the democratic question (do all students deserve this?) involved in teacher facilitation of complex learning methods is quite a thorny one. If one agrees that establishing broad instructional strategies that stimulate complex thinking (Section 9.5), is an attainable and valid district goal, then the challenge for me, and other new teachers, will be designing group work that actually engages and assesses the above mentioned students with widely varied cognitive abilities.  So how can I grapple successfully to make mastery learning (Section 9.6.6) a common goal of all tiers of students on a day-to-day basis?  Again, I am finding that modifying and customizing material (as time allows) under the umbrella of a common core general standard is a tough one in the special education classroom. It will take experience and advice from experienced administrators and teachers to make this happen.

I benefitted by reviewing Madeline Hunter’s Effective Teaching Model (9.6.8). The lesson plan template we are using as Fellows closely follows her design, including review of past material at the beginning of the lesson, creation of an anticipatory set of content, a group activity of some sort “to consolidate or strengthen the recent learning,” and an assessed ending activity.

I would be curious to see special education classes that were not primarily teacher led.  I think as I gain more experience and see more teachers in action, my own critical thinking will become more complex and I will hopefully assist and monitor a class with more frequent uses of student centered models of learning (9.7) discussed in the chapterI would hope to have students using meaningful inquiry learning and cooperative learning (not freeloading or overspecializing!) as they start to use cause and effect logic in framing answers,  display a diversity of skills, and self-reflect as they work toward learning and social goals.

Lastly, for a variety of reasons, I have witnessed and conducted teacher-controlled classrooms that many would argue are the necessary norm for a challenging special education environment.  That said, I know that the student-driven examples Seifert cites (referenced above) for the general education setting are out there at work in the special education environment. 

    • Gerald Ardito
      Gerald Ardito


      You have done a terrific job with this reading response.

      I was very struck by this:

      How? By using a familiar story that is a part of their experience: we compare and contrast these concepts with Batman (hero), the Joker or Riddler (villain). 

      I was in a workshop yesterday run by a teacher who uses a graphing technique with her self-contained autistic students to demonstrate character development. You might find that useful as well.


    EDG 606 Fall 2017

    EDG 606 Fall 2017

    This is the online home for the EDG 606 Learning Environments course with Dr. Ardito for Fall 2017.

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