Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Where Do Ideas Come From?

The timing for introducing Integrative Thinking to my grade 7s is perfect.  We are finishing up presentations from the War of 1812/Napoleon Inquiry and I have been thinking about where to go next. Simply beginning another inquiry for the sake of inquiry-based learning is not palatable. Students understand the process and have demonstrated superior growth. My obligation is to prompt them to move in a new direction so they further develop skills.

I decided to begin with a question: Where do good ideas come from? Students discussed this in small groups and then shared with the class.

 It's a nice little diagnostic and I'm curious to see how students will explain where good ideas come from at the end of this exploration of Integrative Thinking.

Next, I introduced students to key ideas from Ellie Avishai's keynote "Solving Tough Problems Through Integrative Thinking".  I'm not certain if the slides are in the public domain, so I will not be sharing those with you at this point. 

1. We see an entire world, but perceive only small pieces.
2. Our first impressions keep us from seeing the full picture.
2. We build mental models of reality. These models are always incomplete.
3. We are not always aware of our models.
4. Sometimes we see things that aren't even there.
5. We construct models when there really is no connection.
6. We are quick to accept over-simplified models.
7. We miss things that are right in front of us.

Mental models help us make sense of our world.
They are incomplete and often wrong.
We confuse the model with reality.
We tend to confirm what we think is true.

We had a lively discussion and in the afternoon went to the computer lab to further our learning. I no longer teach concepts and content that students can figure out on their own. Instead I gave them instructions:

1. Construct your knowledge on The Ladder of Inference.
2. Visit video, text-based sights and images to develop understanding.
3. Include:  TedEd Ladder of Inference 

Finally, they were asked to open up word and explain their understanding of the Ladder and how it can lead to errors in thinking or bad judgement. Not all students finished in 1 period, so on the second day, I added an additional  sight from The Waters Foundation. I had some great discussions with several students as they worked their way through the learning and there were also small groups who spontaneously gathered  to explore and discuss the site. Writing pieces began to appear towards the end of class. I've included several below.


Ben M.

 Ben K.



After two days of exploring the concept, we are already beginning to identify when someone has gone up the ladder of inference during discussions. What a great tool for helping students (and teachers) recognize where thinking has gone astray. 


  1. Ms. Siwak,

    My name is Phillip Hall and I live in Silverhill, Alabama. I am a student at the University of South Alabama, majoring in education. I am in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class and we are learning about all types of technology and different learning styles. After reading your blog, I realize as a future teacher, I need to embrace new learning styles. I am glad we have professionals like you who are able to mentor us through your blogs. What I learned from your blog on Where Good Ideas Come From, is that the teacher is there to facilitate; you allow your students to find answers out themselves. When I was in school, the teacher gave lectures and the students listened. On test day, the student's job was to give all information learned back to the teacher on a multiple choice test. The 21 Century student is learning an entirely different way. The information is learned as the student figures the problem out. Thanks for allowing us to use your blog to learn new ways of teaching.


  2. Ms. Siwak,

    I hope you received my first blog post. I'm sending this one just in case you did not receive it. I enjoyed your blog on Where Good Ideas Come From. Your students are very smart. The reader of your blog understands that a teacher's job is to facilitate and the student's job is to research and come up with the solution. I also learned a new word from your blog, Integrative Thinking. I will now use Integrative Thinking in my vocabulary. Thanks for being a mentor to our class. Being an upcoming educator will be challenging but with help from experts like you, it will make the task a little easier. Thanks again!


  3. Hi Phillip,
    Thanks for your comments. I'm glad you found this post interesting and useful. You are right, the role of a teacher is very different today from how you and I experienced school. I will be writing a great deal about integrative thinking over the next few months as I develop this model with my students.


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