by • January 19, 2015 • Integrative Thinking, Knowledge BuildingComments (2)1749

Modeling How to Improve an Idea

We are reading Touching Spirit Bear, a story of a juvenile offender who experiences Circle Justice rather than prison for a serious crime he has committed.  Underlying the text is a comparison of western and aboriginal world views.

Our analogy to describe what happened in class today? Weaving – we wove together many tools and thinking processes to improve an idea.

Near the start of the novel I introduced students to aboriginal and western views of the world by

1: reading a challenging text from the novel study guide created by the author outlining the differences and similarities between aboriginal and western “law”.

2. creating a graphic to help students understand  the differences between the world views.

Photo 2015-01-19, 1 02 32 PM

I worked hard on my graphic.  I was quite pleased with the result.  And then a student said, “Shouldn’t it be a circle?” which of course, stopped me in my tracks. Something was wrong with my idea and
how I had interpreted the aboriginal world view.

I went home and googled aboriginal world views:

circle graphics



It was one of those moments of recognition of a fundamental misconception that lay deeply embedded in my schema that I couldn’t help but laugh.  I have taught the grade 6 aboriginal curriculum for years;  I’ve had elders in my classroom; I know the medicine wheel; we’ve held a smudging circle; I visited the First Nations University campus in Regina … and still when it came time to interpret graphically an aboriginal world view, I imposed a western interpretation.  What to do?

It has taken me over a week to figure out how I would build this significant moment of learning into my class. I drew upon pedagogical theory from knowledge building and integrative thinking tools to construct a lesson on idea improvement.




I began by showing the thinking process that led me to recognize I needed to improve my idea.  It is so important to model for students willingness to change an idea.  We discussed the number of times teachers have shut them down or ignored them when they’ve pointed out flaws or errors.  I’m sure I’ve done this to students many times.

Photo 2015-01-19, 4 01 31 PM

Next I pulled out the ladder of inference to remind them of the point at which we draw upon our schema to make sense of new information and how this leads to misconceptions.  The example below comes from the Waters Foundation.


Photo 2015-01-19, 4 11 19 PM


In the data pool I was paying attention to the word hierarchy and from my western cultural worldview I selected a triangle to represent importance and values.

Photo 2015-01-19, 4 16 31 PM

Students are now grappling with how to create a better graphic.  Here are a few of their initial ideas.

Photo 2015-01-19, 3 15 01 PM


Photo 2015-01-19, 3 15 13 PM


Photo 2015-01-19, 1 03 35 PM


Photo 2015-01-19, 3 15 07 PM


From the many that are underway it has become apparent that some have internalized the idea of interdependency and some are still thinking hierarchically.  Tomorrow we will go online and study circles to improve our ideas.

Related Posts

2 Responses to Modeling How to Improve an Idea

  1. Lisa Noble says:

    And don’t forget, you had already created a classroom climate where your student felt that it was totally okay to say…”but shouldn’t it be a circle?”. That’s a big piece in itself (even though it really shouldn’t be). Don’t beat yourself up too much.

    • Heidi Siwak says:

      A culture that is open to testing ideas is key. Beating myself up is not something I do. Laughing at my follies on the other hand… always worth doing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.