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For Your Consideration 1.1

Thinking Strategies

In their text “Teaching for Thinking: Theory, Strategies and Activities for the Classroom” (Teachers College, Columbia University Press, 1986), authors Raths, Wasserman, Jonas, and Rothstein warn that “we are graduating large numbers of students who are expert at memorizing and recalling factual information, but who lack the ability to use that information to make informed judgments.” In response to this, the authors suggest instructional strategies placing increased emphasis on “higher-order thinking activities through inquiry-oriented learning situations.” This recommendation should be music to docents’ ears. To guide teachers as they restructure lesson plans, the authors offer the following thinking activities as ones requiring mental participation and independence of thought in the search for understanding and meaning:

  • Comparing – examining two or more objects to discover similarities and/or differences
  • Observing – looking more closely than usual through an increased level of visual involvement
  • Summarizing – condensing form and substance of what is presented concisely, without omission of essential points
  • Interpreting – putting meaning into, or pulling meaning out of, experience or data
  • Hypothesizing – proposing outcomes or solutions to a problem whose answer is not known
  • Criticizing – making judgments, analysis and evaluations based, not on faults, but on a “critical” appraisal of qualities being studied
  • Classifying – sorting according
  • Decision-making – adding to some principle personal values to the previously listed activities when determining actions.

These activities are also excellent starting points for developing the inquirytype lessons used by docents. Challenging visitors to accomplish one or more of these activities can ensure a more productive and memorable learning experience.

Did You Know . . .?

Young people (18 and under) compose a highly significant source of museum attendance revenue, averaging from 25 to 50% of total. In addition, their attendance is of major consequence to institutions justifying requests for public funds, grants, corporate gifts, and foundation support. Yet, programs benefiting young people receive no more than a small fraction of total budgets within most institutions. No art museum surveyed, for example, reported spending mc re than 2.5 to 3% of their annual financial resources on children’s prograimming. This figure includes staff salaries. (Chronicle of Non-Profit Enterprise, October 1990.)

Want to Know More About Teaching with “Active Learning” Strategies?

Try reading:

  • Darrow, Helen. Independent Activities for Creative Learning. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1986.
  • Gartenhaus, Alan, minds in motion: Using Museums to Enhance Creative Thinking. Davis, CA: Caddo Gap Press, 1991.
  • von Oech, Roger. A Whack on the Side of the Head: How to Unlock Your Mind for Innovation. New York: Warner Books, 1983.

“For Your Consideration,” The Docent Educator 1.1 (Autumn 1991): 11.

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