Week 3 Stimulate Intellectual Development

Stimulating Intellectual Development

To stimulate intellectual development, the best online teachers create a natural critical learning environment. They embed the skills and information they wish to teach in assignments learners find fascinating. They are authentic tasks that arouse curiosity, challenge learners to rethink their assumptions and examine their mental models of reality.

The success of a natural critical learning environment depends on the questions asked.   The best online teachers want students to develop their own questions and then show how their questions are related to the questions presented by the instructor. The  instructor asks questions that students want to answer.

Stimulating intellectual development  begins with creating a natural critical learning environment that is dependent upon the teacher’s ability to either motivate learners to solve a problem through questioning or their ability to show learners how to ask the right questions to solve the problem.

The best teachers create a natural critical learning environment

What is a natural critical learning environment?

According to Ken Bain,”Natural” means answering questions and completing tasks that naturally matter most to learners interests. Learners make decisions, defend their choices, receive feedback, and try again when their answers are incomplete.

“Critical” means thinking critically. Students learn to reason from evidence, examine the quality of their reasoning, make improvements, and ask probing and insightful questions.

There are five essential elements that make up a natural critical learning environment.

  1. A natural critical learning environment begins with an intriguing question or problem.
    1. Often the most successful questions are highly provocative.
    2. Many teachers give students answers and never ask questions.
    3. At the beginning of the course an internet survey can be used to discover what questions students have as they start the course.
    4. students answer these questions using a discussion board.
  2. Learners are provided guidance to understand the significance of the question or problem.
    1. Many teachers present questions and problems but often focus only on the course subject and issues.
    2. The best teachers tend to take the subjects and issues from the course and integrate them with broader concerns and issues, creating an interdisciplinary approach.
    3. They remind students how the current question relates to some larger issue that already interests them.
  3. Learners are engaged and think critically.
    1. Learners are engaged in some higher-order intellectual activity where they are encouraged to compare, apply, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize.
    2. They do not listen or read and remember.
  4. Create a learning environment that helps learners answer the question,
    1. The best teachers raise important questions but challenged students to develop their own answers and defend them.
  5. Create a learning environment that leaves learners with additional questions and the desire to know more.
    1.  “What’s the next question?”
    2. “What can we ask now?”

How to create a natural critical learning environment

We are naturally curious and we learn naturally to solve problems that concern us.

  • Embed the skills and information you want to teach in problem-based assignments (with questions and tasks) that students find fascinating because they are authentic and arouse curiosity.
  • Use authentic tasks that will arouse curiosity, challenge students to grapple with ideas, rethink their assumptions and examine their mental models of reality.
  • Give learners a sense of control over their education
  • Use discussions, case studies, role-playing, field work, and projects, where everyone is collaboratively working together.
  • Use a process of trial, failure, feedback, revision for work to be assessed fairly.
  • Use guidance. Help students understand significance of question, and frame the  question with clear implications.
  • Use an interdisciplinary approach. Pose an historical struggle, or provocative questions.
  • Use and promote higher order intellectual activities. Compare, apply, evaluate, analyze, synthesize, make and defend judgments. “When I finish this process, I want the students to feel like they have invented calculus and that only some accident of birth kept them from beating Newton to the punch.”
  • Help students answer questions. Raise questions that will help them reason through the process, to see the nature of the questions.
  • Encourage students to develop their own answers and defend them.
  • Leave students with a question. What is the next question? What can we ask now? What major conclusions did you draw? What questions remain in your mind?

Creating a natural critical learning environment hinges upon the teacher’s ability to either motivate the students to solve a problem and their ability to show students how to solve their own problem. The teacher will fail if they just ask students to list questions they find interesting. Ken Bain, What the best college teachers do.


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  1. Make a copy and get your action plan. Click on The Art of Teaching Online -Week 3 [insert your name here]
  2. Insert your name in the title-by clicking on the title name in the upper left corner of your document.
  3. Locate your new document  in your  Google Drive account.
  4. Please complete the steps  in the worksheet
  5. By the end of Thursday (recommended to have content get the comments started) share your document and enable commenting  (see the directions below) post it in HERE in the Google+ Community
  6. In the  Google+ Community, comment ON two other Google Doc worksheets, by the end of Sunday

Format for commenting on other worksheets.  I am questioning the (INSERT INTELLECTUAL STANDARD) of your statement ____________ because _______.

This format is designed to deepen your learning as well as provide ease of access and clarity for others. Remember that when we are giving feedback, we are focused on a person’s reasoning, not the person him or herself. We all should invite constructive critique of our thoughts and our work. This is an essential disposition of the critical thinker.
IMPORTANT: The link to the forms to apply for a badge are in every Wednesday email.

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