Educating the Young Thinker: Classroom Strategies for Cognitive Growth

Educating the Young Thinker: Classroom Strategies for Cognitive Growth

Educating the Young Thinker: Classroom Strategies for Cognitive Growth

Educating the Young Thinker: Classroom Strategies for Cognitive Growth


Most people recognize that teaching is a tough job. They usually think it's tough because of the stamina it takes to be with a group of young children for many hours a day. What is often unrecognized, however, is how intellectually demanding the job is, what complex and difficult decisions teachers continually face. We find that too much of what is written about curriculum conveys the impression that good teaching is a straightforward matter. Dealing with children's emotional and social problems is often viewed as requiring great sensitivity and thoughtfulness (which it does!), while fostering children's intellectual development is seen as a matter of having a good set of activities or the right prescribed model.

Perhaps this misconception is rooted partially in the view of the teacher as the transmitter of knowledge, a view which we are rejecting in this volume. Rather, we see the teacher as involved in the child's construction of knowledge in a variety of crucial ways. Teachers are not fillers of empty vessels. But they can and do play an active role in enhancing children's intellectual development. In this book, we describe how the teacher can play an active role in educating the young thinker.

We are convinced that unless teachers are armed with an understanding of why a certain activity or strategy is successful with children, their effectiveness will be limited.

Teaching is an art, it is true, but it is a very conceptual one. The teacher's artistry can be improved only by understanding why certain things work-why some events or materials intrigue children and others do not, why children have this misunderstanding and not that one. With such understanding the teacher can go further in pursuing a line of inquiry with a child, can choose successful activities and materials more often, and can explain the method to parents and others.

For these reasons, this volume focuses on the teacher's thinking with each situation. The how should follow the why. A teacher who has a philosophy of what should be done in the classroom is ahead of the teacher who merely "goes by the book," trying to adhere to a set of procedures or activities not grounded in a firm notion of purpose.

With this end in mind we have organized the book in the following way. Chapter 1 describes a group of teachers dealing with a classroom problem. It gives the student the opportunity to see the importance of making decisions based on a clear identification of the problem at hand and provides a model of the problem-solving process in action. Since we emphasize the importance of teachers working from a strong "sense of why," we ourselves clearly need to present our own whys. We have done so in Chapter 2.

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