Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Learning to Think

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Learning to Think

Article excerpt

The importance of evidence and reasoning in scientific argumentation cannot be exaggerated. Before explanations can be generated, verified, communicated, debated, and modified, evidence must first be observed and students must think about the evidence. Teaching children to do so was the point of a book published in 1856 entitled Learning to Think: consisting of easy and entertaining lessons, designed to assist in the first unfolding of the reflective and reasoning powers of children.

Written by Jacob Abbott (1803-1879), the 192-page illustrated volume includes questions and answers about the book's illustrations for parents to read to their children. In other words, the book was intended for children who had not yet learned to read. Parents were instructed to be encouraging and to take their time. In the two-and-a-half page "Directions" at the front of the book, Abbott wrote, "Encourage him (the child) to dwell on all the ideas and thoughts that present themselves as long as he pleases. In other words, the teacher must follow the workings of the pupil's mind rather than lead them."

Page 21 (featured here) is typical of the book's approach. It includes illustrations of a grasshopper and a butterfly, along with dozens of thought-provoking questions, such as "Do you think that this grasshopper can jump?" "What can the grasshopper do that you cannot do?" "Has the butterfly any wings? …

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