Academic journal article New Waves

Mediation in the Classroom: An Open Systems Approach to Develop Critical Thinking and Learning Skills

Academic journal article New Waves

Mediation in the Classroom: An Open Systems Approach to Develop Critical Thinking and Learning Skills

Article excerpt

Mediation in the Classroom: An Open Systems Approach to Develop Critical Thinking and Learning Skills

Robinson-Zañartu, Doerr and Portman are three authors who started from very different experiences in education and yet found themselves on a common quest to help students develop thinking and learning skills in meaningful contexts. Teaching 21 Thinking Skills for the 21st Century: The MiCOSA Model stands out as a powerful teaching resource that shows educators how to facilitate the development of critical thinking skills by linking "mediation" of thinking skills within curriculum and the common core standards, building on students' diverse cultures and linguistic backgrounds, and helping students learn to transfer their learning in an era of rapid change.

This book starts by introducing the MiCOSA model which is an acronym that stands for Mediation in the Classroom: An Open Systems Approach. MiCOSA encapsulates three key ideas: M is for Mediation, IC for in the Classroom and OSA for Open Systems Approach. The book begins in Part I, Contextual and Conceptual Frameworks (Chapter 1), by sharing foundational ideas behind the work and explaining how the three MiCOSA components influence and empower one another and interact as parts of a system.

Part II, Critical Components of the MiCOSA Model, provides detailed descriptions, classroom examples and support strategies for each of MiCOSA's core components via chapters 2 to 6. For instance, chapter 2 explores what culture, language, and community have to do with learning and how MiCOSA helps educators to link students' cultural backgrounds, prior knowledge, and experience to their learning. The authors' creative use of a psychological technique "Reframing" which although is not unique to a specific psychotherapy, its unique application here is applauded. The concept of reframing comes from the idea of "frame" of mind, and how frame of mind colors perceptions of the world. By helping another person "reframe," you help him or her see things from another perspective. Reframing problems as opportunities, or perceived weaknesses as unique features or strengths, are common examples.

The authors also argue for the importance of mediating conflicts between cultural and school practices, and emphasize three areas that a new student without the social and verbal contexts has to negotiate. These include: (a) content learning, (b) the new rules of the school culture, and (c) the social-emotional challenges of not having the familiar social-emotional supports that framed his or her learning. Correspondingly, this increases both cognitive and affective demands for the student with a cultural "mismatch." In other words, when the demands of school become overly complex for students with weaker learning foundations, these students may not have an equal chance to succeed. Hence, Chapter 2 provides an "appetizer" of how MiCOSA's five mediating conversations and interactions help facilitate meaningful engagement, support motivation, and change in classrooms with diverse students.

Chapter 3 highlights five types of mediating conversation, namely (1) establishing intent and reciprocity, (2) mediating meaning, (3) bridging thinking, (4) guiding self-regulation, and (5) building competence are thoroughly illustrated with appropriate strategies, activities, and vignettes and individually discussed with sample mediating conversations to support the mediator's work. We believe that using mediating conversations require a conscious and deliberate effort on the part of the mediator. Building up their listening, eliciting, acknowledging, and questioning skills would require rigorous practice and supervision by an experienced mediator and this would go beyond the scope of this book. …

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