What does Stage 3 look like in your classroom?

Stage 3 of our framework focuses on improving the quality and sophistication of students’ thinking.  This means we should provide opportunities for students to:

1) uncover conceptual understandings and transfer those understandings to unlock new situations.

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2) become aware of their thinking, refine it, and increase its sophistication.

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Here’s an example of what this might look like in the classroom:

Start with a conceptual question about the relationship between two big ideas.

What is the relationship between justice & law?

Students generate hypotheses about the answer to this question based on their experience.

Students might write: Justice influences what laws we have.

Students rate their hypotheses on the conceptual rubric.

NOVICE

APPRENTICE

PRACTITIONER

EXPERT

With help, states, elaborates on, and exemplifies a simplistic and vague relationship between the concepts. Independently states, elaborates on, and exemplifies a simplistic relationship between the concepts.With help, states, elaborates on, and exemplifies a complex and precise relationship between the concepts. (i.e. how or why does time affect identity) Independently states, elaborates on, exemplifies, and illustrates a complex and precise relationship between the concepts.With help, states, elaborates on, exemplifies, and illustrates a significant relationship between the concepts.(i.e. so what?) Independently states, elaborates on, exemplifies, and illustrates a significant relationship between the concepts within a novel context.  (i.e. so what?)

Students might write:  My response is at the novice level because my statement is very vague. I didn’t explain how justice influences the laws.  Justice could influence the laws to be the same as justice or it could influence the laws to go against justice.  

Provide a text or experience that allows students to test their hypotheses.  Students revise their hypotheses based on that text or experience. Repeat this step at strategic points and allow students to track their progress on the rubric over time.   

Students read Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and revise their hypotheses about the relationship between justice & law.

A student might write: A law is only valid if it goes in the same direction as justice.  In other words, if a law violates justice, it should no longer be enforced as a law.  For example, the laws that segregate people should not be enforced because they are unjust.   

 Ask students to reflect on their thinking in order to refine it.  We suggest using the structures from the Critical Thinking Foundation for this step.  For example, students could use a rubric for an intellectual standard (in the example below precision) to evaluate their own thinking.

NOVICE

APPRENTICE

PRACTITIONER

EXPERT

Some parts of thinking are detailed and specific, but other parts are general or vague; the reader has to ask questions to determine the exact meaning Thinking is mostly detailed and specific; in most cases words express an exact meaning but sometimes words are approximate Thinking is detailed and specific; obvious efforts are made to use exact words, numbers, and examples to express a particular meaning PRECISE:Thinking is detailed and specific; exact words, numbers, and examples are always used to express a particular meaning; precision improves accuracy and clarity of thought

A student might write:  My response scored an apprentice for precision.  I gave myself this score because I was very precise about the relationship between justice and law and gave an example to show what I meant.  I could have been more precise if I explained the exact meaning of both justice and law.  I did not define these words with a very specific meaning. 

Students transfer their more sophisticated and refined understanding of the relationship between concepts to tackle a new situation.

Should we abolish the death penalty?  

While investigating this situation students would think about questions like:  Is the death penalty a just law?  Should we enforce unjust laws? 


Of course, all of this won’t be possible with a snap of your fingers.  Building students’ ability to refine their thinking and developing complex conceptual understandings takes time and thoughtful instruction.  The good news is as you try out these practices in your classroom, your students will be gaining the tools to be innovative thinkers ready to tackle the world’s problems. That seems like a pretty good trade-off!

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Categories: Stage 3: Concept Based Curriculum and Instruction, Stage 3: Critical Thinking

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  1. Try this…kicking-off your concepts based unit « Education to Save the World

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