Advancing Critical and Creative Thinking through Metacognition and Metadisciplinary Ways of Knowing - a Fractal Thinker's Perspective
Ed Nuhfer, Humboldt State University
A metadiscipline consists of several disciplines united by a common framework of reasoning and overarching way of knowing. Traditional liberal arts curricula commonly provide educational encounters with five metadisciplines: arts, humanities, mathematics, science and social science. Technology constitutes a sixth and unwisely maligned metadiscipline.
National testing via the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), as summarized in the book Academically Adrift…, indicates that rates of attainment of higher level reasoning in American universities are disconcertingly low. A Science Literacy Concept Inventory (SLCI) developed by ten faculty on four CSU campuses measures ability to recognize and use the metadisciplinary framework of reasoning of science. The SLCI results parallel those of the CLA by indicating that the rates of students' attainment of the ability to use science's framework of reasoning are likewise disconcertingly small.
Acquisition of cognitive knowledge, reasoning, affective learning, and motor skills all require development of fractal neural networks. It appears to take longer to develop the networks needed for higher-level reasoning and affective development than it does to develop those that retain content knowledge.
This keynote shows how an emphasis on the metadisciplinary frameworks of reasoning offers a possible way to provide the needed prolonged focus on reasoning throughout general education and major curricula. Improvement in reasoning might occur from a change so simple as switching from using our courses exclusively to transfer the skills and knowledge of single disciplines, to include frequent reflective emphasis on metadisciplinary reasoning as a way to provide students with the prolonged practice required to gain higher level reasoning abilities.
Ed Nuhfer, Director of Educational Effectiveness at Humboldt State University, has been a faculty developer and tenured professor of geology at four universities, director of an interdisciplinary program, and an award-winning faculty developer and geologist. Since 2002, he has authored National Teaching and Learning Forum's Developer's Diary column, which stresses recognition of the chaotic qualities of education that arise from fractal qualities of the human brain. His most recent research involves clarifying metadisciplinary ways of knowing and assessing science literacy.
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