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29th Preconference Sessions



Participants will choose one of the following sessions…

Teaching Students Fundamental and Powerful Concepts

Concepts are ideas we use in thinking. They enable us to group things in our experience in different categories, classes, or divisions. They are the basis of the labels we give things in our minds. They represent the mental map (and meanings) we construct of the world, the map that tells us the way the world is. Through our concepts we define situations, events, relationships, and all other objects of our experience. All our decisions depend on how we conceptualize things. All subjects or disciplines are defined by their foundational concepts. Cell versus mitochondria is an example. Cell is a much more fundamental and powerful concept in biology than is mitochondria. Students who achieve a deep understanding of the concept of a cell will be able to think though and gain insight into a very large number of topics in biology. It will give them a powerful entrance into thinking biologically. Not only that, but a good grasp of the concept cell will enable students to think critically about a range of topics they will encounter outside the course. By contrast, a student who achieves a good grasp of the concept mitochondria will not, thereby, gain insight into nearly as large a range of other biology topics.

When students master foundational concepts at a deep level, they are able to use them to understand and function better within the world. Can you identify the fundamental concepts in your discipline? Can you explain their role in thinking within your discipline? How can you help students take command of these concepts? These are some of the questions that will be explored in this session.

Exploring the Relationship Between Content and Thinking in Fostering Intellectual Discipline

A key insight into content (and into thinking) is that all content represents a distinctive mode of thinking. Math becomes more intelligible as one learns to think mathematically. Biology becomes more intelligible as one learns to think biologically. History becomes more intelligible as one learns to think historically. This is true because all subjects are: generated by thinking, organized by thinking, analyzed by thinking, synthesized by thinking, expressed by thinking, evaluated by thinking, restructured by thinking, maintained by thinking, transformed by thinking, LEARNED by thinking, UNDERSTOOD by thinking, APPLIED by thinking. If you try to take the thinking out of content, you have nothing, literally nothing, remaining. Learning a unique system of meanings is the key to learning any content whatsoever. This session explores the intimate relationship between content and thinking.

Placing Critical Thinking at the Heart of High School Instruction

Bringing critical thinking into the high school classroom entails understanding the concepts and principles embedded in critical thinking, and then applying those concepts throughout the curriculum. It means developing powerful strategies that emerge when we begin to understand critical thinking. In this session we will focus on strategies for engaging the intellect at the high school level. These strategies are powerful and useful because each is a way to get students actively engaged in thinking about what they are trying to learn. Each represents a shift of responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student. These strategies suggest ways to get your students to do the hard work of learning.



Imagining New Ways to Live: The Art of Thinking Critically

You are what you think. Whatever you are doing right now, whatever you feel, whatever you want--all are determined by the quality of your thinking. If your thinking is unrealistic, your thinking will lead to many disappointments. If your thinking is overly pessimistic, it will deny you due recognition of the many things in which you should properly rejoice. As Milton says in Paradise Lost, “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell.”

If the quality of your life is not what you would wish it to be, it is probably because it is tied to the way you think about your life. If you think about it positively, you will feel positive about it. If you think about it negatively, you will feel negative about it. In human life, thinking is largely subconscious, that is, rarely put into words explicitly. The problem is that when you are not aware of your thinking, you have no chance of “correcting” it. When thinking is subconscious, you are in no position to see problems in it. And, if you don’t see problems in it, you won't be motivated to “solve” these problems.

But, if you focus on improving the quality of your thinking, you can better achieve your goals and ambitions, make better decisions, and understand when others are trying to influence your thinking. You can then take better charge of what you do in your professional and personal life, how you relate to others, and even what emotions you feel. You become a better problem solver. You use power more wisely. You become less subject to manipulation. You live a fuller, more happy and secure life. This session starts you on the path.