A Look at Week Three

Before I discuss week three, let me come back to my intent to focus on the PSP in week two.

Their Self-Development Effort (my phrase for homework…a term I associate with elementary school…I want them to see it differently) on Wednesday will be a WTL:  Observations and a “why game” regarding their short-term strengths and weaknesses.  I want them thinking causality.

Observation: I tend to procrastinate.  Why?  Because it’s boring. Why? Because ..

This will form the basis for Friday’s discussion on plans, planning, and root cause.  By the way, I will collect and read these.


For week three’s think-space (what I call class) activities we need to accomplish three things: select a wicked problem for phase two, model a tool for understanding (the issue map), and introduce concepts and strategies for critical thinking.

Three things may not seem like much for a week.  Remember, though, that we are not looking for the most efficient way to cover material, rather we are striving to bring students to ideas through self-discovery so they are more inclined to embrace the necessary hard work and rigor.  (We also have ETS testing in week three…)

And I don’t measure rigor by the number of pages read or words written, but by a student’s capability to engage with content at a level appropriate to a first year undergraduate (Drager, Hill, & Mahler, 2015).

I will contradict myself to say that practice does require and can equate to page counts. I am always clear in my mind that these metrics are in support of the goal.  They are not the goal.  It’s the same with discussion…don’t fall into the trap of making discussion your end-state.  Discussion is but one method.

On Monday we’ll focus on strategies to improve critical thinking.  As I posted here, I think the main effort here is learning how to question material, each other, and me (the authority figure) in a way that helps them recognize the importance of Elbow’s believing and doubting game.

How? Most likely I will have them start by discussing the essay, Critical Inquiry, but perhaps I’ll have read and dissect (with questions) two essays of competing viewpoints.

Let me make a point here: I don’t know how well any planned activity will go when encountered by students! I always keep a contingency plan in my hip pocket…I could get a head start on the next day, do a writing to learn, or facilitate an impromptu After-Action Review.

The key is to remain flexible, and ready to adapt.

That said, the plan is that this dissection will help frame Friday’s introduction of the issue map. This week and next I am running short workshops on this tool, but you can also find a narrated PowerPoint on Blackboard –

My Organizations>FYS Instructors>Course Planning> 2016 Course Planning Documents.  Run it in slideshow mode…

I will build one with the class. We will start with a generic observation vs. conclusion exercise and quickly transition this into developing a variable for a topic such as intellect, or perhaps in my 11:00 class, the complexity of culture in a college level think space.

It’s important to help students connect this new activity to student prior knowledge.  Consider a topic that they can all relate too such as music or social media.

It need not be perfect or complete – we are interleaving a new concept (only partly explored) with topics already covered (inquiry cycle, critical thinking, and complex questions and the QFT).

My guess is that I will need to continue issue mapping in week four, and that’s fine. I will do a retrieval exercise to help anchor key terms and concepts before either finishing week three’s map, or playing with a new one.  I will use self-explanation (having students articulate their thoughts as they build) and I will ask them to explain their work to their peers.

Mapping is deceptively hard. I will not try to cram too much in as I want to provide enough to reflection time to absorb the bigger picture: it’s a tool we can use to visualize complexity (something most are not used to having spent 12 years passively accepting the answer…).

I also want a decision about the topic for the following four weeks.  It’s my expectation that we can discuss this as we build out our maps.  I will leave the choice up to the students, but will offer suggestions from our past list of guiding questions (also serving as a way to talk once again to the subject of guiding questions).

As we wrap up, we’ll talk again about the intent to examine our issue from multiple perspectives…starting with the arts.  I will ask them to divvy up the arts essays for weekend reading in preparation for defining the arts perspective in week four.

(FYI: I will conduct the ETS Test on Wednesday.)

Works Cited

Draeger, J., del Prado Hill, P., & Mahler, R. (2015). Developing a student conception of academic rigor. Innovative Higher Education, 40(3), 215-228. doi:10.1007/s10755-014-9308-1



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