Thursday, 6 August 2015

Externalization: Making thinking visible

During collaborative group work, some of the main processes in the acquisition of knowledge are the construction, transmission, and comprehension of explanations. These activities result when trying to explain some concepts or when resolving conflicts about certain understandings/beliefs. This is because during such activities, some assumptions that are usually implicit, have to be made explicit. Furthermore, during the process, missing knowledge is identified and is subsequently filled by deductive and/or inductive learning mechanisms. These activities do not normally occur during individual learning.

Accordingly, technologies (or even technology-free activities) that are designed to foster collaborative learning, need to focus on increasing the probability of such useful group activities to occur. The more students' thinking is made visible to others (visually or verbally), the more likely it is that it will be followed by discussions aiming at explanations/conflict resolution.

This process of making thinking visible is usually termed externalization of thinking. Encouraging externalization can involve making very simple changes to the activity design. For example, instead of asking students to just put items in groups, ask them to specifically name these groups and write down the name of the group. Instead of asking the students to find a relation between items, ask them to be explicit about the type of the relation: whether it is a causal, temporal, or special relation for example. Asking for this bit of extra information means that students have to be more explicit about their thinking. The more explicit they are, the more chances that there will be a need for providing an explanation, or solving a disagreement in the group.

A screenshot from a mystery - students have named their groups, e.g. 'Attractions of the New World'.

No comments:

Post a Comment