MODELS OF TEACHING
Prof. Dr. Rodney F. Allen, M. A., M. A.
International Consultant/PPPG IPS dan PMP-Malang
Senior Secondary Education Project-Package 2
Ministry of Education and Culture
Republic of Indonesia
Note: The following material is abstracted from John Dewey, How We Think: A Statement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process (Boston: D.C Health and Company, 1933), pp. 107-114. Copyright.
Dewey is concerned here with reflective thinking, thought which is both emancipating and empowering. Reflective thought is emancipating in that it is the means one frees oneself from the opinions and beliefs received from others. Reflective thought is empowering in that it is the means by which persons think for themselves to solve problems. Generally, Dewey casts this kind of thought into three sequential conditions: first, the pre-reflective condition with its state of doubt, perplexity, or hesitation wherein thinking originates; second, the reflective condition which is an act of searching, hunting, inquiring, to find ideas to resolve the doubt, hesitation, and perplexity; and third, the post-reflective condition of satisfaction in resolving the perplexity or solving the problem effectively.
The following abstract lays out Dewey's conception of reflective thinking. Where possible, teachers should read the entire 1933 edition of How We Think to consider the magnificence of Dewey's ideas for contemporary education.
FIVE PHASES, OR ASPECTS, OF REFLECTIVE THOUGHT
In between, as states of thinking, are (1) suggestion, in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution; (2) an intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity that has been felt (directly experienced) into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought; (3) the use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis, to initiate and guide observation and other operations in collection of factual material; (4) the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition as an idea or supposition (reasoning, in the sense in which reasoning is a part, not the whole of inference); and (5) testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action. We shall now take up the five phases, or functions, one by one.
THE FIRST PHASE: SUGGESTION
The most "natural" thing for anyone to do is go ahead; that is to say, to act overtly. The disturbed and perplexed situation arrests such direct activity temporarily. The tendency to continue acting nevertheless persists. It is diverted and takes the form of an idea or suggestion. The idea of what to do when we find ourselves "in a hole" is a substitute for direct action. It is a vicarious, anticipatory way of acting, a kind of dramatic rehearsal. Were there only one suggestion popping up, we should undoubtedly adopt it at once. But where there are two or more, they collide with one another, maintain the state of suspense, and produce further inquiry. The first suggestion in the instance recently cited was to jump the ditch, but the perception of conditions inhibited that suggestion and led to the occurrence of other ideas.
Some inhibition of direct action is necessary to the condition of hesitation and delay that is essential to thinking. Thought is, as it were, conduct turned in upon itself and examining its purpose and its conditions, its resources, aids, and difficulties and obstacles.
THE SECOND PHASE: INTELLECTUALIZATION
We have already noted that it is artificial, so far as thinking is concerned, to start with a ready-made problem made out of whole cloth or arising out of a vacuum. In reality such a "problem" is simply an assigned task.
There is not at first a situation and a problem, much less just a problem and no situation. There is a troubled, perplexed, trying situation, where the difficulty is, as it were, spread throughout the entire situation, infecting it as a whole. If we knew just what the difficulty was and where it lay, the job of reflection would be much easier than it is. As the saying truly goes, a question well put is half answered. In fact, we know what the problem exactly is simultaneously with finding a way out and getting it resolved. Problem and solution stand out completely at the same time. Up to that point, our grasp of the problem has been more or less vague and tentative.
A blocked suggestion leads us to reinspect the conditions that confront us. Then our uneasiness, the sock of disturbed activity, gets stated in some degree on the basis of observed conditions, of objects. The width of the ditch, the slipperiness of the banks, not the mere presence of the ditch, is trouble. The difficulty is getting located and defined; it is becoming a true problem, something intellectual, not just an annoyance at being held up in what we are doing. The person who is suddenly blocked and troubled in what he is doing by the thought of an engagement to keep at a time that is near and a place that is distant has the suggestion of getting there at once. But in order to carry this suggestion into effect, he has to find a means of transportation. In order to find them he has to note his present position and its distance from the station, the present time, and the interval at his disposal. Thus the perplexity is more precisely located: just so much ground to cover, so much time to do it in.
The word "problem" often seems too elaborate and dignified to denote what happens in minor cases of reflection. But in every case where reflective activity ensues, there is a process of intellectualizing what at first is merely an emotional quality of the whole situation. This conversion is effected by noting more definitely the conditions that constitute the trouble and cause the stoppage of action.
THE THIRD PHASE: THE GUIDING IDEA [HYPOTHESIS]
The first suggestion occurs spontaneously; it comes to mind automatically; it springs up; it "pops", as we have said, "into the mind"; it flashes upon us. There is no direct control of its occurrence; the idea just comes or it does not come; that is all that can be said. There is nothing intellectual about its occurrence. The intellectual element consists in what we do with it, how we use it, after its sudden occurrence as an idea. A controlled use of it is made possible by the state of affairs just described. In the degree in which we define the difficulty (which is effected by stating it in terms of objects), we get a better idea of the kind of solution that is needed. The facts or data set the problem before us, and insight into the problem corrects, modifies, expands the suggestion that originally occurred. In this fashion the suggestion becomes a definite supposition or, stated more technically, a hypothesis.
Take the case of a physician examining a patient or a mechanic inspecting a piece of complicated machinery that does not behave properly. There is something wrong, so much is sure. But how to remedy it cannot be told until it is known what is wrong. An untrained person is likely to make a wild guess-- the suggestion -- and the proceed to act upon it in a random way, hoping that by good luck the right thing will be hit upon. So some medicine that appears to have worked before or that a neighbor has recommended is tried. Or the person fusses, monkeys with the machine, poking here and harassing there on the chance of making the right move. The trained person proceeds in a very different fashion. He observes with unusual care, using the methods, the techniques, that the experience of physicians and expert mechanics in general, those familiar with the structure of the organism or the machine, have shown to be helpful in detecting trouble.
The idea of the solution is thus controlled by the diagnosis that has been made. But if the case is at all complicated, the physician or mechanic does not foreclose further thought by assuming that the suggested method of remedy is certainly right. He proceeds to act upon it tentatively rather than decisively. That is, he treats it as a guiding idea, a working hypothesis, and is led to make more observations, to collect more facts, so as to see if the new material is what the hypothesis calls for. He reasons that if the disease is typhoid; then certain phenomena will be found; and he looks particularly to see if just these conditions are present. Thus both the first and the second operations are brought under control ; the sense of the problem becomes more adequate and refined and suggestion ceases to be a mere possibility, becoming a tested and, if possible, a measured probability.
THE FOURTH PHASE: REASONING [IN THE NARROWER SENSE]
Observations pertain to what exists in nature. They constitute the facts, and these facts both regulate the formation of suggestions, ideas, hypothesis, and test their probable value as indications of solutions. The ideas, on the other hand, occur, as we say, in our heads, in our minds. They not only occur there, but are capable, as well, of great development there. Given a fertile suggestion occurring in an experienced , well-informed mind, that mind is capable of elaborating it until there results an idea that is quite different from the one with which the mind started.
There are long trains of reasoning in which one idea leads up to another idea known by a previous test to be related to it. The stretch of links brought to light by reasoning depends, of course, upon the store of knowledge that the mind is already in possession of. And this depends not only upon the prior experience and special education of the individual who is carrying on the inquiry, but also upon the state of culture and science of the age and place.
Reasoning helps extend knowledge, while at the same time it depends upon what is already known and upon the facilities that exists for communicating knowledge and making it a public, open resource.
Reasoning has the same effect upon a suggested solution that more intimate and extensive observation has upon the original trouble. Acceptance of a suggestion in its first form is prevented by looking into it more thoroughly. Conjectures that seems plausible at first sight are often found unfit or even absurd when their full consequences are traced out. Even when reasoning out the bearings of a supposition does not lead to its rejection, it develops the idea into a form in which it is more opposite to the problem. Only when, for example, the conjecture that a pole was an index pole had been thought out in its implications could its particular applicability to the case in hand be judged. Suggestions at first seemingly remote and wild are frequently so transformed by being elaborated into what follows from them as to become apt and fruitful. The development of an idea through reasoning helps supply intervening or intermediate terms which link together into a consistent whole elements that at first seemingly conflict with each other, some leading the mind to one inference and others to an opposed one.
THE FIFTH PHASE: TESTING THE HYPOTHESIS BY ACTION
The concluding phase is some kind of testing by overt action to give experimental corroboration or verification, of the conjectural idea. Reasoning shows that if the idea be adopted, certain consequences follow. So far the conclusion is hypothetical or conditional. If when we look we find present all the conditions demanded by the theory, and if we find the characteristic traits called for by rival alternatives to be lacking, the tendency to believe, to accept, is almost irresistible. Sometimes direct observation furnishes corroboration, as in the case of the pole on the boat. In other cases, as in that of the bubbles, experiment is required; that is, conditions are deliberately arranged in accord with the requirements of an idea or hypothesis to see whether the results theoretically indicated by the idea actually occur. If it is found that the experimental results agree with the theoretical, or rationally deduced, results, and if there is reason to believe that only the conditions in question would yield such results, the confirmation is so strong as to induce a conclusion -- at least until contrary facts shall indicate the advisability of its revision.
Of course, verification does not always follow. Sometimes consequences show failure to confirm instead of corroboration. The idea in question is refuted by the court of final appeal. But a great advantage of possession of the habit of reflective activity is that failure is not mere failure. It is instructive.