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Learning Techniques

In all activities the students should be given a role to allow them to orientate their thinking.
Teachers should start by discussing the role and the style of research or learning they would
engage in. Often students are poor learners because they do not appreciate the different modes
of operation within the act of learning and the way a particular role directs and engages differing
language skills.

Students are also given an idea of the final product and the role will determine the style of
language the produce will demand and the style of communication they will need to engage in.
Here again teachers should discuss the language and style of reporting at the appropriate time.
This is as much a function of literacy as the use of a writing frame. Where a writing frame is
needed they are given guidance and the keyword list should be extended into a glossary to allow
the student to gain some idea of progression in their learning.

The thinking and writing frames students will use in the modules are:

• Building progressive glossaries

Words are written in the order they are revealed in the text or work. They are then
defined both in text and pictorially in hierarchical concept maps such as the
Network Tree see p25. This allows the student to organise the knowledge not by
alphabet but by the logical knowledge links in the subject.

• Story boarding

Storyboards are a series of pictorial representations with a short commentary to

show the development of ideas or events.

• Thought Experiments

These are specific approaches relating to the exploration of a procedure or concept by

thinking through the variables that affect an outcome and determining a range of possible

• Compare and contrast grids

An approach that allows the student to compare two factors and make decisions
based upon the contrast between the factors, e.g.

Material for a Advantage Disadvantage Evaluation – Decision – For

skateboard Which Part
Balsa Wood • Easy to cut to shape • Soft Not really a good material for
• Light • Breaks easily any part because it is brittle
• Easy to form to a • Squashes easily and would break too quickly.
• Exploration grids

An exploration grid allows the student to explore different factors and the relationship
between the factors and purpose allowing the student to make a decision, e.g.

Activity Aerodynamic How aerodynamic Good materials for How aerodynamics

Factors factor helps the sport/object and material help in
the sport

Boomerang Curved shape Shape creates lift Wood Lightness helps lift
Smooth Spinning keeps it High Density plastic and shape helps lift
Round edges stable and stability

• Context Connection Organiser

An approach that focuses upon analysis skills and synthesis skills by linking actual facts gleaned
from the text linked to personal views and has the following structure:


Associations or first thoughts after a quick read

I think this text is about

Contextual Connections
Self – Any personal experiences or things you Society and Community – How does it relate
have heard related to the text to the classroom, School, society?

Literature – What else have I read, seen on History – Is there any pattern that have been
television or Internet related to this? repeated in the world at large or in the past?

Summary of the text in your own words

• Poster presentation.

A fairly common approach in which the students research information and then
groups the ideas into related topics and designs a poster that illustrates the
differing aspects, issues or ideas relating to the topic. It is important that they
concentrate upon the organisation of the information and the poster has a logical
flow to it.
• Clustering

Cluster is a thinking tool designed to help you write a discussion more easily and it works in
this way:

 First as individuals you research and find out as much as you can about the topic.
As you do that you make quick short notes on a number of small pieces of paper,
post-its or magnetic note-lets.

 After 5 – 8 minutes you stop and in groups of threes you cluster all those ideas or
notes into one mass collection.

 Now you separate and put together those that are related to each other.

 Each cluster is given a name to describe the collection.

 The different clusters of notes are put into a sequence.

 Each sequence can be written up into sentences and then into paragraphs to form
a discussion piece on the topic.
Mapping Activities

The following are from O’Brieni (2003).

Concept Cycles

Frequently used concept map used in science to show how events interact to produce a cycle of
results; they are frequently used for the drawing of the water cycle, life cycles or the rock cycle or
any cyclic process.

Network Trees

This type of concept map illustrates the hierarchy of subordinate relationships between
concepts and illustrates the line of progression of ideas. It can also be used to show
causal relationships. In science often used to show a progression of ideas such as
particle to atom to ion to molecule to sub-atomic particles or any classification process
such as those for animals, plants or rocks, also for hierarchical relationships such as food
chains, manufacturing processes or energy transforms.

Events Chains

These concept maps describe the stages of a process and allows the student the opportunity to
develop a linear relationship or sequence of events. This can be used as a flow chart to show a
procedure in a technique, development of a formula or equation or a process such as the
formation of soil from the weathering of rocks.

Consequence Maps

This is a way of examining the multitude of consequences from an action or a proposed action.
The student responds by identifying the outcomes to a n action followed by the reasons for that
outcome. These outcomes can be evaluated to ascertain the most probable outcome. These
thinking tools are useful for all abilities but the gifted student responds more favourably than the
average or least average student because they are capable of speculating upon evidence and
evaluating evidence. They are asking the student to make critical judgements, for example if the
proposition was ‘What would happen if gravity on Earth was reduced?’

What if

Vee Heuristic diagram

Developed by Bob Gowin to show the links between conceptual and methodology and how they
interact. It is a useful technique for analysis of documents, practical sessions and lectures.

Thinking Doing
Theoretical/ Conceptual Focus Question Methodology

Philosophy/Accepted views Value/Claims

Theories Knowledge/ claims

Principles/ Constructs/Paradigm Transformations/Changes

Concepts Facts/Records


An example of the use of the Vee Heuristic in laboratory investigation of cells is shown below
Theory: Organisms are made up Claims: You can tell the difference
of cells. Cells are small living between animal and plant cells by
units. Animal and plant cells are looking at them down a microscope
different. Question: Can you
collect cells, stain Knowledge claims: cells contain
Principles: Living things include them and see certain bits the same like nucleus,
bacteria, plants and animals so all differences between cytoplasm but there are different bits
must be made of cells. animal and plant like cell walls and organelles.
Concepts – Words: cell, living, Transformations: Animal cells do
microscope, similar, different, not have a cell wall or vacuole – the
stains, organelles hole in the middle but all have the
large blob called a nucleus

Record: see drawings drawn from

the microscope

Objects and events: We have cells in our cheeks. We can remove those cells by scraping. They can
be stained and put under a microscope.
Onions have cells in the layers. We can remove a thin strip of that layer. It can be stained and put under
the microscope.
By looking at both and using a book for reference I can see the difference in the animal cell (mine) and
the plant cell (onion).
The big differences are easy but they’re some I cannot see but must accept.

Herring Bone Diagrams

These are an effective way to organize information; they are used to describe events or relate
concepts in terms of six questions:

• What;
• What they do;
• How, When or where;
• Why;

A sentence is composed as a backbone and the chains of concepts are drawn off from this
sentence like ribs to form a herring bone skeleton. It is a refined concept amp that gives some
sense to the lateral relationship of linked concepts and are useful for the gifted student since they
can summarise texts and materials and use them for revision purposes.
An example for cells is shown below.
Small chemical factories in which
mitochondria release energy from sugars
by respiration
Secrete an oily substance
called sebum poisonous to
Have nucleus, cytoplasm
mitochondria inside a cell

Epidermal cells are protective cells

Smallest living unit of animals and filled with keratin on the surface of
different from plant cells the body

Animal cells Skin tissue

Cells are the building blocks of tissues that are the building blocks of organs

Plant cells Leaf tissue

Smallest living unit of a Stomata cells are cells with

plant and different from holes that can control water
animal cells loss

Have vacuole, nucleus, cytoplasm Changes in humidity, temperature and

mitochondria and cell membrane inside a pressure affect the stomata and the hole
rigid cell wall changes size

Small chemical factories in which light

helps chloroplasts produce energy storing
sugars and mitochondria release energy
from sugars

Flow Charts
Flow charts are useful for organizing spatial information, chronological information, cause and
effect relationships, and process information.

Force A push or pull acting on F=mxa

a body Force = mass x acceleration

Gravity A downward force pulling m 1 x m2

things towards the centre of the D2
earth Force = Gravity constant x (mass of body 1 x
mass of body 2 divided by the square of the
distance between them

Objects fall towards Earth’s gravity pulls things

the Earth’s surface towards its surface
Flash Cards
Flash cards are used to organize ideas and definitions, people and contributions, time periods, and
other types of information. When identifying major terms, people and concepts, focus on four

• Who or what is the term

• With what is it associated
• Function or purpose
• Why is the term or concept important to the study of the subject

Polish astronomer
Renaissance Period
Suggested that Earth orbits the Sun rather
than Earth as the centre of the Universe
Copernicus Considered a heretic but also established
modern astronomy

Front Back

Zones Of Relevance and Mystery

These are used with activities where there is no clear outcome but a lot of evidence that needs
sorting. The process starts by examining the evidence, data, descriptions or hypothesis in relation
to an event or phenomena such as a list of statements relating to cells, animals and plants and
using the circles, arranged as below, as collecting and focusing points for the statements:

False statements For Research

True but not relevant

Zone of Relevance

The student sorts the statements into false, true or don’t know and need to research. The student
then sorts the true statements into relevant or not relevant to the evidence, data, description or
hypothesis. If more than one hypothesis etc. are tested the relevant statements can be examined
for key status for example if the evidence supports three hypotheses then it can be considered as
key information. These statements can be then gathered and written into continuous prose within
a prescribed genre. Alternatively if data or descriptions are being examined then the student can
be asked to provide a hypothesis to explain the data, event or phenomena. The skills being
developed are analysis and classification, concept understanding, explaining and justifying.

The above techniques are powerful thinking tools since when used in different challenging
contexts they promote higher-level thinking in Blooms Taxonomy:
Lower Level
• To know the facts - Know.
• To show knowing by using the facts - Comprehension.
• To apply the facts to a problem - Application

Higher Level
• To analyse ones knowing - identify the facts - Analysis
• To be creative & critical by problem solving - Synthesis Evaluation

Argument Mapping is concerned with producing graphical "boxes and arrows" maps of complex
debates. The result is a paper chart presenting an overview of the reasoning. Argument mapping
focuses on the inferential or evidential structure among claims and reasons to produce paper
charts and although similar to, it is important to distinguish argument mapping from other
techniques such as concept mapping, and decision analysis as the example below shows.

Very few No direct link Descendants of

examples of bird between the dinosaurs forming
fossils have been fossil birds & dead branches of
found modern birds evolution

The bird features have not evolved from one ancestor but from many. Tarsitano & Hecht
support Heilmann’s theory that birds evolved from a Triassic archisaur into the
Confuciusornis a magpie sized flying bird that flew more strongly than Archaeopteryx

Objections to proposition

Proposition: Birds are evolved from the dinosaurs through the Archaeopteryx

Reasons supporting proposition

Archaeopteryx a reptile with hallow bones, feathers for flight,

small stiff tail, horn tipped claws flew 150 mya.

Developed from Jurassic to Cretaceous a period of 138 million years and gave to a number of origins

Compsognathus Ovirapor egg Caudipteryx

Gallimimus a large Therizinosaurus a
a meat eating eating dinosaur bird-like
plant eating plant eating
dinosaur small with bird head dinosaur,
dinosaur had dinosaur with
with long hallow broods their eggs feathers, and
toothless beak in feathers, mimics
tail evolved into with lightweight a bird head
small bird-like head, an ostrich with
bird like skeleton chicken- with beak,
mimicked an ostrich scythe like claws
ornithopods like tail feather
Argument mapping expands an individual’s capacity to grasp complex debates by presenting the
argumentation in two-dimensional spatial layout. Because it translates abstract conceptual
structure into a simple spatial structure they are only really suitable for the gifted student and gives
them the following:

• A permanent record of thinking on a topic that contributes to a debate.

• Promote clarity and rigour in thinking by improving the sharing of knowledge in a group
leading to a deeper understanding of issues;
• Extremely efficient ways to present overviews, indicating the boundaries of current
knowledge or debate in complex argumentation to another student;
• Promote better decision making by ensuring that a higher proportion of relevant
considerations are taken into account;
O’Brien P., (2003). Using Science to develop Thinking Skills at Key Stage 3. Chiswick: David Fulton/NACE