Exploring Education:
Learning, Thinking, and Teaching

in web-pages by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

What do you think about these two ways to cut a tree?

One man is working hard, but isn't getting much done.
The other is working smart, and is getting results!

The goal of this page is to share some ideas for "getting results" in education,
to help you more fully enjoy the great adventure of learning and teaching:
You can take a grand tour of the web pages I've developed,
to get a quick overview of some useful ideas for teaching.
You'll see what's in each page and how it all fits together.

      a personal context:
      Many of the pages described below are an extension of my PhD dissertation, which involved:  (1) developing a model of Integrated Scientific Method that is a synthesis of ideas — mainly from scientists and philosophers, but also from sociologists, psychologists, historians, and myself — about scientific method, and  (2) using this model to analyze the instructional methods in a creative "science inquiry" classroom.  In a long process involving multiple revisions, these ideas have been changed and rearranged, summarized and colorized, and extended from science into other areas of life.   /   This page ends with a section about the author and his pages on "miscellaneous topics" like physics, music, and juggling!

      an update:
      Recently, especially since the beginning of 2011, my main project has been developing ideas about Design Process that are an extension of my PhD work.  Here are three links, with the first being my most up-to-date and (I think) my best work on education:
Using Design Process for Problem Solving & Education
plus Ideas for Education and (including a portfolio with some of
my “influences” and some results) Working with Other Educators

      Introductory Pages
      Three aspects of education (learning, thinking, teaching) have introductory pages that summarize interesting, important ideas:

      For learning, Motivations and Strategies for Learning encourages you to ask "What can I learn now that will help me in the future?", describes personally goal-directed learning and motivational teamwork (between learners and teachers), and explains how (by learning from experience) a friend did learn to weld and how I didn't learn to ski (by learning from mistakes) but I did learn to ski (how?);  also, why "steps and leaps" can be bad news or good news, the joy of ideas (it's fun to learn and think!), and more.

      For thinking, An Introduction to Design describes and illustrates a method (by comparing goals with the results of mental and physical experiments) for designing a product, strategy, or theory (for doing almost anything in life), explores the similarities and differences between design and science, and explains why we should teach design before science.

      For teaching, Aesop's Activities: A Goal-Directed Approach to Education is a two-mode strategy of defining educational goals (for ideas and skills to be learned) that are worthy, and designing instructional activities (to provide experience with ideas and skills, and to help students learn more from their experience) that are effective in achieving the goals, plus tips for creative instruction, activities for reflection and evaluation, a tool for analyzing and improving the structure of instruction, plus a "radical and practical" attitude for educational reform.

      In addition to these intro-pages, what are other options?   1) the table below shows 16 of my favorite pages, in four categories (design, design-and-science, science, teaching) plus link-pages I've written as editor;   2) the rest of this page has brief descriptions of the pages in each category (learning, thinking, teaching) with suggested readings in bold.

Thinking Skills in Education:
Design Process and Scientific Method,
and Problem Solving in a Goal-Directed Curriculum

Recently, most pages in the first two table-rows below (all except
the "Scientific Method" pages and "Motivations" and "Four Frameworks...")
have been developed more fully, in revised-and-improved versions in a website about

Using Design Process for Problem Solving and Education.
 Aesop's Activities for Goal-Directed Education 
 Creative-and-Critical Thinking Skills & Methods 
Is there a method for design or science? 
 Coping with Complexity in Method-Models 
Here are "link pages" with IDEA-SUMMARIES plus LINKS to selected resource-pages:

 Creativity in Education & Life 
 Critical Thinking in Education & Life 
 Thinking Skills and Problem Solving Methods 


Teaching Strategies
Teaching Activities


in this page, each link opens a new page in its own new window, leaving this page open in this window

      As explained in the home-page for Learning Skills, motivations and strategies for learning (wanting to learn, and knowing how to learn) are the foundations of education.  Everything else in the website is just the details.

      So far, besides Motivations and Strategies for Learning (described above), only one of my pages has "learning" as its main theme:  Study Skills for Effective Learning describes strategies for improving memory, concentration, reading and listening, exam preparation and performance, and use of time.  { also, more study skills are in the ASA Science Ed Website in the links-page for LEARNING SKILLS }

      After reading An Introduction to Design (described above) you can explore any of the following topics.  They are not in any kind of sequential order, so you can begin with any topic that looks interesting or useful.

      UPDATE — All of the pages in this "THINKING" section have been developed more fully, with major revisions, in a comprehensive website about Using Design Process in Problem Solving and Education.
      A Brief Overview of Design Method organizes designing activities (what we think and do during the process of design, as described in An Introduction to Design) into a model of Integrated Design Method.  These ideas are explored more deeply, and developed more fully, in A Detailed Overview of Design Method.

      You can begin with Scientific Method: Using the Everyday Logic of Reality-Checks and then move on to An Overview of Scientific Method which outlines a nine-part model of Integrated Scientific Method that describes what we think and do during the process of science.  These activities are explored more deeply in A Detailed Examination of Scientific Method, which is is a condensed version of the first half of my PhD dissertation.

      Design and Science
      In An Introduction to Design, design is described as a search for improved products or strategies, using "quality checks" that compare goals with predictions or observations, while science is a search for theories about nature, using "reality checks" that compare predictions with observations.  What are the relationships between design and science?  Is science a specialized type of design?  What are the similarities and differences between science and engineering?  between science and other types of design?  In some situations, scientists do engineering, and engineers do science, so how should we define the fields of science and engineering, and the careers of scientists and engineers?

      Examples of Design
      I.O.U. — Later, I'll write a page to illustrate the process and results of design with examples from a wide range of life.

      The Nature of Science
      A page asking "Is there a method?" answers YES by explaining how the methods used in science (and design) are analogous to the "structured improvisation" of a hockey skater, and how a flexible model can serve as a framework for describing a wide range of views about the process and content of science.
      Debates about Science Wild controversies and hot debates!  Are some views of science dangerous for students?  Can too much of a good thing be harmful?  Do scientists seek the truth?  Do they claim proof?  Do they create reality?  How can we avoid running off (or being carried away) to silly extremes?  /  And a supplementary page — Tools for Analysis — shows a way to logically analyze the cultural-personal factors that influence science. }

      Thinking Skills and Methods
      The effective coordinating of two essential skills (CREATIVITY and CRITICAL THINKING) is the focus of Productive Thinking {this interesting could have been an intro-page} that is used in PROBLEM SOLVING METHODS.
      An Overview of Thinking Skills summarizes and compares four perspectives (including Integrated Design Method) on how to understand, organize, and teach thinking skills and methods.

      The introductory page — Aesop's Activities for Goal-Directed Education (described above) — contains four important ideas that can serve as topics for continuing exploration:

      Ideally, students and teachers will have similar educational goals, as described in the "Motivational Teamwork" part of the intro-page for learning (described above), which links to a "design before science" motivational principle.

      Reflection Activities
      A reflective focus on "what can be learned" is the main theme of Teaching Scientific Method in Science Labs.  Another page has examples of "thinking skills activities" from chemistry labs.
      Although it's less obvious, reflection is also a major benefit in teaching "methods for problem solving" in design and science.   { IOU — Later, the "reflection on methods" idea, which is also a theme in the "wide spiral curriculum" section, will be explained more clearly and emphasized more strongly. }
      Active Learning is a links-page that will help you explore the pros and cons of various teaching methods, and the benefits of eclectic variety — by including both direct and inquiry learning, since both can be active — rather than using only one method;  it challenges narrow habits of thinking (which assume we should teach "either this way or the other, but not both") that tend to restrict the ways we think about methods of instruction.

      Analysis of Instruction
      This begins in Aesop's Activities and continues in an outline of a wide-spiral curriculum that would teach thinking skills using models (described above) for Integrated Design Method and Integrated Scientific Method.  The page with the wide spiral curriculum (Problem Solving in Education) explains my "optimistic humility" about the benefits of using these models in education, and compares them with four other perspectives on thinking skills.

      Evaluation Activities
      Although there is some discussion of lab-exam evaluations (of students in discussion-based labs) and conceptual evaluation (of instruction), evaluation is not a major theme in this website.

      More resources are available in the ASA Science Ed website, in the home-pages for TEACHING METHODS and TEACHING ACTIVITIES.



      About the Author — an academic and personal summary, with links to my pages about stories & dancing & thinking skills education & ESL & worldviews & origins & a quick-education website & a lesson from high school & science in sports & science in arts and more.

      Physics: Power Tools for Problem Solving

      Do-it-Yourself Juggling — it's more fun to do it than to just watch!  (or you can just watch my juggling video and see photos from it)

      Musical Improvisation and Music Theory — tips for making your own music.
      with bottom-of-page links for two pages about Making Bamboo Flutes (with a 9-hole fingering system I invented) that were written by Marc Bristol, using information from me, and were published in Mother Earth News.
      My PhD Dissertation (and related pages) in five parts:
      1) Earlier in this page I describe the personal context of my dissertation and the newer web-pages (about scientific method and design method) that are the result of creative ideas being "changed and rearranged, summarized and colorized, and extended from science into other areas of life."  Developing a model of Integrated Scientific Method was the first part of my dissertation, and the second half was the Integrative Analysis of Inquiry you see below.
      2) topical outline — This may be a world record for the longest Table of Contents for a doctoral dissertation!   :<)     And I'm among the rare scholars who juggled in their PhD defense (with the permission of Jim Stewart, my open-minded and very helpful advisor) in order to illustrate the benefits of analyzing a complex process — such as juggling, science, or education — by breaking it into smaller parts in an effort to cope with the complexity and to understand the complex process, in its parts and as a whole, more accurately and thoroughly.
      3) references — for most of the dissertation-sources cited in this website.
      4) EVERYTHING — You can download (in word-processing files) my entire dissertation, "A Model of Integrated Scientific Method and its Application for the Analysis of Instruction."
      5) A Brief History of ISM — a progression of diagrams for ISM and IDM (Integrated Scientific Method and Integrated Design Method), from 1989 to 1997.

      plus related pages:
      Integrative Analysis of Inquiry — describes an award-winning classroom, taught by Sue Johnson, in which students play the role of research scientists by using computer-simulated genetics experiments.  There is also an overview of an in-depth analysis (the second half of my dissertation) in which I used ISM as a framework for the integrative analysis of instruction.
      Terminology (Coping with Confusion) — There is a lack of consistency in the terms used to describe scientific method.  Some terms have many meanings, and some meanings are known by many names.  This makes precise communication difficult, but in ISM I have tried to be internally consistent and (to the extent this is possible) also externally consistent with the more commonly used terms and meanings.

      Other Pages (available now)
      Visual Thinking — explores verbal-visual symbolism, logic, and imagination, and the benefits of using various "visual representations of ideas" during instruction.
      Word Problems — strategies for solving many type of problems, although (more than in my more recent writing) the focus is partially — but not totally — on the types of problems usually found in textbooks and on exams, which are sometimes (but not always) useful for helping you develop skill in coping with problems in real-life situations.

This page, written by Craig Rusbult (with cartoon by Frank Clark), is
Copyright © by Craig Rusbult, all rights reserved 

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