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Learning How to Think

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One of the gravest problems in education in the United States and in most of the rest of the world is that knowledge is memory-based. In order to be a professional, whether a lawyer, a doctor, or a business consultant, you have to know how to diagnose and solve problems. Of course, this requires having a database of knowledge in your head and at your fingertips, but it also requires having analytical skills that are rarely taught at any level except in the most elite schools.

In the United States, this failure is more common in public schools, where end of grade tests measure one's ability to report memorized material rather than to develop ideas and creative proposals. The posts in this section will explain why such skills are necessary, and how to acquire them. They will also link to sources of ideas, historical knowledge, and current events.

Quora Copyrighted Materials

All the links below this box are owned jointly by Loretta DeLoggio and Quora. Be sure to follow the Copyright rules for both organizations when using this material.

Words Have Meanings

Teaching how to Learn

Quality Control

What does 'A2A' mean in the Quora answers?

It's Not That Simple!

It's Not That Simple! – Continued

What is something creative that I can keep close to study desk to keep me motivated and focused on my educational goals?

What would have happened if Lincoln had decided to withdraw from Fort Sumter and other federal government property in the CSA? – Analysis of a hypothetical

How much of a factor in acceptance to Oxford is the Thinking Skills Assessment?

Critical Thinking

Do open book tests/exams in college/university involve critical reading, critical reasoning or critical thinking skills, or all of them?

I am good at solving problems but bad at recognizing patterns. What does it say about me?

Why do we ask more questions rather than giving solutions?

Legerdemain

Unintelligent Design

What's in a Number?  Nothing!

Read to Learn, Learn to Read

Emotionally-Charged Language

Assumptions, Assumptions

Switching Numbers and Percentages


The links below this line are proprietary to neither the DeLoggio Achievement Program nor Quora. They may have been linked to one or both sites, but without copyright:

Nacy Callan

I was watching a glass-blowing artist, Nancy Callan, on YouTube recently. She was wearing a T-shirt that said "BE CURIOUS" while she was creating. And that, I think, is probably the most important aspect of education.

But there's a difference between true curiosity and being a dilettante.

Summer Solipsism

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Fire and Rain (August and September, 2017)

A Different Point of View

It's easy to watch something and think you've learned; it's much harder to watch something and figure out what you haven't learned, and what you have to learn more of.

As much as I love learning, I hate the kind of learning channel that most people celebrate as the best – programs like TED talks. Neatly packaged, neatly book ended, with no loose ends or unanswered questions, and no sense that this answer is only for today, and might be different by tomorrow afternoon.
I much prefer the learning of decades. And that's so much easier to do now that we have YouTube! I can compare a tennis match from 1975 to one from 1980 to '85 to '90 to 2000, when the game was too fast for me to follow. I can watch the change in figure skating from artistry to athleticism and in sports in general from flexibility of both body and mind to an almost rigid (in gymnastics, literally rigid) physical power. I can see the world changing, and study why it changed and what effects those changes had, both intentional and incidental. I don't think you can do that watching TED talks.


When people talk about gymnastics, they talk about Nadia Comăneci and the first score of a 10; they talk about the rare American medallists; yet the truly best gymnasts have been almost entirely overlooked.
Olga Korbut is the only gymnast I've ever seen who balances her body from the top of her head to the tip of her toes, instead of from the top of her shoulders. Her flips, her rolls, even her balance moves, are different from anyone else's ever, because she uses her head as part of the counterbalance for her center of gravity:

Olga Korbut

The same is true of Kurt Thomas. Because we boycotted the 1980 Olympics, we are left with hazy television coverage from 1979. But aside from being the gymnast who invented the "Thomas Flair," so popular on the pommel horse and in the floor exercises, his flexibility moves on both the high bar and the parallel bars are, if you'll pardon the pun, unparalleled. I've watched his mount on those bars at least a dozen times, and I still can't quite figure out how he makes his body rise up from the floor in the way that he does:

Watch Dante Marioni make a reticello; he picks up a circle of glass bars, heats and forms them until they are completely touching with no air spaces between them except from the curve of the bars, then twists them slightly clockwise. He then prepares a second piece in an identical fashion, but twisted counterclockwise. Then he inserts the second piece into the first one so perfectly that they make diamond-shaped patterns on the vase with air bubbles caught between the crossings of the diagonal bars. Oh, I should probably mention that all of this is done at 1100°F.

Watching people perform — whether it's floor exercises or glass-blowing — teaches you how to think, question, learn. YouTube clips add the ability to rewind and freeze-frame in split seconds, so that you can learn how the action is done, and what to look for the next time you watch an artisan or athlete.


Arthur Whimbey "Reticello." "Thomas Flair." There's a reason that every trade, hobby, skill, has its own special vocabulary: the right word triggers the path to knowledge in your brain. And the converse is equally true: knowing how to describe a thought process helps to embed the thought process in your brain. That's why an essential part of problem solving is learning how to verbalize your thought processes. The best book I've ever found for that is "Problem Solving & Comprehension," by Arthur Whimbey and Jack Lochhead. Whimbey and Lochhead are pioneers in helping students move from sub-par performance to superior understanding; a crucial element of this transition is the ability to verbalize thought processes. "Problem Solving & Comprehension" teaches students how to attach words onto thought processes. This not only embeds the synaptic pathways more firmly, but also makes those processes transferable to other situations, which is the real key to success in problem solving.

The authors specify that this skill is best mastered in peer-learning situations in groups of three or four students, so that each can teach each other how to verbalize by questioning unclear statements and adding omitted information. One of the many services that we offer is the organization and supervision of groups trying to learn the vocabulary of critical analysis.

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