Training that Pattern thinking

So, I have been quiet lately, but I think I can begin to get back into the swing of things since my life seems to be resuming some semblance of normalcy .   One of the ideas bumping around in my noggin, but also alluded to in some earlier blogs, is training pattern thinking in terms of logical thinking.  Logical minds are very good at connecting the dots and seeing correlations, but the inferences made and conclusions generated are still only as good as the quality of the data that has been retained.   With extremely logical minds, we see patterns, connections, and correlations in so many different ways, and it can become extremely hard to separate out the useful and trivial data.  I have the beginnings of a solution, and before I forget for any credential freaks out there, I do have my M.ed. so I am not clueless on topics related to pedagogy, that said, training the logical thinker to be able to sort through this data becomes a powerful tool for empowering the individual and helping calm the chaos of a world filled with beautiful patterns.

When I see bad pattern thinking, I often see issues of ideology or unreasonable correlations as the biggest issues.  In the form of ideology, rigid thinking patterns in regards to one’s belief in how the universe works results in the loss of pertinent data in favor of data that already fits their existing world view.  Harold Garfinkle might say this is part of the social creation and re-creation of shared realities.  Through social consensus we often agree on a reality that is highly subjective, based on anecdotes and belief as much as valid observation of objective reality.  When this ideology is challenged, because it based on a rigid and flawed data set, the individual can become hostile, feel threatened, shut up and move on, but they will most often dance around the subject in some way. The internalized notion of reality that is under threat defends itself, best described I think as feeling one’s sanity is at risk, when one challenges a pillar of a person’s identity, and that pillar becomes undermined, it is the perfect recipe for an existential crisis, and I do not think everyone makes it through that experience, so in a very real way, it is a threat to them to challenge these firmly held beliefs.  Yet, children taught to train their logical thinking will be able to better construct a worldview, and though their personality may still hold onto that worldview rigidly, it will be more informed and inherently more flexible.  Likewise, in the case of unreasonable correlations, properly trained logical thinking will help them vet the soundness and validity of their logic, helping to prevent the uptake and retention of bad correlations.

As it stands now, I see four primary things that need to be taught to logical thinkers, and are beneficial to everyone as a whole. First, we need to teach very basic logical syllogism, a simple logical equation that helps determine if an idea is sound, valid, neither, or both.  Secondly, we need to teach Occam’s Razor, not necessarily in that term, but simply reinforce the notion that the most likely answer is it, and that it is the starting point for getting to the real answer, jumping straight to “my teacher must be an alien” is how you end up with the stereotype at least of the “crazy conspiracy theorist”, often tremendously great logical minds, that are simply not weighing the probability of their correlations well.  Thirdly, we need to teach the scientific method, especially in regards to reinforcing that correlation is not causation.  Finally, we need to teach reflexive triangulation, and that is helping it become habit to test correlations against at least three scenarios or thought experiments to quickly determine if ones logic is at least sound. With these cognitive tools developed, the extremely logical mind and pattern thinker is better able to quickly determine the value and use of correlations they see.  It foster’s a healthy sense of skepticism towards rote understanding, and will greatly strengthen critical thinking skills that could translate into a real asset later in life as well.  It may seem like a lot, but many of these concepts can be taught outside of lesson plans and embedded within everyday class behavior, below are a few ideas for use in the classroom to help teach these things, and this is targeted towards the elementary aged students, as this would be the appropriate time to help focus those synapses.

Teaching logical syllogism is fairly easy given the numerous everyday examples of wrong correlations that younger concrete learners very naturally make.  So when a student exhibits correlations based on uninformed logic and a mix of magical thinking, the educator can break that down using logical syllogism and show the student the process while also helping shape their line of inquiry and correct erroneous correlations.  Likewise, you can even break their answer down in a way that shows they were using underlying logic well, that it simply had the wrong data, and thus the child can have the positive aspects of how they arrived at the conclusion reinforced, while still correcting the errors.

Occam’s Razor is already taught to a limited degree, every time an educator challenges a child’s guess as to why something happened with a “do you think that likely?” or a “did you consider this?”, the child is learning to look for the most common patterns, be they social or based in object reality.  Yet, reinforcing this concept verbally would be beneficial, ask questions along the lines of “what do you think is the MOST likely answer?”, and use this tool to engage the students in thinking about probability as part of following a line of inquiry to get to the right answer.

In regards to the scientific method, for the most part it is taught reasonably well, but we tend to keep it compartmentalized instead of using it as a thought tool that can be applied to any line of inquiry.  A hypothesis can be generated and tested in social settings, while playing games, etc.  For example, almost any game can be manipulated to give unfair advantage to some of the players, an educator could engage the children in rules changes and see how it affects the games, it also helps to reinforce why we play with standardized rules and agree as a group to follow them, a not uncommon lesson many children have to learn.

Finally, the seemingly hardest is to teach the habituation of triangulation, that is when one sees a connection between two things, they then learn to take that correlation and apply it to at least two other scenarios or different perspectives, this helps teach the mind to look for validation in the form of seeing if the correlation holds up to other scenarios. It does not guarantee a correct answer, but it helps quickly eliminate bad correlations when it becomes apparent that in other situations the perceived correlation does not hold up or apply well.  Teaching this can be done via line of questioning and teachable moments, but can also be incorporated into early testing and activities, by have children learn to seek out and make three good connections to their central idea.

As integrated learning methods, most of these need little modification to an existing pedagogy, instead it becomes an additional tool and approach to help students better understand how to think, check their thinking, and a bit more about themselves.  Trained to reflex you have a powerful tool to teach intuitive types and non-intuitives alike.  For the intuitive thinkers, it helps ensure the data they choose to incorporate, and thus influences their intuition.  For the non-intuitive, it teaches a method by which to build up understanding and arguments, to step outside just the here and now, but to thing expansively or in the long term.  Though like many of ideas, this one it but a nascent one, I believe that coupled with an educational system that puts emphasis on understanding one’s own self-identity along with the academic work, we will empower our descendants to think critically and have a broader perspective.