Monday, May 14, 2007

What's in Your Cognitive Backpack?

Our vice-principal just sent out an article by Mel Levine which recently appeared in Educational Leadership in which Levine provides a listing of the core skills, the " attributes of a successful adult" that he thinks students should be developing and carrying with them. He cites one report which lists skills cited by employers as being most important. "These include, in rank order, (1) critical thinking/problem solving, (2) information technology application, (3) teamwork/collaboration, (4) creativity/innovation, (5) diversity, and (6) leadership. Knowledge domains—foreign languages, mathematics, writing, reading comprehension, and science—were ranked numbers 12 through 16."

This listing seems to cover a lot of the same territory that the Microsoft corporation includes in the inventory I posted earlier. I think it would be an interesting challenge to go back over an existing curriculum - mine, say, or yours - and see how many of these skills are identified explicitly, how many are given the emphasis that would come with explicit and systematic practice, and how many of them just remain assumed, implied, or entirely off the table.

Another way of thinking about the list would be to prioritize the items on it in terms of pedagogical usefulness. For example, it is more immediately apparent to me what I might do with "forming vivid mental representations" than with, say, "preventing affiliation dependency." And I'm interested in and intrigued by the idea of "overcoming an obsession with 'fun,'" but don't know how exactly to begin framing the question of work/fun balance.

I guess I see the list as a structure within which to begin building smaller, more focussed structrues.

Cognitive Backpack Gear

Interpretation (becoming an in-depth comprehender)

• Forming, grasping, and applying concepts
• Accessing and using prior knowledge and experience
• Understanding through verbal, nonverbal, and experiential pathways
• Forming multiple vivid mental representations of new knowledge and ideas
• Monitoring degrees of comprehension
• Analyzing expectations (overt as well as unspoken)
• Systematically evaluating ideas, issues, people, and products
• Assessing opportunities
• Actively processing information inputs
• Balancing or integrating detail with the “big picture”
• Finding a balance between “top-down” and convergent thinking

Instrumentation (acquiring a project mentality)

• Brainstorming
• Thinking long-term and previewing potential outcomes
• Applying step-by-step thinking (instead of snap decisions or impulsive approaches)
• Achieving task integration
• Learning, developing, and applying strategies
• Managing time and prioritizing
• Overcoming an obsession with “fun”
• Harnessing mental energy and effort
• Postponing “payoffs”; working one's way up
• Developing effective personal work patterns

Interaction (building and sustaining productive, fulfilling relationships)

• Succeeding interpersonally without social addiction
• Collaborating
• Resisting/preventing affiliation dependency
• Forging working relationships (as opposed to adolescent-type friendships)
• Communicating effectively (verbal pragmatics)
• Relating to more senior people (such as bosses)

Inner Direction (attaining malleable self-insights that inform self-launching)

• Knowing one's current profile of strengths and weaknesses
• Aligning that profile with (preliminary/tentative) life plans
• Reviewing autobiographical leitmotifs
• Deciding on personal job values
• Finding pockets of intrinsic motivation/passions
• Discovering and cultivating affinities
• Uncovering competitive advantage(s)
• Previewing potential life roles
• Probing what it will take to succeed

No comments: