For Teachers

Creating Lectures that Provoke Abstract Thinking

By The Room 241 Team October 14, 2012

Creating a lecture is a necessary part of teaching, but it must do more than provide facts. Teachers need to encourage abstract thinking among their students. Creating a lecture that is thought provoking and focuses on questions that cause abstract thinking will encourage students to think outside the normal realm of memorization and set answers.

Basics of abstract thought

Before it is possible to provoke abstract thinking in students, teachers need to understand the differences between different types of thinking patterns. Without understanding the terminology, it is easy to end up with a flat lecture that does not provoke further exploration.

According to Jorge Martins de Oliveira and Julio Rocha do Amaral on Cerebromente.org, abstract thought occurs when ideas form from concepts that do not have specific present values or forms. Since abstraction is often present in math as a variable, such as x or y, it is obvious that teachers can understand the basic ideas behind abstract thinking patterns.

While abstraction refers to the ability to see more than one idea or concept, it is also about thinking beyond the surface of the topic. Abstract thinking refers to the ability to think deeper and see beyond the facts or immediate vision.

Provoking the ability to think deeper about a topic is not always easy for any teacher. A lecture needs to encourage students to think of several variables and ideas that are beyond the facts and figures. The lecture must plan around the needs of the students to get the most out of the topic.

Ask thought provoking questions

A simple way to provoke deeper thought is through questions during and after the lecture. A teacher can use thought provoking questions to encourage students to think of multiple solutions. Even asking for several solutions will help ensure students are able to think about the deeper concepts behind the fact or theory.

Teachers need to encourage students to think in more than one way as they get into higher levels of education. A lecture must ensure that students are asked to think of several possible solutions to problems or several ideas that might account for a specific item.

Asking questions that require more than just the facts or figures will require students to think beyond the scope of the surface ideas. Facts are about the items they see rather than the meaning behind the topic. Teachers can use a lecture to ask students to think further and look for the possible meanings, causes or observations that led to different conclusions or ideas.

Bringing in discussion

Critical thinking skills are often developed in conversation and discussion as different students state their perspective on a topic. By providing the facts in a lecture, asking a question and then allowing the students to discuss the topic, teachers are showing that different perspectives will result in different answers to the question.

The more perspectives a teacher is able to bring out in discussion, the more students are likely to think about several possible answers. Abstract thought relates to the ability to think of several possible solutions, scenarios or ideas. When the discussion shows several perspectives that result in different answers, the students will inevitably consider alternatives to their original thoughts.

Discussion is a powerful tool in lectures when it comes to encouraging deep thoughts on the topic. The more a student thinks about the topic, the easier it is to apply abstract thinking processes to other areas of life. The idea of a lecture is to provoke deeper thought and encourage students to see beyond the facts and figures.

Even asking students to change the outcome of a story in discussion or think of alternative endings to a book read in class will encourage abstract thought processes. The students are able to use discussion and ideas to create changes that will improve their ability to think deeper about the topic.

Provoking abstraction is never easy when creating a lecture, but it is possible. By understanding the ideas behind deeper thinking, asking questions and allowing students to discuss the topic, teachers are encouraging the class to look beyond their original ideas and comfort zone.

Learn More: Click to view related resources.
  • Jorge Martins de Oliveira and Julio Rocha do Amaral, "Abstract Thought," Cerebromente

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