Process Model Method

20 Aug

In this mini-series I’ve been talking about different ways to think about problems. The methods come from Edward DeBono’s book, Teaching Thinking. This method is the final one in the series.

The process model method direct attention to some basic process as distinct from areas. First you must set up the model for the process and then you must apply the model (e.g. analyze vs. compare). The compare process directs attention to features which two situations have in common and also to the features which differ. The analyze process directs attention away from the total situation and towards the component features.

To help learners use this framework we need to identify:

  • how the items within a group are alike (“compare”)
  • the individual components of an item, regardless of how it fits into the greater context (“analyze”)

The process model method is useful to a series of items and how it relates to others and to itself.

This was the final method outlined in Teaching Thinking. While doing related reading for this series, I stumbled across Graeme’s blog. He is a Master Trainer of de Bono Thinking: Education. If you enjoyed reading about these methods, you will probably also find Graeme’s blog an interesting read.

Framework Method

17 Aug

In this mini-series I’ve been talking about different ways to think about problems. The methods come from Edward DeBono’s book, Teaching Thinking.

In the Framework Method you must set up and use a checklist of attention areas. Each attention area (or box) is filled in turn from the situation. For example: we establish a framework with five components:each step of the framework has its own "box" of attention

  1. Purpose. Aim or objective
  2. Input. Scene or ingredients
  3. Solutions. Suggestions for solving the problem
  4. Choice. Choose from the solutions (step 3)
  5. Operations. Actions by which the solution is implemented

Each of the different steps within the framework may also have sub-steps. The best known framework method is probably the scientific method. (I might be showing my education bias here as I was trained as an environmental scientist.)

To help learners use this framework we need to identify:

  • situations the evaluator must progress through a series of repeatable steps (as opposed to a sequence that the object of investigation is passing through)
  • major steps that the evaluator must always complete, and sub-steps which may differ, or only be relevant in certain situations

The framework method is useful to establish a procedure to help you make decisions in a systematic, and consistent, way. I use a framework when evaluating which Drupal modules to install. I share this checklist with learners and encourage them to adapt it based on their values. (For example: I rank my relationship with the developer very high; but someone who is new to the Drupal community, who does not yet know many people, will need to use other measures in their evaluation.)

Next up: the process model method.

Isolation Method

15 Aug

In this mini-series I’ve been talking about different ways to think about problems. The methods come from Edward DeBono’s book, Teaching Thinking.

Next up is the Isolation Method. With this method we isolate certain obvious and automatic areas so they will get more attention. This method is especially useful at the “start” of thinking. Our goal is to hold the attention on something that is happening naturally, or to draw the attention back to something that was skipped.

The obvious example of this method is using a step-by-step mode in a software development tool. This mode allows the programmer to step through their code as if examining a movie frame-by-frame.break a sequenced progression into its component parts for careful examination

To help learners use this framework we need to identify:

  • situations where items are sequenced
  • ways to stop the progression mid-sequence

The isolation method is useful when you need to figure out how one thing transforms into another through a defined process.

Next up: the framework method.

Apple Boxing Method

13 Aug

In this mini-series I’ve been talking about different ways to think about problems. The methods come from Edward DeBono’s book, Teaching Thinking. So far we’ve covered the North-South method and the Birdwatching method.

Next up is the Apple Sorting Method. With this method we create arbitrary categories to ensure the items are properly examined. Through careful examination we will see other traits and characteristics. The categories themselves are arbitrary. Our real objective is actually careful examination.

For example: my dad has an apple orchard. He uses the apples to make apple wine. Before taking the apples to the press he needs them sorted according to size (“large” and “small”). My niece sits down with a pile of apples and examines each one carefully before putting it into the “large” or “small” pile. While making the piles she finds a number of apples are wormy or have other buggy defects. She puts these apples into a third pile. When she finishes she calls my dad over. Delighted with her sorting, he dumps all the apples into a single large bin and takes them off to be pressed into juice.

What was the point of the piles!?the piles are arbitrary, but force careful examination of each object

If dad had asked the “bad” apples to be rejected, some would have been overlooked, and others (which were perfectly fine) might have been thrown out. By using a secondary classification system (size), he is able to get a nuanced rejection of apples that were “just bad enough” to be neither big nor small.

To help learners use this framework we need to identify:

  • arbitrary classification systems which complement / enforce careful examination (“big” vs. “small”)
  • features that will be intentionally observed as part of the classification (size of the apple relative to the others in the pile)
  • features that are not part of the classification system, but are key to evaluating this type of object (quality of the apple)

The apple sorting method is useful to obtain a careful examination of items. I use the apple sorting method when I ask learners to classify Drupal modules according to the Drupal configuration pillars. Most modules fit into multiple categories, so the learner is forced to examine the module’s traits carefully (thereby learning more about the module) before assigning a category.

This technique is also quite similar to an technique used for for decision making called PMI. Draw up three columns on a sheet of paper and assign the headings: Plus, Minus and Interesting. In the first column write down all the positive results of taking action. In the second column, all of the negative things. In the third column write down the possible outcomes that are neither positive or negative. The column with the most items should help you to decide if you should take the action or not.

Next up: the isolation method.

Birdwatching Method

10 Aug

The next method DeBono describes is the birdwatching method. These method allows us to spot patterns and phenomenons. When using this method we can also frame our observations so that they are merely a different way of being right or wrong. For example: when a learner looks at a situation they may use an entirely different classification system to the one we’d imagined. This tells us something about how they are observing the situation. It doesn’t mean their classification is “wrong”, it simply means they are using different categories than the ones we’ve identified.

Birdwatching method allows you to identify common traits so you can "see" patterns and the generic form of the pattern.For example: You’ve spotted a bird. You classify the bird as being a type of duck, but on further examination, the bird is actually a swan. Does that mean you were wrong? Not really. It just means you’ve identified your bird using the higher order classification of Anatidae, which includes swans, geese and ducks.

To help learners use this framework we need to identify:

  • the desired destination for the classification (swans vs. ducks; not black vs. white)
  • common traits or patterns that can be used for classification (neck length relative to head size; not colour)
  • traits and patterns that are unique within a classification (bird colour can change; body shape must be consistent within a group)

The birdwatching method is useful when we need to judge and classify. Can you think of places where you could establish a simple birdwatching method for your learners? (The obvious one that comes to mind in teaching Drupal: is how to evaluate a new module before installing it; design patterns in software design; or perhaps when debugging code.)

Next up: the apple sorting method.

North-South Method

8 Aug

In his book, Teaching Thinking, Edward DeBono outlined six different methods we can use to direct our attention towards something we might have otherwise missed. Why? Because all teaching is simply a matter of directing the attention of the learner to the piece of the puzzle they need.

North-South is the first method described in the book. In this method you create an external reference system to direct attention towards certain things.

For example: when teaching children to cross a road safely, we give them the external reference system “look both ways before crossing the street”. We don’t tell the child to merely watch out for bikes, cars, trucks, school buses, …. this would be too many things to remember. Instead we give them a framework of places to look. Then we rely on their common sense to react “appropriately” to the inputs they receive.

To help learners use this framework we need to identify:

  • bad outcomes (getting hit by a car)
  • locations where bad outcomes are more likely to occur (where the sidewalk ends, and the road begins)
  • the behaviour that can be applied at which location to reduce or eliminate bad outcomes (when you get to the edge of the sidewalk, look both ways before crossing the road).

The North-South method is useful to stop the learner when the conditions are about to change. Can you think of places where you could establish a simple north-south method for your learners?

Next up: the birdwatching method.

Activity Ideas from Teaching Thinking, Part 1

1 Aug

I have a pretty loose rule in my house about books: when one comes in, one must go out. The book leaving may be one that’s out of date (I have owned a lot of Web-tech books over the years), one that I’ve read and didn’t need to keep as reference; or one that I’ve never read and realize I have no intention of reading.

The incoming books I’m quite excited about, but before I get to them, I needed to pick the outgoing books. Edward DeBono’s Teaching Thinking (buy it used on Amazon) has been on my shelf for a few years. I picked up my copy at a library book sale. It was (obviously) used. Parts of the text had been underlined in pen. Before tossing it in “to go” bin, I flipped through the book with the intention scanning every page to see if there were useful bits I could extract before moving on. I’m delighted I took the time to flip.

The book as a narrative from start to finish didn’t do much for me, but I scribbled a few pages worth of diagrams and notes. The section that caught my interest stated: All teaching is simply a matter of attention-directing. When conducted as activities in the class, all attention-directors are artificial. (I had a hard time processing that second part, but I came to realize this was artificial in the sense of “if I hadn’t artificially drawn the learner’s attention to this point, they wouldn’t have known to be aware of it”.

DeBono highlighted six methods for directing attention:

  1. North-South method. An external reference system to direct attention towards certain things. e.g. consequences, people.
  2. Bird watching method. Spotting patterns and phenomenons. Used to identify different ways of being right, and wrong.
  3. Apple boxing method. Sorting things into categories where the oblique intention of sorting will lead to close examination of the things themselves. Used to examine values and guesses.
  4. Isolation method. Isolate certain obvious + automatic areas so they will get more attention. As at the “start” of thinking.
  5. Framework method. Set up and use a checklist of attention areas which are set up ahead of the situation; each attention area/box is filled in turn from the situation.
  6. Process model method. Directs attention to some basic process as distinct from areas. Setting up models of the process and applying them (analyze vs compare).

After describing the methods, there was a reminder stating: Understanding alone does not lead to use. Use only comes from habit, and habit comes from practice.

It made me think of a recent training I’d conducted. The client had requested a lot of topics be covered. I knew there was no way the learners could gain any kind of mastery over the topics in such a short period of time. I knew I wanted to have more activities to cement at least a few of the core concepts. As I continue to refine my set curriculum I’ll now have a new lens to look at the content: I have a set of defined attention-directors that I can slide in as activities. None of them are particularly revolutionary, but I loved seeing the list of abstracted methods.

Over the next few blog posts I’ll cover each of the methods in a little more detail (along with some of the sample activities that I think will put the methods to best use).


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