The following is the blurb for one of the many presentations Dennis and I
made and will serve as a brief overview of the sort of work we were doing.
24TH NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON ISSUES IN TEACHING AND LEARNING
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
EXPLORING COGNITIVE COMPLEXITY IN BASIC SURVEY COURSES:
IMPLICATIONS FOR COURSE DESIGN AND TEACHING STRATEGIES
Dennis Duginske and Gregory Singleton
Northeastern Illinois University
Dennis Duginske received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago
and has been a therapist and teaching faculty member at
Northeastern Illinois University since 1973. Prior to that he was
a special education teacher at both the elementary and secondary
levels at a variety of institutions ranging from a reformatory
school to the University of Chicago Lab and Orthogenic schools.
Gregory Singleton received his Ph.D. from UCLA. He has been on the
faculties of Northwestern University and Memphis State University.
He has been in the Department of History at Northeastern Illinois
University since 1972. He has published widely in the area of the
social history of religion in the U. S.
We will make a brief orienting presentation, then involve the
participants in interactive work with an instrument to assess
levels of cognitive complexity, then proceed to a general workshop
on course design considerations and teaching strategies.
Students come to a basic survey course with a wide variety of life
experiences and cultural backgrounds, and there is a vast
literature on addressing these differences in undergraduate
teaching. Equally important is the wide range of levels of at
which they process information. Usually we don't have a grasp of
that diversity until the end of the course. Over the past decade
the presenters have used an adaptation of the Loevinger Sentence
Completion test at the beginning of the basic U. S. History survey
course to discover this range. The results have had a profound
affect on the design and execution of this course. In this session
we will simulate the experience of the first class session and we
will jointly explore the implications for design and strategy.
The two presenters have been colleagues for twenty years. Early in their
collegial relationship they discussed quite different but
related problems. Duginske was concerned about the problem of ego
development among traditional college-age youth at a commuter
university. Singleton was concerned about the difficulty students
were having in going beyond memorization of facts and dates to
analysis and interpretation. Duginske was engaged in research on
his problem using, among other instruments, the Sentence Completion
Test developed by Jane Loevinger at Washington University.
Duginske and Singleton adapted the inventory for specific
application at the beginning of the survey course.
Over the last decade we have used this instrument (with periodic
revisions) to gain some understanding of the levels and range of
cognitive complexity (from simple dichotomous thinking to
integration of complex and often paradoxical ideas) we find in a
given class. Singleton receives no information about an individual
student, but does receive a general profile for the course. As a
result, he has developed a flexible general syllabus that becomes
more specific after the profile has been generated. Duginske
returns the scored instruments to the students during the second
week of class and presents a lecture/discussion on levels of
cognitive complexity and intellectual development. As a result
students quickly grasp the conceptual components of the course and
realize that U. S. History is merely the subject matter for the
course. Conceptualization is the real topic.
We will present a summary of our experiences to date and involve
the participants in a simulation of the initial class experience.
We will then move to a workshop on course design and teaching
If these considerations interest you, please write to
. I will
respond to requests for additional information, and will be grateful for
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