29 Mar The Seven Syntopical Steps
There are seven (7) important components to each of the interrelated Great Ideas that animate Confluence Courseware. Here are the seven (7) stages students will go through in each chapter or pedagogic unit to garner a deeper, more analytical, synthetic and evaluative understanding of class materials and to personalize student learning:
- Pre-Learning Reflection
- Syntopical Learning Great Idea
- Core Text Readings
- Online Research
- Project Based Learning: Socratic Discussion or Essay Assignment
- Post-Learning Reflection
- Suggestions for Further Learning
Following is an overview each of the seven (7) components of the interrelated Great Ideas that animate Confluence Courseware:
The first step in the Syntopical Course Guide for each of the interrelated Great Ideas is to give a personal reflection on what thoughts, ideas and emotions students already have in regards to the Great Idea presented. For instance, if the Great Idea of “Eternity” is to organize student learning for a certain chapter, students would begin the chapter by writing a brief paragraph on his or her initial reaction to this idea. There will be a question prompt to reply to, for instance: “Do you believe in the eternity of God? Why or why not?” After writing a brief, personal response to the question students are then encouraged to talk with friends and family about the great idea and garner their reactions to the initial question prompt.
“By this it appears how necessary it is for any man that aspires to true knowledge to examine the definitions of former authors; and either to correct them, where they are negligently set down, or to make them himself.”
Syntopical Learning Great Idea
Now with mind afire from the Pre-Learning Reflection, each chapter then more formally introduces the Great Idea of that chapter to students. Again, for an example, one chapter may be “Eternity” and a short essay and a few quotations from important philosophers, social scientists, artists, historians, professors, scientists, mathematicians and authors will give students an idea of how broad the possible avenues of exploration are for each Great Idea. For instance, students might be introduced to Aristotle’s idea that eternity proceeds time or students might hear a quotation from Sir Isaac Newton about the imperishability of the physical world of matter and, thus, its eternity.
Core Text Readings
Once students have personally reacted to a chapter’s Great Idea in the Pre-Learning Reflection and have been exposed to some major positions from important philosophers, social scientists, artists, historians, professors, scientists, mathematicians and authors vis-à-vis the Great Idea in the Syntopical Learning Great Idea section, students will be assigned a few, short core text readings that help to further deepen their understanding of the Great Idea being explored in each chapter. In general, these readings are of fundamental importance to understanding the Great Idea and how it relates to the course content.
The fourth section in the Syntopical Course Guide for each of the interrelated Great Ideas is Online Research. After students’ initial reaction to the Great Idea, students are formally introduced to readings concerning the Great Idea and will then be asked to do a small amount of online research as it relates to great works that comment or expand upon the Great Idea. Often times, this includes streaming video lectures from professors at eminent universities, visiting an online museum or relating the content from a Great Idea to the world today. In many cases, this short Online Research component will help students with discussions (formal or informal) or essays, which are the next step in the syntopical learning process.
Project Based Learning: Socratic Discussion or Essay Assignment
The next section in the Syntopical Course Guide for each of the interrelated Great Ideas is the student’s opportunity to apply what he or she has learned so far about their own preconceptions about a Great Idea and after learning more about the nuances of a Great Idea through an introduction and further reading and research. In order to apply what students have learned, they will be asked to participate in either a formal Socratic discussion or write an essay.
Socratic discussions (whether online or in-class) will follow a specific format including:
- responding to a question prompt,
- finding textual evidence to supports a claim,
- explaining what students have learned, and
- finding new evidence to support what students have learned.
Essays will also have a specific format that includes crafting a thesis statement as a direct response to a question prompt and the written analysis of primary works of art, architecture, music, literature, philosophy, religious texts to prove your thesis.
The sixth section in the Syntopical Course Guide for each of the interrelated Great Ideas is a repetition of the first step, where students gave a personal reflection on what thoughts, ideas and emotions they already have in regards to the Great Idea presented. For instance, if the Great Idea of “Eternity” is to organize learning for a certain chapter, students began the chapter by writing a brief paragraph on their initial reactions to this idea.
Now, in the sixth step, there will be a repetition of the same question prompt to reply to, for instance: “Do you believe in the eternity of God? Why or why not?” Of course, this time students will focus on what they have learned, why they have changed their minds or in what ways they have refined their thinking on the subject.
Here students will discover how thinking has “shifted” based upon evidence and perspectives students have now been exposed to in the courseware, or how students have solidified opinions based on what they have learned. This is the most important phase of learning for the personalization and internalization of knowledge acquisition and the pursuit of wisdom.
Suggestions for Further Learning
The seventh and last section in the Syntopical Course Guide for each of the interrelated Great Ideas is a brief overview of places students may seek additional resources as they relate to the Great Idea of the chapter. This additional information is often helpful as students prepare either a class presentation, an extra credit report or to study more in-depth for the course final examination.