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They develop enterprising behaviours and capabilities to imagine possibilities, consider alternatives, test hypotheses, and seek and create innovative solutions, and think creatively about the impact of issues on their own lives and the lives of others. In the Australian Curriculum: History, critical thinking is essential to the historical inquiry process because it requires the ability to question sources, interpret the past from incomplete documentation, develop an argument using evidence, and assess reliability when selecting information from resources.

Creative thinking is important in developing new interpretations to explain aspects of the past that are contested or not well understood. In the Australian Curriculum: Geography, students develop critical and creative thinking as they investigate geographical information, concepts and ideas through inquiry-based learning. They develop and practise critical and creative thinking by using strategies that help them think logically when evaluating and using evidence, testing explanations, analysing arguments and making decisions, and when thinking deeply about questions that do not have straightforward answers.

Students learn the value and process of developing creative questions and the importance of speculation. Students are encouraged to be curious and imaginative in investigations and fieldwork.

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The geography curriculum also stimulates students to think creatively about the ways that the places and spaces they use might be better designed, and about possible, probable and preferable futures. They learn to apply decision-making processes and use strategies to negotiate and resolve differences. Students develop critical and creative thinking through the examination of political, legal and social issues that do not have obvious or straightforward answers and that require problem-solving and innovative solutions.

Students consider multiple perspectives and alternatives, think creatively about appropriate courses of action and develop plans for action. The Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship stimulates students to think creatively about the impact of civic issues on their own lives and the lives of others, and to consider how these issues might be addressed. In the Australian Curriculum: The Arts, critical and creative thinking is integral to making and responding to artworks.

In creating artworks, students draw on their curiosity, imagination and thinking skills to pose questions and explore ideas, spaces, materials and technologies. They consider possibilities and make choices that assist them to take risks and express their ideas, concepts, thoughts and feelings creatively. They consider and analyse the motivations, intentions and possible influencing factors and biases that may be evident in artworks they make to which they respond. They offer and receive effective feedback about past and present artworks and performances, and communicate and share their thinking, visualisation and innovations to a variety of audiences.

In the Australian Curriculum: Technologies, students develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they imagine, generate, develop and critically evaluate ideas.

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They develop reasoning and the capacity for abstraction through challenging problems that do not have straightforward solutions. Students analyse problems, refine concepts and reflect on the decision-making process by engaging in systems, design and computational thinking. They identify, explore and clarify technologies information and use that knowledge in a range of situations.

Students think critically and creatively about possible, probable and preferred futures. They consider how data, information, systems, materials, tools and equipment past and present impact on our lives, and how these elements might be better designed and managed. Experimenting, drawing, modelling, designing and working with digital tools, equipment and software helps students to build their visual and spatial thinking and to create solutions, products, services and environments.

In the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education HPE , students develop their ability to think logically, critically and creatively in response to a range of health and physical education issues, ideas and challenges. They learn how to critically evaluate evidence related to the learning area and the broad range of associated media and other messages to creatively generate and explore original alternatives and possibilities.

The Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education also provides learning opportunities that support creative thinking through dance making, games creation and technique refinement. Including a critical inquiry approach is one of the five propositions that have shaped the HPE curriculum. Critical and creative thinking are essential to developing analytical and evaluative skills and understandings in the Australian Curriculum: English.

Students use critical and creative thinking through listening to, reading, viewing, creating and presenting texts, interacting with others, and when they recreate and experiment with literature, and discuss the aesthetic or social value of texts. Through close analysis of text and through reading, viewing and listening, students critically analyse the opinions, points of view and unstated assumptions embedded in texts.

In discussion, students develop critical thinking as they share personal responses and express preferences for specific texts, state and justify their points of view and respond to the views of others. In creating their own written, visual and multimodal texts, students also explore the influence or impact of subjective language, feeling and opinion on the interpretation of text. Students also use and develop their creative thinking capability when they consider the innovations made by authors, imagine possibilities, plan, explore and create ideas for imaginative texts based on real or imagined events.

Students explore the creative possibilities of the English language to represent novel ideas. Learning in the Australian Curriculum: Languages enables students to interact with people and ideas from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, which enhances critical thinking and reflection, and encourages creative, divergent and imaginative thinking. By learning to notice, connect, compare and analyse aspects of the target language, students develop critical, analytical and problem-solving skills.

In the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, students develop critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, ideas and possibilities, and use them when seeking solutions. Engaging students in reasoning and thinking about solutions to problems and the strategies needed to find these solutions are core parts of the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics. Students are encouraged to be critical thinkers when justifying their choice of a calculation strategy or identifying relevant questions during a statistical investigation.

They are encouraged to look for alternative ways to approach mathematical problems; for example, identifying when a problem is similar to a previous one, drawing diagrams or simplifying a problem to control some variables. In the Australian Curriculum: Science, students develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, ideas and possibilities, and use them when seeking new pathways or solutions.

In the science learning area, critical and creative thinking are embedded in the skills of posing questions, making predictions, speculating, solving problems through investigation, making evidence-based decisions, and analysing and evaluating evidence.

Inquiry-based learning

Students develop understandings of concepts through active inquiry that involves planning and selecting appropriate information, evaluating sources of information to formulate conclusions and to critically reflect on their own and the collective process. Creative thinking enables the development of ideas that are new to the individual, and this is intrinsic to the development of scientific understanding.

Scientific inquiry promotes critical and creative thinking by encouraging flexibility and open-mindedness as students speculate about their observations of the world and the ability to use and design new processes to achieve this. In the Australian Curriculum: Work Studies, Years 9—10, students develop an ability to think logically, critically and creatively in relation to concepts of work and workplaces contexts. These capabilities are developed through an emphasis on critical thinking processes that encourage students to question assumptions and empower them to create their own understanding of work and personal and workplace learning.

Students also learn to respond to strategic and problem-based challenges using creative thinking. For example, a student could evaluate possible job scenarios based on local labour market data and personal capabilities. Critical and Creative Thinking. Inquiring — identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas. This element involves students developing inquiry skills. In developing and acting with critical and creative thinking, students: pose questions identify and clarify information and ideas organise and process information. Learning Continuum. Generating ideas, possibilities and actions.

In developing and acting with critical and creative thinking, students: imagine possibilities and connect ideas consider alternatives seek solutions and put ideas into action. Reflecting on thinking and processes. In developing and acting with critical and creative thinking, students: think about thinking metacognition reflect on processes transfer knowledge into new contexts.

Analysing, synthesising and evaluating reasoning and procedures. In developing and acting with critical and creative thinking, students: apply logic and reasoning draw conclusions and design a course of action evaluate procedures and outcomes. Critical and Creative Thinking in the learning areas. In an effort to advance reasoning and higher-order cognitive skills, research suggests explicit instruction may be beneficial Pearson and Dole, ; Rosenshine and Meister, ; Alfasi, ; Alvermann, ; Phelps, ; Fletcher et al.

Reduced reasoning competence is elevated in students from low socioeconomic status SES families McNeil, Low SES has been associated with increased vulnerability of frontal lobe development Kishiyama et al. The alarming dropout rates have motivated educators and cognitive neuroscientists to seek evidence-based studies driven by theoretical models to better evaluate practices that purportedly enhance reasoning and learning potential in the classroom.

In the present pilot study, we focus on gist-reasoning, a form of developmentally advanced reasoning that is pivotal to new learning as defined by Brainerd and Reyna andReyna and Brainerd in their fuzzy trace model. According to fuzzy trace theory, new learning results in two forms of memory: verbatim and gist Reyna, Memory at a verbatim level is represented by the explicit facts or concrete details.

In contrast, gist-memory involves assimilating and interpreting incoming information at a generalized level of meaning. For example, in explaining what a student learned from a lesson, he or she could respond in one of two ways Lloyd and Reyna, At a rote fact-learning level, the student conveys a listing or retelling of literal information, reproducing predominately the surface level meaning. At a gist-level, new information is integrated with previous knowledge to construct and abstract meaning, involving a process called gist-based reasoning Chapman et al.

Reyna and Brainerd and Brainerd and Reyna have synthesized extant empirical evidence supporting a theoretical basis that these two levels of memory, i. According to their dual process fuzzy trace model, gist-memory, and precise memory for explicit facts operate independently. Regarding real-life school performance, the verbatim—gist distinction indicates there is not a direct correspondence between the two types of memory, such that an individual who has high memory for factual information may not necessarily have strong gist-reasoning skills.

This dissociation between verbatim and gist appears to be counter to previously held notions derived from information processing theory which would predict that increased memory and higher-order cognitive skills, such as gist-reasoning would be linked LaBerge and Samuels, More recently, Reyna has proposed that when a relationship does exist between these two types of memory, it is more likely that gist-reasoning will shape the content of verbatim memory than vice versa, taking a more top-down processing, constructivism view.

The empirical evidence suggests that an individual with higher gist-reasoning skills may demonstrate increased memory for details than an individual with lower gist-reasoning. In this model, verbatim memory is subordinated to gist-reasoning. The task of summarization provides an informative way to characterize whether a student spontaneously uses verbatim fact-learning or gist-reasoning to condense information by abstracting meaning Brown and Day, ; Brown et al.

For example, when asked to summarize a text, a student may spontaneously: 1 produce a summary by constructing global gist concepts, that condense and abstract meaning indicative of a top-down process or 2 produce a summary in a condensed verbatim fact-based version indicative of a bottom-up approach reflective of rote surface level learning Chapman et al. The condensed, verbatim form of summary may reflect an ability to select the most important facts in a hierarchical manner, but not the ability to go beyond the surface level meaning Chapman et al. The distinction between these two summary forms is relevant to previous research focused on training summarization through hierarchical information structure Taylor and Beach, or concept mapping i.

Whereas the fuzzy trace model states that gist-reasoning may involve various levels of abstraction Reyna, , , we focus on a specific form of gist, namely gist-reasoning that evokes a deep level of meaning. Thus, we extend the construct of gist-reasoning as described by Brainerd and Reyna , andReyna and Brainerd to focus on a deeper level of meaning derived from complex information.

As such, we conceptualize gist-reasoning at an abstracted level of meaning whereby ideas are combined over large sections of text through top-down cognitive processes Chapman et al. We propose that in order to produce abstracted gist meanings, one must first synthesize pertinent facts within the context of world knowledge and deduce the deeper implication of the information. Corroborating a distinction between fact-learning and gist-reasoning, we found empirical evidence of a disparity between fact-learning and gist-reasoning of text-based information in pediatric populations using the TOSL Chapman et al.

We briefly summarize some of our findings regarding gist-reasoning and fact-learning that motivate the present study. Children and adolescents with traumatic brain injury TBI; Chapman et al. In separate empirical studies, we found a dissociation between fact-learning and gist-reasoning skills in both students with TBI and those with ADHD Chapman et al. The TBI populations across studies showed comparable performance on fact-learning tasks as compared to typically developing control groups.

In contrast, we found a significantly lower performance on gist-reasoning as compared to typically developing control groups Chapman et al. The pattern of relatively intact fact-learning indicates that youth with TBI recover the ability to encode details at a level comparable to typically developing adolescents. Moreover, in a longitudinal study of recovery from TBI, we found the ability to abstract gist meanings from text stalls and fails to show improvement when measured at intervals three years and longer after TBI. We described this delay as a neurocognitive stall in developing gist-reasoning Chapman et al.

Disruptions in frontal neural networks after TBI supporting higher-order reasoning have been implicated as a contributing factor Levin et al. Similarly, we found students with ADHD demonstrated impaired ability to produce gist meanings, whereas memory for facts was comparable to typical students Gamino et al. We postulated that the discrepancy between reduced performance of gist-reasoning and comparable performance of fact-learning is likely a result of the vulnerability of executive control that entails top-down processes found to be compromised in disorders such as ADHD.

The history of science and the history of the scientific disciplines

These findings motivated the question regarding the potential to mitigate or prevent impaired gist-reasoning in different groups through short-term intensive cognitive strategy training. For the purposes of this article we define top-down processing as the ability to spontaneously synthesize numerous details with prior knowledge to facilitate gist-reasoning.

We define bottom-up processing as verbatim or paraphrased retell or recall of information without evidence of gist-reasoning. SMART is an intensive, 9—10 session program conducted over a 4-week period that specifically trains hierarchical cognitive strategies that support higher-order abstraction of meaning from incoming details and world knowledge.

Thus, the training does not teach specific content for a test, but rather trains students to efficiently apply strategies to extract synthesized meanings from a wide variety of texts. At baseline testing, both groups performed similarly on gist-reasoning measures. After the training sessions concluded, children who participated in the SMART program significantly improved their gist-reasoning performance, whereas participants from the behavioral attention training did not.

Previous investigations have explored the effects of teaching higher-order thinking skills through summarization-type activities to improve learning in typically developing students Brown et al. The existing evidence supports a view that strategy-based training improves learning, but the best metric remains unclear for measuring change. In fact, in Rosenshine and Meister's review of 16 studies addressing reciprocal teaching, they reported that significant differences between students receiving reciprocal teaching only and those who received explicit instruction prior to reciprocal teaching varied as a function of the type of assessment used.

The results were typically significant when experimenter tests were administered and non-significant when standardized tests were used. While a number of more recent cognitive strategy studies have shown similar results using both types of measures to assess the impact of different reasoning strategies on student's ability to summarize information, predict outcomes; monitor comprehension, and apply gist-reasoning, the measures do not allow for the isolation of reasoning difficulties due to a lack of memory for specific events, difficulties due to an impairment in extracting synthesized meaning from complex text gist , or both see Alfasi, ; McMaster et al.

It is unclear from previous studies if gains are greater for top-down compared to a bottom-up training protocol focused on fact-learning. Taylor and Beach compared the effect of training summarization skills based upon hierarchical information structure i. The effect of the training protocols was measured, through responses to short answer probes, and an overall rating of quality in written expression. Results of their study revealed that both types of training i. Also, both training types showed gains in the ability to recall information when writing as much as one could remember from a text about a relatively familiar topic.

The hierarchical summary training group showed greater gains when compared to the control group on the recall of facts from an unfamiliar text and on quality of written expression, but not when compared to the question-answer practice group. The researchers concluded that text structure training can improve both recall of unfamiliar texts and quality of writing; however limited learning benefits were found between training hierarchical summarization and training question answering.

The failure to find differences between the two training protocols may be due to the fact that both focused on the explicit important and supporting details, with one elicited through summarization and the other through probe questions. In a related but different approach from that of Taylor and Beach , Chang et al. Fact-learning was measured via multiple-choice questions and summarization efficiency with the latter measured by dividing the number of major idea units by the total word count.

The concept map-correction group showed significant improvements in fact-learning when compared to the concept map-generation and control groups. The scaffold-fading group showed higher performance on the summarization efficiency measure than the other training groups. Neither of the concept-mapping protocols appeared to mutually benefit both fact-learning and summarization skills on the employed metrics. Additionally, it is not clear if the metric of summarization efficiency corresponds to abstraction of meaning and higher-order thinking Ulatowska and Chapman, Palincsar and Brown published one of the first investigations of reciprocal teaching.

In an elaborate study, the investigators incorporated summarizing strategies amidst reciprocal teaching for seventh and eighth grade students over the course of 20 training sessions. Reciprocal teaching involves trainers and students taking turns leading a discussion on the text's meaning. As above, the summarization training in this study entailed condensing the information to include predominantly explicitly stated information with a topic sentence that was either overtly stated or, if not present, constructed by the student with the inclusion of supporting facts. Beyond summarization, reciprocal teaching also incorporates questioning, clarifying, and predicting activities.

Not only did Palincsar and Brown examine delivery of the training in student dyads, but they also tested the ability to train classroom teachers to deliver the reciprocal teaching intervention in a classroom setting. The researchers found the summarizing task the most helpful activity, demonstrating benefits in comprehension, maintenance of trained skills up to eight weeks post-training, and transfer to classroom learning.

The investigators note that it was unclear whether the benefits were due largely to the reciprocal teaching approach, a single summarization strategy, or all were required to attain these benefits. Other researchers have conducted additional investigations of the efficacy of reciprocal teaching finding mostly significant results on experimental measures, with standardized measures showing less sensitivity to improvement see Rosenstine and Meister, for review.

Additional evidence that summarization training may enhance learning is reported for students with learning disabilities Malone and Mastropieri, In this study, summarization was trained in a method parallel to that described above by Taylor and Beach wherein the students were trained to write a summary sentence that represented who or what each paragraph was about by including the supporting core facts. An additional training condition consisted of summarization combined with self-monitoring through a check list of questions.


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Both of these training conditions were compared to a traditional instruction group where participants read the texts and answered fact-based questions. Both summarization training conditions achieved significantly higher levels of recall for specific information when immediately probed as compared to the traditional approach. The summarization training results also generalized to untrained material from a social studies text.

However, the impact of the training protocols on higher-order thinking or reasoning was not directly addressed. The previous theoretical and empirical data Brown et al. The aforementioned studies examining or training summarization skills as well as others, indicate promise for enhancing learning ability Brown et al.

The current study expands previous studies by investigating the efficacy of top-down meaning abstraction training versus bottom-up rote memory training on enhanced performance of gist-reasoning and fact-learning in a group of inner-city eighth grade public school students, most of whom spoke English as their second language. Our study encompassed average students from low socio-economic families of largely Hispanic descent who were randomized into either a training group or a control group. The control group provided evidence for the efficacy of increased, affirmative adult interaction on performance.

While summarizing skills were not directly taught to our training groups, we used summarization and directed probe questions to determine the efficacy of our cognitive training. The current pilot study elaborates previous work by proposing and testing a metric of summarization using the construct of gist-reasoning that measures abstracted ideas that are not explicitly stated. To restate, gist-reasoning is the ability to derive global meaning from explicit details, entailing frontally mediated, top-down cognitive control processes. We propose that gist-reasoning operates independently from and is superior to rote fact-learning.

Although gist-reasoning can operate independently from fact-learning one goal in the current study was to explore whether training strategies to abstract meaning benefit both recall of facts and gist-reasoning ability, as set forth in Reyna's fuzzy trace theory of a superiority of gist over fact memory , The present study was a randomized, controlled cognitive training trial. The primary goal was to compare the effects of two forms of training in a group of public middle school eighth grade students from low SES families of predominantly Hispanic descent: 1 Strategic Memory and Reasoning Training and 2 rote memory training.

In addition, we employed a control group to mitigate the influence of adult attention and interaction. We evaluated the effect of the two training protocols that used the same content and a control group on three tasks; a a measure of gist-reasoning ability, b a measure of direct recall of information from a text, and c a standardized measure of reading achievement. Another important goal of the study was to test the bidirectional impact of the two forms of training as compared with the control group.

Specifically, we examined the impact of SMART and rote memory training on the ability to improve gist-reasoning and recall of facts. A final goal was to compare gist-reasoning versus fact-based recall ability after training between Spanish and English in a subset of students for whom Spanish was the primary language spoken at home. The students were recruited for this study by their teacher and through a letter to parents.

The parents of the adolescents in the study signed informed consent and the students signed informed assent agreements as required by the University of Texas at Dallas Institutional Review Board for the protection of human participants. Parents of the students provided background information regarding household income, the adolescent's health status, and any diagnosis of learning disabilities.

A Brief History of the Idea of Critical Thinking

Based on the health status questionnaires, no student was reported to have sustained a brain injury, a diagnosis of ADHD, or other learning deficits. Six students had repeated a grade, and one child was reported as having been in a special education class previously. The COGAT is a norm-referenced standardized measure of cognitive abilities that are purported to be acquired through school and other environments.

The cognitive abilities measured by the COGAT are related to successful academic achievement and were most recently normed in Two reasoning measures verbal and non-verbal were used to determine whether the students who participated in the study fell within the typical range of cognitive development. The standardized scaled scores for the two administered subsections were used as an indicator of general cognitive ability and to control for the confound of atypical development.

The COGAT was administered and scored according to the instructions in the manual provided by the publisher. The median percentile rank for the verbal and non-verbal composite was Baseline measures were assessed 1 week prior to the commencement of the training programs. The TOSL assessment tool provides a systematic method to evaluate developmental reasoning skills, in terms of both fact-learning and higher-order gist-reasoning of lengthy text-based information much like that encountered in a classroom setting Chapman et al.

The validity of the TOSL to measure higher-order thinking skills in general, and gist-reasoning ability in particular, has been established in prior studies Brookshire et al. Gist-reasoning ability as measured by the TOSL has been associated with frontally mediated measures of executive function such as working memory, cognitive switching, and fluid reasoning Brookshire et al. No known standardized measure of abstraction of meaning for complex texts exists.

The TOSL provides two major scores relevant to measuring the ability to construct meaning from complex information. Gist-reasoning is measured through coding abstracted concepts conveyed through summarization of text-based information. Fact-learning is measured through recall via probe questions that require short answers regarding detail information from the text. The students were assessed as a group in their classrooms using the TOSL. The assessment was completed during a min class period.

The TOSL consists of three texts to be summarized through written response. Following the summarization task, probe questions regarding information from the original text were administered. The students were instructed regarding the qualities of a good summary. Specifically, they were told that a summary a is a shortened version of the original text, b conveys high level ideas while omitting unimportant details c is well-organized, and d contains enough information so that someone who had not read the information would have a good understanding of the global meanings conveyed in the original text.

Following the instructions and example of a good summary, the first of three texts were presented orally and in written form for the students. Thus, each text was read out loud by the examiner while the text was simultaneously shown on a screen at the front of the classroom through an LCD projector to allow the students to read along as the examiner read. After reading, the displayed text was removed and the students were reminded that they did not have to give all the details but rather they needed to give a generalized summary that included high level ideas to show they were able to interpret the overall meanings conveyed through the text.

The same methodology was followed for three texts and the corresponding questions. The controlled time for each portion of the TOSL allowed comparable time for each student and completion of the assessment during one classroom period. The students were reassessed with the TOSL in the same manner 2 weeks after the conclusion of the 4-week training programs. For the summary gist-reasoning score, a checklist scoring system was established from a normative sample in which one point is awarded for each accurate gist-based concept produced during summarization.

The cumulative total score possible for gist-based reasoning across the three texts was The rubric of 35 abstracted ideas across the three texts provides more accurate reliability between scorers, and was developed from data collected from previous studies. For the fact-learning scores, the written answers to the probe questions regarding the important information from the text were awarded 0, 1, or 2 points depending upon correctness and completeness of the answer.

The cumulative score possible for fact-learning questions across the three texts was Two trained raters scored each summary independently and were blinded to the group. Point-by-point reliability between the two raters was The corresponding questions had a maximum possible score of 16 for each text. We used an identical method of administration and scoring for a subset of 25 students in the study whose families spoke predominantly Spanish at home. The students who agreed to take the additional TOSL in Spanish had participated in each of the three training groups.


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Six students from the SMART group, 12 students from the rote memory strategies group, and eight students from the control group participated in this secondary testing. The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills TAKS; Pearson Educational Measurement, is a state-mandated standardized test used in Texas primary and secondary schools to assess basic skill attainment in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. The TAKS reading test was administered by classroom teachers, as required by Texas law, and coincided with the conclusion of the training programs.

The groups included 1 the SMART program, 2 a rote memory strategy program, and 3 a control group that learned information about the teen brain. There were 10 girls and 8 boys in each group. Neither the educator of the classes nor the students knew which group was one of the two training groups versus the control group. The three programs were conducted by three trained researchers in separate classrooms to avoid cross-contamination between the groups of the content of the programs.

Two weeks after the conclusion of the training programs, the students were reassessed with the TOSL, using the same procedure for assessment as mentioned above. The students also completed the state-mandated TAKS reading test three weeks after the training programs. The middle school students were trained using this strategy-based program.

The strategies include inhibition of extraneous information, inferencing, paraphrasing, and abstracting ideas through reasoning Brown et al. Through practice, the students learned to strategically select relevant information in order to abstract and construct meaning through top-down processing extensively during the last four sessions of the training. Thus, the students learned to interpret and abstract meanings in the context of their own world knowledge see Strategic Memory and Reasoning Training Stages and Sequence in Appendix for description.

The texts used in the program were similar to content that is typically encountered in English, literature, social studies, history, and science texts. The strategies taught over the course of 4 weeks are postulated to bolster cognitive processes that underpin reasoning and higher-order abstraction of meaning Brown et al. The rote memory training program is based on cognitive neuroscience research related to the basic properties of bottom-up memory processes.

The materials used for the rote memory training imitated the SMART program in the use of the same texts and the presentation of activities in a student manual. The program was conducted using the same parameters as the SMART program, utilizing nine classroom sessions over the course of 4 weeks. The rote memory training program institutes direct instruction regarding basic memory strategies as well as the opportunity to practice the processes that extant research has established as important for improvement of memorization techniques.

The memory strategies presented and practiced with pen and paper tasks include rehearsal Cox et al. Students practice using memory aids such as mnemonics, visualization Marschark and Surian, , and flash cards. Through practice, the students were expected to learn to use rote memorization strategies for verbatim recall of facts. The teen brain information program is based on cognitive neuroscience research related to adolescent brain development Giedd et al.

The informational program is similar in presentation to the treatment programs with the incorporation of pen and paper exercises and activities included in a student manual. Likewise, the teen brain program encompasses nine classroom sessions over a 4-week period.

The program includes adolescent-appropriate subjects regarding aspects of healthy brain development such as nutrition, adequate sleep, and physical fitness; as well as dealing with peer pressure; the negative effects of drugs, such as tobacco, alcohol, and illicit pharmaceuticals; and the risk of brain injury. Additionally, the program teaches the importance of managing stress, engaging in mental exercise, and prioritizing important life aspects i. The students learn the names and functions of various lobes of the brain and their functions.

In addition, the students discuss various problems encountered in adolescence such as balancing parental and school expectations with peer relationships, as well as other salient subjects such as stress reduction. Post-training we used within group t -tests and post hoc Bonferroni adjustments to account for multiple tests to determine the significance of change scores within each group. Alpha was set at 0.

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The scores were then analyzed to determine if there were statistically significant group differences prior to training in the ability to produce gist-based concepts or answer probe questions regarding important information from the text. Thus, the three groups were found to be equally matched for age, gender, gist-reasoning, fact-learning, and cognitive abilities prior to training. Pearson correlations were performed to determine the relation between baseline gist-reasoning scores from the TOSL and the COGAT composite verbal and non-verbal scores. To test the hypotheses that gist-reasoning scores would change between baseline and post-intervention assessments, a paired t -test for each group was performed, and post hoc Bonferroni adjustments were made; adjusted p -values are reported.

Changes in gist-reasoning scores after training programs for each group. To determine the differences between the groups on gist-reasoning ability post-training, a repeated measures ANOVA and Tukey multiple comparisons were performed. The analysis failed to find a significant interaction between group and time of assessment i. To test the hypothesis that fact-learning scores would change from baseline to post-intervention in the SMART group and the rote memory training group, we performed paired t -tests for each group with post hoc Bonferroni adjusted p -values reported.

Changes in fact-learning scores after training for each group. To determine the effect of group in fact-learning ability post-training, a repeated measures ANOVA and Tukey multiple comparisons were performed. The Tukey multiple comparisons indicated no significant differences between any of the groups.

Analysis of the data sample failed to indicate a significant difference from seventh pre-training to eighth grade post-training on TAKS reading scaled scores across the three training groups. Positive correlation between gist-reasoning scores and TAKS critical thinking objective. To evaluate whether reasoning ability in English would be comparable to reasoning ability in Spanish, 25 of the students who primarily spoke predominately Spanish at home were assessed using the Spanish TOSL.

This randomized pilot study conducted in an inner-city public middle school examined the potential benefits of a training program focused on instruction of higher-order cognitive strategies that support abstraction of meaning versus a rote memory training program. Few studies have specifically investigated gist-reasoning skills and the efficacy of subsequent training of a top-down cognitive strategy program compared against a bottom-up, rote memory training program in a randomized group of minority public school adolescents.

The effects of the top-down cognitive strategy program, SMART were compared against a bottom-up, rote memory training program and an equally engaging program that provided educational information about adolescent brain health. Training was equated across conditions such that all groups had the same number of sessions, participants, curriculum appearance, and were informed that the activities would help them with their school performance.

Four important contributions of this training study are discussed, followed by the study's limitations which motivate and refine future investigations. The contributions of this research relate to 1 the potential advantage of teaching eighth grade students higher-order cognitive strategies that are theorized to support top-down processing to abstract meaning van Dijk and Kintsch, ; Reyna and Brainerd, , 2 the transfer effects of reasoning training to untrained areas, including within group fact-learning scores and a school-based measure of reading aptitude, 3 the ability to effect change in one of the most vulnerable demographic groups of middle school students in terms of risk for school failure and drop-out, i.

The adolescents who were trained in SMART demonstrated significantly higher post-training scores as compared to baseline performances on the measure of constructing higher-order, gist-based meanings. In contrast, neither the rote memory training group nor the control group demonstrated a significant improvement in gist-reasoning.

Our findings suggest that a program that trains higher-level cognitive strategies has the potential to improve gist-reasoning ability and may be a promising way to promote deeper level understanding and transfer of knowledge than one focused on how many facts one learns by rote.

The present results confirm and extend earlier work by other research teams Brown et al. Taylor and Beach , in particular, focused on instructing typically developing seventh graders to organize explicitly stated information according to superordinate and subordinate ideas as compared to learning facts without hierarchical parsing of the information.

Similar to our results, these researchers used summarization as a metric to show enhanced learning gains. Our paradigm extended their approach by exploring the ability to train students to derive meaning that went beyond the most important stated facts. In particular, the SMART program trained the students to abstract novel meanings that were not explicitly stated in the text. The ability to process abstracted meaning has been associated with cognitive measures of executive control and frontally activated neural networks Chapman et al.

In contrast to Taylor and Beach's method, we found that training abstraction of meaning was superior to training rote memory as it benefited both gist-reasoning and fact-learning within the SMART group. Our finding that the meaning abstraction training demonstrated a within group transfer effect to the ability to recall important information is similar to Brainerd and Reyna's ; Reyna, theory that gist-reasoning shapes memory for details.

Specifically, the transfer effect found within the SMART group provides empirical evidence that gist-reasoning ability may influence the ability to learn facts from a text, a crucial aspect of academic success. In contrast, the fact-learning group showed significant improvement within group only for retention of information from a text, as indicated by increased scores for correctly answering probe questions, but showed little improvement of gist-reasoning ability.

This finding corroborates evidence of a positive effect of explicit instruction for learning important facts especially when identifying the most important ideas Brown et al. However, in our study the bottom-up approach to learning did not significantly improve spontaneous gist-reasoning production during summarization. Moreover, the control group failed to demonstrate significant changes within the group in either gist-reasoning ability or recall of important information.

In recent years, there have been renewed calls to train students to think about information thoroughly in order to produce deeper understanding and abstraction of meaning to support superior critical thinking rather than train students to primarily learn facts by rote Kaminski et al.

The current findings corroborate this belief. Earlier studies did not examine a superiority of training abstraction of meaning as a window to enhance fact-learning. Nonetheless, they laid the foundation for the current study by revealing improved performances when strategies such as hierarchically parsing information Taylor and Beach, , concept mapping Chang et al.

Thus, our current study employed a new metric from those previously used to measure summarization skills, namely gist-reasoning through abstraction of meaning. The present results of a generalization of gist-reasoning skills suggest an advantage to teaching students strategies that support abstraction of meaning and corroborate a similar pattern found in teaching math to college students Kaminski et al.

Specifically, Kaminski et al. They also reported greater transfer of knowledge to novel and complex contexts when students were taught to understand math conceptually. Similarly, Schwartz et al.

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We postulate that this finding provides evidence that teaching cognitive strategies that support higher-order processing may benefit academic performance. While the TAKS reading scaled scores increased between seventh and eighth grades for our cohort of students, there are potentially many factors that contributed to the improvement. Nevertheless, the students in the SMART group all passed the reading portion of the TAKS and 7 of those students received commended scores in the eighth grade, compared to 3 students who received commended students in the previous year.

The present findings have implications that go beyond the promising results of achieving significant cognitive effects after less than nine hours of training over a one-month interval. Hispanic and African American students living in poverty are at greater risk of school failure, with Hispanic students at greatest risk in Texas, the origin of the current study Good et al. Eighth grade may be an opportune time to implement specialized training to improve learning in this vulnerable population, as longitudinal evidence indicates that dropout rates for at risk populations escalate in ninth grade Lofstrom,