This week as we turn our focus to disciplinary thinking, we ask ourselves, How do we get kids to think like experts in each respective field? How can students think like mathematicians in math class and literary critics in English class? How can they behave as scientists and historians and artists do in the real world?

These are big questions, but we do have one simple step you can use to get started:

Invite people in.

By “people” I mean experts in your field. Ask yourself, “Who is doing the work of my discipline in the real world?” It may take some internet searching, but it is not too hard to find a college professor or professional who uses the thinking of each discipline.

By “invite them in” I do not necessarily mean that guests must physically appear in your classroom. This would be ideal, but it’s not always possible and we know that. It works just fine to invite their thinking into your classroom via text, blogs, videos, or audio recordings.

Once you’ve found a video of a historian explaining an event or a scientist writing about his or her latest study, present it to students with the aim of helping them figure out what distinguishes this person’s thinking as “historical” or “scientific.” Here are some questions you could ask:

  • What type of information matters to this expert? How does s/he use it? What can we infer about the way historians/scientists/mathematicians use information in general?
  • What is the purpose of this expert’s thinking? What types of questions does s/he try to answer? What kinds of problems does s/he try to solve?
  • What concepts are important to this expert? How are these concepts different from those used by experts in other fields?
  • What makes this expert’s thinking “expert”? How is his or her thinking different from your thinking or the thinking of another field?

Just one lesson, or one part of a lesson, can make a big difference as students begin thinking like disciplinary experts!

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