A new approach to critical thinking
Through targeted vocabulary-acquisition
Constructopedia –the online encyclopedia of universal constructs–is the presentation platform by which the work of Construct Lab will be made available to educators and the general public. It is under construction.
It is a companion site employing the same navigable, multi-dimensional matrix concept for presentation that is used in Construct Lab for validation.
The Constructopedia is being designed as the teaching/learning portal to enhance critical thinking and effective communication skills.
The Constructopedia will be a tool for building a powerful conceptual vocabulary based upon the mastery of the most “universal constructs” of the English Language, i.e., concepts that are validated as universal at our lab. It should help learners at all levels enrich and deepen their core vocabulary and bring greater clarity and insight to their thinking and writing.
Constructopedia is a teaching/learning method that uses the internet as both its delivery platform and as a source for instructional content. Like Construct Lab, It draws upon the myriad resources of the Web (textual documents, images, videos, slide-shows, etc.), and employs a navigable surfing Matrix to illustrate universal constructs across multiple academic disciplines.
A Supplementary Approach to Vocabulary Acquisition
In more conventional approaches to vocabulary development students are presented thousands of vocabulary words, judged to be at an appropriate grade level, to memorize and learn. The words are often selected for the frequency with which they appear in books and magazines and standardized tests, (e.g. oligarchy, authoritarianism, collusion, irrepressible, fortuitous, antechamber, phishing, trolling, etc.). Many of these new words often seem archaic, subject-specific, haughty, overwrought, literary, and, often arbitrary.
For each new word, students are asked to learn its meaning and its proper spelling, and to demonstrate mastery by using each in a few sentences. They are then expected to find opportunities to use them in their daily lives, for the acquisition method is basically “Use it of Lose it.”
At the Construct Lab, we’ve developed a unique, more targeted approach to selecting our vocabulary words for the Constructopedia.
Our focus is to help students truly master a limited core vocabulary—probably about 100 words— that have been empirically proven to convey the Big Ideas underlying all of the domains of human knowledge! Once they’ve mastered them, they can then learn virtually anything and everything.
We call our 100 vocabulary words “universal constructs.” We focus on them because they convey the very same meaning across all subject areas. They are very fundamental. They are, indeed, the building blocks of all ideas and theories—past, present, and future. This explains “why” they should be learned. How they are learned in our method is particularly unique. With Constructopedia we draw upon the vast resources of the Web to link students with exemplary materials employing these constructs, across a range of subject areas, at progressive levels of difficulty.
Using the Constructopedia, students demonstrate mastery of the universal constructs by using their new words to explore new knowledge. Here’s a typical learning scenario for a middle school student:
1. Find the construct “Cycle” on Table 1 and go to the Subject Area Astronomy. Read one of the linked articles rated for your Level of Difficulty (LOD) about the phenomenon of Lunar Cycles.
2. Next, find a second article at your LOD for “Cycle” under the subject Environment and read about the Rock Cycle.
3. Demonstrate mastery of the lesson by answering the following question(s): 1) Based on what you have learned in your readings about cycles, what do you guess is meant by the phrase, “Cycle of Poverty”? Write a few sentences about it.
4. Next, locate and read an appropriately leveled article about the “Cycle of Poverty” under the subject Urbanization (located within the top-level domain, Society). Was your guess correct ? Write a few sentences about what you learned from the last article that you had not considered.
Group Learning Scenario
Alternately, students can be paired in groups of two or more to explore constructs. In this strategy Student A is asked to read about Lunar Cycles while Student B reads the article about Rock Cycles. Students are then asked to brief one another about what they just learned.
Structured Reading Benefits
Constructive Surfing provides students the benefits of a structured reading strategy. Once they have clearly understood a construct in its first instance, they know precisely what to expect from further readings prescribed in the unit lesson plan.
The first instance serves as a scaffold for the next. Once you’ve mastered the big idea of “Cycle” you can more easily focus attention on the salient details, terminology, and nomenclature employed when you encounter it in a new context.
And, there is an additional scaffolding benefit derived from the ubiquitous nature of universal constructs. As students move on to study new constructs using this method they soon discover that the old constructs consistently reappear, time after time, since they are invariably used as building blocks for newer ideas and theories.
Sample lesson plans for using Constructopedia will be available on this platform.