Incorporating Mediated Learning Experience in Geography Lessons, pp. 2 of 9

Although the introduction of inquiry-based learning represents a commendable shift away from mere didactic teaching, improvements could be made to ensure the further enhancement of students’ cognitive functions. These following illustrate the three main areas for improvement in inquiry-based learning:

  1. (1) lack of intentional mediation of cognitive functions
  2. (2) lack of continuous mediation
  3. (3) lack of emphasis on enhancing students’ dispositions in learning.

Firstly, to help enhance certain cognitive functions, a taxonomy of Socratic questions (refer to Appendix A) has been provided in the upper secondary geography teaching and learning guide (Ministry of Education, 2013). However, development of cognitive functions would require more intentional mediation in other areas apart from questioning. For example, the mediation of cognitive functions could be made intentional even through the preparation of lesson resources (Tan, 2003). Furthermore, the taxonomy of Socratic questions only provides question prompts for six cognitive functions. This is in contrast to Tan’s cognitive functions disc (Seng & Tan, 2008) which lists fifty different cognitive functions (refer to Figure 2). As such, it seems that the taxonomy of Socratic questions may not be sufficiently comprehensive to cover the broad spectrum of cognitive functions.

Secondly, the essence of the inquiry approach lies in the continuous interaction between the teacher and students. Therefore, this implies that teachers have to actively mediate their students’ learning and ensure that questioning does not elicit a mere question-and-response behaviour. However, while the teaching and learning guide provided question prompts for teachers to utilize (as given in the taxonomy of Socratic questions), it might be insufficient as it does not specify how teachers may follow up from these question prompts to continuously engage students in the inquiry process to develop the intended cognitive functions. 

Thirdly, the teaching and learning guide seems to lack an emphasis on enhancing students’ dispositions in learning. This may result in teachers concentrating their attention on trying to enhance their students’ cognition and consequently neglecting the affective domains of learning. It has, however, been acknowledged that developing critical thinking skills does not solely relate to one’s cognition, but it is also affected by affective domains (Kraft, Fuhman, Husman, Semken, & Srogi, 2011). Therefore, failing to adequately address students’ affective domains in learning would hamper the development of cognitive functions in students.

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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