What the Feuerstein approach is:
The Feuerstein approach to teaching thinking is a multifaceted approach, with a number of tools based on Feuerstein’s Theory of Mediated Learning Experience.
It is very similar to the Vygotskian approach, which has a number of tools, with an underpinning socio-historical theory in which social mediation by a human is also central.
Professor Reuven Feuerstein developed his theory and tools when faced with supporting young people emerging from the holocaust experiencing trauma and significant learning needs.
The figure below depicts all of the aspects of the Feuerstein multifaceted approach.
Theory of Mediated Learning Experience:
This involves the key roles of the teacher, parent and peer in mediating thinking and learning processes and strategies.
Feuerstein has identified the key characteristics which make up the Mediated Learning Experience (MLE) criteria.
The three central and universal criteria, which he sees as central to all effective learning and thinking, are :
* mediation of intentionality/reciprocity. This links well to the reciprocal learning and teaching relationships outlined in our Ministry of Education strategy for enhancing Maori learning and achievement, Ka Hikitia as well as our Pasifika strategy.
* mediation of meaning. This pinpoints the importance of meaning making and sharing, with the value of the new learning and thinking shared.
* mediation of transcendence. This involves going beyond the immediate focus of the learning to wider learning and thinking applications.
Structural Cognitive Modification:
This is the ambitious aim of the Feuerstein cognitive enhancement programmes, with optimistic and high expectations for all learners. It is in line with what we now know about neuro-plasticity. (See Feuerstein, Feuerstein, and Falik, 2010, Beyond Smarter: Mediated Learning and the Brain’s Capacity for Change’
Tools to address learner needs:
Feuerstein’s ‘Cognitive Functions/Dysfunctions’ can be used by any teacher to explore learners’ strengths and needs in the cognitive and metacognitive learning process.
The dynamic assessment tool, Feuerstein’s Learning Potential/Propensity Assessment Device is an in depth assessment tool to be used for assessment of how best to enhance an individual’s cognitive performance. (See Feuerstein, Feuerstein, Falik and Rand, 2002, The Dynamic Assessment of Cognitive Functions: The Learning Propensity Assessment Device: Theory, Instrumental Techniques.)
Tools to address task needs:
Feuerstein’s ‘Cognitive Map’ can be used by anyone to analyse the components of any task. This helps in differentiating task demands for the learner.
Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment programme is his main cognitive enhancement tool. It presents carefully developed instruments as tasks which are tools for the mediation of cognitive and metacognitive strategies, which are then applied to other curriculum and real-life problem solving tasks. It requires training for use, with complex mediation and a reciprocal learning process. (See Feuerstein, Feuerstein, Falik and Rand, 2006, Creating and Enhancing Cognitive Modifiability:The Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment Program.)
As well as the original Instrumental Enrichment-Standard Programme, there are a variety of new adaptations of the programme to meet learner needs, such as:
Instrumental Enrichment - Basic (for children below 9 years of age, and with more significant learning difficulties)
Instrumental Enrichment - Tactile (For children requiring this tactile sensory approach)
The Modifying Environment:
Both Professor Reuven Feuerstein and the present leader of the Feuerstein Institute, his son Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, stress the importance of this component for enhanced learning and thinking. Its characteristics fit our New Zealand policy of inclusive education. Reuven Feuerstein describe key characteristics of a modifying environment as a high degree of access and openness to society’s opportunities, conditions of positive stress, a planned and controlled encounter with new tasks, and individualised and specialised instruction and mediation. Rafi Feuerstein advocated in a Wellington presentation teaching of Instrumental Enrichment by ordinary classroom teachers, so that learners are exposed to strategies in a heterogeneous classroom environment with opportunities to bridge learning to other key curriculum subjects.
In her 2011 book Teaching Students Thinking Skills and Strategies; A Framework for Cognitive Education in Inclusive Settings, Dorothy Howie gives examples of how the Feuerstein approach can be used at all levels of a three-tiered framework to meet the National Curriculum requirement for the teaching of thinking as a generic ‘key competency’, and in ways that meet the needs of all learners in a school.