One of my personal favorite techniques for differentiating for gifted learners is to write lessons that build on inductive thinking.
Sherlock Thinks Inductively
Sherlock Holmes is famous for making incredible inferences from the tiniest details. Here’s an example from the movie Young Sherlock Holmes:
Holmes famously calls this process “deductive thinking.” But, guess what?
It’s actually the complete opposite! Moving from details towards a big idea is “inductive thinking”. Deductive thinking is the opposite, starting with a big idea and findings details to back it up. And, yes, you should correct people at parties! You can read about deductive thinking here.
I’m going to use Depth and Complexity emoji icons in this article. If you’re not familiar, read more here!
Deductive vs Inductive Thinking
Inductive thinking: Holmes sees a bunch of seemingly unrelated details, notes patterns, and forms a statement about Watson. He moves from concrete to abstract, details towards a big idea, or 🌻 ➡️ 🏛️.
In the Deductive version of this, Watson would tell Holmes that he’s a writer from the north whose dad is a doctor. Then he’d ask Holmes to prove it. Holmes would have to look for the evidence. With deductive thinking, we go from abstract to concrete, big idea to details, or 🏛️ ➡️ 🌻. You can read more about deductive thinking here.
Neither is better, but they provide two totally different workouts for the brain. Deductive lessons are neater since the teacher is in more control. Inductive lessons allow a lot of room for students to think, but they need to be scaffolded to avoid frustration and chaos.
Nearly every lesson in school defaults to deductive thinking, so let’s learn how to go the opposite way. How do we actually write inductive lessons?
My Two Go-Tos
The two inductive models of instruction that I always go to are called Concept Attainment and Concept Formation. Although they both build on the idea of going from details towards big ideas, they are quite different. I love them both dearly!
What is Concept Attainment?
Concept Attainment, from Jerome Bruner, is the simpler of the two methods. I think it’s easier for teachers who are used to having more control over a lesson. Concept Attainment a good starting point for bringing inductive thinking into your classroom. I’ve written specifically about concept attainment here.
A Real Mental Workout
Inductive thinking, or forming a big idea from details, is a totally different way of thinking than many students are used to in school.
I find that many kids are initially hesitant. This requires risk-taking! They’ll long for the simple, teacher-guided lessons they’re used to. But we’re creating thinkers here.
On the other hand, you’ll suddenly find some kids coming to life! They were born to think inductively. Use them as your exemplars. Show the rest of the class that you’re open to unexpected, creative thinking.
Oh, another thing I love about this model is that kids are clearly doing the thinking while I am “merely” facilitating. They can use me as a resource, but I’m not controlling the flow as I’d do in a more typical lesson. It frees me up to be a meddler in the middle.
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