Mind Grammar – Theory, Principles, and Practice

Contents
Critical Instruction Pedagogy
Theory of Mind Grammar
Principles of Mind Grammar
Introduction to the Practice of Critical Instruction
            – The Mind Grammar / Subject Matter Interview
            – Use Answers to Assemble Critical View of Topic
             Examples of How to use Your Critical Views of Subject Matter
                        – Develop Classroom Assignments
                        – Write an Essay
                        – Write a Textbook Chapter

Critical Instruction Pedagogy

Critical instruction pedagogy is based on a core body of knowledge that includes these elements, (1) A common language for practice, research, and materials development. (2) Formal, explicit, and transferable critical reasoning processes for explaining subject matter in all disciplines while simultaneously developing critical thinking, reading, and writing abilities in all learners. (3) Standards for faculty and students that address critical thinking, reading, and writing. This discussion focuses on mind grammar, the cognitive foundation for element 2, critical instruction.

Critical Instruction achieves critical comprehension of subject matter while simultaneously developing critical thinking, reading, and writing abilities in all students.

Critical instruction is based on two concepts. The first is called mind grammar, which is based on the natural science of the human being’s innate, informal, and critical grammar of mind. The second is called subject matter universals, which reveals how all subject matter topics share a common criticality. This discussion addresses mind grammar, the natural science of the conscious human mind. For a discussion of subject matter universals, click here.

Theory of Mind Grammar

In our conscious daily life, we frequently if not always first identify our intentions and then act on them. Many of our intentions become implicit (e.g., to clean our teeth, to get dressed, to go to work), and so become habits. Other inten­tions are explicit (e.g., obtain toothpaste, replace an old pair of shoes, arrange a special meeting). So, if we were to follow ourselves around, we would see that cer­tain actions (processes) are taking place (e.g., brushing one’s teeth), because they are needed to achieve some effect (e.g., clean teeth).

Notice that our daily actions are preceded by intent, which cause those actions. Accordingly, the conscious human mind has its own innate, informal grammar for thinking critically. This grammar of the mind represents a natural science of thought in the form or pattern of intent – activities – consequences. You use this critical pattern repeatedly throughout your conscious day. You cannot escape it. Just as the grammatic pattern of the sentence is innate, you were born with mind grammar and its informal use matures with age and experience. It is the first mode of critical thinking.

The other two modes of critical thinking are argumentation (Mode 2) and situational resolution (Mode 3 – e.g., problem solving). For a given topic, in order to engage effectively in Modes 2 and 3, one must first have a grounding in Mode 1. Mode 1 critical thinking with mind grammar also provides the cognitive basis is the basis for critical reading and writing.

Principles of Mind Grammar

The principles of mind grammar are that for the conscious mind: (1) It is natural for humans to think critically. (2) Humans are driven innately by intent. They have purpose or ends-in-view or otherwise seek meaning in all their endeavors. (3) Intent is the starting point for critical thinking. Once intent (an objective) is established, it is natural for the human mind to seek the means to achieve the intent. To think more deeply, one goes on to consider the consequences of an intention.

Introduction to the Practice of Critical Instruction 

Critical instruction begins with you – a school or college teacher, or textbook author – first establishing a critical view of a given subject matter topic.  The mind grammar interview allows you to understand and comprehend your exiting knowledge critically.

You already know a great deal about the subject matter you teach. You are in a position to speak for the subject matter.  So, in the following interview, you will not only ask questions of the subject matter, you will be the subject matter and provide the answers. 

The Mind Grammar / Subject Matter Interview

The end-in-view of using mind grammar to “interview” subject matter is to assemble a critical view of any given topic. It is a novel interview because you will both ask and and answer the questions.

You already know a great deal about the subject matter you teach. You will draw on your existing knowledge of a topic to  complete the interview.  In essence, as an expert, you are going to speak for the subject matter. If needed, it is alright to refer to references, including colleagues. If you wish, you can partner with a college in your discipline. One can ask the questions. Speaking for the subject matter, the other can answer the questions.

The five step interview begins with your selecting a topic.

Select a topic. Select a topic in your discipline. The topic can be broad, such as “Trees, ” or “The Life Cycle  of a Tree.” It can be more specific such as “Planting a Tree,” “Pruning a Tree,” ” or “The Tree Leaf.”

Question One: What is the end-in-view, or effect, or meaning, or importance, or purpose, or function of the subject matter topic at hand? Select the term that best fits your topic. The answer to this question is called the subject matter objective.

The subject matter objective sets the premise (i.e., the critical reasoning direction) for the rest of the subject matter interview. Know that the subject matter objective is not your objective as the instructor, or the students’ objective as learners. It is the objective of the subject matter topic itself.  Your answer must not be rushed. 

— The objective must address directly the topic at hand.
— Limit the subject matter objective to stating one end-in-view or effect or meaning or importance or purpose or function of the topic.
— Be sure that the objective statement does not include a consequence.
— The answer to this question must be written out, and in one complete sentence.
— As this interview proceeds, and during assembly of your findings (see below),  you may find the need to go back and fine tune if not rewrite the subject matter objective. This is not unusual.

Question Two. What activities take place within the subject matter? In other words, what series of events take place that allow the subject matter objective to be achieved The activities must be listed in logical order.

Question Three: What are the positive and negative consequences of achieving and not achieving the subject matter objective? What good things happen when the subject matter objective is achieved? What bad things can happen if the subject matter objective is not achieved?

Question Four: What are the resources (persons, places, things, and ideas) required to carry out each of the activities? Often, the resources appear directly in a stated activity. Otherwise, they can be inferred.

Use Answers to Assemble a Critical View of the Topic

At this point, you have completed your research. The data (answers) gathered may now be assembled into a critical view of the topic. This is done by assembling (i.e., connecting and integrating), the answers. The assembly can take many forms and is limited only by one’s imagination.

We will use here the standard subject matter display. There are two-stage (for understanding a topic), three-stage  (for understanding and comprehending), and four-stage (for comprehending) displays. Here is an example of a four-stage display.

 Title: A Four-Stage MG2 Subject Matter Display of the
Human Blood Circulation Transport System

 (1) What is a Function of the Human Blood Circulation Transport System? [What is the objective of the subject matter?]
     o A function of the blood circulation transport system is to deliver oxygen and other nutrients to body tissue.*

 (2) What is done? [What are the activities that take place within the subject matter?]
       o food, oxygen taken in
       o food broken down, oxygen is diffused
       o effective heart pumps blood to body tissue through patent arteries
       o blood picks up nutrients and oxygen from the lungs
       o blood delivers nutrients and oxygen to tissues

 (3) What are the consequences of delivering oxygen and other nutrients to body tissue?
       Positive (if oxygen and other nutrients delivered): Body tissue is maintained and repaired
       Negative (if oxygen and other nutrients not delivered): Body tissue is not maintained and repaired and tissues   die

(4) Resource Bank (What persons, places, things, and ideas are needed?)
      o effective heart      o blood              o patent arteries  o oxygen
      o lungs                      o body tissue    o food, nutrients

 Vocabulary Box:
Patent:clear, open, not blocked
Diffuse: to spread in all directions

*The circulation system serves three functions. These are to transport, protect, and regulate blood. This subject matter display concerns the transport of oxygen and nutrients.

For another example of a completed subject matter display, click here. For examples of subject matter displays  across disciplines, see the two works mentioned below.

How to Use Your Subject Matter Display

The completed subject matter display becomes your critically conceived foundation to develop classroom assignments, write an essay, or write a textbook chapter.

Develop Classrooms Assignments:  For how to use a subject matter display as the basis for developing classroom assignments, see Chapter Chapter 10 (introduction to Critical Instruction), in Preparation for Critical Instruction – How to Explain Subject Matter While Teaching All Learners to Think, Read, and Write Critically; or Chapters 2 through 7 (The Mind Grammar Instructional Set, Mind Grammar Instructional  Techniques, Instructional Sets for the English Language Arts, Instructional Sets for the Humanities, Instructional Sets for Mathematics, Science, Engineering, and Technology, and Instructional Sets  for the Social Sciences in, Teach Like the Mind Learns – Instruct So Students Learn to Think, Read, and Write Critically)

Write an Essay: Use the display as a critically conceived outline for writing an essay. When writing an essay, you do not need to follow the order of the display. You can write in any order. You can begin and end as you see fit, weaving back and forth among the display’s elements. It is alright to add new material that occurs to you as your essay unfolds. Just be sure to include all the entries that appear in the display. For more on writing for critical explanation, see Chapter 8 – Write for Critical Explanation in, Preparation for Critical Instruction – How to Explain Subject Matter While Teaching All Learners to Think, Read, and Write Critically.

Write a Textbook Chapter: Use the display as a critically conceived outline for writing a textbook chapter. When writing a textbook chapter, you do not need to follow the order of the display. You can write in any order. Although, for textbook chapters in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, it is a good idea to state the subject matter objective upfront. You can begin and end as you see fit, weaving back and forth among the display’s elements. It is alright to add new material that occurs to you as your chapter unfolds. Just be sure to include all the entries that appear in the display.

For examples of how to write textbook chapters critically, see any  of the chapters in, Preparation for Critical Instruction – How to Explain Subject Matter While Teaching All Learners to Think, Read, and Write Critically; and Teach Like the Mind Learns – Instruct So Students Learn to Think, Read, and Write Critically.

For a discussion of using critical instruction pedagogy to write a textbook, click here.