Analyzing a Concept

The following is an example of a “Concept Analysis” which could be used in all classes to consider important course concepts. In this example, “intellectual” is used as the concept to be analyzed – Substitute any important course concept for “intellectual” and have students work the analysis.

1.     Discuss the concept of intellectual as it is used in characterizing the intellectual traits/virtues and intellectual standards of the CT framework. 

Perform a basic conceptual analysis. In doing so, complete the following:

Define the concept: Intellectual means the work of the conscious mind, of reasoning, of thinking, it involves the will and focus. It combines knowledge and experience

Discuss its meaning as it relates to similar concepts: similar concepts might be “thinking”, “reasoning”, “analysis”, “focused attention”

Discuss its meaning as it relates to opposite concepts: when I think of opposites of intellectual, I think of activity in the physical realm such as running, or gut reactions to things, feelings and emotions that come and go without our conscious will. I am reminded of a distinction I once heard between entertainment and engagement. Entertainment, like watching some TV programs, can be a totally unconscious and passive act. The viewer can be there, absorbing the media without much intellectual connection. The mind is not involved in an active way. Engagement, on the other hand, implies an active state in which the mind is working and conscious of the experience.

Discuss its meaning as it is applied to these other ideas discussed in the course: traits and standards. How does the word intellectual change the meaning of the traits/virtues and standards? So if we are talking about traits and standards in general, we are talking about characteristics of something. Virtues would be the positive aspects of a given thing. Standards are the criteria, or bar that we set in order to judge to what degree we achieve something. When we apply the word “intellectual” to this, we mean the characteristics of the conscious thinking mind. We ask, “What are the positive traits of the thinking conscious mind?”, and lastly, we ask, “What are the criteria by which we can judge the quality of our reasoning?”

2. What questions arise? My biggest question in this chapter is how to decide which concepts should get this much scrutiny?  It makes me think of the notion of “threshold concepts” and the importance of identifying these in any content area. Threshold concepts are those “certain concepts, held by [masters in any discipline area] to be central to the mastery of their subject.”

I wonder, what the threshold concepts would be in each of our content areas? I wonder what they are in mine?

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One Response to Analyzing a Concept

  1. scs15 says:

    Sent to me as a comment…

    “What the threshold concepts would be in each of our content areas?” I think the most urgent topic is whether science and scientific reasoning are good enough to tackle US and global science-based problems (e.g. climate change) and more fundamental questions (e.g. age of the universe, age of earth, how biodiversity came to exist, how long have humans been on Earth?, etc.).

    In the context of the broad, unabashed, overt, and unabashed anti-science movements in the USA (and I understand also abroad), I am left wondering:

    a) what options the anti-science people propose (“faith” – whatever flavor, as determined by them, dictates and science obeys?)


    b) whether we are going to revisit the Middle Ages in terms of our approach and understanding of the natural world.

    Overall, I am *not* optimistic. Elsewhere, I ask my students to state their views on the issues listed by me above and it is *obvious* to me that there is a good (although not 100%) separation between those who consider science as a valid tool to tackle science issues and those who do not, particularly on any issue that demands that Earth is far more than 6,000 years of age with the positions they take. At the end of the class, I ask the same question. Results? Other than enhanced understanding of science, *nobody* has ever claimed to have changed their minds on this fundamental issue, because, I think, such change will impose a revision of core beliefs.

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