Activity Feed Discussions Blogs Bookmarks Files

Abstract vs. Concrete Thinking

I found the fifth question on the quiz about concrete vs. abstract application of knowledge problematic. It stated that "The instructor of a culinary arts program asks her students to identify the differences between natural and processed cheeses." I realize that concrete thinking involves the 5 senses, but the module defined abstract thinking as "seeing connections and applications." Had the instructor asked students to define or list the qualities of each type of cheese, I can clearly see it would be concrete. But identifying differences between two different things, to me at least, sounds like an example of "seeing connections," which would constitute abstract. Would you clarify this problem for me? Thanks.

Hi Sandra,
Be glad to. The concrete aspect is based upon a formula or sequence of steps, meaning variables are not factored in. Processed cheese is considered to be processed if it has any synthetic ingredients.
The "seeing of connections and applications" part of abstraction comes in through the cheese example when dealing with the creation of natural cheese. By using milk from different sources mixed with different kinds of processing the producer gets different kinds of cheeses all which start the abstract idea of producing a cheese with different color, taste or texture. By having the concrete knowledge of cheese production a person can build into and be the user of abstract concepts to produce new natural cheeses, solve problems, or create new products. It is a sequential process of growth, knowledge development and skill acquisition that leads to the ability to be more abstract in thought and practice.

I agree In demo we try to involve all senses.

I teach at a culinary college, and can anticipate that if my students were asked the proposed question ("identify the differences between natural and processed cheeses"), a number of the students would read it to encompass (and would include in their answer) differences in the uses of natural and processed cheeses. One example given for abstract thinking was envisioning a salad that used blue cheese. I understand the response, but agree that the question is problematic.

I also found this question to be a bit problematic. I would imagine that the answer would depend on if the person answering the question would read it and choose to use an abstract response rather than a concrete one.

I think the question was quite clear. In the blue cheese example, concrete thinking is used when identifying the characteristics (color, smell, taste, texture). Therefor, explaining the differences between processed and natural cheese would be along the same lines. However, if the question had asked to identify the different applications for using processed or natural cheeses in recipes, that would require abstract thinking.

Hi Carla,
Well said. The key is to help the students to take their thinking to the next step. Abstract thinking is critical in most positions as it involves problem solving. The more we can help our students in this area the more we will expand their abilities to function in diverse settings.

Sandra, initially, I had a similar response regarding abstract vs. concrete thinking. I am glad you raised the question for clarity. Upon reading the reply, I have a bit more clarity. Thanks. Perhaps the question could have been stated more concretely. But Dr. Meers explanation was great. Thanks to both of you.

I agree as well. Demonstration is the best way for my nail tech students to learn.

Hi Amy,
Right you are. They need all the input they can get so besides knowing the technical aspects of nail care they see the procedures being done. This greatly increases the retention of content and skill leading to greater student satisfaction.

I too would choose abstract thinking in this case... But after reading Gary's comment I can understand it's concrete. Very fine line and perhaps confusing. J.P.

This question is meat for having the subject whose is learning to critically think about cheese when all the student really is thinking was probally how they wish they would have not skip lunch.

I thought that being reminded that concrete thinking involves all 5 senses was an excellent point. Just that alone makes me rethink some lessons, into spreading it across more "senses" is a great idea. To combine more tactile exercises, instead of or in addition to hearing and seeing, will help.

What I think you will find as well by expanding your approach out to include more senses will be more student engagement and higher knowledge retention. I wish you much success in your teaching efforts.

Sign In to comment