The Structure of Subject Matter Content


Our subject matter content includes cognitive, skill and af-fective components. The cognitive component is concerned with facts, concepts, principles, hypotheses, theories, and laws. The skill component refers to thinking skills as well as manipulative skills while the affective component is the realm of values and attitudes.

Cognitive (Ormrod, 2000)

  • Fact — an idea or action that can be verified. Example — names and dates of important activities, population of the Philippines. Facts are the basic unit of cognitive subject matter content. From facts, we go higher to concepts, principles, hypotheses, theories and laws. It is, therefore, necessary that the facts that we begin with are updated and accurate.
  • Concept — a categorization of events; places, people, ideas. Example — The concept furniture includes objects as chairs, tables, beds, and desks. The concept swim encompasses different actions like breast stroke, crawl, butterfly that involve propelling oneself through water.
  • Principle– relationship(s) between and among facts and concepts. These are arrived at when similar research studies yield similar results time after time. Example – The number of children in the family is related to the average scores on nationally standardized achievement tests for those children.
  • Hypotheses – educated guesses about relationships (principles). Example — For lower division undergraduate students, study habits is a better predictor of success in a college course than is a measure of intelligence or reading comprehension.
  • Theories – Set of facts, concepts and principles that describe possible underlying unobservable mechanisms that regulate, human learning, development, and behavior. They explain why these principles are true. Examples: Piaget’s theory on cognitive development, Kohlberg’s theory on moral development

    Learners seem to acquire general belief systems —personal theories — about how the world operates. By the time they go to school, children have their own personal theories about things and happenings in the world. These personal beliefs may not necessarily be accurate beliefs. When I was young, I thought that every time I swallowed a santol seed, the seed would germinate in my stomach and its branches and leaves would grow out of my ears, nose and mouth. Much is demanded of you in order that these misconceptions get corrected. Other than correcting these misconceptions, you ought to promote effective construction of knowledge.

  • Laws — firmly established, thoroughly tested principle or theory. Examples: Thorndike’s law of effect, law on the conservation of matter and energy, the law of supply and demand.


  • Thinking Skills — These refer to the skills beyond recall and comprehension. They are skills concerned. with the application. of what was learned, (in problem-solving or in real life) synthesis, evaluation and critical and creative thinking.
    • Divergent thinking. This includes fluent thinking, flexible thinking, original thinking and elaborative thinking. Fluent thinking is characterized by the generation of lots of ideas. Thought flow is rapid. It is thinking of the most possible ideas. Flexible thinking is characterized by a variety of thoughts in the kinds of ideas generated. Different ideas from those usually presented flow from flexible thinkers. Original thinking is thinking that differs from what’s gone before. Thought production is away from the obvious and is different from the norm. Elaborative thinking embellishes on previous ideas or plans. (Torres, 1994). It uses prior knowledge to expand and add upon things and ideas.
    • Convergent thinking — It is narrowing down from many possible thoughts to end up on a single best thought or an answer to a problem.
    • Problem solving — Problem solving is made easier when the problem is well-defined. “The proper definition of a problem is already half the solution.” It is doubly difficult when the prob-lem is ill-defined. When it is ill-defined, then the first thing to teach our students is to better define the problem. Here are some techniques (Ormrod, 2000):
      • Break large problems into well-defined ones
      • Distinguish information needed
      • Identify techniques to find needed information

Problems can be solved by using an algorithm or a heuris-tic strategy. Solving a problem by the use of an algorithm means following specific, step-by-step instructions. An example is when you assemble the dismantled parts of a new toy by following the “how to assemble” instructions. Fortunately or unfortunately, not all problems are solved by the use of algorithms. When there is no algorithm for solving a problem, we use heuristics, general prob-lem-solving strategy, for a solution. These are informal, intuitive, speculative strategies that sometimes lead to an effective solution and sometimes do not.

How can we help our students acquire effective problem-solving strategies? Ormrod (2000) cites a number situations in which they can be used.

  • Provide worked-out examples of algorithms being applied.
  • Help students understand why particular algorithms are relevant and effective in certain situations.
  • When a student’ s application of algorithm yields an incorrect answer, look closely at the specific steps the student has taken until the trouble spot is located.

For Teaching Heuristics

  • Give students practice in defining ill-defined problems.
  • Teach heuristics that students can use where no algorithms apply.

For Teaching Both Algorithm and Heuristics

Teach problem-solving strategies within the context of specific subject areas (not as a topic separate from academic content) — Provide scaffolding for difficult problems — for example by breaking them into smaller and simpler problems, giving hints about possible strategies, or providing partial solutions.

Have students solve problems in small groups, sharing ideas about problem-solving strategies, modeling various approaches for one another, and discussing the merits of each approach. Problem solving involves both divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking enables you to generate a diverse assortment of possible solutions to a problem. From the diverse possible solutions, you arrive at the best possible answer.

  • Metaphoric thinking — This type of thinking uses analogic thinking, a figure of speech where a word is used in a manner different from its ordinary designation to suggest or imply a parallelism or similarity. Example: Teaching is lighting a candle. The learner’s mind is a “blank slate”. This may also be called analogic thinking.
  • Critical thinking — It involves evaluating information or arguments in terms of their accuracy and worth. (Beyer, 1985) It takes a variety of forms — verbal reasoning, argument analysis, hypothesis testing and decision making.
    • Verbal reasoning — An example is evaluating the persuasive techniques found in oral or written language. You employ this when you evaluate the reliability and the truth of advertisements that bombard you everyday.
    • Argument analysis — You are en-gaged in this critical thinking process when you discriminate be-tween reasons that do and do not support a particular conclusion. Example: The ground is wet so it must have rained last night. When you analyze the given argument and determine whether or not the reason, “it must have rained last night” logically support or does not logically support the argument.
    • Hypothesis testing — It is evaluating the value of data and research results in terms of the methods used to obtain them and their potential relevance to particular conclusions. A question you will ask when you are engaged in critical thinking as you are engaged in hypothesis testing is: Did I make use of an appropriate method to measure a particular outcome?
    • Decision making — We are engaged in critical thinking when we weigh the pros and cons of each proposed alternative approach.
  • Creative thinking — This type of thinking involve’s “producing something that is both original and worthwhile. (Sternberg, 2003). It is original thinking, one type of divergent thinking. It is the process of bringing something new into birth. It is seeing new relationships and the use of imagination and inventiveness.

What creative thinking behaviors should be developed?

    • Awareness — The ability to notice the attributes of things in the environment so as to build a knowledge base that is the beginning of all other forms of creative thinking.
    • Curiosity – The ability and inclination to wonder about things and mentally explore the new, novel, unique ideas.
    • Imagination – The ability to speculate about things that are not necessarily based on reality
    • Fluency — The ability to produce a large quantity of ideas.
    • Flexibility — The ability to look at things from several different perspectives or view points Originality- The ability to produce new, novel, unique ideas.
    • Elaboration — The ability to add on to an idea; to give details; build groups of related ideas or expand on ideas.
    • Perseverance — The ability to keep trying to find an answer; to see a task through completion
      • Manipulative Skills — There are courses that are dominantly skill-oriented like Computer, Home Economics and Technology, Physical Education, Music and the like. In the biological and physical sciences manipulative skills such as focusing the microscope, mounting specimens on the slide, operating simple machines and other scientific gadgets, mixing chemicals are also taught. What are other manipulative skills that you can think of?

        The learning of these manipulative skills begin with naive manipulation and ends up in expert .and precise’manipulation.

Interactive Attitudes and Values

In the three-level approach to teaching, values are at the apex of the triangle. It is because it is in the teaching of values that the teaching of facts, skills and concepts become connected to the life of the students, thus acquiring meaning. Without the value-level of teaching, we contribute to the development of persons who have big heads but tiny hearts. We contribute to the formation of “intellectual giants” but emotional dwarfs.

Shall we teach values?

Can values be taught? Many say “NO”, rather values are caught. I would dare say “YES!” Values are taught and caught! I think because of the belief that values cannot be taught, many teachers relegate values in the background. Values can be taught, because like any subject matter, they too have a cognitive dimension, in addition to the affective and behavioral dimension. (Aquino, 1990).

The cognitive dimension — When we teach the value of honesty we ask the following questions: What is meant by honesty? Why do I have to be honest? The affective dimension — You have to feel something towards honesty. You have to be moved towards honesty as preferable to dishonesty. The behavioral dimension — You lead an honest life.

How can we teach values?

  • By deutero-learning — Your student learns by being exposed to the situation, by acquainting himself with a setting, by fol-lowing models, pursuing inspirations and copying behavior. YOUR CRITICAL ROLE AS MODELS IN AND OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM CANNOT BE OVER-EMPHASIZED.
  • By positively reinforcing good behavior
  • By teaching the cognitive component of values in the classroom
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