MELT-TED on Toast

Sylvia Tiala sent me this link to a TED talk about making toast.

The presenter, Tom Wujec, is concerned with processes for solving wicked problems, which I think includes formal education, and starts with toast making as his simple example.

Tom notes ‘Systems theorists tell us that the ease with which we can change a representation correlates to our willingness to improve the model.’

The penny dropped for me- that’s why the pentagon version of the RSD seems to energise people, whereas framework versions are of interest, but sometimes paralysing in detail. People can and do readily change aspects of the pentagon. That’s also a reason why we went for the more general name MELT (Models of Engaged Learning and Teaching)- people feel at liberty to change the name too, so that it describes the complex thinking processes that they are most interested in.

Then it occurred to me something similar happened to me about a year ago at a conference presentation-when I paid attention to Harvard University’s ‘thinking routines’.

Thinking routines provide a frame for student thinking, and in initial use may be quite trivial, but when repeated in many contexts and where they become a routine, they can grow in rigour and sophistication applied. One example is ‘I used to think and now I think’ to help students with more sophisticated reflection on learning. This routine scaffold student thinking in a way that values change in thinking rather than confirming one’s own biases. The TED on toast provides another thinking routine for solving wicked problems. Start simple eg with toast making, and let the routine grow in different contexts and in sophistication applied.

I came to think of MELT as an appropriate thinking routine across formal education, which helped me to understand some of the ways that MELT could be helpful. When I mention thinking routines in workshops now, quite a few people have commented on the idea and taken up its terminology.

These are all ways of understanding the MELT and their use retrospectively, meaning we can better understand why they work when they work.

DO you know of some other concepts that may shed light on why MELT can work for people and/or on limitations to the models?

Reply to this post (scroll down) with a concept (existing or new idea) that could help us understand MELT better. You may explain this, provide a link or both.

What is out there to help us prospectively improve or consolidate MELT and its implementation? This is where diversity of the blog readership will help greatly- to get very divergent thinking going which could really improve MELT.

I am really looking forward to some amazing new insights.


Author: johnwillison

Senior Leturer, Discipline of Higher Education, School of Education, University of Adelaide.

3 thoughts on “MELT-TED on Toast”

    1. John asked for insights regarding attributes of the RSD framework that might work for people. The RSD/MELT framework can be scaled across contexts. I introduce the Problem Solving Pentagon – PSP- ( in a class that examines the impacts of technology on education. The PSP is introduced early in the course and it is referred to repeatedly throughout course assignments and activities in an attempt to make the process of critical thinking and research visible to students. Within this context I have the used the toast example that John posted in conjunction with the PSP framework to engage students in a 2 hour exercise connecting the universal systems model (input, process, output, feedback) to emerging technology trends in libraries, museums and K-16+ schools. Two weeks later I am using the PSP a six-week-long research project incorporating primary and secondary research. The point I try to make with the students is that they are constantly engaged in inquiry no matter if it is commonly known or commonly unkown information. So, as John mentioned, the RSD/MELT helps address thinking routines not only for students but for instructors. The RSD/MELT framework allows me, as an instructor, to intentionally move classroom activities from passive dissemination activities to actively engaged learners by scaling the RSD process across contexts.

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