Mary Grosser: helping communities think

Anjonet Jordaan -- Mon, 04/13/2015 - 16:31

Mary Grosser: helping communities think

She has been involved in cognitive education for the past 17 years and describes her journey as one without a definite or final destination. Prof Mary Grosser is a ralph lauren mens researcher on the Vaal Triangle Campus of North-West University. She has been involved in training student teachers and doing research in cognitive education for the past 22 years.


Cognitive education refers to education that offers explicit cognitive and metacognitive instruction, which aims to enhance the thinking processes of all learners by developing and mediating concepts, skills and strategies for learning how to learn.

Learners learn how their minds work and how to make them work more efficiently. They also acquire a language that enables them to talk about their thinking and they then learn how to transfer these concepts and strategies to other situations, such as their subject areas and their personal and women ralph lauren city polo social lives. In developing learners as autonomous thinkers and lifelong learners, they will be prepared to take on the challenges that confront them throughout their lives.

From passive to active learning experiences

Prof Grosser’s own journey as a student and then as a teacher to arrive at a place of questioning passive traditional teaching, has been a winding one.

“After 10 years of teaching German at High School level to Grade 8-12 students, I felt frustrated with the passiveness, uncritical acceptance of what I taught and lack of motivation to pursue the acquisition of knowledge outside the textbook among the majority of students whom I taught. Teaching deprived me of the passion that motivated me initially to become a teacher, as well as the joy of being a teacher who cheap ralph lauren polo want to make a difference in the lives of students. Slowly but surely resistance in my own way of teaching, and doubt as to whether I am actually a good teacher started to gnaw on my conscience teaching practice. I felt as if I fooled and failed so many students for so long, and deprived them of the right to receive good quality teaching that nurtures their thinking capacity.”

After leaving teaching practice, she joined the former Sebokeng College of Education 1993 where she was introduced to and immersed herself in the intricacies of cognitive education over the course of a decade. During this time she became a member of (International Association for Cognitive Education in Southern Africa), and received Level 1 training by the pioneer of Cognitive Education in South Africa, Prof Willie Rautenbach. Realising both the merits and importance of cognitive education for success in school and life in general, she pursued her MEd and PhD during this time period, focusing on enhancing the cognitive potential of her own students in IE programme (Instrumental Enrichment programme of Reuven Feuerstein) as well as with various teaching strategies.

The positive outcomes of both studies convinced Prof Grosser that the solution to poor academic performance could be attributed to deficient or fragile thinking skills, which can be reversed through Mediated Learning.

“Initially, because the college students were not used to teaching practices that involved them directly in constructing knowledge and meaning making, it took a while for the ice to melt and them accepting a classroom climate where they could voice their opinions. Slowly, the resistance with which I left teaching at High School level diminished, and the joy to teach returned. For the first time I experienced teaching as a collaborative and transactional agreement between the students and me, and the students among each other. I was amazed at the power of learning together.”

Move to NWU

Prof Grosser joined the Vaal Triangle Campus in 2003; and initially it was quite an uphill battle to convince curriculum developers among both her colleagues and the Department of Education of the importance of cognitive education for pre-service and in-service teacher training respectively. Eventually, she overcame this hurdle and exposed colleagues involved in teacher training to workshops that addressed approaches to classroom teaching that can enhance thinking. Many lecturers apply these strategies on a daily basis.

In 2011 Prof Grosser initiated the Thinking Schools Project with the aim to expose the 2012 cohort of pre-service teachers across their four years of training to the purposeful teaching of thinking. These students are currently being observed in teaching practice to ascertain how well the strategies that they were taught, translate into their own teaching practice.

In addition, Prof Grosser, together with colleagues Magda Kloppers and Stef Esterhuizen, work on the where they train and support in-service teachers in the D7 and D8 Districts of the Department of Basic Education to enhance the cognitive potential of their learners.

“Through cognitive education I have found purpose and direction in my career and personal life. I have been infusing cognitive education into the way I teach my students since 1993 – it is not an ideal but the moral right of each student. My future dreams are twofold: cognitive education should stand central to teacher training, and the Department of basic Education should realise that constant curriculum change is not the answer to reversing the poor performance of South African students. What we need are effective teachers who can model and mediate good thinking skills and dispositions to students, in order to prepare students for life after school and to deal with the challenges of the conceptual age – there is no computer in the world that can teach this to students.”

* Prof Grosser was elected the president of IACESA in 2015.