Patterns & Connections


This cognitive process "involves actively creating linkages among concepts, skill elements, people, and experiences" (Ewell, 1997b, p.7). For the individual learner, this will be about "'making meaning' by establishing and re-working patterns, relationships, and connections" (Ewell, 1997b, p.6).  New biological research reveals that "connection-making" is the core of  both mental activity and brain development (Ewell, 1997b, p.7).

Checklist of Observable Behaviors

___1.   Flexible thinking (Ewell 1997b, p.6): The student is able to adapt to new learning contexts and tasks by connecting, organizing, and working previous skills and knowledge into new structures.

___ 2.  Critical thinking (Ewell,1997b,  p.7): The student approaches  a task comparing, refining, and selecting from what he or she  knows to find the best solution to the problem. 

___ 3.  Transfer (Woolfolk, 1998, p. 320): In backward-reaching transfer, the student makes connections to prior knowledge; in forward-reaching transfer the student makes connections to how the information will be used in the future.

 ___ 4. Sense-making (Ewell, 1997a, p.6): Given a specific learning context, the student is able to use familiar patterns that are re-organized and extrapolated so that they become meaningful  in a new situation.


            Ewell, P. T.  (1997a, December). Organizing for learning: A new imperative.  AAHE Bulletin, 3-6. [2000, May 17].

            Ewell,  P.  T.  (1997b).  Organizing for learning: A point of entry. Draft prepared for discussion at the 1997 AAHE Summer Academy at Snowbird.  National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS). Available:            Woolfolk, A. (1998).  Educational psychology (7th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.


In a senior high English literature class, students create a production that combines the traditional script of Hamlet with original, contemporized monologues.  In doing so, they will be applying the ideas and themes of the play to modern problems. Thus, critical thinking is applied to making connections between a fictional and a real world. During this activity, several opportunities occur for students to apply knowledge acquired by means of classical literature, that is, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, to day-to-day life situations.  The instructor organizes the class to work in groups and to select a scene from the play.  As they interpret the scene, students will have to analyze it and connect it to a modern idea.  One example is connecting Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy to the modern topic of teen suicide rate.  This activity requires students to see patterns and make connections between the past and present, finding similarities between conditions then and now.  The insights they gain will help them better understand the present through the past.


Adapted from:

            Saitz, R.   Hamlet dramatization [On-line].  Available: [2000, May 17]