Defined: “Search For Meaning”, A Reflective Assessment Strategy

Ellis and Denton (2010, p. 67) describe a strategy for classroom reflection, entitled “Search for Meaning”.  They continue:

Meaning, when applied to school experience, especially academic experience, is an elusive quality.  The search for meaning in classroom experience represents one of the most purposeful but difficult quests for teachers and students.  Few pursuits have greater metacognitive potential.  Like most reflective strategies, the Search for Meaning must begin with oneself.  What meaning does the subject matter you are teaching have for you?  Is it required?  Something you mastered long ago and now are bored with?  Just a job to do?  Or do you truly believe that what you are teaching is vitally needed by your students?  You can’t wait to share it with them?  Do you believe that your own learning is extended through your teaching?  No school subject has meaning apart from a desire to teach and learn it.  It is the human connection that makes the difference.  This is exactly why we need you in the classroom and not someone who sees teaching as just a job, one that provides indoor work with no heavy lifting.  (Ellis & Denton, 2010, pp. 67-68)

Procedures and outcomes are then discussed that help students and teachers uncover deeper meaning in the topics being covered.  Some points for differentiating Search for Meaning for learners in science and mathematics are suggested, and a sample experiment is described with a mechanism for getting feedback on what meaning students may have extracted from the activity.

Finally, Bruner’s (1966) learning modes are detailed and contrasted with Gardner’s (2006)  theory of multiple intelligences.  The conclusion of which is that teachers should consider alternate approaches to presentation so as to maximize the meaning a learner takes from the material.


Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ellis, A.K., & Denton, D.W. (2010) Teaching, learning, and assessment together:  Reflective assessments for middle and high school mathematics and science.  Larchmont, NY:  Eye on Education.

Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple intelligences:  New horizons. New York, NY: Basic Books.

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