A third type of paraphrase is the abstracting paraphrase. These types of paraphrases “shift focus to a higher or lower logical level. Paraphrases move to a higher logical level when they name concepts, goals, values, beliefs, identity and assumptions…Paraphrases move to a lower logical level when abstractions and concepts require operational definitions…” (p 48).
The non-linguistic symbol of the abstracting paraphrase is the ladder, coming from S.I. Hayakawa’s ladder of abstraction (Language in Thought and Action,1939). The ladder is used to show how language can move from the concrete to the abstract.
Cognitive Coaching books
Cognitive Coaching: Developing Self-directed Leaders and Learners
My copy of Cognitive Coaching: Developing Self-directed Leaders and Learners, 3rd edition
The abstracting paraphrase takes the thinking to a whole different level of thought. It can help to deliver insight, open up solutions for the thinker(s), enable them see the bigger picture (or the needed details). When we offer abstracting paraphrases “we move beyond organizing thoughts around a specific moment or context, but broaden and open thinking beyond the current” (StJ).
Here are some abstracting up “categories” to consider:
• Values – It is important to you that…
• Beliefs – A belief you hold is…
• Concept Label – What you are hoping to achieve is rigor and joy in the classroom. The speaker has never used those exact words but has spoken concretely about more concrete evidence that he or she would see.
• Goal – So a major goal for this group is…
How might you help shift the thinking of individuals and groups with whom you are working? Who might you need to be to offer abstracting paraphrases in a group?
If you would like to see the power of an abstracting paraphrase, follow this link to the Thinking Collaborative website: