This week’s article summary is Getting Critical About Critical Thinking.
Most of us would agree that one of the primary goals of education is to develop critical-thinking skills and habits in our students.
This article provides a succinct definition of critical thinking, using words like ‘original thought’ and ‘struggling to solve.’
It also provides a number of ways to foster and stimulate critical thinking in the classroom.
What I noticed is that so many of the author’s recommendations are utilized daily at Trinity, e.g., project-based learning, metacognition, interdisciplinary activities, student reflection, open inquiry.
Especially as schools in our Information/Technology Age continue to move towards empowering students as learners, thinkers, and creators, even Trinity, as an elementary school, needs to provide ample opportunities for our students—from Early Learners through Sixth Grade—to be critical and creative thinkers who don’t only consume content but create it as well!
Critical thinking has become education’s bull’s-eye.
We’re tasked with ensuring that students develop critical-thinking skills and then continue to improve their ability to use them.
We’re definitely heading in a good direction. Our educational system was developed in the shadow of the industrial era, when the factory model prevailed. So when we say that we must now differentiate, individuate, and, yes, teach critical thinking, it’s to help move away from the rote strategies used in the standardization era.
The need to teach critical thinking is everywhere these days, yet it’s clear definition is still lacking,
I define critical thinking through visualization: I picture the brain triggered by a thought that causes it to shoot signals from one area to another, forming pathways between neurons. Critical thinking is when the brain is active, making connections to the material and applying original thought to the concept. It’s the difference between struggling to remember and struggling to solve.
Googling "Effects of World War I on Europe" is not critical thinking. Outlining a science chapter is not critical thinking. These both have a purpose, but critical thinking they are not. My definition is not perfect, but it indicates what critical thinking is not.
The fact is that while all kids think, not all activities trigger critical thinking. We want to use targeted approaches and strategies to cause those brains to sweat:
Adopt a PBL philosophy. Project-based learning differs from mere projects because it triggers more critical thinking. Rather than write a report on a state, why not found the 51st state? Rather than read about the effects of nutrients in soil, why not grow a garden and see those effects in action? Check out these resources for getting started with project-based learning.
Explore the world in a subject-area scavenger hunt. Ask students to find examples of your content in the world outside of school. Ask them to bring in those examples and teach others how they apply to the current topic of study.
Utilize habits of mind. Asking students to think critically is not enough; we have to teach them how. Guide your students in visualizations, help them make connections, and teach them about persistence and taking risks in order to solve difficult challenges. Find suggestions for doing this in “Integrating the 16 Habits of Mind.”
Require reflection. The KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learned) chart is a good start, but add an H for “How” to it, making a KWLH chart. Ask students how they learned something. Teach your students to recognize their own “eureka!” moments. Present them with metacognitive questions so they can routinely explore what they think about their thinking and how they got there.
Teach students to question. Push students to develop questions beyond those that can be answered through a Google search. Help them develop questions that guide their research, that challenge with evidence, and that indicate their own understanding. Consider having them use question stems developed around the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.