So I had a week’s worth of thinking about this topic after Margaret Simon proposed it last week in a response to my blog here. But this quote really caused me to pause yesterday. “Critical thinking” is a buzz word; what does it really mean?
. . . “not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”
In the field of education and state standards, Iowa was the LAST state in 2008 to adopt state standards for all students in Iowa because of our much lauded “local control”. So when I look for “critical thinking” I rely on the 21st century standards that are in addition to the literacy standards that apply for all content areas.
“The reality of building capacity for the 21st century is that we do not know what the work of the future will be like (Darling-Hammond, 2007) or how technology will influence health and financial issues. The challenge is to prepare students to think critically, to engage in mental activity, or habits of mind, that “…use facts to plan, order, and work toward an end; seek meaning or explanations; are self-reflective; and use reason to question claims and make judgments…” (Noddings, 2008). It may be that our task is not only to prepare students to “fit into the future” but to shape it. “…If the complex questions of the future are to be determined… by human beings…making one choice rather than another, we should educate youths – all of them – to join in the conversation about those choices and to influence that future…” (Meier, 2008).”
This challenge continues to be hard work. “To think critically”, “to engage in mental activity” and “…use facts to plan, order, and work toward an end; seek meaning or explanations; are self-reflective; and use reason to question claims and make judgments…” Those quotes are hard to define, explain, teach and even harder to assess.
What does “critical thinking” look like in a classroom?
Well, the easiest answer is to go directly to Vicki Vinton’s post today. Yes, NOW! Stop. Go read it. Then come back. THAT post is all about critical thinking! Is that the work that your fifth graders are doing? Is that the work that your high school students are doing?
In the spirit of full disclosure,
that is work that I NEVER did even in college.
I seem to be saying that a lot lately. Maybe I went to the wrong school. Maybe I was educated in the wrong era. Maybe I was never “pushed” to go beyond the literal. Maybe I was not really paying attention. Maybe I never had to do any critical thinking in school. YEP, I was thinking, without a single clue of HOW to be thinking!
This might have been a school’s approach to “Critical Thinking” in the past. . .
or still in the present. You be the judge!
Has it been effective?
When problem solving is a part of the critical thinking conversation the water may be muddied as the two are not necessarily the same.
Nevertheless, critical thinking will be required of all our students in their lifetime. They need the best preparation for life possible and that DOES include learning to read and understand at deep levels as well as a call to action to solve problems and think of creative solutions. Critical thinking does require a variety of skills as shown in this graphic.
And unfortunately, we will continue to expect folks to use all of these critical thinking skills to process driving situations, TV commercials, and yes, printed text almost simultaneously. In order to be able to do this efficiently and effectively, our students will need a lot of practice.
How will you continue to define and study your own knowledge base of “critical thinking”?
When do you use “critical thinking” in your life?
How do you model, plan for, and provide time for critical thinking in your classroom?