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?
I saw a three letter word.
Then a five letter word.
I shuffled the letters around.
I could use six letters.
Check out the point total.
A silent, mental, fist bump.
Then I tried just again to add in that final seventh letter.
Greedy. . .
I wanted the bonus from playing all the letters in one word.
It did not work.
Once more. . .
I quickly pulled out my six letters.
Pressed the send.
Pushed the button to say, “YES, I want to play this word.”
And then a scream of anguish.
I had played “enslave”
On the wrong “e”.
Not 48 points
A mere 18.
Attention to detail.
Real life importance of “word placement”.
A game I lost by 5.
And should have, could have, won by at least 30 points.
“Can I have a redo? Video instant replay? Do over?”
The difference between absolutely no “extra point tiles” or two “DW” tiles . . .
The difference between enslave for 18 points or 48 points.
One of my favorite pastimes – “Words with Friends”.
One of my most frustrating pastimes – “Words with Friends”.
Where do you learn your “Life Lessons”?
Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.
Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsey for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.
What is professional development?
Does your answer include a focus on student needs to drive decision-making, and student learning as the basis on which professional development is planned, implemented and evaluated? If your answer also includes a focus on Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, please keep reading. Leadership is also an important principle of professional development, whether it be the instructional leadership of the principal or the teachers within the building. Simultaneity is another important principle to continue as no one action in school improvement occurs in a vacuum. Participative Decision Making would be a final principal for ongoing sustained professional development designed to improve student learning.
Do those principles sound familiar?
In Iowa, they form the chevron at the top of the Iowa Professional Development graphic pictured here.
What are the core beliefs in this model?
o All students can learn.
o The purpose of professional development is to increase student achievement.
o Professional development should be collective learning by all teachers and administrators with an emphasis on improving instruction.
The cycle of professional development includes many familiar steps:
- Collecting/Analyzing Student Data
- Goal Setting and Student Learning
- Selecting Content
- Designing a Process for Professional Development
- and a mini-cycle that includes Training/learning opportunities; Collaboration/implementation; and Ongoing Data Collection/formative assessment
Cycles – Training/Learning, Collaboration, Formative Assessment . . . . .
With a focus on tight alignment between curriculum, instruction, and assessment, this model parallels many Professional Learning Community cycles including the functions of data teams. The “name of the organizing framework” is not nearly as important as checking to ensure that all elements are present within any professional learning group! Leadership needs to focus on how and when collaborative time can be provided so teachers can work together. The training includes modelling and gradual release of responsibility as the participants take over the leadership role.
Additional ideas from the Iowa Professional Development Model include:
To be able to transfer new learning into the classroom, teachers need multiple opportunities to see demonstrations, plan together, work out problems, rehearse new lessons, develop materials, engage in peer coaching, and observe each other.
Often, learning opportunities need to be interspersed with classroom practice so that questions that arise from early implementation efforts can be responded to in a timely manner.
. . participants are provided with multiple demonstrations of the teaching strategies within the model . . .[and] multiple
opportunities to practice the teaching behaviors. . .
Professional development must be designed to be sustained over time. The initiative must be designed to last until implementation data indicate that the teachers are implementing accurately and frequently and student performance goals are met. (Joyce and Showers, 1983, 2002; NSDC, 2001; Odden, et al., 2002; Wallace, LeMahieu, and Bickel, 1990.) https://www.educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/IPDM_Guide.pdf
What elements are part of your professional development?
How do you know when your professional development model is really effective?
How do you know when it is NOT effective?
What is the role of a teacher? Is it solely to be a teacher? A coach? Or both?
I believe that a responsive student-centered learning classroom requires the teacher to be part coach and part teacher in the role of lead learner in the classroom. That combination of roles is necessary for students to meet the requirements of the Common Core!
Where can I find evidence to support this?
1) Reading Recovery
When a child doesn’t know a word, the Reading Recovery teacher does NOT tell the student the word. She/he works with the student to figure out what the student knows and can try. The quote that I remember hearing when I observed a “behind the glass session” was something like: “A word told today is a word told tomorrow, is a word told the next day, and the next day!”
Why is this important? Telling doesn’t work because the student isn’t engaged in the cognitive work! (Saying the same thing over and over or louder and louder is often NOT effective!)
2) John Hattie – Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning
According to researcher John Hattie, the average effect size of feedback is 0.79. That is twice the average effect of all the school effects and is also in the top ten influences on student achievement so it is very important. However, Hattie’s synthesis of over 900 studies also pointed out that “not all feedback is equal.”
What does that mean? Effective coaches spend a lot of time “showing” how to do something and then getting out of the way to watch for application of the “something” that was taught. Classrooms with more coaching and work done by the students may be the best indicator of success for classrooms implementing the Common Core.
Where can you find out more?
Last week’s posts by @burkinsandyaris on their blog “Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy” bring a laser focus to those teacher roles. They were also the source of inspiration for this post. You can read all five yourself on their Friday Weekend Round Up posted December 8th. It included the different skills that a coach/teacher needs to employ for improved literacy for ALL students!
“Monday – The Coach and the Gradual Release of Responsibility (Part 1)
Tuesday – The Coach and the Gradual Release of Responsibility (Part 2): Coach as Demonstrator
Wednesday – The Coach and the Gradual Release of Responsibility (Part 3): Teacher as Spotter
Thursday – The Coach and the Gradual Release of Responsibility (Part 4): Coach as Consultant
Friday – Friday Favorite: Mindbending”
Check out all five posts. As you reflect, consider where your expertise lies . . .
Are you a Coach?
Are you a Demonstrator?
Are you a Spotter?
Are you a Consultant?
Let me know how you weave those roles together!