I said to a colleague the other day that teachers should know more about active learning since that approach is integral to teaching critical thinking. He just looked at me, incredulous that this information would be news to any teacher. Well, just click on
(All Things Considered 4/13/16) to hear/read Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman’s interview about how active learning “can dramatically boost learning” and why so many teachers still cling to lecturing. Why do you think they do?
My long absence from this blog can be blamed 100% on the book I am writing about critical thinking titled Critical Thinking Now: Practical Teaching Methods for Classrooms around the World. It will be published by Rowan & Littlefield later this year.
I don’t want to talk about what’s in it so much (I will later on) as the process of writing it. I’ve thought about critical thinking for over 25 years, and, because of that immersion in the field, I didn’t think it would take too much heavy lifting. Boy, was I wrong. I ran into two problems: Organizing my thoughts and massive self-doubt.
I don’t care how practiced you are at writing, organizing your thoughts is a tough slog, . But a book especially unwieldy. It demands layer upon layer of organization that sews all the paragraphs, sections, chapters, theme, and title together. It’s a hearty exercise in critical thinking if you are going to be precise, logical, and clear throughout. It took constant vigilance and frequent reconsideration of what I was trying to say at every step. This challenge, I expected.
The other problem came out of left field: imaginary people who came in, uninvited and unannounced, and taunted me with comments such as, “Who do you think you are to write a book about critical thinking?” “Stop this! You’re embarrassing yourself.” “You have no idea what you’re talking about!” I almost bought their siren’s song and dumped the project. Self-doubt is a powerful deterrent to us writers.
I decided to handle those voices with a two-pronged approach. First, I wrote down everything they “said” so I could get some distance from them and not feel as if I were going crazy. And second, I kept saying to myself, Who else is going to write this book if I don’t? After all, the main reason I wrote it was to provide a new perspective on the issues that I hadn’t read anywhere else.
In the end, I succeeded in slaying those two evil dragons and finished the manuscript. The voices are gone, but what lingers is a lot greater appreciation of the amount of critical thinking and fortitude it takes to write a book about critical thinking.
Gail Godwin justifies her struggle with the demons of writing by stating, “What is produced is a little bit different from anything I planned. There is always a surprise, a revelation. During the act of writing I have told myself something that I didn’t know I know I knew.”
This posting is a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s an issue that’s been on my mind lately. The more I write about critical thinking, the more I think it needs rebranding. Here are three reasons for my call to action. Continue reading
One can hardly read a paper or click a link without seeing something about the Common Core Standards (CCS) and the standardized tests aligned with them. Many are usually quite negative. Some positive comments sneak in there, too, but those favoring the standards don’t seem to counteract the juggernaut of bad press: Schools want to opt out of testing, teachers rebel against the curriculum, parents complain the tests are too hard and use vocabulary way above grade level, and on and on. There are myriad issues tangled together here, not the least of which is the complaint that students are tested too often to the exclusion of solid teaching time. These complaints all deserve attention, but I want in this posting to look at the standards themselves and see how they intersect with critical thinking. Continue reading
We all make assumptions. Life wouldn’t go very smoothly if we didn’t. But we get in trouble when our assumptions lead us to incorrect conclusions, i.e., females cannot do hard, physical labor, or that guy is a dullard just because his expression is lifeless. But when my husband is watching a football game, I know from the School of Hard Knocks that he will not hear what I am saying. Making this assumption saves me time, frustration, and our marriage. Continue reading
Worried that your government might be controlling your thoughts? News flash: it already is.
Schooling affects cognition. We all learn various ways of thinking no matter what kind of classroom we are in. The final product, that is, what cognitive skills we acquire, can vary widely depending on the classroom, state, even country—and (and here is my point) who is running the joint. Continue reading
One of the most mind-blowing ideas I learned in grad school was in a seminar on anthropology and education. We read about how societies educate their children in order to replicate their society, not to change it. Status quo, baby. This cultural tendency means we teach our children how we were taught. Continue reading
I just finished reading a very important article about critical thinking. It’s titled “Teaching thinking dispositions: from transmission to enculturation” by Shari Tishman, Eileen Jay and D.N. Perkins, a 1993 article still relevant today (Theory into Practice, 32(3), pp.147-53). I found an excerpt on Yahoo! Finance (Thinking Dispositions, published Oct. 10, 2014). Continue reading