I excitedly jumped out of bed this morning as I planned to attend my first of three days at the OTF workshop focused on Critical Thinking. Led by Garfield Gini-Newman, Senior National Consultant for TC², the course is intended to support teachers in thinking about the opportunities and value of using critical thinking as a vehicle to promote transformative teaching.
What is critical thinking?
- A complex activity not a generic set of skills
- Concerned with judging or assessing what is reasonable or sensible in a situation
- Focuses on quality of reasoning -- transference is KEY for conceptual understanding
- Depends on the possession of relevant knowledge
- Can be done in endless contexts and is required whenever the situation is problematic
- Is effortful, but not necessarily negative
Critical thinking is criterial thinking – thinking in the face of criteria. It invites students to assess or judge the merits of possible options in light of relevant factors. Thinking through a problematic situation about what to believe or how to act where the thinker makes a reasoned judgment that reflects competent use of the intellectual tools for quality thinking.
Teachers need to “tweak” questions early on in the critical inquiry process in order to foster significant curricular understanding. We need to create questions that invite divergent thinking in our classrooms!
What criteria can you use to assess the quality of your critical thinking questions?
- Does it require reasoned judgment?
- Is it likely to be perceived as meaningful to the students?
- Does it foster significant curricular understanding?
- What limits are required of the students’ background knowledge?
Here are a few key thoughts that stood out for me:
Use the Cascading Curriculum Unit Planner as an organizational tool to sort those ideas!
- Classrooms need to become incubators of deep thought and engagement through critical inquiry. Rather than critical thinking being the culmination of learning, it needs to be the driver for meaningful learning.
- Classrooms become true communities of thinkers when teaching and learning occurs through the pursuit of answers to authentic questions.
- Teachers need to become knowledge brokers rather than content deliverers – model for and guide students to identify relevant and credible information in an information rich world
- We need to problematize the curriculum – that is, take the “big ideas” and use the TC² model to present transcendent questions at the BEGINNING of the unit rather than the end.
Ask yourself, “Are these questions locating fact, describing feelings, or making assessments?” Involve your students in the process of contrasting questions to better understand the success criteria necessary for answering them!
- If we value critical thinking in the classroom, we cannot simply reduce learning to “right or wrong” answers. We need to create opportunities for students to find PLAUSIBLE answers based on visual and factual evidence in combination with their inferences and judgments.
I’m looking forward to continuing my learning journey tomorrow as we discuss critical challenges and learn how to more clearly identify and create criteria for critical thinking learning activities -- stay tuned!
Check this out: Critical Thinking Resource Package
Want to learn more? Check out these GREAT reads!
Introduction to the TC2 Conception of Critical Thinking by Roland Case and LeRoi Daniels
Critical Challenge in Mathematics by Garfield Gini-Newman
Critical Thinking in Early Primary by Garfield Gini-Newman
Critical Thinking Vocabulary by Garfield Gini-Newman
Developing Curriculum to Nurture Critically Thoughtful Learners by Garfield Gini-Newman
Recognizing Biased and Fair-Minded Perspectives by Garfield Gini-Newman
The Many Faces of Inquiry by Garfield Gini-Newman
19 Habits of Mind by Garfield Gini-Newman