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What is Critical Thinking? How do we teach it? And how does it fit into great PBL?

Tristan de Frondeville Project Learning Consultant for PBL Associates

Laura Thomas in another post in this group mentioned the Critical Skills Classroom model, and this reminded me of one of my favorite topics, both when I teach students and when I teach teachers about PBL—namely, Critical Thinking.
Education has been talking about Critical Thinking for centuries it seems, yet do we have a good definition for what it is? More importantly, do we have a good set of tools and ideas with which to teach it? And perhaps most importantly, do we know how to teach it to ALL students, not just the ‘better’ students?
I have an article on some of these ideas (at least the definition part) that I would like to share with you, perhaps as a thought stimulator, but prior to that I would be really curious if any of you would like to share your thoughts as they stand currently. Any takers?

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Hi, I would like to chime in as a person from a Communist country. No, not all thinking is critical thinking. Thinking like Communists told you to is not critical thinking. My husband, who is from the US, told me the same, "Critical thinking is thinking like an adult". That's a privilege that many people from other indocrinated countries do not have.

Faculty Associate, Simon Fraser University

Hi Jack, Appreciate your

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Hi Jack,
Appreciate your thoughts. Had a bit of trouble with your link. I thought I'd share this one in case others had the same difficulty.
What and Why 98 from insightassessment.com
Cheers,
Tom

Journalist and PBL advocate

[quote]...a critical thinker

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[quote]...a critical thinker is essentially shopping in the marketplace of ideas, and weighing some of those ideas against each other. [quote]

Hi Kevin,
I love your description of "shopping in the marketplace of ideas." However, I'm not sure it goes far enough. Don't we also want students to contribute their own ideas to this marketplace? And if so, how do we build the confidence and foster the creativity to make that happen?

One thing I try...

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...is to present divergent viewpoints and ask students to see both sides of any issue. I try to present debatable topics to students and I teach my students to generate debatable topics.
I like to anchor this work in reading response. I usually ask students to think about question and answer relationships when they generate questions about a text, and I always try to put a premium on "should" questions that students generate in their reading. By posing these types of questions, the seventh graders in my reading and writing workshop, identify debatable topics. The find them in whole class texts, small group texts or independent texts. We try to see which debatable topics take us beyond the text and get us talking about our lives and issues that are relevant to students.
For my part, I assert that students who can argue both sides of any issue are showing evidence of higher level thinking.

teacher of English as a foreign language in Sibiu, Romania

Thank you, Tom. Quote:Hi

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Thank you, Tom.

Quote:

Hi Jack,

Appreciate your thoughts. Had a bit of trouble with your link. I thought I'd share this one in case others had the same difficulty.

What and Why 98 from insightassessment.comCheers,

Tom

I agree that each of you have

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I agree that each of you have mentioned important areas of critical thinking. Teaching critical thinking necessitates having the student recognize their own process of thinking or their thinking dispositions. Art is a wonderful way to enhance critical thinking skills. First, art is all about making choices and creating meaning out of materials that have no particular meaning. Second, talking about art through artful thinking routines has been shown to develop critical thinking skills. You might want to look at some programs:
1. Artful thinking developed by Shari Tishman and Harvard's Project Zero. http://www.pz.harvard.edu/tc/index.cfm
2. Guggenheim Museum's Learning through Art. http://www.learningthroughart.org/
3. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Thinking through Art
http://www.gardnermuseum.org/education/tta/tta.html

Tishman has also found that teaching these artful thinking routines or dispositions can transfer to thinking in other subject areas, as well.

Consultant for inquiry, problem solving, critical thinking.

What is critical thinking?

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To the above posts on the nature of critical thinking I would add that of John McPeck, that critical though is "a certain skepticism or suspension of assent toward a given statement, established norm, or mode of doing things." So, in work with educators, K-12, i emphasize the important role of asking good questions about claims, such as "All New Yorkers live longer," or "This proposal will bend the cost-curve downward/stimulate employment," or "Fastest 4G network in the US."

It's important for all our students to be able to ask key questions about sources, evidence, assumptions, definitions and bias of all conclusions and claims presented by textbooks, media, adults and other students.

"How do you know?" is a question my mother often modeled for me.

Critical thinking is fostered by inquiry that focuses upon significant problematic situations within our content. From there we move to problem solving, critical/creative thought and, of course, reflection.

What's interesting now is to determine to what degree our students are improving in all of these so-called 21st century skills. "How do we know they're getting better?" over time, during a school year, from elementary to high school? This is what's intriguing now.

Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Bloom's Taxonomy Pyramid with Resources

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Hi Sophie -

I thought you might enjoy this resource I found on Twitter about Bloom's Taxonomy. It has hyper-linked resources for each part of the pyramid: http://www.usi.edu/distance/bdt.htm. Enjoy!

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To me, critical thinking reflects Bloom's taxonomy, in other words, besides just understanding and remembering information and concepts, people can also apply it to different situations, analyze it using logic, create or synthesize, and evaluate.

Erika, above, makes a good point that kids in many high poverty, high crime areas become very good at these skills for survival's sake. But, no, unfortunately, not all thinking is critical thinking in my opinion.

I took a Critical Skills class that Laura Thomas mentions, and it is indeed a terrific way to integrate all of these critical thinking skills in school.

Teaching Artist specializing in dance/math integration

I know I'm a year late on

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I know I'm a year late on this issue, but I recently addressed this idea in relation to my work at:

http://mathinyourfeet.blogspot.com/2010/11/more-than-one-right-answer.html

Civic Entrepreneur

Free Software for Critical Thinking

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Hi, Cristina, I agree that class discussions are the key and we find that software can help quiet students find their voice. Combining online and in-person discussions is especially powerful.

For any teachers that are interested, our company donates critical thinking software to K-12 schools. Please do reach out to me if you or your school might be interested: lucas@athenabridge.org

Here's an example of how middle school students in DC were using it recently to discuss the question of "What is Democracy?" http://democracy.onlinetownhalls.com and here's an example of how a high school class in PA was using it in a debate about global warming where students role-played to represent various perspectives: http://onlinetownhalls.com/map/475 Participation in the second conversation is limited to students from that school, but you can sign into either conversation with a username of "tester" and a password of "tester".

This is "conversation mapping" software designed to help people with different perspectives collaboratively map out a complex topic and sort out supporting and opposing points. It facilitates critical thinking by allowing students to respond directly to each other and assess the validity and relevance of each other's statements.

It works for conversations within one classroom, between classes at a single school, and "scales up" for conversations among students at different schools.

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