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Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Let's Get Critical

By Lindsay Brooks, Instructional Coach

    crit·i·cal think·ing
Using reasoning and criteria to:
        make judgments

Someone with critical thinking skills can do the following:
  Understand/see/make logical connections between ideas.
  Identify, construct and evaluate arguments.
   Defend judgments with reasoning.
  Solve problems
  Identify the relevance and importance of ideas

The Critical Thinking Consortium

https://tc2.ca has amazing resources to inspire, support and advocate for the infusion of critical, creative and collaborative thinking.

These resources support educators in deepening their understanding and enriching their teaching of critical thinking.  I took the opportunity to try out an online resource called THOUGHTFUL BOOKS. Each resource in the thoughtful book series features specific tools supporting literacy development and encouraging the deliberation of ethical considerations. The suggested activities help teachers introduce the tools and encourage young children to apply them in a variety of situations over time.

Thoughtful Books

From here:
Click your chosen book title and download the teacher’s guide which has “Critical questions” built in. It is also set up to give you the suggested grade level.
The guide outlines “Reading as Thinking” and the idea that reading
is more than decoding words. It is the active process of constructing meaning. Readers engage with text, create meaning from text, and extend their thinking beyond text. The activities that go with each thoughtful book help develop literacy by:
·      Accessing background knowledge
·      Reading with a purpose
·      Inferring
·      Synthesizing ideas

I had the opportunity to try out the Story of Ferdinand.

In this familiar classic, five men misinterpret the actions of Ferdinand the bull and select him as an ideal candidate to take part in the bullfights of Madrid. Students examine the story, identify the mistakes made by the five men, and provide advice to help them avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

The students absolutely LOVED this and the learning environment became one fostering Critical Thinking. Students were making reasoned decisions about a problematic situation. Students demonstrated an enhanced sense of purpose and renewed excitement about learning when they were invited to think for themselves as they considered plausible alternatives and made choices based on clear criteria.

Next Step… TRY ONE OUT

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Demystifying Critical Thinking

Written by Rebecca Forchuk, Director of Staff Development after Action Research session on Critical Thinking. 

With the rise of Google, fake news, and 21st Century skills, critical thinking has been identified as a key competency that students will need in order to be successful in life beyond the walls of school.  But what exactly is critical thinking? Chances are, there are as many ideas of critical thinking as there are people.  In order to provide teacher clarity (ES=0.75), we have set out to develop a common understanding of what critical thinking really is and what it looks like in the classroom.

Myself, along with fellow colleagues participating in Action Research, shared some common misconceptions we had about critical thinking prior to our learning.  Among these are…critical thinking:

·      requires a project that students work on or at the very least a large amount of data.   It requires larger scale learning tasks (overarching units, projects, etc.).
·      is time consuming to assess.
·      is more natural and just happens.
·      is about the 'verb'age  we use like higher level Blooms Taxonomy.
·      can only be applied to certain subject areas within the curriculum and is not applicable to kindergarten.  It is beyond them.
·      is hard to for certain subject/concept areas.
·      involves lots of planning.
·      is taught as an extra to the curriculum.

Through our research and learning from Critical Thinking Consortium  and exploring the descriptors and indicators from Alberta Education, we have come to understand that critical thinking is simply defined as:

Using reasoning and criteria to:
make judgments

because in the absence of criteria, all you have is an opinion.

After we explored this definition and different exemplars of how to develop and assess critical thinking, here is how our thinking shifted.  Critical thinking:

·      can be incorporated into a simple lesson.
·      can be applied across all subjects and grades. 
·      is an extension of the learning already taking place and can already be found within our current Program of Studies.
·      is a skill that can be taught and modeled to students.
·      requires explicit teaching in order to promote transfer knowledge in students.
·      needs to be intentional in my teaching and design plan to address the skills of critical thinking.
·      can happen simply by tweaking the questions we ask.  Simply reframe the questions you might normally ask.   To truly engage learners in the task we can carefully consider the 'adverb'age/'adjective'age  rather than just the verb.
·      can use more "evaluative" criteria to create better assessment tools.
·      requires specific criteria within those challenges to promote critical thinking (focus on the WHY).  Criteria is key to it. Without it, we are just asking for opinions. 
·      requires criteria in a problematized issue.
·      is very much a part of the daily life of kinders, but it does not happen automatically.  Critical thinking needs to be explicitly, and re-taught, throughout the school years.  Kinders do require a foundation of skills, and the opportunity to practice, in order to be able to fully experiment with critical thinking.  Lots of modeling is required.

Follow us over the next few months to find out how teachers in FSD are developing and assessing critical thinking in their classroom to ensure students are well prepared for life beyond the walls of school!  

In the meantime, we encourage you to explore"Creating Thinking Classrooms" and "Making Thinking Visible" to deepen your understanding and find practical ways to develop critical thinking within the classroom.