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- My Experience with TNCore - the Tennessee State Standards - September 15, 2015
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- Dear 'Bad Students': Prove Us Wrong - March 12, 2015
- Improving Education: Response to Joel Klein - February 26, 2015
- Writing Hacks for Grades 9-12 - February 12, 2015
To evaluate, students must understand what credibility and validity mean. They must also learn not to take information for granted, especially when it is retrieved from the internet.
Tilus suggests beginning with internet articles. Show students how to search from something. Choose a site (I recommend a questionable one) and show them how to look further into the site and its author(s) to check for credibility. First, though, they must learn how to quickly scan a site to make sure it is relevant to the topic they are searching. (How many times have we been led astray by sites that promise one thing but deliver another?) This method can also be used when looking for books, newspapers, magazines, etc.
If you like crime shows and mysteries, as mentioned above, you can also use these vehicles to focus on evaluation. Are the witnesses credible? Reliable? Is the evidence sound? You can take this skill a step further by also looking into motives.
This is closely related to interpretation, but it takes it a step further. It is one thing to interpret your learning into your own words, but it is another to do so in a way that makes sense. This skill makes the student focus more on the audience. No longer must the material make sense to oneself, but it must be restated in a way that it makes sense to others.
To begin, you can break students into small groups and jigsaw their learning. For example, assign each group a different section from a chapter. Their job is then to teach their section to the rest of the class. (This method is easily adaptable in other classrooms – you can have different groups teach different concepts, for instance.) While one group is teaching, the other groups are actively listening, possibly taking notes, until all sections have been consolidated. As the teacher, you should step in and clarify to the class if a group has a difficult time explaining properly.
You should not stop with group work, though. The goal is to create independence. Therefore, you can then assign each group member a different section in a chapter. Instead of giving a different section to each group, you are giving a different section to each person within a group. The different groups will not interact together to complete the learning; instead, they are dependent on their group members instead. In order for this to succeed, you must pay attention to how you group your students. This method ensures that each member is accountable for something.
After students are used to explaining new information to their peers, change the audience. Go back to group work and ask students to create a presentation to a different audience, like the school board or a class of younger students. Your audience can be real or imaginary. (Some of you may be in a better position to obtain a real audience than others.) In order to be successful, students must be able to consider what the audience already knows and what information they lack.
Self-regulation is knowing how you think, what you know, and what you don’t know.
Firstly, students need to understand that it is OK to consult outside sources when they do not know the answer. More importantly, though, students need to understand how their beliefs and biases affect their thinking. Before I go further, though, I want to make it clear that as teachers, it is not our job to teach our students what to think. It is their job to make those decisions for themselves, even if we disagree with what they ultimately decide. However, we need to assist them in *how* they think.
Earlier I mentioned an example of making rush judgments on people we first meet. A good exercise to demonstrate this is to pull up a random picture of someone that the students do not know and asking students to jot down the first thing that comes to mind. Do not punish students for being brutally honest – in fact, you want to encourage them to share even the most unpleasant of responses. After hearing the responses, reveal the true identity of the person. This exercise has the most impact if you juxtapose – choose someone who looks like one thing but is actually another (e.g. a well-dressed and well-groomed person who looks like a respectable professional but is actually a notorious criminal). Go back and have students examine their initial responses. “Why did you think this person was ______?” The student responds with something like, “Because she was wearing a ____________.” Gently challenge that student, “So, do you think it is safe to assume that everyone who wears a ______ is a _____?”
And there you have it, a short list of critical thinking skills with some exercises you may be able to implement in your classroom. As always, I hope to help fellow teachers find more definitive answers to their questions, but please keep in mind that my article should not be the last you read – it is only a starting point.
Adsit, Karen I. "Teaching Critical Thinking Skills." Teaching Critical Thinking Skills. Ed. Vernellia Randall. University of Tennessee Chattanooga, 1997. Web. 29
"Defining Critical Thinking." Defining Critical Thinking. Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2013. Web. 27 Dec. 2013
Tilus, Grant. "6 Critical Thinking Skills You Need to Master Now." Web log post. 6 Critical Thinking Skills You Need to Master Now. Rasmussen College, 11 Dec.
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