Thursday, November 24, 2016

This article outlines how to teach students critical thinking across content. I am thinking a good writer must apply these thinking strategies while writing - and then transfer it to print. Take a look and see what you think. Courtesy of Mind/Shift.

Three Tools for Teaching Critical Thinking


Jason Watt had trouble empowering his middle school students to push their thinking further. Many students already had deeply ingrained ideas about what they were and weren't good at, what they could and couldn't accomplish. In a training on "integrative thinking" at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, Watt finally found the tools he needed to develop students' critical thinking. Several Ontario school boards are now supporting training in the effort.

Integrative thinking involves these three tools:

Ladder of inference
The ladder of inference is a model for decision-making behavior developed by Harvard professors Chris Argyris and Donald Schön. Students learn how decisions are made and identify how assumptions can lead to conclusions, including false ones. By knowing how decisions are made, students can think more critically about situations. Watt's students use this technique to solve social disputes as well. "We've learned that there's nothing wrong with questioning, so the kids have become much more willing and accepting of criticism because it's not really criticism anymore."

Decisions are often weighed in pros and cons, but integrative thinking asks students to see multiple positive sides of an idea, even in terrible ones. Students then combine those ideas to create another idea. "The students now are no longer afraid to think," Watt said. "They're being more creative thinkers." He even uses integrative thinking in math instruction, asking students to use the ladder of inference to determine information in a word problem, or asking them to do Pro/Pro charts for different multiplication strategies and then letting them come up with their own third way. His students' math scores started skyrocketing, and even better, they no longer felt they weren't "math people."

Causal Model
Teacher Jennifer Warren starts the first semester by asking students to do a causal model of their values. She asks them to pick three to five things they value, anything from profound qualities like independence or kindness, to passions like music or hockey. They then dive deeply into why they value those qualities and ask questions like, what caused that? Often this requires them to have conversations with family about values taught to them from a young age.

She then asks them to make visual representations of their causal models and present them to one another. "I like that because they realize people don't value the same things that they do," Warren said. Those causal models go up on the wall as a reminder that everyone in the class is different and that the diversity of values, perspectives and opinions makes them better problem solvers.
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