CRITICAL THINKING IS WELCOME
An increasing number of teachers, from kindergarten through college, have altered lesson plans to include the art of thinking. Many others are being trained so that they can shift the classroom emphasis away from just giving pupils information and move toward making them think about the issues raised by that information.
Educators say that students have become obsessed with getting the right answers on tests and so they are weak at analyzing what they are learning and at grasping implications. These weaknesses, the educators say, will affect the students’ ability to make future decisions about career and marriage, what candidates to vote for and what products to buy.
“It’s not just the ability to remember things^and feed them back on tests that detennines how well you’re going to do in life,” said Dr. Heidi Jacobs, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University. “It’s the ability to solve problems and reflect and to, in fact, think critically.”
Unfortunately, about 80 per cent of class questions, according to Dr. Jacobs, are designed simply to have students recall information. Moreover, the pressure to raise student performance on standardized tests created an exaggerated stress on memorized information. In reaction to this, more teachers have begun to support the movement to teach critical thinking in schools.
While schools and teachers have always assumed that thinking was part of their mission, educators are now making the teaching of thinking skills a more formal part of their programs. For example, there has been a dramatic push in the last few 25 years by at least 28 states and hundreds of schools to re-train teachers and revise curriculums.
In the early 1980’s, reports by several influential commissions claimed that it was vital to improve reasoning abilities for a population that would have to adjust to sweeping changes in technology in a more competitive world. Since 1985, the California State University system has required its one million students to take a course in critical thinking before they can graduate. New York City’s Board of Education created a Reasoning Skills Unit to prepare analytical questions to be used by the teachers of various subjects.
Such questions will encourage students to think about what they have been taught and use the information in a more practical way. Students are now being taught analytical skills such as inferring explanations,
supporting an argument, judging the credibility of a source, verifying an observation, identifying underlying assumptions, and designing experiments so that a particular variable can be controlled.
Articles on teaching the concept of ‘critical thinking’ have been published in educational journals since the late 1970’s. Starting in the 1980’s, supporters have set up three professional associations and currently publish six journals. In fact, the critical-thinking movement has become so strong that it now has three factions: teachers who say thinking should be taught separately, those who argue that it should be only integrated into the normal curriculum, and those who believe that both these approaches are equally applicable.
Even in teaching mathematics, some supporters suggest that instructors move away from the assumption that there is always one correct answer. Instead, they say, students should be encouraged to explain how they arrived at a different answer.
Mr. Ewen, a math teacher, said he could accept 6 as a plausible answer to “What is 29 divided by 5?” if the student provided a reasonable explanation.
A student, he said, might calculate that 29 chips divided into piles of 5 each will yield 6 piles, even though one of the piles is shorter than the others. “The greatest discoveries,” he added, “have come from people who have looked at a standard situation and seen it differently.”
Mark the best choice.
1. Until recently, .
a) there was an attempt to make pupils analyze the information given to them
b) lesson plans were altered so as to include the art of thinking
c) the job of a teacher involved teaching the skills of thinking
d) education aimed mainly at getting the pupils to give correct answers on tests
2. To make healthy decisions in the future, students should .
a) learn how to do well on tests
b) be able to remember things well
c) learn to analyze what they learn
d) be able to solve math problems easily
3. More teachers now support the movement to teach critical thinking in schools
a) to increase student performance on standardized tests
b) as they consider thinking as an important part of their job
c) although success in life does not depend on how well you do on an exam
d) to show their reaction to the unnecessary emphasis on memorizing