Teaching Critical Thinking in the Classroom

This term I have taken a big leap forward in my efforts to explicitly teach critical thinking skills to senior students.

In past years i have inserted short two or three week courses into larger units of work, particularly in Extension English, but this term I jumped in the deep end and refocussed an entire unit of work so that critical thinking was the topic. The prescribed text for this senior English class, the poetry of Bruce Dawe, became the thing upon which students were to exercise their critical thinking skills, rather than the primary focus of the unit.

I kept the definition and detail of critical thinking pretty light on detail, and in fact the class devised their own definition which we ended up adopting. Their definition, paraphrased from internet sources and translated through teenage perceptions, is: forming serious opinions based on analysis of evidence.

Lesson activities focused on analyzing evidence, forming and answering research questions, and the writing of structured argument.

After 8 weeks, students who previously wrote a half-page long paragraph as the entire response to an hour long exam are now confidently producing two page long essays and still wanting to add more detail,while those students who were already capable writers are reporting a greater familiarity with the concepts of analysis and argument.

Previous papers I’ve read have evaluated the benefits of explicitly teaching meta cognitive skills, and this single unit of work has certainly provided me with some anecdotal evidence of the truth of this. I’m certainly keen to explore it further… Perhaps with some form of creative writing work in preparation for yearly exams.

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Filed under Quality Teaching, Skepticism

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