From the ERIC database
How Can We Teach Critical Thinking? ERIC Digest.
The need to teach higher order thinking skills is not a recent one. Education pundits have called for renewed interest in problem solving for years. As far back as 1967, Raths, Jonas, Rothstein and Wassermann (1967) decried the lack of emphasis on thinking in the schools. They noted that "...memorization, drill, homework, the three Rs and the quiet classroom" were rewarded, while "...inquiry, reflection and the consideration of alternatives were frowned upon."
That students are lagging in problem-solving and thinking skills is apparent at all levels of education. However, critical thinking courses and texts, in particular, may result in fragmentation of thinking skills. Thinking cannot be divorced from content; in fact, thinking is a way of learning content (Raths and others, 1967). In every course, and especially in content subjects, students should be taught to think logically, analyze and compare, question and evaluate. Skills taught in isolation do little more than prepare students for tests of isolated skills (Spache and Spache, 1986). The same criticism may be made with regard to commercial thinking skills materials. However, when such materials are integrated with content, they may become effective tools for attacking real issues.
IMPLICATIONS FOR TEACHING
The following is a review of various types of thinking skills activities applied to content areas. While different disciplines frequently require different types of thinking, some techniques are effective across disciplines.
One method that promotes critical reading involves the use of news media in the class. Newspapers, magazines, television, and radio can motivate students to develop critical listening and reading skills. Differing accounts and editorials can be compared as a way of helping students read with a questioning attitude. Students can construct their own arguments for discussion or publication in student newspapers. In the process, they become more discriminating consumers of news media, advertising, and entertainment.
Children's literature is another powerful tool for teaching thinking. Somers and Worthington (1979) noted that "...literature offers children more opportunities than any other area of the curriculum to consider ideas, values, and ethical questions." Furthermore, literature that inspires and challenges helps students learn how to engage and interact with a book.
WRITING TO LEARN
All classification tasks require the identification of attributes and sorting into categories according to some rule (Furth and Wachs, 1974). While the sorting of concrete objects is an appropriate activity for the young child, verbal analogies (e.g., "How are a diamond and an egg alike?") are appropriate for a learner of any age. A number of commercial materials contain verbal analogies, logic puzzles, figural and symbolic problem- solving, and attribute games. However, application to a wide variety of environmental objects must follow (Furth and Wachs). Integration of classification activities into content areas is crucial to their value. Applications to mathematics and science, especially the inquiry approach to science, are readily apparent.
What may not be obvious are the applications of classification to reading in the content fields (for example, social studies) and the retention of information read. Schema theory holds that information, if it is to be retained, must be categorized with something already stored in memory (Tonjes and Zintz, 1987). Brainstorming techniques that aid comprehension are recommended to help students access their prior knowledge about a topic to be read, and thus classify and retain the new information.
Devine (1986) pointed out that it may be necessary to restructure students' schemata when prior experiences that are limited to a different context interfere with gaining a new concept. Devine used the example of students who were having difficulty seeing relationships between the concepts of social class and caste system. In a word association task, the students were asked to list everything they knew about each term separately. Then they were asked to find similarities--for example, classify related facts and events, identify the common thread among them, and label them--thus forming new concepts or schemata.
This digest was adapted from an article titled, "How Can We Teach Critical Thinking?" by Kathryn S. Carr, which appeared in CHILDHOOD EDUCATION (Winter, 1988): 69-73.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Devine, T.G. Teaching Reading Comprehension: From Theory to Practice. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1986.
Elbow, P. "Teaching Thinking by Teaching Writing." Change (September, 1983): 37-40.
Furth, H.G., and Wachs, H. Thinking Goes to School. Piaget's Theory in Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.
Gallagher, J.J. Teaching the Gifted Child. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1975.
Gerhard, C. Making Sense: Reading Comprehension Improved through Categorizing. Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 1975.
McMillen, L. "Many Professors Now Start at the Beginning by Teaching Their Students How to Think." Chronicle of Higher Education (March 5, 1986): 23-25.
Raths, L.E., Jonas, A., Rothstein, A., and Wassermann, S. Teaching for Thinking, Theory and Application. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill, 1967.
Somers, A.B., and Worthington, J.E. Response Guides for Teaching Children's Books. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1979.
Spache, G.D., and Spache, E.B. Reading in the Elementary School. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1986.
Tonjes, M.J., and Zintz, M.V. Teaching Reading, Thinking, Study Skills in Content Classrooms. Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown, 1987.
Zintz, M.V., and Maggart, Z.R. The Reading Process, The Teacher and the Learner. Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown, 1984.
This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under OERI contract no. RI88062012. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the Department of Education
Title: How Can We Teach Critical Thinking? ERIC Digest.
Descriptors: * Classification; * Critical Thinking; Elementary Secondary Education; * Reading Skills; Schemata [Cognition]; Teacher Responsibility; * Teaching Methods; * Thinking Skills; * Writing Skills
Identifiers: ERIC Digests
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