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 Getting Explicit When Teaching Critical Thinking
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SFN Die Hard

3739 Posts

Posted - 09/27/2011 :  12:26:19  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've often heard, especially in more skeptical and secular crowds, that critical thinking should be taught in schools. And while that sounded good on its face, the person saying it would never elaborate on how critical thinking can and should be taught, or whether teaching it actually results in better critical thinkers (opposed to kids simply having natural abilities toward critical thinking or being more likely to learn critical thinking through examples in real life rather than instruction.)

I just came across this article on one of my favorite parenting blogs which seems to back up the idea that teaching critical thinking really does work, and that teaching it through explicit instruction works best. Also evidence that learned critical thinking in the context of science class lessons will be extended to other aspects of the students' lives.

Tips for teaching critical thinking: What should parents and teachers do?

The short answer is make the principles of rational and scientific thinking explicit.
Philip Abrami and colleagues analyzed 117 studies about teaching critical thinking. The teaching approach with the strongest empirical support was explicit instruction--i.e., teaching kids specific ways to reason and solve problems. In studies where teachers asked students to solve problems without giving them explicit instruction, students experienced little improvement (Abrami et al 2008).

So it seems that kids benefit most when they are taught formal principles of reasoning. And the experiments mentioned above suggest that middle school students aren't too young to learn about logic, rationality, and the scientific method.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

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Edited by - marfknox on 09/27/2011 12:27:06

Dave W.
Info Junkie

26012 Posts

Posted - 09/27/2011 :  13:35:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
My wife actually got to take a logic class in high school. I don't recall anything like that being offered in my high school, despite them being in the same county. She did graduate four years after I did, though.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

4574 Posts

Posted - 09/27/2011 :  13:55:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The first time I ever heard of a logical fallacy was when I took Philosophy 101 in college. Learning about known biases in human thinking was both fascinating and enlightening, but I immediately wondered why I had never been exposed to any of this earlier.

"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 09/27/2011 13:55:55
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SFN Die Hard

3739 Posts

Posted - 09/30/2011 :  11:02:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I felt pretty awesome being a camp counselor at Camp Quest in 2001 and 2002. Both years some of the presentations were explicit exercises in critical thinking:

One year we had a guest speaker who actually went through a list of logical fallacies, explaining them several different ways and getting the kids to ask questions and share their own examples.

Another year an adult volunteer was set up to dress up like God and steal something during dinner. We then had a mock trial where camper-witnesses were interviewed and made many claims about what they saw. Then they pulled out a video tape of the entire incident which showed that many of their eye-witness accounts were dead wrong.

Third and final example: The campers are told every year that there are two invisible pink unicorns who live at the camp, but who cannot be detected by any natural means. A "godless" $100 bill is offered to any camper who can prove they don't exist. In 2002 a very bright, 12-year-old girl came up with a number of well-articulated, reasonable arguments from many different philosophical points of view as to why we could be sure the unicorns don't exist. Her explanation was so well argued that she inspired a standing ovation from all the campers and volunteers. But she still didn't win the $100 bill since she had failed to prove her point with "absolute certainty". It was a bitter-sweet lesson.

I can't wait to teach my kids all about critical thinking. Definitely sending them to Camp Quest when they are old enough, too. :-)

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store:

Edited by - marfknox on 09/30/2011 11:03:41
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382 Posts

Posted - 09/30/2011 :  17:00:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send justintime a Private Message  Reply with Quote
There was a time when the phrase "Lateral Thinking " was the driving force behind school curriculum. We understood as educators there was a difference between intelligence and smart. We had high achievers where rote learn was measured against intelligence and where novel solutions were quicker to arrive at if the students were measure for application over retention.

Unfortunately this approach to developing and maximizing creativity was going against the normal grain. Creativity was not measurable when tested against conventional test scores. It is the modern thinking out of the box and applicable only when conventional wisdom and reasoning cannot resolve problems that require a different set of paradigms beyond the framework of rational deductible thinking.

Critical things appears to address what can be rationally deducible. By stressing emphasis on judgment, discipline, honesty, self awareness, open-mindedness and rationality. But we are a product of emotions overruling reason that which we react to most. Finding the rational behind emotional sway is what leads to justification and explanation but not the solution. If a problem is unsolvable under traditional means then it has exhausted all rational attempts to arrive at a solution that can be rationally accepted.

But problems and all problems unless paradoxical have solutions. It is this assurance of mathematical possibilities that have to be explored and not the obvious logical conclusions.
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