Friday, January 24, 2014

What I Learned Today: Teaching Critical Thinking

Went to a workshop today run by Tom Angelo Asst. Provost at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. It was a good exercise for me in that it forced me to evaluate certain teaching attitudes I have.

The Workshop was called, "Promoting Critical Thinking in Your Courses and Across the Curriculum." It may sound boring, but I assure you it is not, and it was not. He posed a number of questions that got the group of about 40 faculty members to think about how they view their students and their teaching philosophies.

He began by asking us how what kind of learning we were exposed to as undergraduates: factual, conceptual, procedural conditional, metacognitive and reflective learning. We were asked to give a percentage of our learning experience for each type, and then he asked us the percentage of what we teach--or try to teach--to our current students. Of course, I was stuck on factual and conceptual as that is old school education. But I want to convey to my students metacognitive and reflective developments and the scale we had as undergraduates and what we want for our graduates was inverse.

He made us feel guilty--I'm sure in a kidding kind of way--but reminding us that these scholars gave us the best that they had, but by inverting the focus we were in a way rebelling against our education and educators.

Anyway, with this and other ideas, he tried to open us up to what we might think is important for students to learn in college.

Now there were a couple of things that he seemed to be out of sync with--he said explicitly that information that can be found on the Internet or from a fellow student is not worth testing for. I cannot accept this for, at its foundation, critical thinking requires factual knowledge. You can't think about "nothing". I should say, however, that Tom realizes that importance of facts, too. He just may have been a bit hyperbolic in conveying how facts are not as important if you don't do anything with them, i.e. critically analyze them.

Still it was enlightening and I will see what I can implement into my course this semester.

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