Key Thinking Objectives for a Thinking Curriculum
Last year one of my professional growth goals was to promote and support the development of thinking skills and other transdisciplinary skills in my teaching teams with my colleagues and with my students. I was inspired by a fantastic workshop “Cultures of Thinking” by Dr. Ron Ritchart and later in the year “The Pedagogy of Inquiry” by Kath Murdoch.
With all the other important events and developments this year I did not have a chance to reflect on what is being done and also think about what else we can do to shape more effective learners through developing their thinking skills.
There is no doubt that a lot of work is done in this area in ISPP elementary. However, I am sure that both the teachers and students will benefit from a more structured approach to the matter.
After reading IBO Swartz and McGuinness Developing and Assessing Thinking Skills Project Final Report Part 1 February 2014, I thought that we as teachers should pay more attention to the “thinking dispositions” such as inquisitiveness, open-mindedness, honesty in facing one’s own biases and prejudices, fair-mindedness and so on. Lots of “thinking dispositions” are part of our learner profile and support our students in developing the moral qualities and features and in becoming emotionally intelligent individuals.
The important idea is that there is a direct connection between emotional intelligence and our ability to think. In other words individuals of high moral values are better thinkers.
Here is a thinking routine (taken from Paul, R. (1993). Critical Thinking: What Every Student Needs to Survive in A Rapidly Changing World, Dillon Beach, CA: Foundation For Critical Thinking) that can help our students develop their critical thinking skills in conjunction with their emotional intelligence. To practice this routine the teacher should choose any life situation (could be a situation from the student’s life or it could also take the form of character discussion)
To take any experience apart, students must be sensitive to three distinctive sets of questions:
- What are the raw facts, what is the most neutral description of the situation? If one describes the experience this way, and another disagrees, on what description can they agree?
- What interests, attitudes, desires, or concerns do I bring to the situation? Am I always aware of them? Why or why not?
- How am I interpreting the situation in light of my point of view? How else might it be interpreted?
Students must also explore the interrelationships of these parts:
- How did my point of view, values, desires, etc., affect what I noticed about the situation?
- How did they prevent me from noticing other things?
- How would I have interpreted the situation had I noticed those other things?
- How did my point of view, desires, etc., affect my interpretation?
- How should I interpret the situation?
If students have many assignments that require them to analyze their experiences and the experiences of others, with an opportunity to argue among themselves about which interpretations make the most sense and why, then they will begin creating a collection of critically analyzed experiences.
Students will develop intellectual virtues because they had thought their way to them and internalized them as concrete understandings and insights, not because they were told to do like this. Students’ basic values and their thinking processes will be in a symbiotic relationship to each other. Their intellectual and affective lives will become more integrated. Their standards for thinking will be implicit in their own thinking, rather than in texts, teachers, or the authority of a peer group.