Being Taught vs. Being Told

I approach the teaching of critical thinking in a slightly different manner than many instructors. In my composition courses, we don’t have time to cover everything I would like to cover about critical thinking techniques, but I embed ways to practice high-level thinking as a part of the writing and research processes because these skills are essential for writing and other intellectual pursuits.

Mainly, I want my students to understand why it is so important and for us to take some time to practice. The “Library” page from The Foundation for Critical Thinking provides a number of interesting articles and interviews, which set a solid foundation for discussion and practice. Through seeing the benefit of a healthy thinking process and the negative implications of not thinking effectively, my hope is that students will take more time questioning ideas and looking at situations from a variety of perspectives. I want them to survey the terrain of expertise and understand there is rarely, if ever, only one expert or perspective, and we also address the fallacy of placing issues into the myopic aspects of the two-sided debate.

After students read, review and study some of the materials from the Foundation for Critical Thinking, we move to what many consider a simple answer to a simple question to see what happens when critical thinking strategies are applied:

How many senses do humans have? Well, for most people, the answer is simple: 5.

Now, first think about when you learned this and ask: Were you taught about the senses or were you told the answer is 5?
Second, ask: Did you question the answer? Did you test the answer? Did you experiment? Did you do any research?
Third, read this article: “Title Withheld for Obvious Reasons.”

Now, let’s discuss…

What does this make you think about?
Do you want to question other ideas?
Why is critical thinking so important?
Why can’t we just absorb things without question?
What are the implications of not thinking for ourselves?
What are the benefits of thinking for ourselves?
What should we do? What are some important strategies to not be misled?

*Note: Don’t feel you have to answer all of these questions. The goal is to discuss, learn, practice and progress.

I am mainly sharing this because it has been a successful exercise to help my students see the value in developing a solid process for critical thinking and research, but if you are so inclined, feel free to post a comment.

So many complex systems and issues are over-simplified, which drives me crazy. We need to start helping young people see complexity instead of feeding them simple, straightforward answers for regurgitation and filling in bubbles on Scranton sheets.

Ask: What else in the world seems to be oversimplified or, as commonly understood, does not make sense?

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About Jim Newell

Associate Professor of English, Daytona State College / Thinker / Ponce Inlet Surfer / Improviser / Dad
This entry was posted in Being Taught vs. Being Told, corporatization of education, Critical Thinking, factory education, Problem, Teach the Willing, Uncategorized, unlearn and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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