Fostering Metacognition, Growth Mindset, and Grit, with Dr. Peter Arthur

PUBLISHED: Nov 16, 2017

In This Episode.

TCTI welcomes Peter Arthur, Ph.D.  Peter is a frequent keynote speaker and sought-after workshop facilitator on “Enhancing Metacognition, Growth Mindset and Grit for Student Success.” He speaks with Steve and Dave about the intersects between his work and critical thinking. Plus, Steve has some depressing news of the week, and we learn why critical thinking isn’t the same thing as being smart.

Episode Archive

Fostering Metacognition, Growth Mindset, and Grit, with Dr. Peter Arthur

November 16, 2017

Podcast Transcript

Voiceover: Welcome to the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast, we bring you research driven solutions to critical thinking education. Why? Because as Bertrand Russell said, most people would sooner die than think. In fact, they do so. And now your hosts, Steve Pearlman and Dave Carillo.

Steve Pearlman: And for this episode of the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast, we’re really honored to welcome our first ever guest, Dr Peter Arthur Peters, an internationally known keynote speaker on teaching, practice and learning. His most sought after seminar is enhancing metacognition, growth, mindset and grit for student success. Peter does over 60 presentations a year at different colleges and universities on grit and growth, mindset and metacognition, and we met him at one of those conferences where we were keynoting with him at the cheer conference in Connecticut, and we immediately saw some of the essential connections between some of the things that Peter focuses on in his discussions of how to best help students learn and our focus here at the critical thinking initiative on, of course, critical thinking. And we immediately felt as though he would be someone who our listeners would find particularly valuable in bringing a different perspective on how to approach critical thinking and metacognition than the way Dave and I are always blathering about it from our own little isolated corner of the world here for any of our listeners who might want to reach out to Peter Arthur. You can reach him at Peter Arthur. And without further ado, here is our interview with Peter. So, Peter, you focus on three major areas of interest that I think all intersect with critical thinking in different ways. But I’ll leave you to talk about those and maybe give our listeners an introduction to your specific areas of focus.

Peter Arthur: Sure, thank you. So I’ll give you a little bit of background about how I came about investigating three constructs metacognition, growth, mindset and grit. A few years back, when I was the director for the Center for Teaching and Learning at a university in Canada. Faculty came to me who taught first year students, and they came to me and said, our students are not ready to learn. They don’t have the skills to be successful in our science and engineering classes. So what I did is I started investigating about five years ago how metacognition might play a role in helping students learn how to learn and be more successful with their studies. So I started off with looking at metacognition, but then I soon realized that growth, mindset and grit were very important factors that impacted their success as well. So I started to develop these curricular interventions and I would help faculty integrate them with their curriculum. And I started studying the impact of these curricular interventions on the students. So with metacognition, growth, mindset and grit, I found that all three indicated a good, strong relationship with academic success. But the big piece was the relationship together. That metacognition and growth mindset supported students with reaching their academic goals, which really is grit. And the way I would define grit is the student’s persistence to overcome challenges, to reach big goals.

Peter Arthur: So growth mindset as a piece of supporting their ability to overcome challenges was an important piece because we realize that students come to us with all sorts of challenges. Many of our students have families that they’re supporting, as well as academic challenges, so we thought it was very important that they have a growth mindset. And just briefly, I’ll mention what growth mindset is. It comes from Carol Dweck work from Stanford that believes that students with a fixed mindset towards intelligence believes that we’re born with a certain amount of intelligence and there isn’t anything they can do about it. And some of those people who believe they’re born with a certain amount of intelligence, they give up more easily. So they’re not going to be successful because they don’t think that the more effort they’ll put in, the more successful they’ll be. And from my research, we found that about 40 percent of our students come to us with that kind of fixed mindset, whereas a student with a growth mindset, please. Yes, they’re born with a certain amount of intelligence, but they can grow their intelligence that they can learn. And the more effort they can put in, the better they’ll be and those. Students who have that growth mindset towards intelligence will put the effort in and then reach their goal and overcome challenges.

Steve Pearlman: One of the things I really liked about your conversation, your presentation at cheer was how you articulated a distinction between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset and analogize that to other kinds of learning experiences or other kinds of things that people might encounter in their lives that aren’t necessarily intelligence related. So I’m wondering if you could elaborate on that and also maybe elaborate a little bit on how you’re assessing whether or not the students had a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. And eventually, I know we want to dig back more into the metacognition side of it, but I think our listeners would find that really interesting. Sure.

Peter Arthur: So many people recognize that some students, for example, towards math, have a fixed mindset. They believe they’re just really poor at math and they believe they were born that way. So they rationalize it that they were born. That way, they look at maybe their sister, their brother or their mother or father were also bad math. So they’re bad at math and they give up more easily. And what’s interesting is these students will have a growth mindset in other areas of their life. For example, that student on Saturday may spend five hours on the football field. Why? Because they know through practice they will get better at football and they’ll listen to their coach. They’ll reflect on their performance and they’ll put the effort in and work hard and become a better football player. That same person who feels that way towards football might have a fixed mindset towards math, writing or many other different academic pursuits. So it’s important for us to have students realize that in parts of their life, they might have a fixed mindset and in other parts of their life, they have a growth mindset. And the way we were able to find that approximately 40 percent of our students had a fixed mindset. We use dwek survey that has been very well analyzed within the literature.

Steve Pearlman: So let me ask you this you. We encounter this a lot with respect to critical thinking, and certainly we encounter a lot of students who are under the impression that thinking is something innate and they they have it to an ever extent. They’re going to have it and aren’t going to be able to become better at it necessarily. But at the same time, we actually see, I think, a fixed mindset among some faculty with respect to students ability to think critically, that faculty are under the impression that this is something that can’t really be taught. Or if it maybe if it’s something that we are teaching, it’s not something that we’re really able to assess well in students or assess whether or not we’re making any difference. And I guess the question I have for you, just as you’re talking about it, it just occurred to me is what’s your experience with faculty with respect to their perception of students having fixed mindsets or an inability to grow in certain intellectual ways?

Peter Arthur: Well, that’s that’s very interesting because just like the general population, some faculty have fixed mindsets towards thinking towards intelligence, student ability, and it’s something that we have to help faculty with as well, that they need to be supporting a growth mindset and reinforcing that rather than just saying, You’re doing wonderful, you’re great, you’re a natural at this because students can’t control what they’re born with, but they can control effort. So by reinforcing their effort, it’s something that students can control, and it reinforces that growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset.

Steve Pearlman: And so do you talk to them, for example, say about neuroplasticity and how do you approach faculty and how would you explain to our listeners here if they’re educators themselves, that if they had been working under some impression prior to this that students enter their classes with fixed or semi fixed intellectual capacities in certain arenas of academia? What’s the way you approach persuading faculty that that’s not the case?

Dave Carillo: And Peter, can I just piggyback on Steve’s question? Where along the lines of that kind of reinforcement and along the lines of explaining the faculty as well as students, the idea that the brain can grow the mind can grow. What do you do to to sort of help faculty and students sort of isolate turning points in their learning, recognize turning moments of turning points or when they’re at the precipice of of this kind of like growth and helping students faculty sort of move beyond, OK?

Peter Arthur: Sure. Let me talk a little bit about that. That faculty do not want students to give up. Faculty do not. Want to hear? I’m bad at math. I’ve always been bad at math, and there’s nothing I can do. So if I approach it from a positive aspect of a solution to an issue they’re seeing, they’re much more likely to listen and to incorporate some of the strategies in their class to help their students learn. With the students, I do talk about neurogenesis. Neuroplasticity of the brain. I talk about how we used to think that we’re born with 80 to 100 billion neurons, and that was it for life. But now, luckily, we realize that we’re constantly creating new neurons in the hippocampus, which then becomes part of our network. And also, I talk about the importance of challenging our brain to help it grow. And often I’ll use analogies to the gym, where if I go to the gym and go over to the bench press and put five pounds on a bench press and do three sets of eight, what’s actually happening? Well, not much because there isn’t any challenge there. However, if I go over to the bench press and put one hundred and fifty to two hundred pounds on that effort, that challenge challenges my muscles and helps them grow. And I talk to them about reflecting on an area where they have found learning challenging and how they overcame that challenge. And what do they think happened to their brain when they overcame that learning challenge? And I get them to kind of reflect and realize that, yes, they are learning and impacting and growing their brain, growing their intelligence, and that’s an important concept for them and especially the importance of challenge. And that challenge is the key to growth without challenge. You’re not really growing as much as you could. And a lot of students think that when they’re really challenged, they’re finding it challenging because they’re just not smart enough. However, they need to realize that it’s through that challenge. The growth occurs.

Steve Pearlman: And so you were talking about almost increasing this self-awareness in them. This recognition that this challenge is in fact part of what is going to make them grow intellectually in the first place. And that’s not a perfect Segway, but it’s a pretty good Segway into the question of metacognition, which is a little bit more of what we wanted to focus on because I think it’s a little more closely related to some of what we think about in terms of critical thinking, which is where our podcast is most centered. How would you exactly define metacognition? There are some really simplistic definitions of out there, and then there are some very complex ones. How do you go about defining it? Where do you see the value in developing this metacognitive mindset in students? And what does it look like for a student to have that? Sure.

Peter Arthur: Let’s unpack metacognition for a moment. So Flavell, who was a professor at Stanford in the seventies, kind of coined the term metacognition, and he simply put it as thinking about our thinking. So it’s kind of that monitoring of our thinking, which is really important in learning. And Traore came along and saw it as two sub components that were very important, one being metacognitive regulation. And that’s your ability to control one’s thinking and learning, such as planning, monitoring comprehension and then reflecting on the learning process to learn and become a more effective learner. The second is metacognitive knowledge, and it refers to the knowledge of cognition, such as knowledge of skills and strategies that work best for the learner and when to use such skills and strategies in a learning context to be successful.

Dave Carillo: Thank you for those definitions. Those were helpful. One of the things we try to do with our listeners is is provide them with some sort of on-the-ground advice on how to integrate the kinds of things that we’re talking about into their classroom. You you were first approached about science and engineering students. So could you give us a sense of how you might integrate knowledge of metacognition or metacognitive exercises into a classroom?

Peter Arthur: Sure, I’d be happy to. One of the things that I just mentioned was it’s important for students to learn how to plan and monitor their learning. So two, three weeks out before an exam, I do two things I teach them about evidence based strategies for studying. And this is very important because that’s kind of your metacognitive knowledge. In other words, directing your effort towards your. Turning in an effective way, and so they need to use evidence based strategies, and I go through a couple important ones, for example, the importance of using practice testing because practice testing does a couple of things. Number one, it reinforces the learning because when you practice test, you’re recalling and strengthening that recall or solving a problem and helping with the learning. But also it makes them a more effective learner because lets them know where their strengths are and their weaknesses are as well. I talk to them about the importance of study groups that your peer teaching and when you peer teach, you learn it at a whole different level. But then I give them a handout on how do you plan for studying for this exam? Questions like What do you know about this test? What’s going to be on the test? When are you going to study? What strategies are you going to use? And they create a plan and then they share that plan with one other person so that they have a little bit of accountability and they start a conversation about how to study for an exam so that planning is a very important metacognitive activity. And from our experience, a lot of our students do not plan their learning. And yet planning their learning has a strong, positive relationship with being successful academically.

Steve Pearlman: So effectively, you’re kind of saying that students need to be more self-aware about what they’re doing as learners.

Peter Arthur: They are, they need to plan their learning and they need to then monitor their learning and change up the strategy as need be.

Steve Pearlman: That’s really interesting because I think a lot of our listeners who are educators are in educational circles. They might have students in their classes whom they’re trying to teach as best they can, but they might not be helping the students become better students. I’m not helping them be better at being students. And you’re saying that there are these techniques that we can employ in the classroom that they don’t seem like they’re terribly taxing on us as educators, and they help students reflect on what their processes are as learners and therefore become more self-aware of the moves that they have to make to master material. Is that sort of where you’re headed?

Peter Arthur: And I think that word reflection is a very powerful skill and strategy that often as educators, we underutilized, John Dewey said. We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience and from our experience. Many of our students really do not know how to reflect properly. They’re OK with telling us what they did. But the analysis phase of reflection is really important. The So what? So if they did something, what did they learn from it? And sometimes we need to help them with that. And so I was talking about planning for an exam. It’s equally important after they write the exam and get the results and the feedback they need to reflect on their learning process to let them reflect on how they studied and prepared for the exam, what happened during the exam and how they might change their learning strategies to be a more effective learner.

Steve Pearlman: All right, great. So let me transition this then a little bit because I think there are so many obvious and maybe they’re not obvious. Well, I don’t know, but potentially interesting overlaps at least and intersects between what you’re talking about grit and the growth mindset, metacognition and what we ultimately want to move into here. A little more specifically, which is critical thinking. I think we’ll probably have to have you back some other time to talk about grit because that in itself is such a hot topic.

Dave Carillo: No, it’s and it’s like it’s such an important element to all this because, you know, you can’t have the students trying to skirt the difficulty. You have to run right at it as it were.

Steve Pearlman: Yeah, we had such a great time meeting you when you were down here and presenting with you at cheer. And I think one of the obviously it was a packed conference and we didn’t have time to do more than we did. But one of the things that if there was a second day to that that we would have loved to be able to do was to have more discussion with you toward the participants about the intersections between your areas in terms of grit, growth, mindset and metacognition and and some of what we’re doing in terms of critical thinking and how those things can reinforce one another. So let me turn it over to you and say, where do you see in a broad stroke with respect to critical thinking and students, the intersects between some of those other topics that you’re talking about and critical thinking in education,

Peter Arthur: Where I see metacognition and critical thinking intersecting or impacting one another is that I see critical thinking demands higher level and. It is skills, and what metacognition does is it allows you to monitor and regulate your thinking, so as you’re critically thinking or doing a critical thinking activity, it is important. For example, we are talking about reflection a moment ago. If you have just completed a critical thinking exercise, it is important then to reflect on how that critical thinking process worked out for them and ask the question, Did it work out? How might I change it next time to be a more effective, efficient, critical thinker?

Dave Carillo: So sorry, sorry, I have run with it. I’m going to run with it. So, Peter, I hear you sort of speaking about how you know, metacognition becomes valuable for the student if, if, if it provides them with a space to to reflect on what they’ve done, had they done it better or what would they have done a second time around? A lot of the times that Steve and I work with students and faculty, we’re trying to get students to become sort of metacognitive in the moment, and that’s that can be challenging to do, you know, especially if they’re under pressure because they’re doing a short answer essay test or if they’re under some sort of time pressure for some other reason. But do you find that, you know, it’s trickier almost to develop this metacognitive framework in students such that they can employ it as they’re moving through a task or as they’re working on a particular paper? So on and so forth, you find that you have to sort of separate the before and after or work harder to develop that framework to take place in the moment sort of a a mindfulness about the metacognitive. And actually,

Peter Arthur: I think that’s a very important part, and it’s a very difficult skill is to be mindful in the moment to be monitoring your learning or monitoring your judgements. So if a student is in the middle of a critical thinking task, they need to monitor. Are there strategies working or do they need to change up their strategy? And that’s a very difficult skill, and sometimes it needs to be modeled. For example, if I was teaching biology, I might have a problem in biology and I would demonstrate this is how an expert biologists would think, and I would use the Think Aloud protocol to demonstrate my cognitive processes on how I might solve the problem, just as a demonstration on what they need to do when they’re critically thinking. Because otherwise often they aren’t monitoring their processes, they’re not at that level. And I think that’s an important piece

Steve Pearlman: That think allowed. The part is we’re big fans of that. And that’s and I think that’s one of the things that has inspired some of what we’re trying to do because one of the things that we found is as we looked into critical thinking for students is that there’s really a total lack of self-awareness in students about what they’re doing. When they’re engaging a problem, they’re drawing a conclusion about anything. And we tried to come up with a way to approach it such that it was applicable to any situation, any problem that they had to address, that there was this process they could recognize that they were going through on the way to a conclusion and hopefully through becoming more self aware of that process, strengthen it. We also see it in faculty members who and there have been a number of studies done on this where they asked faculty members about the importance of critical thinking. And faculty members certainly will say that it’s very important. But when they ask them to define exactly what they want students to do in terms of critical thinking, then it gets very fuzzy, very quickly and it’s hard to pin down. And we think that having a way to become more self-aware of those intellectual movements that we all make when we’re drawing a conclusion about any topic is important. So I guess there’s this one aspect of metacognition that you referenced, which is critically important, and that’s this self-awareness of process of engaging, learning and so on. Then there’s this other side of it which you just more allude to in the think aloud that is about recognizing the thinking moves that we make when we’re thinking. I’m wondering, what do you see as the connection between those two forces and in terms of any familiarity you might have with what we sort of talked about at the conference in terms of how we try to help move people into that? Do you have any insights as to how that might be helpful for faculty and students or where also there might be something that we should consider more in how we’re going about?

Peter Arthur: Very good point. There’s a lot of good points in what you just said. I’ll draw on a couple pieces and I’ll start by elaborating on that. Protocol and you mentioned the importance of faculty to be aware, not only aware of what they want their students to be able to do, but of their own thinking processes and the think aloud protocol. In other words, just kind of talking out loud about what they’re thinking and making that verbal is a very important way for faculty to become aware of their own thinking processes and for students then to learn kind of a model on how an expert might approach a problem. But I’m going to go back to the reflective piece so that they’re more aware of their own thinking processes as well. To then ask the critical question What might I do differently next time to change maybe my process around thinking they might also use the same strategy of thinking aloud or a free right? I know your background is around writing as well to kind of express what they’re cognitively thinking through writing to help them more monitor what they’re thinking about in the critical thinking framework.

Steve Pearlman: So I think that’s very helpful in starting to tie this together. And I want to ask you this as sort of as doing a solid for our listeners here because so many of them are educators who are new to some of these concepts and they’re maybe trying to work them into their education, or they’re seasoned educators who have encountered these things either tacitly in some aspects of their education without necessarily being able to give name to them or have done some direct work with this. But probably not to the extent that you have studied some of this and been practiced at it in working with it explicitly. So as someone who’s been around the block on this many times, I’d love to know what for you have been some of the most impactful moments or insights that you’ve gotten in working with these aspects of education.

Peter Arthur: Are you thinking metacognition in particular, or are you thinking critical thinking and metacognition? All right, I’m going to

Steve Pearlman: Say leave that open and just run wherever you think the impact have been most dramatic or the moments for you have been most insightful.

Peter Arthur: Important piece for the students is the whole idea of becoming a more effective, efficient learner. And to do that, they need to learn how to plan their learning, monitor their learning and reflect on their learning. So by giving them some skills and strategies around that has really been impactful for students, and I’m going to pick up on a little bit more on reflection, and I’m going to emphasize the fact that many students don’t reflect enough and reflecting helps students learn the discipline, but they also help them become a better learner. Simple things that I’ve worked with faculty that they feel has been really helpful are things like a one minute paper. So at the end of a lesson, faculty give a one minute paper and let me explain what that one minute paper is. The one minute paper asks two questions What’s one thing that I learned and what’s one thing that I still have a question about? And that’s very important because many students at the end of a class just get up and leave and they do not cognitively process what just happened. And by forcing them to reflect and say, What did I just learn helps them cognitively process. And that in turn, as a teacher, it really is impactful and informs their teaching because in their hands is a stack of one minute papers that tell them what the students may have learned in the class. And I can address some of those issues and questions that students have. But teaching them how to reflect is an important piece, and I mention about the exam reflection. So after an exam or a learning episode, it’s also important to reflect on the learning process, reflecting on how their learning process took place and how they might change their learning process next time based on the results of that learning episode. So it’s

Steve Pearlman: Kind of almost a double reflective experience because it’s reflective for the students and then in a way, it’s reflected for the faculty at

Dave Carillo: The same time and low stakes, which is something that’s always good. When you’re trying to integrate these kinds of concepts for the first time in your class, it can sometimes be a little bit daunting of a task. So it sounds like that’s a great way to start to move in that direction. Just taking the last two minutes

Peter Arthur: Of each class about three minutes is at the end of the class. Ask students to write down the three most important things they learned and then after they’ve written down those three things, the teacher writes. What they thought were the three most important things, and then the student can then reflect on our mind the same three, why or why not? And it helps them begin to see the power of reflection as a learning process and how to reflect.

Steve Pearlman: Well, one thing I’m going to reflect on certainly is how much I wish we had more time, really, but it’s about all we can do for our podcast today. I want to thank you again so much for being on with us, and I hope that our paths physically cross again in the future. Perhaps before we were able to get you back on for another session about grit? Definitely.

Dave Carillo: And it was a happy, happy occasion to see just how much our work spoke to each other, especially since, you know, that was the first time we’d ever really come across each other. So it looked so well coordinated at the conference. Thank you that it was

Peter Arthur: Mine and thank you for this invitation, as it was a great opportunity to kind of discuss with you how our our work is intersecting. And I too really appreciated your work on your critical thinking and developing a model that a framework in a model that faculty teachers in the K to 12 system could really use and help them integrate critical thinking with their curriculum. Because so many faculty and teachers really haven’t learned how to do this, and it provides them a really strong structure in a positive way. So thank you.

Voiceover: This episode of the Critical Thinking Initiative is brought to you by the Critical Thinking Initiative. Org Visit the Critical Thinking Initiative. Org For an ever expanding resource of books, syllabi, videos and other resources on critical thinking, the critical thinking initiative is always seeking out other people in education who want to work towards raising critical thinking outcomes locally and nationally.

Steve Pearlman: All right, so time to move into our News of the week segment.

Dave Carillo: Yeah, let’s do it. You can go first this time. I think I went first last time. I can’t actually remember. I’m just telling you to go first.

Steve Pearlman: I will go first, then thank you. So my news of the week is not uplifting. This week, last week I had a more hopeful.

Dave Carillo: You did. I think you did. The girl, the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. I was more

Steve Pearlman: Of a ray of sunshine last night and because of daylight savings and it’s turning cold outside, I’m going to be a dark cloud very

Dave Carillo: Gray out there. All right.

Steve Pearlman: So my news of the week is from a Washington Post article, and it’s by Valerie Strauss. And it says the work of two hundred and thirteen thousand two hundred and eighty four kids was analyzed. These are the writing and critical thinking skills that stumped students. That’s the title, right? Thanks. So it’s about this web based platform, which I’ve seen a little bit of called no red ink.

Dave Carillo: I’ve heard of that. I think, yeah,

Steve Pearlman: And what it does is it helps students from six to 12th grade improve in writing critical thinking skills through an online platform. And anything that’s helping students improve is a good thing. What they did here was they sort of did an assessment of the extent to which students were proficient. So this is offering efficacy to what they’re trying to accomplish. And I think what this suggests is certainly the need for more work around all of this now. Usually, we’re talking somewhat more about college students. Again, these are students who are in sixth grade through twelfth grade. Ok, well, they looked at a number of different metrics for these students in terms of what they were capable of being able to do. And I won’t go into all the details about how they measured all of this, but in terms of whether they are able to evaluate undeveloped and undependable claims. Mm hmm. What they found that I’m reading from the article here is that quote even when students have a thirty three percent chance of guessing correctly, meaning it is a multiple choice. Mm hmm. About half of them can’t identify when claims aren’t defendable enough or substantive debate. Yikes. So they have a 33 percent chance of getting it right if they throw a dart at the wall. Hmm. And still, about half can’t figure out when a claim can’t be defended or debated. Wow. Another point here is that when it came to identifying arguments that don’t progress, quote fewer than half of students. Forty seven percent can identify when the follow on statement is mere repackaging of the original claim, even in a multiple choice format. So again, they had a multiple choice. And again, half of them, even in the multiple choice format, can’t pick when something is just repeating itself.

Dave Carillo: Wow. And again, all I can say is wow.

Steve Pearlman: And this goes back to a lot of what we talked about with respect to the Stanford History Group study about ability to identify things on the internet

Dave Carillo: Have been

Steve Pearlman: Bleak, being bleak and not being able to recognize the distinction between what’s really an argument to what. It’s really a piece of evidence, what’s something worth considering? And what’s what’s internet trash? Basically, what’s click bait? But wait, there’s more.

Dave Carillo: Dave, I don’t know if I want to hear them more, but I guess you’re going to give us them more anyhow.

Steve Pearlman: Well, you signed up for the ride.

Dave Carillo: I did, really. I’m on the coaster. I might as well just see you through to the

Steve Pearlman: End when it comes to making logical deductions. Oh, students do only two percent better than a coin flip when asked whether a piece of reasoning logically connects claims and evidence. Ok, now some of these are sixth graders. No, look. And so I don’t know what I could have done when I was in sixth grade or not, you know, I have no idea. Maybe, you know, I was below this standard by far, but I’m hoping maybe by the time they get up to 12th grade that some of this is starting to reveal itself. We would

Dave Carillo: Hope.

Steve Pearlman: And then finally, when it came to analyzing evidence, it’s looking at whether or not they could see whether or not this was reliable evidence. And it says quote, only about half of students can tell that these arguments are weak when looking at unsubstantiated claims. So that is not what we would call hopeful information. It’s not about the state of critical thinking in writing and what’s going on there,

Dave Carillo: Although we could possibly interpret it as hopeful. If the outcomes keep telling us the same thing, more folks might become aware of the need for it. That’s our hope. I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s yeah, that’s that’s kind of a that’s kind of a depressing article there. Sorry. It’s all right. I should be prepared for that. I mean, we don’t we don’t go out looking for these kinds of things. But how many different examples of less than stellar critical thinking outcomes have we think about how many we’ve collected over the years when we’ve done, you know, faculty development or if we’re out doing a presentation? I mean, I’m hoping that someday we’ll be able to turn the corner someday, sooner rather than later.

Steve Pearlman: I’ve started to see some real upswing in something.

Dave Carillo: Yeah, yeah. You know, it would be great. Exactly.

Steve Pearlman: All right. Well, I’m sorry. That was not more uplifting. Let’s go to

Dave Carillo: You. That’s right. I think

Steve Pearlman: Going to assume your new thinking

Dave Carillo: Me for pausing the podcast so I could weep openly for five solid minutes. I think I’m over that.

Steve Pearlman: Your news of the week is like a daisy.

Dave Carillo: Mine is neither here nor there, but I was. I’m still fascinated with how this need for critical thinking is starting to make its way into these quote. Real world situations in ways that clearly are starting to impact both employers and employees and businesses. And these are the kinds of things that go over and above the data that that we keep getting that says, you know, businesses want critical thinkers, they want problem solvers. It’s all well and good to talk about what they want and to talk about those statistics. But when you kind of hear people start to talk about it and sort of more substantive ways, at any rate I went out and starts to get real is what? Well, yeah, it’s starting to get real and to be honest. You know, we’ve said this from the start, you know, being a strong, critical thinker. There are a lot of ways to stack up the need for strong, critical thinking, strong democracy because it keeps you alive. It’s like a good thing to be anyhow. But you know, one of the arguments that we do make is that this is what employers want and that does resonate when we go to colleges and universities, et cetera. At any rate, this one is from a website called Content Standard. This is by Nicola Brown, and it’s entitled Intelligence is not the same as critical thinking and it matters to your marketing team. So essentially, the overview here is that intelligence is all well and good to some extent. In a lot of different circumstances, intelligence is great. But what what Nicola is writing about is the fact that that more often than not, it’s your ability to think critically about a problem.

Dave Carillo: It’s going to make you a valuable member of your marketing team. She writes. Quote, It turns out that intelligence, as we commonly understand it, is not all it’s measured up to be. There’s a big difference between critical thinking and intelligence in. Some scientists believe traditional IQ tests don’t capture the realities of real world decision making. End quote. So right there she’s, you know, making a statement that that echoes the kind of pedagogical moves that we try to help faculty make, which is that, you know, like standardized tests, multiple choice tests, tests that like stack up three answers and allow you to choose them aren’t going to be the same as any sort of in the moment complex, real world situation. And again, also as I see threads to the kind of mindfulness that we were talking about as opposed to mindlessness that we were talking about last podcast. Among the things that she talks about is Dr. Heather Butler’s work. She’s a psychological researcher and she’s, you know, she’s done some work to not only show that critical thinking is a skills of mindset in and of itself, sort of separate from intelligence. And obviously, it helps to be intelligent, but it’s separate from intelligence. But she’s found that intelligence doesn’t necessarily lead to greater well-being, whereas. Is the ability to think critically is linked to greater wellness and longevity? Right, so there’s this again, there’s this real world impact that we’re starting to see in and around critical thinking, and we’re starting to see it in a lot of different ways.

Steve Pearlman: And that brings back to the to an earlier news of the week where I talked about some of that research on critical thinkers making better decisions and potentially living longer lives and so on, and it’s playing out here again.

Dave Carillo: Mm hmm. Exactly. And in terms of the intelligence tests, Brown goes on to write that quote. While the spatial skills and math ability measured by intelligence tests are important, they are arguably not the keys to making most real world decisions in a business context where the factors are complex and many of the most important variables are social variables. How is my boats going to react? How can I convince the board to invest this end quote? And that’s those are two fine questions. I could list a dozen more, but I think that that’s and that’s the thrust of this article really is that the real world decisions in a business context and we would argue in any actual Real-World context are complex. And they’re not the kinds of questions. They’re not the kinds of situations that spatial skills are math ability or most IQ tests going to help you to answer. So the article is interesting, though she goes on into this section called how to hire strong critical thinkers. And that’s actually pretty interesting, too. But this does give you a sense of where she’s headed. The helper and critical thinking assessment measures five dimensions of critical thinking verbal reasoning, argument analysis, thinking as hypothesis testing, right understanding sample size and generalizations, likelihood and uncertainty and decision making and problem solving.

Dave Carillo: So those are broad strokes things, and I do see threads between that and our framework. And one of the things that I’ll go back to our framework and say over and over again is once you teach students how to value complexity the way we we work with students on how to value complexity, you start to see the returns. But Nicola Brown suggests that using this framework and just putting out a scenario that allows the potential candidate to work through the problem and show complexity, show gaps or holes or things that aren’t necessarily known in the problem, allows you to basically get a sense of how well they might work in a situation where they have to sell, you know, solve a problem. And that’s essentially what Nicola Brown is saying. We want smart people, absolutely. But smarts are not necessarily the same thing as critical thinking and look like it’s come down to you want to start to hire someone who’s going to help you in the long run, start to craft your hiring process around some sort of problem or problem solving scenario that allows you to see how this potential employee might think critically about it.

Steve Pearlman: What’s interesting about that is, as you said when you prefaced it, and maybe I’m phrasing it a little bit in a different way here. But we’ve seen in education so much that because the students are in our class and they’re smart students, that doesn’t mean that they necessarily have an ability to really think critically through a complex issue or if they are doing some thinking through that complex issue, be able to articulate how they’re doing it, what intellectual moves they’re making represent that thinking process Typekit. And we then see this parallel when we talk to faculty members and some faculty members who are at some of the more elite institutions sometimes make the argument. They say, Well, we’re getting some of the smartest kids, we’re getting some of the best and the brightest. So clearly they are doing critical thinking. And when necessarily we test that theory by looking at and examining some of the work, we don’t necessarily see the critical thinking present right. We see that they might be smart kids and they might be dealing with complex texts, but they’re not necessarily really demonstrating the thinking about that text, even if they’re doing some sort of tacitly. But then what’s fascinating about this to me is that employers now are starting to recognize this distinction themselves that merely hiring smart people right though better than arguably hiring, not smart people. Right? Merely hiring smart people isn’t enough, and that they’re starting to see that distinction in the workforce that smart people isn’t. It’s not enough just to get the smart. Exactly.

Dave Carillo: And you know, maybe we should do a podcast for each of our critical thinking framework categories because I’d love to talk about know the ongoing issues and triumphs and travails we have of working with logic and logical fallacy. But there’s some danger, too, in overvaluing a test if the test is not testing for critical thinking, but somehow allows that person or the world to to know or to think they know that this is an intelligent person, that intelligent person. They’re intelligent because of this test or is also functioning under all sorts of the, you know, basic cognitive biases that affect every human brain. Then we have someone walking around potentially giving people the wrong answers or not the smartest answers. Because they’re intelligent and they don’t necessarily have to think things through or that’s the assumption they make, and that’s that’s dangerous. I mean, it’s super dangerous actually in the long

Steve Pearlman: Run, it’s such a sliver. And I think that’s our concern with not Halpern’s test specifically, but no at all. But with with some of the ways that this is being measured out there that we’ve seen that that’s it’s examining such a thin sliver of what might be considered a critical thinking aptitude that as you’re saying, the moniker, then that might come out. That this person is a strong, critical thinker really is a very limited snapshot exactly of that person’s true cognitive ability. And again, to our listeners, we are the strongest advocates. The fact that students are smart people and they really are capable of doing this critical thinking, yes. But we’re also some of the staunchest advocates of the distinction between being smart and actually being able to reason critically and actually then be able to show that to articulate it. That’s fascinating that it’s it’s creeping out into the work force.

Dave Carillo: That way, I started to become more aware of those kinds of articles, right? Because, you know, we hear a lot about businesses, corporations, institutions wanting critical thinkers. But this one and then one last week that about the inability of employees to make basic HR decisions like what kind of health care I want because they’re not able to reason through the fake news or the propaganda or the biased news that they’re getting is just fascinating to me. I mean, it’s, you know, not as unserious as though your news of the week, but it’s still it can be frightening if we’re starting to think about whether businesses can find enough critical thinkers and these sixth graders, these 12th graders will eventually be out on the workforce.

Steve Pearlman: So right and into colleges. Exactly. It’s time for

Dave Carillo: Question of the Week,

Steve Pearlman: Question of the week, and this question comes from Colorado listener by the name of Elias. Elias Elias. I think it’s Elias who wrote us a very thoughtful email. And Dave, do you want to?

Dave Carillo: Yeah, you want to. Sure. Ok, so our question of the week is actually two questions, and I think that they relate to each other and they’re very thoughtful. And so we wanted to try to get to both. The first question is quote Many Americans hold self-reinforcing value systems, which is to say the fundamental premise of their value system is hermetically sealed from internal or external criticism, because questioning said value system is construed as immoral and not questioning. Said Value system is construed as virtue under this rule. Critical thinking is an anathema to the entire enterprise. Do you guys have any ideas about how to make this issue more tractable? End quote That’s the first question in this email. The second one our listener actually refers to the philosopher Kevin de la Plante and Kevin de la Plante. Quote has argued that our education system was never designed to create thinkers, but rather to pump out workers. Because of this, they have drawn the conclusion that American, the American education system, is largely doomed to fail with respect to effectively teaching critical thinking. Our listener goes on a little further. Quote I wonder if you guys have any thoughts about whether or not the poverty of critical thinking in higher education students stems largely from not understanding how to effectively teach critical thinking in the classroom, or if the incentives are such that critical thinking isn’t actually a primary objective, despite claims to the contrary end quote. So those are the two questions we want to deal with.

Steve Pearlman: Well, first of all, those those really thoughtful, I believe so. I agree that gave us a little something to really chew on. Off, Mike this week as we knocked it back and forth a little bit and leapt into an eco philosopher.

Dave Carillo: Yeah, I did look up some of his work and he does a lot with the philosophy surrounding the ecosystem and ecology and those kinds of things. And I haven’t read as much as I would like to, but he’s now on my list.

Steve Pearlman: So that’s interesting because, you know, we talk about a critical thinking ecosystem. So I know like maybe we should draw some parallels or at least analogy. I think that it would be

Dave Carillo: Helpful to think about that. Definitely.

Steve Pearlman: The first thing I guess I’d like to say in response to this is that Americans certainly are not unique in belief persistence that the research on belief persistence as the psychological phenomenon. We’re all prone to embrace information that is more in line with what we already think, and we’re all prone to be more skeptical or to scrutinize information that is not in line with our existing belief system. So that’s not unique to America. However, I think there’s a really important point here that our educational system was not, in fact designed to promote this sort of flexible, free thinking if we go back to late eighteen hundreds, if we go back to when the modern educational. System was being formed around the industrial revolution. There were very and it’s very sad to see it, but they were very deliberate decisions made by Secretary of Education and other people around the notion that we’re going to be existing in a factory model. So a our classrooms were based on a factory model where everybody is effectively moving along a conveyor belt through their educational system. They hit certain points along the way, but they have to try to just keep moving along that conveyor belt, whether they’re earning a C or an a second.

Steve Pearlman: The decision was also made that since most people, given the nature of the industrial revolution, were going to be spending most of their lives in a factory, putting a nut on a bolt every day for their working life, that having them have this rich intellectual life, these rich intellectual aspirations probably wasn’t actually doing them a service. The contrary to that, which is positive, at least, is that just as the educational system as it was constructed was sort of built off of what was going on in our corporate world and the economy. So is it now being changed by that in the sense that as corporations are recognising the critical need for fluid, creative analytic thinkers, they are now also asking education to make that shift and develop those thinkers. So I think the change is coming with respect to how our educational system is structured, and I think that’s one of the reasons why this podcast is present. And I think it’s why we’re getting some listeners because this change has to happen right now,

Dave Carillo: And I agree with that and I want to just piggyback on that. And I think one of the challenges now, as we’re seeing it as and again why the critical thinking initiative, you know, was was founded and why we talk so energetically about the framework that we’ve spent so long developing is that it allows students and faculty to show employers and students to show faculty and, you know, faculty to show students that these kinds of things can be communicated and developed, right? So, you know, one of the things that we’re seeing now, like you said, is that employers want stronger problem solving and critical thinking skills. And one of those challenges is just showing students that not only can they do it, but they can communicate that to employers, they can communicate that to faculty and they can get better at it. And I think that it’s important that you sort of lay that framework early. That education was sort of structured around this very kind of industrial type of mentality. You will be educated so that you can work a single job, you will educate it so you can do the same thing over and over and just that much and no more. And now we’re starting to see that the challenges are becoming much more complex. It’s to a point where we just have to raise the awareness overall of, you know, our ability to think critically, our ability to learn, to think more critically and our ability to employ that wide range of of of situations that are not just school related.

Steve Pearlman: And let me jump off that again, because here’s something that I think is critical here. And there are two other points around this. And the question speaks to this notion of the intractability of sort of the construct that we’re in with respect to critical thinking. And I think there are two answers to that that go beyond work. I think employment is one and that’s an important force in driving change in our society. So let’s embrace that in that respect. But second, when educators understand that they can achieve better learning outcomes for everything else they’re trying to accomplish in their class in terms of content retention, the depth of content understanding in terms of the engagement of their students and the material through critical thinking, through letting students engage that intellectually rather than memorize and summarize and regurgitate, then educators are prone to embrace this second. One of the big challenges with respect to this up to this point has been simply that few people have really made progress with respect to defining critical thinking in a way that functions in the educational setting and that can be assessed in the educational setting and that can be taught in the educational setting. And we’re not the first ones to make any progress on this, but I think it’s one of the reasons why our framework has some attention. It’s because we have a way for that to actually happen now in any classroom, right? We can teach it, we can assess it, students can learn it and they can become better at it. And if it’s not our system, there are other ways of thinking about this out there. And certainly the discussion around this is growing and growing more and more such that educators, wherever they are in the spectrum, have more opportunities for respect to how to infuse. Critical thinking into their education and before now, really before the last, you know, few years, except for some isolated pockets of research or some isolated people doing work or institutions. It was not part of the popular conversation and now it is.

Dave Carillo: Yeah, and one thing I want to say and think you’re doing a great job sort of like defining sort of like the larger framework around this in terms of that idea of making critical thinking more tractable. I want to narrow my response a little bit. One of the things that we’ve had great success with in terms of teaching a wide variety of students in a wide variety of disciplines, how to think more critically and to working with faculty to sort of bring that into the classroom is showing faculty and students that that kind of thinking is actually valued and is linked to an assessment that’s authentic. And what I’m talking about here specifically, is this idea of complexity when you can communicate to students that what is valued is complex thinking and whether whether we want to be so crass is to simply say, well, attach that to a grade or not. What we want to communicate with students is that I’m going to value that kind of thinking. I’m going to value those kinds of responses. Then you start to make it more tractable, and this is like a very basic on the ground way. We’re making incremental progress here. This is work that we all have to take on. So you show you want to make critical thinking more tractable for your students who may be resistant to it. Show them that you value the kind of thinking that looks at multiple perspectives. Show them that you value the kind of thinking that every so often will question an assumption. Show students that they will get something out of that, even if it’s just in your class. If they start to see some value in it, they might start to do it elsewhere.

Steve Pearlman: I don’t think we want to, and I don’t think the the the our viewer is doing this, but we don’t want to seem like we are faulting students for representing a more simplistic or a more binary mode of thinking where this is right and this is wrong because they have been reared educationally and I’m making far too broad a generalization.

Dave Carillo: It’s about doing this right. You know, these situations

Steve Pearlman: And we know there are so many great educators doing a lot of great work with allowing students to find those gray areas and complexities and so forth. But from a position of what our educational system has looked like at all, especially with no child left behind and so on, we have certainly fostered in a lot of students, far too many students, this notion that there’s a right and there’s a wrong and that’s really what there is. And there’s not a gray and the gray isn’t going to be welcomed and complexity isn’t going to be welcomed and uncertainty isn’t going to be welcomed. And we want right answers instead of questions that don’t even have right answers. So if we can help students understand that we’re valuing inside the classroom the complexity of thought that they have to engage in all the time outside of the classroom, it exists. It’s their right, and we can just simply amplify that and foster it in our classrooms.

Dave Carillo: Yeah, that’s a great point. And what we can do is start to have this conversation with them about where and how they can strengthen their thinking, where and how they can start to look at assumptions and question them using evidence, where and how they can start to push their their thought process forward. And you know, you’re right, Steve, if you teach a kid for 12 years straight that there’s one right answer or not, even though there’s one right answer, but there’s one answer that the teacher is looking for. The test is looking for. That’s what they’re going to go after. They’re going to go after that right answer. They’re going to ask their teachers what they want them to say, et cetera, et cetera. And so it’s tough to break that kind of cycle, but it’s worth it even if you can just start to crack it a little bit. Yeah.

Steve Pearlman: And that’s exactly what we talk about when we’re talking about the difference between being smart and being right, right? You always say it’s better to be smart than right because what we want to see from students is that they can engage something thoughtfully. But we don’t really care about is that they can come to a right answer in the sense that we’re usually asking questions that doesn’t have one. And those are the most important questions, right? Knowledge has to contribute to that smartness, of course, right? It has to be based on a foundation of knowledge relative to whatever assignment that is sure. But we’re not looking for them to give us a simplistic answer to a simplistic question, and that might be another way into this. More specifically for students is to to show them that it’s first of all, just to stop asking questions that have answers. Yeah, I

Dave Carillo: Mean, and you know, to be honest, that may be something that we want to actually just spend a podcast on ways in the complexity. I mean, it’s by far my it’s my favorite category in our. Critical thinking tool, and I think that there are a lot of different things that we could share with faculty, you know, teachers about how to do this for their students, so we might want to think about that.

Steve Pearlman: So that ends our podcast for today. Yup. Thanks again for listening. Remember, if you go to our website and listen online and use the word juggling. Still, it’s a two for one offer on the book with free shipping. So just plug that code in and you get two for the price of one. You can give a book to a friend as well, another educator where we appreciate the support.

Dave Carillo: Absolutely share book with a friend. It’s a great way to. That’s a great way to live sharing books with friends.

Steve Pearlman: There’s often nothing better, right?

Voiceover: Thank you for listening to the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast. Got questions for Steve and Dave? Just send them to info at the Critical Thinking Initiative dot org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and find us at W WW Dot The Critical Thinking Initiative.


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