The

cti PODCAST

What Critical Thinking Skills do Educators Value?

PUBLISHED: Dec 16, 2021
CATEGORIES: Headagogy

In This Episode.

Headagogy 1, December 16, 2021

Two recent studies shed new light on how educators conceptualize critical thinking and, more importantly, which particular aspects of critical thinking they value most. But while the studies in one sense empower educators to discourse about critical thinking at their institutions, they also expose some challenges to critical thinking education.  Ultimately, Steve uses the articles to offer specific, easily applied approaches to teaching critical thinking.

Episode Archive

What Critical Thinking Skills do Educators Value?

December 16, 2021

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Podcast Transcript:

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Put on your thinking cap and gird your loins because pedagogy begins in three two. Now, since I know many of you are here because this is the podcast formerly known as the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast, and since I know that you’re a group of very thoughtful, very intellectual listeners, I know that you probably have a couple of questions. The first question has got to be, Hey Steve, where’s Dave being the independent critical thinker that he is? Dave’s got some really cool ideas about how to pursue critical thinking work. They’re a little different than what I’m going to be doing here, but keep an eye out for his upcoming ventures because they’re going to be really cool, and each of our efforts are certainly going to go on to augment the others. Now the second question I know a lot of you have, whether you come from the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast or not, is probably this. Hey, Steve, isn’t it at least a little egotistical to self-referential name a podcast about education Steve Pearlman pedagogy? And to answer that question, I need to get my Ted Lasso on here. For those of you who are not Ted Lasso fans, let me first contextualize my answer about the title pedagogy as follows. There’s a character in Ted Lasso named Roy Kent, and Roy is essentially a father figure to Phoebe. Roy has been called in by Phoebe’s elementary school teacher because Phoebe was caught cursing in class.

Ted Lasso

She’s been swearing a lot. How bad is it? Today, she called one of her classmates and apathetic shit. Fuck her. How are they? Oh, yes, but that’s not the point.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

And then the teacher makes it exceptionally clear that the influence for Phoebe’s cursing is none other than Roy himself. And then this is how the scene plays out.

Ted Lasso

You know the influence you have on her. Use it!

Ted Lasso

Boy, we’re leaving.

Ted Lasso

Sorry for what I said. Miss Bowen.

Ted Lasso

Thank you, Phoebe. Uncle Roy coming of ice cream. Fuck no.

 

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

So let’s return to this question of the title of this podcast. In that same spirit, if you’re asking, Steve isn’t a little egotistical to title a podcast about education. Steve Pearlman pedagogy. My answer to channel my inner Roy Kent as much as I can is fuck no. Here’s why the head in pedagogy comes from its focus on critical thinking in education. That’s not all we’re going to talk about. We’re going to talk about all matters related to education, but critical thinking is going to be the focus of the podcast. Now, why is that the case? Well, there are two reasons. The first reason if we look at the reboot 2020 survey of educators is that ninety four percent of educators regard critical thinking as extremely or very important. Now I know what you’re thinking. Wait a second, Steve, you made an error there because you said ninety four percent of educators think critical thinking is extremely or very important. Didn’t you mean that it was 100 percent of educators who think critical thinking is extremely or very important? Well, believe it or not. No. Let’s put aside the fact that some portion of the ninety four percent who think critical thinking is extremely or very important only think it’s very important, not extremely important if critical thinking isn’t extremely important. What the hell could be extremely important? We look around the country today, if not the entire world, and we’re not thinking that critical thinking is extremely important in education. Then what possibly could be extremely important in education? But let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. And let’s certainly welcome as comrades and arms the respondents who think that critical thinking is very important instead of extremely important. Let’s not split that hair. We’re all valuing it and trying to advance its cause. But as for the six percent who don’t think that critical thinking is extremely or very important, and I’m going to say this unabashedly and unapologetically, please resign from teaching. Stop listening to the podcast. Write up a letter of resignation, submit it and go on to work in another field to quote Bill Murray from Ghostbusters.

Bill Murray

Someone of your qualifications but have no trouble finding a top flight job in either the food service or housekeeping industries.

Ben Stein

But you shouldn’t

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Be in education, and you can only make me think of Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Bill Murray

In 1930, the Republican controlled House of Representatives in an effort to alleviate the effects of the anyone anyone. The Great Depression passed the anyone, anyone, a tariff bill, the Holly Smoot Tariff Act, which anyone raised or lowered raised tariffs in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

So to recap the first reason for the title pedagogies, its focus on critical thinking. The second reason is that it will be a conduit for you to forward thinking cutting edge research that should influence, transform and empower you as an educator. Why do you need that conduit? Can’t you go out and read all that research on your own? Well, sure you can, but most educators don’t, and you don’t for too eminently reasonable reasons. The first is that your time is being devoted to the noblest of all endeavors teaching, working with your students, supporting and at times contending with your colleagues and suffering through meetings and meetings and more meetings. I’m not talking to you that very rare aged full professor with your two courses of eight students where you’re phoning in the same discussion of William Carlos Williams, the red wheelbarrow that you’ve been doing since nineteen seventy three. But I am talking to the 99 percent of the educators out there who I know for sure are typically overworked, underappreciated, overpaid, No8, underpaid and nevertheless dedicated to your craft and thirsting for those most informative and impactful pieces of research that can help you better serve your students. Which brings me to the second eminently reasonable reason why you don’t do this research yourself, which is that you have not been cursed with my maniacal obsession about pedagogy, not just from educational research, but from things that could connect to it. So I have to read neuroscience, cognitive psychology, Teen Beat, and when I say maniacal obsession, I’m talking full Kathy Bates from misery.

Ben Stein

I’m my number one fan.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

I’m talking about a Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction to problem based learning. I’m not going to

Bill Murray

Be ignored then.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

I’m saying that pedagogy is to me what insurance is to ned the head Ryerson.

Ben Stein

I sell insurance.

Ned Nyerson

What a shock. Do you have life insurance? Because if you do, you can always use a little more. Am I right or am I right? Or am I right? Right, right?

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

So because you don’t have to endure that, you might rather spend some of your off time as little as you get reading something, watching something or perhaps conversing with a human in a way that’s actually entirely unrelated to teaching practice. I can’t fully understand why you’d want to do that, but as long as you’re willing to join me here once a week to listen to my Carlin esque brain droppings about teaching, then I think we can get along just fine. And in all honesty, I hope to read through the research with enough acumen to bring you what is truly important research that will be meaningful for you in your noble pursuit of being a better educator. To quote Lee Shulman after some 30 years, I’ve concluded that classroom teaching is perhaps the most complex, most challenging and most demanding, subtle, nuanced and frightening activity that our species has ever invented. So having spent 30 years in higher education myself and thus holding an appreciation for Shulman’s words that only educators can really understand if this podcast helps you and even the smallest way to make your job a little bit easier, or at least a little more successful than I will be humbled by that and deeply gratified. So with that in mind, let’s get to the subject of today’s podcast. Today, I’m going to talk to you about two recent studies about educators understanding of and attitudes towards critical thinking and education. The first one was just published in the journal Thinking, Skills and Creativity. It’s titled Critical Thinking and Practice the priorities and Practices of Instructors Teaching in Higher Education. It’s by Lauren Bellara, Yana Weinstein, Jones, Sonia Aly and Sarah T.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Baker. And in a nutshell, the researchers did something that hasn’t been done much in critical thinking research, and we need more research like it. They listed 10 subset critical thinking skills, and they asked faculty to put them in rank order. And they did this having been motivated by the question of whether or not common ground exists, of what skills we feel are most important under the greater heading of critical thinking. Now you must be thinking, Hey, there must be lots of studies that have done that, but it’s actually very difficult to try. Passed through people’s understandings of critical thinking, and so what the researchers did here that’s smart in its way is that they forced the respondents to make hard choices between different kinds of critical thinking skills in order to see which skills rose up to the top and which skills fell to the bottom. Now does the fact that a skill might have fallen to the bottom mean that educators don’t value it? No. It only means that some skills, even if valued, had to be at the bottom, where other skills being more valued rose to the top. So all of the skills ranked in this study were expectedly still valued by the faculty members. Because this study asked faculty members to rank skills in order of importance. I’m going to refer to it as the rank order study. The second study I’m going to talk about today is from twenty nineteen in college teaching. It’s titled Defining Critical Thinking Across Disciplines An Analysis of Community College Faculty Perspectives. It’s by Teresa Tarney and Joseph C. Montgomery. Unlike the rank order study, these researchers asked faculty for narrative accounts of their understanding of critical thinking, and they coded those responses and then found the themes that ran through them because they asked faculty for narrative accounts of critical thinking.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

I’m going to refer to this as the narrative study. And so what I’m setting up here for pedagogy today is a yin and yang, an alpha and omega, a rank order study that prescribed definitions and choices, and a narrative study that invited faculty to expound about critical thinking in their own words. Each of these studies is important in its own right, but when we look at them together, they will reveal something collectively that neither one of them reveals individually and at the end of the podcast, I’m going to offer some specific tips for critical thinking practice in your classroom that relates to what these studies reveal for us. Before I talk about either study individually, it’s imperative for me and toward further justification of the Pedagogy podcast itself that we note that both articles speak to the deficit of critical thinking in education. You might say they speak to a critical thinking crisis, something you could read about more in America’s Critical Thinking Crisis, The Failure and Promise of Education by Steve Pearlman, available on Amazon, and all your major retailers and e-tailers. But returning to the studies, the authors of the rank order study who reference a number of research studies along the way, write the following Developing critical thinking in university students is becoming an increasingly expected as well as desired outcome of higher education. In recent years, universities around the world have prioritized its teaching.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Yet despite this

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Interest in critical

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Thinking, higher

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Education institutions are not necessarily seeing improvements in this area. For example, national assessments both in the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that critical thinking is not improving substantively among university students. This concern over a lack of critical thinking proficiency is echoed in industry. A recent survey reported that U.S. employers do not believe that most graduates possess the critical thinking skills needed for workforce success, and only thirty nine percent were very well prepared. Unsurprisingly, given such findings, the demand for tertiary education systems to do more to improve the levels of critical thinking among students and close the skills gap is growing. And on that note, this seems like the opportune moment to mention that through the critical thinking initiative, dawg, I’m offering an online critical thinking

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Program that any

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Educator who’s listening can assign to their high school college graduate, perhaps even middle school students that not only walks them through an understanding of and application of critical thinking, but does something that is particularly powerful for them and particularly useful for you as an educator, which is that it not only teaches them what critical thinking is as rooted in neurobiology, but also how to exercise critical thinking in any context, including any discipline in the academy. Furthermore, it specifically teaches them how to use critical thinking to read, as well as how to write with critical thinking, and in fact, prompts the students through a step by step process whereby they write a very short essay that will showcase what’s probably more critical thinking in one single piece than they’ve

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Done in any writing

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

In their education so far. One of the reasons I constructed this program is that so many educators have voiced to me a desire to infuse more critical thinking into their instruction, but either aren’t sure how to do so or struggle to do so within the institutional constraints of what they need to do for their course. So the goal of this program is to do two things for you as an educator. The first of which is to. Take some of the burden off of you as an educator to initiate critical thinking in your class by providing you this way to empower your students with critical thinking and see a material written outcome of their progress without impinging on your class time or your course constraints. The second is that because it is free to you as an individual educator, viewing the program yourself can help you understand how to define critical thinking for your students and how to begin infusing it into your own teaching practice, so it’s at once instructive for you. And then also a turn key critical thinking experience for your students that manifest outside of class time and your course construct. So many educators have asked me for ways to start their students down the critical thinking path, and I’m not only certain that this serves that purpose, but I’m also confident that as you view the program and learn from it, you’ll be able to bolster what they learn in that initial experience, in whatever ways are comfortable and fruitful within your own teaching practice. Once again, just go to the Critical Thinking Initiative, Dawg, click on the link for podcasts and sign up for free preview of the entire program. It will only provide you with individual

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Access, but if you know of

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Any other educators who also might be interested, they only need to go to the site and sign up. And they too can have a free preview of the entire program, even if you never go on to use it for your students. I’d certainly be grateful for your feedback and insights into the program, and I’m confident that if nothing

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Else, it will at least give

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

You some new perspectives about thinking about teaching critical thinking. So please go to the Critical Thinking Initiative Dawg and check out the program. But to continue on with the problem. The second study also references struggles with critical thinking outcomes. Quote studies by the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the Program for International Assessment show U.S. student performance declining over time compared to student performance in many other countries. And that, of course, is in reference to critical thinking skills, critical thinking skills that six percent of educators don’t rate as very or extremely important. But I’m going to let that go so I can continue on with the podcast and get to the greater point, which is that we as educators are valuing critical thinking. But we have yet to serve our students and our society well

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Enough in

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Cultivating those skills in our classrooms. We need to do better, and these articles can start to help us up our game, both in the ways that their outcomes are immediately enlightening and in the ways that their outcomes are problematic. I’m not saying the studies are problematic. The studies are needed saying that as we view the outcomes of the study, there are some things that we can extrapolate that are clear and there are some extrapolations that are nonetheless confounding. So let’s talk about the rank order study. First of all, it’s worth noting that the respondents for this study, or one hundred and seventy six educators in higher education, primarily at four year institutions across the United States in the UK who are operating in the humanities, and the researchers asked them to put in rank order 10 different critical thinking skills. Before I tell you the results of that, I’m going to ask you to think about how you’d rank these skills. I’m going to read them in alphabetical order, and I’d like you to think about it at least which one or two would float to the top and which one or two you’d put at the bottom. Unlike in the study, I’m not going to define each term for you because somewhere in the midst of doing that, you’d all turn off the podcast. But here’s the list of 10 terms. Analysis creativity deductive reasoning description evaluation explanation inductive reasoning inference interpretation problem solving. I’ll read it again. Which do you value most and which would you put toward the bottom analysis? Creativity, deductive reasoning, description, evaluation explanation, inductive reasoning, inference interpretation, problem solving. Now that you have your top one or two and maybe your bottom one or two, here’s how the respondents in the study ranked it. Quote The results show that on average, the critical thinking skills that are considered most important for teaching are analysis, evaluation and interpretation and the critical thinking skills that are considered least important for teaching or creativity, deductive reasoning, description and problem solving. So you’ve got an analysis

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Up at the top and we’ve got problem

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Solving down toward the bottom. In fact, there was so much consensus around analysis as being the eminent skill that nearly 50 percent of all the respondents ranked it first, and nearly none of the responded. Ranked it last. And if you’re into critical thinking, then you should find this outcome really exciting because if nothing else, it gives you a starting point for where to begin with critical thinking in your

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Own teaching in such a

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Way that you know that it might be most valued as well or most present as well in courses by other faculty members

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

And more.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

So given that critical thinking can be such a nebulous idea, if not also a controversial one in terms of what its focus should be. This study might at least give you the opportunity to start a conversation with colleagues where you can say, Listen, maybe we don’t all agree on the totality of critical thinking or what to do with it, but can we all at least agree to incorporate analysis as a part of what we do? In other words, it gives you a way to go next door and say, Hey

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Bob, listen,

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

I know you feel as though the best way to teach critical thinking to our students is through your treatise on and transcendental idealism, as manifested in the cartoons of Charles Schultz. But listen, before we get to students doing that, do you think we could at least both agree that maybe we should teach them some analysis? Well, you might not be able to free Bob’s white knuckle grip on the idea that Linus and Lucy are the Kant and Hume of their time. But according to this research, you can potentially at least get half the bobs to agree. That analysis can be a starting point for critical thinking. And later in this episode, I will explain a conception of analysis that I think makes it very easy to start working with with students. But first, I want to get to how these researchers defined analysis because as we look at that, it also starts to shed light on the struggle we have in talking about critical thinking and implementing it. And I want to say at the outset that though I am absolutely about to lambast this definition of analysis, I’m only doing so to explicate the greater problem with talking about critical thinking and not really how it’s used for this study. The way it’s defined for the purposes of this study is perfectly functional because what the researchers needed to do was simply give definitions of different terms that allowed the respondents to differentiate between them.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

And so this definition of analysis for this study or any definition of analysis for the study is perfectly great. But from a more global perspective, when taken outside of this study, the definition of analysis is problematic, and I don’t think there’s a perfect one out there. But let me show you what I mean. The definition is to be able to examine ideas, information and identify arguments and reasons again, to be able to examine ideas, information and identify arguments and reasons. And you might be thinking, well, it’s a reasonable definition of analysis and you’d be right. But it’s also problematic because what is it to examine ideas? What does that mean? Examine ideas. See when you go to a doctor. For those of you who live in places where health care workers, if not heroic members of the community, or at least still valued ones, when you go to a doctor and you get an exam, there are set of procedures. There are set of steps that are involved in that that the doctor is going to do. We kind of know what this contract is already. There’s going to be a stethoscope, there’s going to be a blood pressure, there’s going to be something in my ear and up my nose. Maybe something someplace else, depending upon the nature of the doctor that we’re seeing that day.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

But the point is that there is a procedure. There’s a series of steps that’s identifiable and those steps that make the concept of examination real, it makes the concept of examination possible. What are the steps involved to examine ideas? How do we teach a student examine this idea? What is that? What is the procedure involved in that? Without those material, procedural forces in play and without students having proficiency in them, then we’re going to be left with outcomes like the kinds that we’re seeing. And what we know from a tremendous amount of other research that’s been done is that often higher order intellectual skills like analyzing aren’t even asked for when they’re asked for. We know they’re often not defined if they’re even defined. They’re almost never explicitly taught as a series of procedures, and then they’re almost never assessed on their success relative to those factors. What other studies have shown is that students typically have no idea what the faculty really means or wants, and that’s confounded for them by the fact that they might be asked to analyze in one class where analysis is defined a certain way and then asked to analyze in another class where analysis is defined in an entirely different way, or even if they’re both defined in the way that we see here as in. To be able to examine an idea,

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

The conception of what It is to examine an idea will differ idiosyncratically by educator. The rank order actually exposes another and deeper problem. Again, I’m glad this study is done. I’m not critiquing the study. We need more studies like it. But extrapolating from what it has revealed also shows us something confounding. We have analysis ranked at the top, but problem solving ranked near the bottom. So even if we put aside the fact that these educators ranked problem solving relatively low compared to other skills, when we might think if we look around

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

The world, that problem Solving should actually be the most important skill. What good is thinking critically if we’re not solving problems? Are so many educators walking around the world and not seeing enough problems going on that they feel as though that that’s not something that needs to be ranked high on this list? Is anyone out there looking at society today and saying, huh? Yeah, well, I think we pretty much nailed it, so we don’t have any more to do. Are they looking at our students and the struggles they’re having and saying, Nah, you know, I don’t think problem solving is going to make your life any better. And yes, I’m being a little unfair because again, problem solving isn’t not valued. It’s just ranked low on the hierarchy. But nevertheless, I think there’s a concern there worth voicing. But the real challenge here is this if one of the outcomes from this might be that we can start to agree upon the importance of analysis, but there’s not as much agreement on the importance of problem solving. Then we run into the challenge that it’s ultimately impossible to bifurcate analysis from problem solving. And I’m going to broaden a conception of problem solving here to also involve answers to questions which are problems in a sense. But how is it possible to begin an analysis of anything if we’re not doing so in the service of knowing where we need to go in terms of solving some kind of problem or answering some kind of question? We cannot walk into class and say, Hey everyone, please analyze the Vietnam War as students will say, well, analyze for what? And we could say, well, deeper meaning, but deeper meaning of one without some conception of a problem into which we are at least trying to gain some insight, if not an actual solution or answer.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

How do we know how to direct and govern our analysis? It’s different to ask, please analyze the Vietnam War in service of what political machinations led us to get into it versus please analyze the Vietnam War to examine U.S. military strategy, please analyze the Vietnam War about combating different political or philosophical ideologies and how that might inform what we’ve done in Afghanistan. All of those pose some kind of problem or question to students that contextualize and therefore actualize their abilities to engage in any kind of analysis to begin with. And what I’ll show you at the end of this podcast is that analyzing and questioning our yin and yang to one another. Their alpha and omega. There are two sides of the same coin, and I’ll show you a little bit about how to start bringing that into your class. But I want to emphasize again that this study is very important. It does help us start to

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Understand not only how Faculty members conceptualize and value critical thinking, but where we’re placing our emphasis and how we can start having conversations around common ground in what we hope to achieve with it. If we look to the other study, the narrative study, it actually in certain respects reinforces what we’re seeing here, but in a different way. The researchers asked faculty members at this community college and there were 23 respondents. How would you define or illustrate critical thinking for students in your discipline? And the four themes that emerged are as follows. Applying knowledge to a new situation, considering different perspectives and tackling multifaceted problems. Determining the best explanation, interpretation, approach or tool for solving a problem. Having an attitude or disposition amenable to thinking critically. And I don’t think that we could find many jobs out there who would disagree with any of the themes uncovered in this study, who would not want to apply knowledge to a new situation who would disagree. That’s important to consider different perspectives and tackle multifaceted problems. But the study also does something more interesting for us, which is that it reveals something that the other study could not. The rank order study did not include a question about simply having a critical thinking disposition. Yet here we see this as one of the major themes that emerged from the research. And isn’t that absolutely critical? We know from other research that’s been done that many students lack a critical thinking disposition. There. Dared to think critically in school because at times in their educational history, some educator or educators have frowned upon ideas that they’ve put forward. They’ve shot them down, and so they’re unnerved by the idea of actually trying to engage in

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Ideation in critical

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Thinking and problem solving. They don’t feel as though they are qualified because they’ve been habituated to the unfortunate idea that education is simply about the acquisition of information. Before we get to any of the things that are happening in that rank order study, and if we are going to get students to be willing to engage in any of those acts, we first and foremost must help them get into the mindset of valuing critical

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Thinking and wanting to think critically and feeling

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

As though they have a space that’s safe for thinking critically. But I think what’s even more interesting about this study is that the theme that garnered the most

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Support was determining

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

The best explanation, interpretation, approach or tool for solving a problem. So let’s put aside for a moment the problem with the concept of determining the best. How are we going to

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Determine the best? What is

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Best mean? How do we know when we have it? These are some of the challenges, again, of contending with this amorphous, wriggling thing that is critical thinking. But what’s cool here is that when we look at the faculty members in this study who’ve mentioned problem solving several times in their themes, we see them. Maybe overall faculty members do really value critical thinking, and they’re naming these other intellectual skills, like those that appeared in the rank order study as things that happen in service of that greater act. And that’s why these two studies are so great next to each other. The rank order study is sort of telling us here are the ingredients of the soup. They’re isolating the different components. Meanwhile, the narrative study is doing just the opposite, and it’s kind of saying to us critical thinking is soup. At a certain point, all of its ingredients are inseparable. They interact with each other, and not one of them would be nearly as valuable or tasty, if you will, without the others. So I’m inclined now to want to talk about some of the suppleness and relationship between analysis and problem solving or questioning, and how to bring that as a seminal force into your classroom for critical thinking. And I will in a moment. But first, I need to point to something else in the rank order

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Study that’s

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Particularly important for you to take into your next faculty meeting along with a bullhorn and yell at the top of your lungs until you were dragged off in handcuffs by campus security. Just send all request for bail to not a real email address at the Critical Thinking Initiative Morgue. The rank order study not only asked educators what they valued most in terms of critical thinking, they asked them how they teach it. The number one response for how they taught critical thinking was teacher led discussions. Now I know many of you spark exceptional discussions in your

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Classes, but the

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Other shoe is about to fall. The fact is that a teacher led discussion is not, I repeat, is not a pedagogy that is associated with growth in critical thinking skills. And I’m certain that that sounds utterly preposterous to a lot of you because

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

You’re saying, how could it be possible that when we have

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

An interesting, rousing conversation in class about a deep, thoughtful idea that students are not thinking critically? But I want you to notice what I just did there. What I said was how can it be possible that if we’re having an interesting discussion in class about a thoughtful idea that students aren’t thinking critically, but the research doesn’t show that they are or are not thinking critically during that discussion, the research tells us very clearly that they are not learning how to become a better critical thinker from their presence in that discussion. It is one thing to think about an idea and another thing to be explicitly taught how to think about that idea better.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

It’s like this when I’m alone in my car, I will often

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Sing along with the same songs that have been on my eighties to early nineties playlist, and no one listening to this podcast would ever, under any circumstances, want to hear me sing anything because I suck at it like I’m really bad. The fact that I have engaged in car bass singing for the last 30 years doesn’t mean that I’m becoming a better singer. To become a better singer, I would need, well, first of all, even just a modicum of talent, but most importantly, instruction in how to sing better, how to stay on tune, for example. I like to try to operate multiple keys within a single verse. I understand that’s typically frowned upon. I need to learn how to use my breath better and my diaphragm and so on and so forth. Much like merely singing doesn’t make us better singers, except for the rare singer who can improve themselves. So is it? Merely being involved in an interesting discussion doesn’t make students better critical thinkers. It’s what’s called an immersion method of teaching

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Critical thinking immersion

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Methods work from the premise that students will learn critical thinking sort of through intellectual osmosis, being around critical thinking or being around a thoughtful idea or interacting with other people who might also say something that also somehow emerged from some kind of cognitive process will make people better critical thinkers. But what the research actually shows us, clearly, is that if we want students to become better critical thinkers, we need explicit methods of instruction. We need to actually teach them what critical thinking is, and we need to teach them processes that they can practice and improve upon over time with our feedback and our assessment. Unfortunately, it’s not just teacher led discussions that are immersion approaches. Virtually all of the methods these educators referenced for teaching critical thinking are immersion based approaches. They are teacher led discussions, pupil led discussions, questions and answers, feedback, student presentations, student reflections assessment, problem based learning, case studies and role-play practice quizzes, mind maps, playing games and then way down at the bottom. Under other, there’s writing and then there’s another category of other that’s just one big, huge mishmash of answers that didn’t fit into other categories. Now all of those things, or none of those things, can be used to teach students to think critically, but none of them will do so unless they’re predicated on explicit, critical thinking, instruction, practice and assessment. Even problem based learning, which can have some very powerful outcomes with respect to teaching students to think critically is not intrinsically associated with growth and critical thinking skills. It depends on how it’s done and whether or not there are explicit, critical thinking models or practices being put

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

In play that have been taught

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

By the instructor and reinforced and writing, which is unquestionably our most powerful tool for teaching and assessing

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Critical thinking, isn’t

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Intrinsically connected with growth in critical thinking. It depends on whether or not there are explicit, critical thinking practices being taught and assessed, and whether or not students have the opportunity to practice and revise their writing so as to become better at the explicit, critical thinking skills that are being sought. And those critical thinking skills must be assessed directly, not indirectly. If we want students to analyze, interpret and evaluate, we need to define

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

What those are.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Show them how to do it. And then rate individually how well students are doing each of those skills in each of their pieces of writing. So when you go next door to bomb and you’re asking him, Hey, do you think that we could in any way agree to collaborate on this idea of analysis?

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Then you also

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Have to sit down and you have to say, how are we going to teach it as a process? How are we going to assess it? How are we going to make sure that students are learning it directly and explicitly in our classes rather than through intellectual osmosis? So now I’m going to give you a sense of how to do that. But before I do, please let me just ask that if you’re enjoying the podcast and seeing importance and value in its mission that you like it and share it. Throw it out there on your social media. Recommend that your colleagues give it a listen. Because the more educators we can unite around this cause, the better off we all are and the better off our students are. So now, as promised, let me give you a sense of how to infuse some critical thinking into your practice, and I’m not going to go into great detail here, just hoping to jumpstart it for you. We can teach students to analyze, and doing so simply also involves that we realize that analyzing must be done in collaboration with forming a question or identifying a problem. It has to be a recursive restorative process where one informs the other and each empowers the other one to be done more effectively. The way I like to initially define analysis

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

For students and my

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Experience has been that it’s very easy for them to acquire this. It’s that it’s simply a matter of identifying factors that could potentially matter. Identifying factors that could potentially matter. And I know, therefore what you must be thinking matter to what. And that’s where the question or problem starts to emerge, because they have to understand the context in which they’re focusing. Their analysis mattering only matters relative to something. So how do we get into this process with the students? Well, let’s assume for a moment that we have some kind of written text in front of us. We can start students with an overriding question. It could be to what extent do you agree with this or what is the meaning of this piece of its literary or anything like that? You and your discipline would certainly know what broad question to begin with about any given text. And then. You asked students to go in and analyze, and again, it’s to identify factors that could potentially matter to that question, and that could potentially part is very important because we’re not putting pressure on the students in this moment to come to definitive conclusions about what they’re identifying. We’re asking a question and we’re saying what in this text could potentially matter. You think maybe later on, as we get deeper into this intellectual work, we’re going to determine that that thing isn’t so important. But for now, for the first step in the process, what could potentially matter? Then we turn the cycle around after students extract some factors some passages, some quotations, some points being made that could potentially matter to the question, then we challenge them to refine that question based on the factors they’ve extracted. And so we asked them if you’re pulling out X, Y and Z. How does that refine our question? How does that clarify the problem? How can we better specify the problem based on the factors you’re pulling out as potentially important? And then the process

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Reiterates, once we know

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

What the question is more, we go back and re-examine the text for factors that could potentially matter. And in doing it this next time, we’ll probably exclude some factors that we thought mattered the first

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Time around, and we might bring

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

In some factors that we didn’t recognize or observe the first time around and so on and so forth. A second way to approach this is simply to ask students to come up with some initial questions about the text and then to use their initial questions as vehicles into beginning analysis. So we say to them, that’s an interesting question that you’re raising what factors from the text made, you ask that question? And then we use the process reiterate until we’re satisfied. Perhaps we then have a question or problem and a body of information to use in the service of some kind of answer or solution. And there are processes for getting to that as well. But this is something that can start you into analysis and problem clarification and question posing very easily. And if all you get students to do is to be able to understand how to analyze material so as to further clarify a question or a problem, then please understand that that is probably more explicit critical thinking instruction than they’ve ever had.

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

And as an

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Artifact of that, if you want something to assess or something to grade, merely ask them to do a presentation on it or write a paper on it. And there are two kinds of papers that you could have them write or two kinds of presentations that you could have them do. The first is to explain their process to walk you through it. So we give them an assignment asking them to use this process to generate a question. And then we ask them to walk us through a number of iterations of analysis and question clarification that they did in order to arrive in their final place. So it’s literally a narrative recounting of what happened in their brain along the way. First iteration what were the factors that started to emerge in? What was the question? Second iteration, how did you clarify the question and what other factors started to emerge as a result? Third iteration again, what factors started to emerge from the text for you is most important. How is that affected by the question you asked, and how does it affect your final question or simply ask them to justify their final question? Show me the final question or problem that you’ve identified and show me what factors in the text stood out for you as being particularly

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Significant to this, and why

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Those factors are particularly significant to this. And on your way to getting students to produce this final artifact, you can take it in steps. You first could model the process on your own. Show them how you work through a text in a lesson that you potentially prepared ahead of time and don’t have to do on the fly. Then you could do that same process together as a class working collaboratively through a single text. Then you can move the students into groups and have each group

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Try to do this. Then you could

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Ask the students to do it individually, and in doing so, you are doing something for them that’s

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

So critical, which is

Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.

Providing them the explicit, critical thinking instruction that they need. Thank you for listening to pedagogy. Please like it. Please share it and please recommended.

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