Critical thinking


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General Studies critical thinking exercise developed last year.

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  • Starter: individually – how many uses can you think of for a paperclip. Initially let students consider individually, then start prompting: What if it was made of something else? What if it was larger / massive? What if you unfolded it? What if …. etc…. After 5 minutes put into twos to compare and consider other new options.
  • A discussion about what Critical Thinking is and how it can provide support for ALL subjects. It’s a way of thinking not a ‘thing’ to learn. If wanted there is a 5 minute video introducing critical thinking here: - not too sure if you will have the time though.
  • Ask students to write instructions for someone to make a perfect piece of toast. During the discussion then ask the questions: What if you didn’t have any bread in a packet? What if you didn’t have any butter from the fridge? What if you didn’t have any marmite (I like it) in the cupboard? What if you didn’t have a knife to spread it with? And ask them to reflect on their ‘perfect instructions’ and rewrite them in the light of this. They should have assumed a lot of things that were not true of this exercise – discussion about assumptions that we sometimes make incorrectly and then get the wrong answer. Finally after more in-depth answers have been given ask the question: What if you didn’t have a toaster? [although this may have come up in the discussion prior to this]
  • It takes an entire civilization to build a toaster. Designer Thomas Thwaites found out the hard way, by attempting to build one from scratch: mining ore for steel, deriving plastic from oil ... it's frankly amazing he got as far as he got. A parable of our interconnected society, for designers and consumers alike. Discuss the phrase “it takes an entire civilization to build a toaster” and then watch the TED video (10 minutes long)
  • Group activity to solve an everyday problem thinking critically. 1.Form groups of 3-4 persons2.Each group must come up with a simple annoying thing in life and list along with the example problems shown below. (take ~10 minutes). During this phase students should ONLY work on problems. Groups should have one note-taker who writes the problems on a sheet of paper for the next step.3. Groups pass their problems clockwise on to the next group. All groups should have a set of problems and should brainstorm on solutions.Document problems and solutions in you engineering notebook. Give students 10 minutes to work on solutions and then pass the solutions around for another round.4. After problem sets make it back around to original groups each class member should choose a problem and solution and present a solution. Solutions can be critiqued on feasibility, cost, or marketability. Example problems (which can be used): -         When trying to remove a bag of trash from the kitchen trash can – the suction of the bag makes it very difficult to pull the bag out.-         When walking a dog the whenever the dog walk in front or around you the leash gets tangled around the dogs legs.-         My book bag has so many books it is incredibly heavy.-         The indestructibly plastic stuff that most toys and other consumer products are packaged in is too difficult to open.-         I keep losing my pens.-         When I leave clothes in the laundry hamper for a few days before washing them it begins to smell bad.-         Do not like leaning over a toilet in a public bathroom to flush the toilet.  Notes: Students should be encouraged to document thoughts and problems to an engineering notebook.This is a pure brainstorming exercise, outrageous ideas should not be discouraged, however feasibility of solutions should be reviewed.
  • See previous slide.
  • While each group feeds back their ideas and solutions.
  • Discuss how critical thinking skills could be utilised in the different subject areas. Could use post-it notes, a student writing ideas on a board, or teacher lead depending on the amount of time left.
  • Critical thinking

    1. 1. How many uses can youthink of for a paper clip?
    2. 2. Learning Objectives:By the end of this lesson you:• Should be able to describe what critical thinking is.• Have reflected on your critical thinking skills.• Should be able to describe what goes into atoaster.• Have evaluated a solution to an everyday problem.
    3. 3. Knowing a great deal is not thesame as being smart;intelligence is not informationalone but also judgment, themanner in which information iscollected and used.Carl SaganWhat do you know about ‘critical thinking?’– what is it? – how can it be used?
    4. 4. What is critical thinking?Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly andrationally. It includes the ability to engage in reflectiveand independent thinking. Someone with critical thinkingskills is able to do the following :– understand the logical connections between ideas– identify, construct and evaluate arguments– detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning– solve problems systematically– identify the relevance and importance of ideas– reflect on the justification of ones own beliefs and values
    5. 5. How to make a piece of toast?In small groups you have 2 minutes towrite a set of instructions as to how tomake the perfect piece of toast.Now, imagine you don’t have a toaster… what would you do?How could you make thetoast?
    6. 6. Left to his own devices hecouldn’t build a toaster. Hecould just about make asandwich and that was it.Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless, 1992It takes an entire civilization to build a toaster
    7. 7. now we need some solutions
    8. 8. In your lessons