Promoting Critical Thinking Final Project Addressing A Current Issue
PROMOTING CRITICAL THINKING IN A POSTMODERN WORLD
B.S. Penn State University
Master’s in Educational Studies, Wheaton College Graduate School
FINAL ASSIGNMENT FOR
INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN FOR CRITICAL THINKING
Submitted to the faculty
in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
in Educational Studies
at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
LIST OF TABLES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv
Teaching Agenda—Promoting Critical Thinking in a Post Modern World . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Handout—Promoting Critical Thinking in a Post Modern World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
REFERNCE LIST . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Evaluation—Promoting Critical Thinking in a Post Modern World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Teaching Agenda: Promoting Critical Thinking in a Post Modern World
Honduran Convention of the Association of Christian Schools International September 28-29, 2007
Agenda used for the class taught in Tegucigalpa, Honduras
AGE RANGE OF STUDENTS: NUMBER OF CLASSTIME LEARNERS:
STUDENTS: Aprox. 90 min.
Young and older adults Young adults, many recently graduated
from college, most with teaching degrees.
English: 12 The older adults were involved in the
school administration and included
EDUCATIONAL PURPOSE: principals and directors of many of the
Christian and Christian bilingual schools
LEARNING GOALS: (AS THE LORD BLESSES THIS CLASS, IN FAITH, I in Honduras. Most were from schools in
SEE THESE TEACHERS… Tegucigalpa but there were several
schools represented from other parts of the
Questioning their own use of critical thinking regarding their own country.
subject matter and teaching habits.
Questioning whether the methodology they use in class promotes
Beginning their classes based on the student’s prior experience
and more fully engaging their students in their own learning.
TEACHERS: DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES: PHYSICAL
Lisa, PhD student; SETTING
There was a noticeable difference in the educational level of the
doing her final
American English-speaking teachers and the Spanish-speaking Classroom with
assignment for a
teachers. The Americans all had college degrees whereas many of the individual
class in Instructional
Spanish-speaking teachers did not. This was noticeable when I desks and
Design for Critical
reviewed Bloom’s taxonomy. chairs.
Duration / Notes /
size Educational Activity
1. 3 min. Explain my agenda.
2. 10 min. Define postmodernism.
3. 10 min. Define term of critical thinking.
4. 10 min. Define Meek’s model of “acts of knowing” from Diagram 1.
5. 20 min. Hand them a blank diagram and ask them to fill in the empty balloons with an incident of
transformative learning from their own life. Comment on their validation or not of this model of knowing.
6. 30 min. Discuss what their role as a teacher can be in their student’s transformative learning as each small
group answers one of the questions and listens to the others.
7. 10 min. Allow time for wondering and questions.
Post the written agenda on the flipchart.
Handout name tags and markers for people to do their own nametag.
Have on hand the reference books and the separate sheets with my reference list.
Sample props from teaching heaven to second graders and the two pairs of sunglasses I
used to teach my son Victor.
Have sufficient copies of the four-page handout ready.
ARRIVAL AT CLASS
Warmly greet the people at the door as they arrive.
Ask them to put on nametags (self-adhesive labels).
This introduction will allow those for whom this particular slant is not what they
thought it would be to participate in another workshop.
During the Session
3 min. Large Introduce myself briefly.
group Explain my agenda and allow those for whom this particular slant is
Lisa not what they thought it would be to participate in another workshop.
Definition of terms
The teachers (students) will acquire a broader understanding of exactly what
postmodernism and critical thinking are as they share evidences of it from their
During the session
20 min. Large 10 min. Define postmodernism. Read through
group What evidence of postmodernism do you see in your students? handout with
Lisa 10 min. Define term of critical thinking them, p. 1-2
What would critical thinking look like in your students? Describe what
evidence you have seen of it in your students.
Meek’s Model of acts of knowing
The teachers will catch a glimpse at a broad picture of knowing, in order to be
able to trace the key role critical thinking plays in our knowing.
During the session
10 min. Large Review the main figures of Diagram 1 Meek’s model of “acts of Study the
group knowing”. diagram with
(verify that they understand the taxonomy of Bloom of cognitive them, p. 3 of
Lisa thinking) their handouts
Validation of Meek’ model with their own example
The students (teachers) will validate the veracity of Diagram 1 with an example
from their own learning experience.
During the session
20 min. G-1 • Refer them back to Diagram 1 and ask them to fill in the empty Allow them
balloons with an incident of transformative learning from their own time to fill in
GG life. Clarify that as they fill in the blanks below each figure using a the blanks.
Lisa personal example where they have grown or learned or discovered
truth, insights or knowledge they will be required to do critical
• Illustrate the process with my own personal example regarding the
process I went through after my mother died of cancer.
• Give individual attention as this is a very difficult diagram to grasp in
so little time. Answer questions as needed
• Comment on their validation or not of this model of knowing on the
basis of their own experience.
Their role as teachers
The students (teachers) will visualize four concrete means of utilizing experience
in teaching their subject matter which will appeal greatly to the postmodern
During the session
30 min. Small • Briefly review each of the four statements followed by the question, Read through
groups briefly citing an example activity for each in order to advance their handout with
overall understanding of the concept of using experience as an them, p. 4-5
Lisa approach to teaching.
Write on the
• Assign each group one of the four questions to answer, asking them board exactly
to be very specific regarding their answers. They will be given 10 what I expect
min. to work on their question and only 2 min. to share their answer from each
with the rest of the group. Their answer should include: small group.
• Subject matter/grade.
• A concrete activity designed in response to the question assigned.
• Depending on how many small groups are formed, give them the Take notes of
opportunity to share with the others the activity they created. the activities
• Discuss what their role as a teacher can be in their student’s created by each
transformative learning as they go through each question small group.
The students (teachers) will gather their thoughts and comment on the insights
they have gained as to how they can foster critical thinking in their students in
light of the prevalent postmodern culture.
During the session
10 min. Large • Mention where I got my information from for this workshop. I choose Read through
group to make my references available as a separate sheet so as not to handout with
“intimidate” them with resources that are not available in Spanish them, p. 6
Lisa (Handout, p. 7)
• Read through the last question: What insights did you gain into your
role in helping your students pursue truth and knowledge ?
• Allow time for wondering and questions.
PROMOTING CRITICAL THINKING IN A POST MODERN WORLD
In light of the encroachment of postmodernism in all of society, what role can
critical thinking play in helping our students pursue truth? How can we encourage it in all
subject matters, and in a developmentally appropriate way?
What do you mean by that?
What do you mean by that? In other words, define your terms. Let’s start out
by defining what I mean by postmodernism and what I mean by critical thinking.
Our students are growing up in a postmodern world. It is our context;
however, there is no definitive, authoritative definition of postmodernism. Nevertheless,
Andy Crouch (2000) offers some insight with this description: Postmoderns fervently reject
the notion of absolute truth and would consider any claim to know truth or any attempt to
commend truth to others to be just a power play, an imposition and very intolerant.
To shed additional light on the subject, observe its contrast with modernism:
Modernism, which began roughly in the 1700s and allegedly ended in the
1950s, is the cultural outlook that put its faith in optimism, progress, the pursuit of
objective knowledge, and science. J. L. Packer says, quot;Modernism … assumed that it
was in the power of reason to solve all the world's problems and to determine what
anybody needed to knowquot; (Goetz 1997).
Postmodernism at its core is against most everything modernism stands for.
They tend to be pessimistic towards any real human progress. Postmoderns do not believe in
objective (i.e. outside ourselves), absolute truth. They believe in subjective truth, and each
person forms it according to his or her own experience. You will hear the epitome of that
when you hear on talk shows: That is your truth, my truth is different. Each to his own
What evidence of postmodernism do you see in your students?
Although it may sound like something Winnie-the-Pooh would say: Critical
thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking
better (Paul 1992).
To a postmodern critical thinking is an end in and of itself. From a Biblical
standpoint, however, critical reflection forms part of an overall process of learning and
knowing. (Let us consider knowing and learning interchangeable terms.) In order to better
grasp the role critical thinking plays in teaching, we will take a step back to analyze one
model of knowledge. Remember, there are a number of models; modernism has one which
greatly differs from postmodernism’s. This model was gleaned from a number of sources,
which you can find on my Reference List on separate handout, which is available to you after
class if you would like a copy for further study or research.
God, as our Creator, has provided for us a number of different means to learn
and grow. Knowing is not just a cognitive, mental activity as modernists would have us
believe. Postmoderns recognize a small sliver of God’s truth when they argue in favor of
other sources of learning.
What would critical thinking look like in your students? Describe what evidence you have
seen of it in your students.
Capitalize on the postmoderns pennant for personal experience
Given the fact that postmoderns highly value experience, teachers would be
will advised to maximize their use of experience in the classroom. I would agree with this
postmodern approach since all learning does indeed start with experience. Consider the laws
of physics, they were discovered and later written up in textbooks on the basis of the
“discoverers/inventors” own personal experience. What has happened down through the
years with many of our textbooks it that the knowledge they contain has become separated
from the original experience that in fact conceived it. During this workshop, we will discuss
strategies that can apply to your subject matter and/or grade you teach (Tennant 1991, 196-
Teachers need to link their explanations and illustrations to the prior experiences of the
1 In your subject matter, what explanations or illustrations can be linked to your students’ prior experiences?
Teachers can attempt to link learning activities to the students current experiences at home,
school or work.
2 What problems do your students currently face at home or school which your subject matter can help them
solve or deal with?
Teachers can create experiences from which learning will flow. In other words, they can
design learning experiences that require the active participation of students, such as
simulations, games, and role plays. These learning experiences establish a common base
from which each student constructs meaning through personal reflection and group
3 What activities can you engage your student in that would promote them to ask questions about
your subject matter?
Refer to Lisa’s class on heaven taught to second graders at La Academia Los Pinares.
Teachers may consciously try to disrupt the student’s world view and stimulate uncertainty,
ambiguity, and doubt in the learners about previously taken-for-granted interpretations of
experiences. Consider what Jesus did when he intentionally healed a crippled woman on the
Sabbath in Luke 13:10-17.
4 How can you help your students to discover what they think and assume about the
subject matter you teach?
Consider Jesus’ example of helping his disciples discover what they really
thought and assumed regarding why people got sick or were born blind.
John 9:1-3 Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind : “As he went along, he saw a man
blind from birth. His disciples asked him, quot;Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that
he was born blind?quot; quot;Neither this man nor his parents sinned,quot; said Jesus, quot;but this happened
so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
Peter's Vision in Acts 10: God used a vision of unclean animals to challenge
his assumptions about Gentiles and promote an alternate way of thinking about them: As
worthy recipients of God’s saving message of Jesus Christ.
Where do you get your information?
Where do you get your information? For this workshop I got my information
from a number of sources, the Bible verses cited above and the Reference List which is
available as a separate handout.
How do you know that’s true?
How do you know that’s true? I cannot not be one hundred percent certain
that all I have read in the books I have researched and what I have written is true and
infallible. We are after all fallible human beings. But I can be confident that God has
revealed his truth both in the Word and in the world and that he desires for us to know truth
and learn and grow in our knowledge.
The activity we did of personalizing Diagram 1 with your own example of
learning is a form of validating the veracity of Meek’s Model of Acts of Knowing. As you
filled in the blanks below each figure using a personal example where you have grown or
learned or discovered truth, insights or knowledge you were required to do critical thinking.
5 What insights did you gain into your role in helping your students pursue truth and knowledge ?
Bohlin, Sue. 2007. Four killer questions. Richardson, Texas: Probe Ministries International.
Accessed 28 September 2007. Available from http://www.probe.org/current-
issues/four-killer-questions.html; Internet. (I used three of these killer questions as
sub-titles for the handouts.)
Brookfield, Stephen D. 1987. Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults to Explore
Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Crouch, Andy. 2000. What Exactly Is Postmodernism? The often-maligned movement is
today's academic Rorschach blot. Accessed 28 September 2007. Available from
Goetz, David L. 1997. The Riddle of Our Postmodern Culture: What is postmodernism?
Should we even care? Leadership Journal, Vol. XVIII, No. 1: 52. Accessed 28
September 2007. Available from
Meek, Esther Lightcap. 2003. Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for
Ordinary People. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.
Mezirow, Jack and Associates. 1990. Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: A guide to
transformative and emancipatory learning. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass.
Paul, Richard. 1992. Critical thinking: What every person needs to survive in a rapidly
changing world. Santa Rosa, Calif.: Foundation for Critical Thinking.
Tennant, Mark. 1991. Adult and continuing education in Australia. In Learning in adulthood:
A comprehensive guide, ed. Merriam, Sharan B. and Caffarealla, Rosemary S., 327.
San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass.
Evaluation of Workshop: Promoting critical thinking in a postmodern world
What evidence of postmodernism do you see in your students?
This question was very helpful both to get teachers thinking and to enable me
to see if they grasped the concept. During the Spanish-speaking class, one woman said: My
students are bored easily, they get restless quickly. I asked what age students she had
(second grade) and so I responded that that might be more a case of an age characteristic or
perhaps product of a class lacking stimulus for the students. I did mention that this
generation is much more visual and has shorter attention spans but I kept fishing for teachers
to connect the definition on their handout of postmodernism and their students. One of the
teachers, as he walked out the door stopped and thanked me since he said that this was the
first time he had understand the difference between modernism and postmodernism. For the
Spanish-speakers it required more time than I had calculated for them to answer this question
but finally they began to see evidence of Postmodernism in their students. In sharp contrast,
the American teachers were more familiar with the terminology and quicker to cite
Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain:
I was aware that not all of the teachers were familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy
of the cognitive domain but was surprised that only a handful of the Spanish and English-
speaking teachers had heard of it much less knew how to use it. This complicated things a
bit more since I had to then take several minutes to explain it. I demonstrated the various
levels by asking someone to recall one of the Ten Commandments, while I pointed to the
bottom tier of the pyramid I had drawn on the board. Then, I proceeded to ask
this same person if she would paraphrase it in order to show she comprehended it, and then I
asked in what situation that Commandment would be useful (application). At this point I
asked the rest to continue observing how this person was thinking (which made her all the
more nervous) as I asked her to analyze the Commandment for me, break it down into pieces,
like when was this commandment given, to who, etc. She needed some help from the
audience to analyze and to synthesize it. At this point, I began to realize that my assumption
about the level of pedagogy known by these teachers was lower than what I had anticipated.
Therefore, at least for the larger group of Spanish-teachers, I ended up eliminating one of the
activities where they would personalize Diagram 1 in lieu of giving them more time to work
on the questions related to using experience in their teaching.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of time, my very last question of the workshop
was answered by very few students (teachers). What insights did you gain into your role in
helping your students pursue truth and knowledge? But upon reflection I found their
comments to be quite interesting which you can observe below.
• I needed the stimulus of this workshop because since I arrived in Honduras as a new
teacher, I have just rushed from one thing to another. Today, I personally was stimulated to
• I have to listen to my student to even find out what they are thinking. I mostly just talk at
• I would have to cover less content to be able to stimulate students to do critical thinking.
How can I do that? There is so little time due to curriculum demands. To which another
teacher (student) responded the following: When they graduate from here, they will forget
most all the content and information we have taught them. What they need most from us to
survive in the world is to know how to think critically.
• For every subject in school, history, science, even art the administration and the parents
want the kids to think critically about, except Bible! The Christians here are so dogmatic
that they do not want their kids to question anything about their faith. The basic doctrines
of the faith are not to be questioned. They want me as a High School Bible teacher to just
indoctrinate their kids! But how will they survive in the world after they graduate if they do
not know how to think critically about their faith?
• I personally do not do much critical thinking about my subject matter, since I am so caught
up in just delivering it! So how could I ever model critical thinking to my students?
I am very pleased with this workshop and found it be to benefit me personally
by forcing me to synthesize and describe in layman’s terms what I had recently learned in the
ES class INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN FOR CRITICAL THINKING. I have emailed the
translated version of this handout to our Christian Camping International, Latin America
instructors in the hopes of stimulating their thoughts regarding this important theme.