Promoting Critical Thinking Final Project Addressing A Current Issue


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Teaching agenda and Notes in English of a 2 hour workshop given in Academia Pinares (Honduras) for teacher training conference.

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Promoting Critical Thinking Final Project Addressing A Current Issue

  1. 1. PROMOTING CRITICAL THINKING IN A POSTMODERN WORLD by Lisa Anderson-Umana 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 Deerfield, Illinois October 2007
  2. 2. CONTENTS 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 iii
  3. 3. TABLES Table Page 1. Visualized Model: Acts of knowing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 3—Handout iv
  4. 4. 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 Spanish: 60 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 critical thinking. 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. Thinking Time- Group Duration / Notes / size Educational Activity Responsib Materials le PROCESS 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. PRE-SESSION PREPARATIONS Lisa 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. 1—Teaching agenda
  5. 5. ARRIVAL AT CLASS Warmly greet the people at the door as they arrive. Ask them to put on nametags (self-adhesive labels). Introduction LEARNING GOAL 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 LEARNING GOAL The teachers (students) will acquire a broader understanding of exactly what postmodernism and critical thinking are as they share evidences of it from their students. 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 LEARNING GOAL 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 LEARNING GOAL 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 thinking. • 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. 2
  6. 6. Their role as teachers LEARNING GOAL The students (teachers) will visualize four concrete means of utilizing experience in teaching their subject matter which will appeal greatly to the postmodern generation. 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. Conclusion LEARNING GOAL 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. 3
  7. 7. 1—Handout 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. Postmodernism 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 understanding.
  8. 8. 2—Handout What evidence of postmodernism do you see in your students? Critical Thinking 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.
  9. 9. 3—Handout
  10. 10. 4—Handout 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- 197). Teachers need to link their explanations and illustrations to the prior experiences of the students. 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?
  11. 11. 5—Handout 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 discussion. 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.”
  12. 12. 6—Handout 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 ?
  13. 13. 7—Handout REFERENCES Bohlin, Sue. 2007. Four killer questions. Richardson, Texas: Probe Ministries International. Accessed 28 September 2007. Available from 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 Internet. 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 Internet. 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.
  14. 14. 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 evidences. 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 8
  15. 15. 9 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 think critically. • I have to listen to my student to even find out what they are thinking. I mostly just talk at them. • 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
  16. 16. 10 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.