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Philosophy in the library: Developing Critical Thinking Skills for Future Literacies - Lenart

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Presented at LILAC 2018

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Philosophy in the library: Developing Critical Thinking Skills for Future Literacies - Lenart

  1. 1. Philosophy in the Library Developing Critical Thinking Skills for Future Literacies Bart Lenart, Education Research and Learning Librarian, University of Calgary
  2. 2. Workshop Aims  Argument that: (1) Critical Thinking Skills are at the core of Information Literacy competencies (2) Philosophy is both a natural and excellent way of developing critical thinking skill  Introduction to a method of facilitating philosophical discussions perfectly suited to the library context A method that does not require any philosophical training A method that has been tried, tested, and adopted by a number of school systems A method I haven’t seen too often within the library context  DO SOME PHILOSOPHIZING OF OUR OWN!
  3. 3. Information Literacy  Definitions:  "To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information" (American Library Association, 1989)  "Information literacy is the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to identify, through whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, leading to wise and ethical use of information in society." (Webber & Johnston, 2003) (Both definitions from IFLA. (n.d.). Information literacy section. Retrieved from https://www.ifla.org/information-literacy)
  4. 4. Information Literacy  Information Literacy is a process that helps information users (that’s all of us): Recognize problems and create questions Make a plan for finding information and solutions Formulate hypotheses and make predictions Find information and data from books and the internet Evaluate the credibility of the sources Organize and synthesize all gathered information Make conclusions and process understanding  (MLIS Program, University of Southern California, 2018)
  5. 5. Importance of Information Literacy  Not only are all of the aforementioned skills crucial for conducting research And so important for university students to posses  But they all require critical thinking skills  Unfortunately, studies have shown that undergraduate students are generally not really good at evaluating source credibility  (Eysenbach & Köhler, 2002; Flanagin & Metzger, 2000; Gunther, 1992; Meola, 2004; Scholz-Crane, 1998)
  6. 6. Importance of Information Literacy Because they generally lack good information literacy skills, and Because evaluating credibility, formulating hypotheses, drawing conclusions, etc. are not only complex cognitive processes, but are also difficult
  7. 7. Importance of Information Literacy And, information literacy competencies require a certain level of intellectual development (Perry, 1970) E.G. A student will be much more cognizant of and willing to explore multiple sources in the multiplicity stage of development than in the dualism stage Dualism: knowledge is perceived as either right or wrong with heavy emphasis on authority Multiplicity: uncertainty is accepted at this stage of development Relativism: appeal to authority diminishes as students begin to understand that knowledge claims are made from a certain standpoint Commitment: maturity in one’s own knowledge base with the understanding that the student must be intellectually “forever on the move” (Perry, 1970, p. 154)
  8. 8. Importance of Starting Early  Aristotle (c. 350 BCE) argued that: (1)Excellence in anything is a matter of forming the right habits (2)The sooner we start forming those habits, the better we will be at the thing we practice
  9. 9. Importance of Starting Early  Individuals habituated to encounter the world critically are more likely to engage more critically with information  And less likely to take information at face value even though information credibility, accuracy, and quality evaluation is cognitively taxing
  10. 10.  Philosophy is actually an excellent means of developing critical thinking skills  Everything (every idea) in philosophy is open to critical evaluation  Every act of philosophizing can be boiled down to the process of rigorous critical analysis of (1) statements (premises), (2) arguments (logic), and (3) emerging ideas (conclusions)
  11. 11.  Philosophy turns us into careful thinkers.  And this care in thinking translates into all areas of life including engagement with information  But can kids actually do philosophy?
  12. 12. But Philosophy for Kids??  Philosophy is too difficult for children to engage!
  13. 13. But Philosophy for Kids??  It’s true that people have made the claim that philosophy is too difficult for children Plato (c. 380 BCE) advised against starting philosophy until one was already in their 30s Jean Piaget (1933) argued that children under the age of 12 were not cognitively developed enough to engage in philosophical thinking  However, more recent research suggests that Piaget seriously underestimated children’s cognitive abilities (Astington, 1993; Gopnik et al., 1999; Gopnik, 2009)
  14. 14. But Philosophy for Kids??  Spending time around children reveals just how curious and engaged they are!  Philosopher Gareth Matthews (1980) collected anecdotal evidence of just how philosophical children can be!
  15. 15. But Philosophy for Kids??  Philosophy is too boring for children to engage!
  16. 16. Natural Philosophers  Human beings are naturally curious and we stumble upon deep existential and logical puzzles early on in our lives We don’t have to know such boring stuff as who Rene Descartes was or what foundationalism is to enthusiastically engage with profound philosophical (human) problems And this is as true for adults as it is for children!
  17. 17. Natural Philosophers  This is how the philosophy for children program approaches the development of critical thinking skills in children Human beings are inherently philosophical We’re puzzled by the world and our place in it And this kind of natural puzzling underlies the development of critical thinking skills
  18. 18. The Argument for Philosophy in the Library (The Premises)  Philosophical inquiry is both a natural and a highly effective means of developing critical thinking skills  Critical thinking skills are at the core of Information Literacy competencies
  19. 19. The Argument for Philosophy in the Library (The Conclusion)  Introducing philosophy to children as part of library programming develops habits of mind central to the development of an information literacy skillset  BUT a skill set that goes beyond merely following rules of thumb or checklists (like the CRAAP Test)  AND a skill set that is dynamic and adaptable to changing information challenges Challenges we cannot prepare them for But we can prepare their minds to be ready to face those challenges
  20. 20. Philosophy Crash Course  What makes some questions genuinely philosophical?  This is actually a philosophical question in meta-philosophy (the philosophy of philosophy itself!!) and is hence an open question  Which presents a perfect opportunity to model the core activity of the philosophy for children program by having you collaboratively answer that question for yourselves!
  21. 21. What Makes a Question Philosophical?
  22. 22. Philosophy for Children  The P4C movement began with the publication of Matthew Lipman’s book titled Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery in 1974  This was a philosophical novel for kids!  About logic and language!
  23. 23. Philosophy for Children  Significant improvements in reading and critical thinking skills were noted (which was something the media picked up on) following the introduction of the novel into the Montclair Public School System in New Jersey  Shortly afterwards, the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children was established at Montclair State University  Lipman went on to write other novels for a range of age levels (K- 12) with accompanying teacher resources
  24. 24. Philosophy for Children  Lipman’s idea has since spread and transformed into a facilitation method grounded in the core principles of philosophical inquiry and dialogue  While the method at its core remains essentially the same (with the creation of a community on inquiry at its core), the “provocations” are highly adaptable to a wide range and types of programing
  25. 25. The Wartenberg Model  The Wartenberg model is particularly well adapted for public and school library programming since: (1) it uses traditional story time as a provocation for philosophical discussion (2) it doesn’t assume the facilitator is a trained philosopher (3) its popularity with teachers resulted in a public collection of freely available lesson plans for a great number of children’s books
  26. 26. The Wartenberg Model  For the purposes of facilitation, Wartenberg defines philosophical questions as: (1) Contestable – questions with more than one possible answer (2) Controversial – the group doesn’t agree on an answer (3) Central – the group is interested in the question (4) Answerable – the group is able to reach a consensus (or at least consensus is possible)
  27. 27. The Wartenberg Model  A session usually begins with the reading of a story  The facilitator then collects questions from the group  The group votes on the question they, as a community of inquirers, are most interested in pursuing  The facilitator guides discussion in accordance to the Rules of Philosophical Discussion (which are often written down for reference)
  28. 28. Rules for Philosophical Discussion (1) State your position (your answer to a question) (2) Agree or Disagree with what has been said (3) Present a concrete example of the abstract issue under discussion (4) Present a counter example to a claim or a position (5) Put forward a revised version of a claim in light of the criticism (counter example) (6) Support your position with reasons (Wartenberg, 2009, p. 33)
  29. 29. Dragons and Giants
  30. 30. Dragons and Giants Frog and Toad were reading a book together. “The people in this book are brave,” said Toad. “They fight dragons and giants, and they are never afraid.” “I wonder if we are brave,” said Frog. Frog and Toad looked into a mirror. “We look brave,” said Frog. “Yes, but are we?” asked Toad.
  31. 31. Dragons and Giants Frog and Toad went outside. “We can try to climb this mountain,” said Frog. “That should tell us if we are brave.” Frog went leaping over rocks, and Toad came puffing up behind him.
  32. 32. Dragons and Giants They came to a dark cave. A big snake came out of the cave. “Hello lunch,” said the snake when he saw Frog and Toad. He opened his wide mouth. Frog and Toad jumped away. Toad was shaking. “I’m not afraid!” he cried.
  33. 33. Dragons and Giants They climbed higher, and they heard a loud noise. Many large stones were rolling down the mountain. “It’s an avalanche!” cried Toad. Frog and Toad jumped away. Frog was trembling. “I am not afraid!” he shouted.
  34. 34. Dragons and Giants They came to the top of the mountain. The shadow of a hawk fell over them. Frog and Toad jumped under a rock. The hawk flew away.
  35. 35. Dragons and Giants “We are not afraid!” screamed Frog and Toad at the same time. Then they ran down the mountain very fast. They ran past the place where they saw the avalanche. They ran past the place where they saw the snake. They ran all the way to Toad’s house.
  36. 36. Dragons and Giants “Frog, I am glad to have a brave friend like you,” said Toad. He jumped into the bed and pulled the covers over his head. “And I am happy to know a brave person like you, Toad,” said Frog. He jumped into the closet and shut the door. Toad stayed in bed, and Frog stayed in the closet. They stayed there for a long time, just feeling very brave together.
  37. 37. For the purposes of saving time, we will skip the question selection process and jump right into facilitation of the question: What is bravery? Rules for Philosophical Discussion (1) State your position (your answer to a question) (2) Agree or Disagree with what has been said (3) Present a concrete example of the abstract issue under discussion (4) Present a counter example to a claim or a position (5) Put forward a revised version of a claim in light of the criticism (counter example) (6) Support your position with reasons
  38. 38. Online Resources  Teaching Children Philosophy: https://www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org/  Book Modules: https://www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org/BookModule/BookModule  Lesson Plans - Center for Philosophy for Children (University of Washington): https://depts.washington.edu/nwcenter/resources/lesson-plans/  Reference Library - Center for Philosophy for Children (University of Washington): https://depts.washington.edu/nwcenter/resources/p4c-library/  Philosophy for Children Alberta (University of Alberta): http://p4c.ualberta.ca/
  39. 39. References Aristotle. (c. 350 BCE). Nicomachean Ethics. Terence Irwin (ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. 1999. Astington, J. W. (1993). The child's discovery of the mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Eysenbach, G. & Köhler, C. (2002). How do consumers search for and appraise health information on the world wide web? Qualitative study using focus groups, usability tests, and in-depth interviews. BMJ, 324(7337), 573-577. doi:10.1136/bmj.324.7337.573 Flanagin, A. J. & Metzger, M. J. (2000). Perceptions of internet information credibility. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 77(3), 515-540. Gopnik, A. (2009). The philosophical baby: What children's minds tell us about truth, love, and the meaning of life. New York: Picador. Gopnik, A., Kuhl, Meltzoff, A. (1999). The scientist in the crib: What early learning tells us about the mind. New York: Perennial Books. Gunther, A. C. (1992). Biased press or biased public? Attitudes toward media coverage of social groups. Public Opinion Quarterly, 56(2), 147-167. Lipman, M. (1974). Harry Stottlemeier's discovery. Upper Montclair, NJ: Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children.
  40. 40. References Lipman, M. (1976). Lisa. Upper Montclair, NJ: Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (Montclair State College). Lipman, M. (1981). Pixie. Upper Montclair, NJ: Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children. Lipman, M. (1988). Philosophy goes to school. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Lipman, M. (2003). Thinking in education (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press. Lipman, M. (2008). A life teaching thinking. Montclair State University, NJ: Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children. Lipman, M. (ed.). (1993). Thinking children and education. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt. Lipman, M., Sharp, A. M., Oscanyan, F. (eds.). (1978). Growing up with philosophy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Lobel, A. (2005). Frog and toad together. New York: HarperCollins. Matthews, G. (1980). Philosophy and the young child. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Meola, M. (2004). Chucking the checklist: A contextual approach to teaching undergraduates web-site evaluation. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 4(3), 331-344.
  41. 41. References Perry, W. G. (1970). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years: A scheme. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Piaget, J. (1933). Children's philosophies. In Carl Murchison (Ed.), A Handbook of Child Psychology (2nd ed. rev.). Worcester, MA: Clark University Press. Plato. (c. 380 BCE). The Republic. G. M. A. Grube (Trans.). Indianapolis: Hackett. 1974. Scholz-Crane, A. (1998). Evaluating the future: A preliminary study of the process of how undergraduate students evaluate web sources. RSR: Reference Services Review, 26, 53-54, p.53-60. University of Southern California (Master of Management in Library and Information Science). (2018). What exactly is information literacy and what role does it play in education. Retrieved from https://librarysciencedegree.usc.edu/resources/articles-and-blogs/what-exactly-is-information-literacy-and- what-role-does-it-play-in-education/ Wartenberg, T. E. (2009). Big ideas for little kids: Teaching philosophy through children’s literature. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
  42. 42. Contact Bart Lenart, PhD, MLIS Education Research and Learning Librarian University of Calgary Doucette Library of Teaching Resources EDC 370, 2500 University Drive NW Phone: 1-403-220-8358 Email: bartlomiej.Lenart@ucalgary.ca

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