Tag Archives: critical thinking

Cultivating Curiosity: Critical Thinking in Action

June 15, 2016

What if, instead of remaining entrenched in our own positions and coming out of our respective corners with gloves raised, we cultivated a culture of curiosity, using our collective knowledge to find answers that alone we may not?


I came across an article entitled “Adam Grant v. Brene Brown: Two Truths are Better than One and thought it was one of the best examples of how to use critical thinking in everyday life that I have ever seen.

To give a bit of context, Grant had issues with Brown’s position on authenticity and made his comments public and personal.  The author of the article suggested another way of using their differences as an opportunity to ask some great questions which could result in benefits to both parties (and to society as a whole).

Davey suggests the following conversation take place:

Now, if I’m Brown, I invite Grant to meet up to engage in the authenticity conflict productively. I start the discussion by getting on the same page about definitions, “Here’s where I think we’re on the same page, here’s where my definition of authenticity doesn’t jive with what you were talking about.” Then I ask for his help, “You know the psych research better than I do, what other constructs could we add to get a better transposition of the concept of authenticity?” “When we look at it that way, what other data become available?” Your article presented some compelling facts about the risks of authenticity in some forms and in some circumstances, what advice would you give my readers about when authenticity is advisable or not?”

These are two brilliant individuals who could, if they worked together, provide all of us (and probably each other) with some amazing insights.

Are we so focused on being right that we stop asking the hard questions for fear the answers might change our minds?


Critical Thinking – Why it Matters

June 5, 2016

According to Rheingold (Teaching Critical Thinking in Age of Digital Credulity), by the end of 2014, more than 3 billion people will have had access to the internet. (I suspect that number has grown exponentially since. ) The internet has given us access to a wide range of ideas, concepts, information and cultures.  Shirkey, in his talk on social media: How Social Media Can Make History  points out that up to the 20th century, media was either good at creating conversation or at creating groups, but not both.  He added that the internet is the first medium that has native support for groups and conversations.  People can create community without ever meeting one another.  They can create media, consume it, critique it, interact with the media makers and with those who also consume the media.

Unfortunately, because people can post almost anything, regardless of its veracity, it is imperative our students learn how to differentiate the proverbial wheat from the chaff.

(Image from http://mysticbull.blogspot.ca/2015/12/dcc-rpg-class-charlatan.html)

Rheingold says the challenge is  “…few teachers or parents impart to young people the always useful but now essential skills of how to question, investigate, analyze and judge that link they just got in email or the factual claim they just found through a search engine.”

How do we educate our students (and ourselves) so we are able to make accurate assessments of what we read, hear and see?

That’s the subject of my next blog post…



Critical Thinking – A Short Series (I Think)

What is critical thinking? Why is it important to cultivate it in ourselves and our students?  How do we go about doing so?  Where can you find some resources to help?

Let’s start with a brief snapshot of what critical thinking is.  According to Scriven and Paul (Defining Critical Thinking):

Critical thinking is “self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.”

options-396266_1920So…what does that look like in practice?  They describe a critical thinker as someone who:

  • raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  • gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

As human beings, our brains tend to choose shortcuts to save energy and, as a result, we sometimes pick mental paths which are based on bias and not on well-reasoned information.  (If you’d like to read a fascinating book on this topic and one that provides a more fulsome explanation than the oversimplification above, I’d recommend Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.)  Critical thinking requires us to push past our inclination for the easy way and dig into our thoughts, gather information (not just data that agrees with our preliminary line of thought), assess it and be willing to change our minds.

So, why does this matter and how do we do it?

Stay tuned….


Lifelong Curiosity

May 1, 2016

I have mixed feelings about the concept of life-long learning.

No one would dispute that in today’s work environment, the introduction of new technology often outstrips our capacity to keep up and with the wonderful world of the internet, we have access to more information than any other generation.

Perhaps I sound a bit dated in saying this, but do you ever wonder if some of the “new” is not better?  Just because new teaching concepts have been introduced and new ideas for engaging our learners are being taught, does this mean we should blindly adopt them?  Are we dinosaurs if we don’t want to use clickers in our classrooms to allow for voting or You Tube videos to emphasize a point?


To be clear, I am not implying that we should do things a certain way because “we’ve always done it that way”.  My point is that as part of that ongoing pursuit of the latest and greatest, we should use some critical thinking skills.

Just because it’s new:

  1. Doesn’t mean it’s better.
  2. Doesn’t mean it’s right for you in your classroom.
  3. Doesn’t mean you’re a brontosaurus if you choose not to follow the latest trend.

Instead of life-long learning, let’s operate in the world of life-long curiosity.  Try new concepts and ideas, absolutely, but do so after researching them and establishing they will help you to achieve what you want to in your classroom.