Posts tagged ‘critical thinking’

February 22, 2014

Making Thinking Visible or How to Debate Poorly

It took me some time to write this post as I don’t generally engage in replying to particular bloggers – I , for one, have better things to do other than arguing with someone in the blogosphere.

Harry Webb posted back in December about the website Making Thinking Visible and called these routines “step-wise procedures” using Carl Bereiter’s arguments. This is his own description and I would like to deconstruct his arguments as he mistakes these techniques with teaching thinking programs.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

First, it is interesting (dare I say ironic?) that he uses Bereiter’s book (which I also read, namely Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age) to discredit the work and research behind Visible Thinking project – the title of the blog post is relevant in itself (“Thinkamajiks”). I say ironic because Harry is a “traditional” teacher (he always mentions that on Twitter) and Bereiter is quite a progressive mind, who sees inquiry (A) as a more effective way to learn, emphasizes motivation and mentions the importance of thinking as a social activity (B), all of which do not fit in the “traditional” model.

  1. To develop such knowledge, it is obvious that students must be engaged in inquiry. Passive uptake of knowledge, as in reading a novel or listening to a lecture, has its value, as I’ve argued earlier. But, to continue with the hiking analogy, it’s like viewing a movie rather than actually going on it.” (ch. 9, p. 338)
  2.  “It is time to take a broader view, in which thinking is seen as a primarily social activity (although always with an important private component). Ignoring these three- thinking as a social activity, how thinking relates to knowledge and motivation -reduces thinking to a set of parlor tricks.” (ch. 9, p.348)

Moreover, in the description of his own model (Knowledge Building), Bereiter states,

“As a constructivist approach, Knowledge Building shares many characteristics with the other constructivist approaches discussed earlier. That goal is to advance the frontiers of knowledge as they (the students, n.n.) perceive them. ‘As they perceive them’ is an important qualification when Knowledge Building is undertaken in educational contexts. Identifying frontiers and judging what constitutes an advance are essential parts of Knowledge Building, which students need to learn to carry out themselves, not depend on a teacher or a textbook to do for them.”

Now, let’s go back to Harry’s post.

read more »

January 5, 2014

Critical Thinking or Opening Pandora’s Box

Critical thinker. Alongside “creative”, it seems to be the ultimate compliment one can receive nowadays with so many other buzzwords invading social media (“leadership, “innovative”, “disrupting” and the sorts).

Let us then dig deeper into this concept to clarify what it means and how it can be applied in the field of education.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

        First, we are not *that*revolutionary in promoting the concept. Actually, we owe much to a quite charismatic and brave Athenian who lived about 2,500 years ago.  Socrates, considered the father of the Western thought and philosophy, taught us what it means to question the world, the words and the relationship between them (see Socratic Questioning techniques). Each century on had its critical thinkers whose work contributed to our understanding of the importance of thinking critically – from Erasmus, Moore, Francis Bacon (The Advancement of Learning), Descartes (Rules for the Direction of the Mind) to Hobbes, Voltaire, Diderot, Kant (Critique of Pure Reason), Comte, Spencer, Graham Sumner and Ludwig Wittgenstein, we learned that critical thought “is our only guarantee against delusion, deception, superstition, and misapprehension of ourselves and our earthly circumstances” and that “education in the critical faculty is the only education which it can be truly said that it makes good citizens.” (W. G. Sumner, Folkways, p.633).

Conclusion: When we claim to be the first promoters of “critical thinking” (for 21st century, rolling eyes now) we are wrong, ignorant or arrogant. Take your pick. 

read more »