Our Thinking and Questioning

WHY TEACH CRITICAL THINKING AND QUESTIONING SKILLS?

Through our skills based and progress focussed curriculum, we have identified several areas crucial to teaching the skill of critical thinking. These are:

  • Finding analogies and other kinds of relationships between pieces of information
  • Determining the relevance and validity of information that could be used for structuring and solving problems
  • Finding and evaluating solutions or alternative ways of treating problems

Just as there are similarities among the definitions of critical thinking across subject areas and levels, there are several generally recognized "hallmarks" of teaching for critical thinking. These include:

  • Promoting interaction among students as they learn - Learning in a group setting often helps each member achieve more.
  • Asking open-ended questions that do not assume the "one right answer" - Critical thinking is often exemplified best when the problems are inherently ill-defined and do not have a "right" answer. Open-ended questions also encourage students to think and respond creatively, without fear of giving the "wrong" answer.
  • Allowing sufficient time for students to reflect on the questions asked or problems posed - Critical thinking seldom involves snap judgments; therefore, posing questions and allowing adequate time before soliciting responses helps students understand that they are expected to deliberate and to ponder, and that the immediate response is not always the best response.
  • Teaching for transfer - The skills for critical thinking should "travel well." They generally will do so only if teachers provide opportunities for students to see how a newly acquired skill can apply to other situations and to the student's own experience.

TEACHER BEHAVIOURS THAT ENCOURAGE CRITICAL THINKING AND QUESTIONING:

Frame Quality Questions: 

  • Determine Content Focus
  • Consider instructional function
  • Stipulate expected cognitive level
  • Match to social context
  • Polish grammar and word choice

Strengthen Student Thinking:

  • Expect thoughtful responses
  • Afford time for thinking
  • Scaffold thinking and responding
  • Make thinking visible.

Use Formative Feedback:

  • Employ questions to assess student progress
  • Identify gaps between current and expected knowledge and skills
  • Provide feedback to students
  • Use feedback to inform instruction

Promote Response-Ability:

  • Hold students accountable
  • Develop student capacity to ask quality questions
  • Provide opportunities for students to learn collaboratively
  • Teach skills of collaborative discussion

Nurture a Culture for Thinking:

  • Develop collaborative, caring relationships
  • Teach and reinforce norms for questioning and thinking
  • Adopt a language of thinking
  • Cultivate habits of mind
  • Celebrate breakthroughs in thinking
 

 

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