Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Developing Thinking Skills in a Digital Age

My 3-year-old is able to think at a high level. He can take a set of criteria (at his age it is given by me) and evaluate his own behavior and the behavior of others. For example, the other day he saw a young boy interacting with his parents. He watched for a few minutes and turned to me and said, "Daddy, that boy is being disrespectful." He was using a given criteria for behavior, analyzing another's behavior, and evaluating and labeling that behavior based on that criteria.

But what does it mean to teach students in a classroom?

These are my notes from a session at IICSE. Presenter info at the bottom.

Two Key Components:
1. Teaching Students to think
2. Understanding the digital learner

The need to cultivate a student's ability to think is not new...but the setting has changed...because a shift has occurred.

The shift has an impact on how students find and live their calling.

Defining Thinking Skills
The cognitivie processes that enable us to make meaning from and create with information.

The ability to:

  • Form ideas and opinions based on reason and evidence.
  • Evaluate the worth of ideas, opinions, and evidence before making a decision, formulating opinions, or taking actions.
  • DO something with information or concepts

Thinking skills form the foundation upon which the decisions making capacity and predispositions that direct a student's life are built.

Why is it so difficult to develop thinking skills in our students? (class responses)

  • takes more time
  • curriculum not written that way
  • curriculum too broad - teachers must cover too much as the sacrifice of depth
  • teachers not aware of their own critical thinking skills
  • teachers not aware critical thinking needs to be taught
  • such a variety of learning styles and student needs, it is difficult to get to it all
  • can't force someone to think

You have to have a target at which you are aiming if you are going to be intentional in your planning.

The 21st century student has a different schema...different presuppositions, beliefs, and values...
Their scheme is NOT of reason, rather experience.

"They think with their feelings and listen with their eyes." Their thinking is not based on "is it reasonable" or "does it make sense". They decide based on "is it good for me and my beliefs?"

The do not connect face-to-face as much, yet they want/crave/need relationships.

Nothing in their daily lives challenge them to "go deep" into ideas and concepts.

The world tells them to think for themselves because you can't rely on others. However, unchanging truths do exist.

We must train/disciple/mentor them to be independent thinkers who recognize:

  • they do not exist on their own
  • they cannot control their destiny
  • they cannot simply "look to themselves" or set their own standards if they expect or desire to be a child of God.

To understand who they are in Christ (and who they are without Him), they must be thinkers who can interpret, compare, extrapolate, analyze, evaluate, differentiate, etc...

Reflection Time: I agree that a student must develop who they are as an individual. That can only be done through thinking skills. A student can then make a conscious decision to follow the Lord or a purposeful choice to not trust Him. To be an "independent thinker" from a Christian worldview is different than "independent thinker" from the secular world's perspective. Independence to the world generally places the person at the center of all things. Whereas Christians, though independent, still recognize God not only at the center of Truth, but as Truth himself. A person who "thinks" searches for truth.

Presented  at IICSE by Dr. Helen Boen, Westar Educational Services ( and Elementary Principal and Assistant Headmaster at the Ben Lippen School. 7/12/11 Columbia International University, Columbia, SC

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