How can we encourage students to express unique and original points of view and communicate with audiences in valid and defensible ways to increase truly meaningful, personally relevant learning?
The answer is that we must incorporate effective critical and creative thinking strategies appropriately into content instruction.
Keeping the time short for this initial listing of data keeps students on task.
When time is called, ask for a show of hands for students who achieved the goal that was set, and then tell students that from this point on, they are encouraged to add to their original list if they think of any new ideas or if they hear any good ideas they hadn’t thought of.
In general, the process includes these steps and thinking processes: Depending on the complexity of the concepts and/or data to be used as a basis for the activities, all of these steps could be used in a single lesson, or the sequence could be broken into several subsequent lessons over time, with more time for reflection, sharing, and elaborating on first thoughts with more complex ideas and more time for creative incubation as the content demands.
Consider how this sequence of critical and creative thinking activities might be applied with math content in a study of percents.The findings of this study indicate a significant decline of creativity among American students in recent decades, which the authors describe as a “creativity crisis.” They attribute this decline to overemphasis on standardization in curriculum, instruction, and assessment in American schools—with emphasis on acquisition of information, facts and details, and finding “the right answer” rather than critical analysis and evaluation of content or creative exploration of ideas and innovative thinking.The answer to this crisis, they say, is teaching critical and creative thinking skills in context of content instruction.We also know that, in order to develop these critical and creative thinking skills as thinking habits, students must engage in these kinds of thinking activities frequently, in meaningful, appropriate contexts. Are gifted students being given opportunities for exploring ideas and developing skills of critical analysis, evaluation, and creativity in classrooms today?Not so much, according to a study reported in Newsweek (2010) by Bronson and Merryman.Data become meaningful only when individuals perform certain mental operations on those data." (Taba, 1971, pp.240–241) We recognize the need for gifted learners to develop and practice higher-order critical and creative thinking skills that go beyond fundamental acquisition of information."Children do not develop their thinking skills by memorizing the products of adults’ thinking.Children develop these thinking skills by manipulating ideas, critically examining them, and trying to combine them in new ways.Students may have fun playing around with such activities, but may not actually address content in a meaningful, purposeful way, nor actually engage in the higher order thinking intended.Critical thinking involves analysis and evaluation rather than merely accepting ideas or information: understanding of relationships, similarities, and differences; looking for patterns; classifying and categorizing; understanding cause/effect; seeing trends and big ideas; predicting outcomes; considering multiple perspectives; making judgments; and questioning and reasoning.