Developing critical thinking in social studies

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Embeds 0 No embeds. No notes for slide. What is Critical Thinking? To help our students do this, we need to give them clear examples of simple cases, and lots and lots of practice analyzing and reconstructing them. You just clipped your first slide! The work of educators Roland Case and Garfield Gini-Newman has assisted teachers in this approach to critical thinking and in outlining its principle elements. Alberta Education has included some of their material on the LearnAlberta. The authors have good suggestions about incorporating this approach into social studies classes in systematic and effective ways.

However, a continuing problem stems from a further misunderstanding of critical thinking, in the view that it is somehow an add-on to the many other things we already have to do in meeting the expectations of social studies curricula. In this regard, Case, Gini-Newman and others make a strong argument for viewing critical thinking not as a subject or topic but, rather, as a way of teaching social studies, which must be embedded in our daily practice.

In other words, if we identify the main elements of critical thinking that we are trying to develop, and then integrate them systematically into our teaching on a regular basis, we can develop the important skills of critical thinking in the process of helping students work through the issues, topics and knowledge objectives in each grade.

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  • This is similar to the approach used by teachers integrating skills related to information technology into their daily practice, both as tools and outcomes. The LearnAlberta. When we think of what we look for in citizens who are effective critical thinkers, one attribute is a habit of questioning things: holding ideas, assertions and policies up to the light of scrutiny that takes the form of critical questions. What can we do to better equip students with this tool kit of questions they should routinely call upon in thinking about issues?

    Teachers facilitating critical thinking in students: the search for a model and a method

    While working with practising and preservice social studies teachers, I have found that the following critical questions help:. The goal of these approaches is to find opportunities to help students use this tool kit regularly when working their way through topics, issues and materials in the course.

    The goal is to move them to the point where using critical questions becomes a habit, a part of the way they approach not only their course topics but the events, issues and policies that confront citizens on a daily basis in a democratic society. A variety of approaches to describing the components or main elements of critical thinking exist so that we can better focus on the range of skills and dispositions we are striving to develop in students. I have found the type of approach used in some postsecondary institutions in the United States helpful in my work with teachers.

    The attempt is to identify the various components in the form of a general rubric, and then help instructors find ways to develop those elements in the specific setting of their own courses.

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    Figure 1 summarizes the critical-thinking rubric used at Washington State University and in somewhat different forms at a number of other postsecondary institutions. The rubric encourages teachers to determine how best to integrate those skills and dispositions into their course or subject matter. In some institutions the approach has involved a common rubric used across all departments history, biological sciences and English literature so that the basic elements of critical thinking are constantly reinforced across subject areas.

    There would seem to be a great deal of promise in this type of cooperative approach for Alberta schools; a decision could be made in the school on a core of critical-thinking components, and then teachers in various grades and subject areas could find ways to systematically develop and reinforce those skills and dispositions in the light of specific curricula. The potential benefits to students seem obvious, and we probably need to be doing much more of this cross-disciplinary work in our schools.

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    Although Alberta teachers are positive about the value of critical thinking in our classrooms, many of us are just beginning to struggle with how we can effectively and systematically approach critical thinking with our students. If we start with a clear concept of critical thinking and its components, if we view it as an approach to teaching rather than as a subject, if we embed it in our curricula, and above all if we make it a priority, there are enormous gains to be made, both for students and for democratic society.

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