What is an all rounded education?

In this are we testing too much?

Randi argues:

Teachers value assessments as an important tool in their arsenal. But research shows what teachers have warned about for years — that the excessive emphasis on testing and test-prep has harmed efforts to provide students with a well-rounded education and help them develop critical-thinking skills, and has in many ways de-professionalized teaching.

To test, or not to test, that is the question.

This begs the questions:

What would be a well-rounded education?

How to develop critical-thinking skills?

In this video about reasons for studying philosophy as a major:

Philosophy has a reputation for being an impractical major. In this video the author shows why this view is mistaken.

Why major in philosophy? Here are five reasons discussed in the video:
1. It has intrinsic value.
2. It’s what a liberal arts education ought to be.
3. Employers are looking for these skills.
4. Your income expectations are higher than you might think.
5. It’s the ideal springboard degree.

So, should philosophy be part of an all rounded education, in high school, colleges and Universities?

I am deeply interested in philosophy when young, only that there were few undergraduate philosophy courses offered in the University at my time .  Some of the education philosophy courses were however available at graduate level, and I enjoyed such learning.

I think it’s good to introduce philosophy as part of the curriculum, especially in university courses.

How did you find your philosophy classes?

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#CritLit2010 Reflections on critical literacies Part I

I am still “digesting” Heli’s great reflection post,  especially on her discussion of the current emphasis and role of technology in learning, or the TEL (technology enhanced Learning) as one would claim. Are we focussing on the needs and expectation of learners, the learning process, the learning design or the technology or PLE/N?  What would be the literacies that are critical to improved learning in this online environment and digital networks?

As the tools we use are changing from one learning space to another, I think we are going to come up with “new”, emergent and novel terms, literacies, and metaphors, with one replacing the other as new tools superceded the old ones as we move on. This is apparent with the introduction of Twitters, Facebook, where we seem to communicate with a new “language” and have to adopt additional literacies in order to  adapt to such social learning environment.  We also appear to be morphing along in these virtual media and learning spaces with different trajectories, where some would be more focussed and feeling quite comfortable with the media spaces, whilst others might find these media spaces too distracting, overwhelming, or fascinating in their learning journeys.

Besides,  it seems such media space movement are just accelerating, with a state of “flux” where most of the educators and learners would be awe to ask: “What would be the next state of art of learning tools and media available for us?” and “What are those new or novel media/digital/information/communication/technology literacies” that are required in order to communicate and learn well within those emergent media spaces?

Do we really understand the impact and implications of these tools and media space on our learning?  How secure and reliable are they in our learning? How confident are the educators and learners communicating and learning in those media?   Are people really critical in their conversations within those spaces?  Or are people more empathetic when they start to connect more closely with each other?

As Jenny has pointed out, a familiarisation of the tools for use in the course and orientation introducing people would be really helpful for some of us who still are wayfinding in this course.  This will build up the connections that are necessary at the early stage of an online course.

For Jenny, Mike, and some of us who have been around for sometime since CCK08,  a light connection would be enough to spark our “passion” together. However, we might need to be aware of the digital and expertise divide that often exist in an online course.  This has been discussed in our research on CCK08.

So it would be imperative to show our welcoming support to others who may be new or are still lurking in this open learning environment. This could only be achieved if each of our course members show their courtesy to others, or by giving a helping hand in using some of the tools, whenever it is needed by the networkers. It’s more important to establish a conducive and warm online learning environment that people are comfortable to learn with, before we could even be “critical” in our sharing of critical thinking in the course.

Besides, critical has a “critical connotation” meaning that we would need to present our views or opinions basing on evidence, good reasoning, and be reflective and rational in our thinking.

Are there any differences between reflective thinking and critical thinking?

May be what distinguishes reflective thinking from critical thinking is that we could still consider the pragmatic while reflecting on our experience, where being critical would mean that our judgment should all be based on objective evidence, good reasoning, without personal biasing.   I am still trying to figure out the nuance between reflective thinking and critical thinking.

Jenny in her post Cognition mentions about the various literacies that Howard Rheingold has highlighted here and here on 21st century media literacies.  I am comfortable now in learning these literacies, and I have viewed the videos and found them very interesting.  How reliable are the sources of information?  Be a detective these days, as Howard mentions, when searching for information, and be focussed on our attention.  Ulop mentions in his post: Perhaps then the goal of a Net-assessor (human or machine) would be to determine trusted sources.  Are we able to discern such sources of information? May be we need to source such  information that are also provided by the experts and authority, as cited by Carmen, and those through “collective intelligence“.  Are we able to conduct multi-tasks and still be able to practise critical thinking as mentioned by Howard?

However, I really don’t know what the next wave of literacies would be. Take a look at Google Wave, and what its impacts are on the need of literacies. Are we still waving? Or are we still looking for the new technologies that could “integrate” all these tools into one, that makes learning much easier?

Would I be going with the flow, in media literacy?  Yes!

#CritLit2010 Development of Critical Thinking Skills in online course

In this Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking by Anuradha A. Gokhale

Collaborative learning fosters the development of critical thinking through discussion, clarification of ideas, and evaluation of others’ ideas.

For collaborative learning to be effective, the instructor must view teaching as a process of developing and enhancing students’ ability to learn.  The instructor’s role is not to transmit information, but to serve as a facilitator for learning. This involves creating and managing meaningful learning experiences and stimulating students’ thinking through real world problems.

In this Participation and Critical Thinking in Online University Distance Education by Mark Bullen

The results suggest that the emergence of a dynamic and interactive educational process that facilitates critical thinking is contingent on several factors: appropriate course design, instructor intervention, content, and student’s characteristics.

The study concludes that computer conferencing should be given serious consideration by distance educators as a way of facilitating interaction and critical thinking in distance education.

The critics argue, much distance education is rooted in a transmission model that inhibits the development of critical thinking.

Learners passively assimilate knowledge rather than critically examine and construct it, based on their own experiences and previous knowledge (Burg, 1988; Garriso, 1993; Lauzon, 1992)

p26 of 40

Most of the students were generally satisfied with instructor’s participation but, when pressed, several did indicate that greater instructor involvement might have helped stimulate the discussions.

The instructor agreed that student participation may have increased if he had become more involved and tried to provoke more discussion.

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Several factors appear to have had an impact on the students’ ability to use critical thinking skills in their contributions to the discussions: cognitive maturity, the instructor’s style of teaching, the students’ experience with a dialogical style of teaching, and their understanding of critical thinking.

Research conducted using this model found that reflective judgment scores increased consistently with age and educational levels and that college freshmen and seniors tended to view knowledge absolute or uncertain and idiosyncratic to the indiviudal (King & Ktchener, 1994).

Teaching style is another issue that can have an impact on students’ ability to exercise their critical thinking abilities.

Sternberg and Martin (1988) suggest the best approach for facilitating this is a dialogical style of teaching in which there is ongoing interaction between students and the instructors, and that involves discussion, inquiry, and the free exchange of ideas.

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Student characteristics such as their previous experience with distance education or independent study, their cognitive maturity, and their experience with participatory and interactive learning environments seem to be necessary preconditions for the successful implementation of computer conferencing where success is measured by high levels of participation, interaction, and critical thinking.

The above two research cases both stress the important role of instructor as facilitator, who could greatly assist the learners in developing their critical thinking skills by participating in the discussion.

In the case of online course where instructors are encouraging self-directed and collaborative learning using Web 2.0 tools (such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, Twitters, Ning and Moodle etc.), (a) what would be the role of instructors? (b) how would instructors assist the learners in the development of critical thinking skills?  (c) How would critical thinking skills be evaluated?

Finally, what are the factors that would impact on the learner’s development of critical thinking skills in an online course? Which of them are critical success factors?

What does our society value most?

In this Work Shift by Harold, Emotional Intelligence, imagination and creativity are highly valued by society.

Harold writes:

This should have been a wake-up call to our training and education institutions in 2003. Notice that even the requirement for analytic reasoning is declining in the workplace. As the authors note:

In today’s world, companies and workers face the challenge of ascending the hierarchy of human talents. Workers are increasingly using those traits that make us truly human. Some jobs require imagination and creativity, including the ability to design, innovate and entertain. Other jobs rely on such social skills as conflict resolution, cooperation and even humor. Work is more likely to put a premium on the ability to inspire and motivate, a capacity social scientists call emotional intelligence.

Update: via the Creative Class Blog: Creativity ranks as the number one most important leadership quality for business success, according to a new study by IBM.

Analytic reasoning, and critical thinking skills, on the other hand have been perceived differently.  Here on wikipedia:

Research suggests a widespread skepticism about universities’ effectiveness in fostering critical thinking. For example, in a three year study of 68 public and private colleges in California,[which?] though the overwhelming majority (89%) claimed critical thinking to be a primary objective of their instruction, only a small minority (19%) could give a clear explanation of what critical thinking is. Furthermore, although the overwhelming majority (78%) claimed that their students lacked appropriate intellectual standards (to use in assessing their thinking), and 73% considered that students learning to assess their own work was of primary importance, only a very small minority (8%) could enumerate any intellectual criteria or standards they required of students or could give an intelligible explanation of what those criteria and standards were.[citation needed]

This study mirrors a meta-analysis of the literature on teaching effectiveness in higher education.[12] According to the study, critical reports by authorities on higher education, political leaders and business people have claimed that higher education is failing to respond to the needs of students, and that many of our graduates’ knowledge and skills do not meet society’s requirements for well-educated citizens. Thus the meta-analysis focused on the question: How valid are these claims? Researchers concluded:

  • “Faculty aspire to develop students’ thinking skills, but research consistently shows that in practice we tend to aim at facts and concepts in the disciplines, at the lowest cognitive levels, rather than development of intellect or values.”
  • “Faculty agree almost universally that the development of students’ higher-order intellectual or cognitive abilities is the most important educational task of colleges and universities.”
  • “These abilities underpin our students’ perceptions of the world and the consequent decisions they make.”
  • “Specifically, critical thinking – the capacity to evaluate skillfully and fairly the quality of evidence and detect error, hypocrisy, manipulation, dissembling, and bias – is central to both personal success and national needs.”
  • A 1972 study of 40,000 faculty members by the American Council on Education found that 97 percent of the respondents indicated the most important goal of undergraduate education is to foster students’ ability to think critically.
  • Process-oriented instructional orientations “have long been more successful than conventional instruction in fostering effective movement from concrete to formal reasoning. Such programs emphasize students’ active involvement in learning and cooperative work with other students and de-emphasize lectures…”
  • “Numerous studies of college classrooms reveal that, rather than actively involving our students in learning, we lecture, even though lectures are not nearly as effective as other means for developing cognitive skills.”
  • “In addition, students may be attending to lectures only about one-half of their time in class, and retention from lectures is low.”
  • “Studies suggest our methods often fail to dislodge students’ misconceptions and ensure learning of complex, abstract concepts. Capacity for problem solving is limited by our use of inappropriately simple practice exercises.”
  • “Classroom tests often set the standard for students’ learning. As with instruction, however, we tend to emphasize recall of memorized factual information rather than intellectual challenge.”
  • “Taken together with our preference for lecturing, our tests may be reinforcing our students’ commonly fact-oriented memory learning, of limited value to either them or society.”

So, would critical thinking still be important in learning in an institution? I would argue that it is still relevant, and should be reinforced throughout the curriculum in Higher Education.  This is an important foundation skill for any profession, especially that we should be focusing on values which are important to individuals, business and society. This would ensure graduates have a sound understanding of the complexity nature of business and relationships, and challenge their abilities to adapt to new working environment through sensemaking.  Moreover, an understanding of emotional intelligence, and the application imagination and creativity via learning projects and problems-based learning would prepare students in facing challenges and tackling new problems and relations when they join the workforce.

I have discussed critical thinking and emotional intelligence in my previous posts.

What do you think our society would value most?

CCK09 Critical Thinking

Enjoy this Critical Thinking

When we teach and encourage critical thinking, we empower individual lives and invest in our collective future.

A powerful message.

Critical thinking is the purposeful and reflective judgement about what to believe or what to do in response to observations, experience, verbal or written expressions, or arguments. Critical thinking involves determining the meaning and significance of what is observed or expressed, or, concerning a given inference or argument, determining whether there is adequate justification to accept the conclusion as true.

Critical thinking gives due consideration to the evidence, the context of judgment, the relevant criteria for making the judgment well, the applicable methods or techniques for forming the judgment, and the applicable theoretical constructs for understanding the problem and the question at hand. Critical thinking employs not only logic but broad intellectual criteria such as clarity, credibility, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, significance and fairness.

I have written this post on transformational thinking that includes critical thinking as an important part of thinking.

Postscripts: Here is another excellent video on Critical Thinking.  There are 5 parts.