Critical Thinking from Theory to Practice

Yadu Prasad Gyawali

Yadu Prasad Gyawali

 

This post discusses critical thinking as a conceptual fruit for practice of several activities in planning a course. It simply deals with traits, questioning modes, practices, and critical sketches of general ideas for generating the real flavor of learning.

 

 Introduction

Critical thinking is a part of creativity and variety creations on any thematic ideas, especially the thoughts of varieties. It is an essential component of personal and professional development. To me, it leads to the creations of thoughts on the basis of perception and reflection. It surely denotes the concept of multiple realities because it is the concept of seeing the same thing through different perspectives and making rationale decision. So critical thinking is the collection of ideas in each perception of doings and happenings. In my opinion, it anticipates, collaborates and browses similarities and differences on bringing out the ideas.

Perhaps, the first definition was given by Dewey (1909 as cited in Fisher, 2001), father of the new tradition in critical thinking. He firstly called this notion reflective thinking and defined it precisely as an “active, persistent, careful consideration of a belief or supposed form of knowledge in the lights of grounds which support it and the further conclusions to which it tends”. So, instead of the simple act of receiving information and then readily accepting it, critical thinking involves an “active” process of thinking and analyzing what we receive.

After reading Schafersman (1991), I came to know that critical thinking is reasonable, responsible, reflective and skillful thinking to any topics. It is considered as higher level as well as wise thinking that enables people to achieve greater level of responsibility and information. In this regard, it is also connected to psychological as well as attitudinal framework of outreaching to the conclusion. It is not limited to thinking and reflecting of ideas but also works in the field of decision-making and showing interdependency in working and tackling to the problems.

Traits
I choose intellectual autonomy because this is the area that I have been adopting and would like to encourage others to follow.I would like to connect this trait to my student life. While I was studying in bachelor level, my colleagues were discussing how they could improve their speaking abilities. As we know, English has the recognition of a foreign in Nepal, students hardly ever get opportunities to interact for genuine piece of communication. Teachers also would not provide opportunities to speak English in the classroom as they were always worried how they could finish the course. Discussing the issue for some time, we decided to practice speaking English outside classroom. We did as we had planned and found changes in a mouth. Recollecting those days in which we were struggling for learning English, I come to know that we had been thinking critically unknowingly and practicing the principles of learner autonomy.

Nowadays, I know the implications of critical thinking to real life. I think it is a base theory to generate internal wills to everyone. However, we find that it has not been so in case of teaching and learning of the English language  in our context. This might be because of culture. In this regard, English is hardly combined to the general purposes. It is  applicable only for academic or international business or diplomatic purposes.  I put the independent view of speaking English outside the classroom believing in the principles of autonomous learning. As concerning to other traits,  courage, empathy,  integrity and confidence, etc.  are all to support autonomy and bring positive changes. On the other hand,  other traits such as humility, laziness, etc. lead to the destructive phase of critical thinking by which our creativity sides to the backdoor.

Questioning technique
It is interesting that Socrates used questions to provoke his students and make them listen carefully, analyze their thoughts and think critically. Similarly, I would like to activate my students to stimulate thinking environment in the classroom by using Socrates’ questioning technique. For this purpose, I have been doing some activities that enhance questioning environment because question is the only tool to develop critical thinking. In my classroom, generally I focus higher-level questions. While teaching the course entitled English Language Teacher Development, I ask the following questions prior to teaching.
• Why do you think teachers should be aware with the curriculum, student and environment?
• Do you think teacher education and teacher training are similar concepts? Why? Or why not?
• How do you behave to students?
• Suppose you are the teacher of college students how you cope with the absentees’ problem.
• What do you prefer to be a teacher or trainer? Why?, etc.
Similarly, I want to come to pass different issues relevant in the classroom from which students can build different perspectives. My concern goes to solving the problems that might me thematic or contextual. Only asking question is not enough to develop critical thinking abilities; we need to assess the need, interest, level and social context of the learners. We teachers should be conscious to our roles to sustain the classroom environment. As I mentioned over here I want to clarify that we teachers need to have the knowledge of Bloom’s taxonomy. Furthermore, we must be guided by divergent focus rather to convergent one. I like Lindquist’s classification of questions and their explicit use. Not only this, I accept the questioning skills in the classroom as planning and creative techniques.
Finally, I would like to request teachers that they are builders of thinking; hence, we need to frame out the situation of thinking as our students’ learning context to flame out critical thinking abilities.

Practice
Bloom’s taxonomy was formed in 1956 in and for an academic context. It is a road map of planning the activities related to teaching and learning process. It aimed to develop a system of categories of learning behaviors to assist in design and assessment of educational learning. From the reading, I came to know that the opening attention was focused on cognitive domain, which was the first published part of Bloom’s taxonomy in 1956. The affective domain was known as the second domain and was published in 1964, then after the psycho-motor domain was introduced in around the late 60s as the third domain of educational objective determinants. Bloom’s taxonomy provided the basis for ideas, which have been developed around the globe by educators, teachers, trainers, etc.  for the preparation of teaching learning  and evaluation materials. Bloom’s taxonomy has been used around the globe from the very beginning of course designing to evaluation and the activities that take place during the teaching learning and sharing activities.
By and large, Bloom’s taxonomy provides trouble-free, immediate and straightforward checklist to plan any sorts of personal and professional responsibilities and development. It tackles with possibilities for all aspects of the subject and the level needs. It is a magnificent reference model to teachers, trainers, academics and learners as well. As a matter fact, it is a tool to determine as well as evaluate knowledge, attitude and skill of doers. Bloom’s taxonomy seems relevant to all types of learning because at is created for academic situation. It is also useful in training and learning design and evaluation of all aspects of academic situations.

Bloom’s revised taxonomy seems to rise to be more powerful and effective tool to the teachers who have been running their profession effectively. From of the reading, I found that the revised form of taxonomy adheres the changes. They are, change of the category (nouns are changed into verbs), knowledge renames to remembering, comprehension renamed to understanding synthesis renamed to creating and the hierarchy of synthesis and evaluation were in vice versa. The revised form focused on two dimensions as knowledge dimension and cognitive process dimension. The old version consisted of six categories, with all subcategories arranged in hierarchy. One component worked as the basis of another component and they were arranged to the complex basis. The new version focused a two dimensional framework, knowledge and cognitive processes, knowledge (knowing what) the subcategories of old version and cognitive process (knowing how), which includes the six categories of the old version or original taxonomy. The new version seems to be easier to classify objectives, activities and assessments.

I think new hierarchy of levels has improved the taxonomy. As we know the several criticism made for Bloom’s taxonomy, Marzano (2000) points out that the very structure of the taxonomy, moving from simplest level to knowledge of the most difficult level of evaluation, is not supported by researches. A hierarchical taxonomy implies that each higher skill is composed of the skills beneath it. As following Adherson and Krathwohl (2001),  complex learning activities require the use of several different cognitive skills. Personally, I found the revised version much more effective compared to the old version. In course of practicing the theory, I myself experimented in two different levels. The first experiment was done in advanced level, for Master’s Degree students of Surkhet Campus (Education), where I found students tend to base the cognitive level for the analysis of any concepts. At the beginning, the students were found to have  focused on factual and conceptual knowledge; and later on, to have discussed and interpreted the procedural knowledge. Another experiment was done for grade nine students. In them,  I found the greatest effects of affective factors. It might have been so because they might have considered norms and values. Also, I noticed the attitudinal knowledge has  the prime role for building and developing ideas.

Reflection
Designing lesson from the perspectives of several realities with diverse discourse is highly commendable in course of critical thinking activities. Purely it is higher level thinking skills so matured thoughts and desirable behaviors can shape the environment for learning. Practice based exercises concerning with learners’ attitudes and aptitudes can foster ideas for clarity of real gaining. Lessons are normally shaped with relevant context, audience, behavior, condition and degree of learnability. Critical thinking ability leads everyone towards independent learning and creates classroom environment where instruction is flexibly delivered in both whole-group and small-group settings. We should not forget the following parameters of developing abilities for best practices.
• Practice tiered-learning as a method of differentiating instruction and meeting students’ independent learning needs.
• Provide multiple assignments so that students can have choice based on learning styles.
• Provide enrichment activities for students to extend their learning of a topic of particular interest or level of expertise.
• Encourage opportunities for students to reflect, evaluate, and consider their own thinking, writing, and other forms of personal expression
Hence, the components, which are highly responsible to the traits of critical inquiry, thinking and informatics of critical thinking behaviors, are very essential for developing critical thinking. Among them, I support belief maintenance, responsibility and decision making factors in higher order because with these considerations we can supply trustworthy information.

References
Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing: a Revision of          Bloom’s Taxonomy. New York. Longman Publishing.
Fisher, A. (2001). Critical thinking: An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Marzano, R. J. (2000). Designing a new taxonomy of educational objectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Schafersman, S. D. (1991). An introduction to critical thinking. Retrieved from:http://smartcollegeplanning.org /wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Critical-Thinking.pdf (August 10, 2011)
Schafersman, S. D. (1998). Critical thinking and its relation to science and humanism. Retrieved     from:http://cybercomputing.com/freeinquiry/files/critical-notes.html (August 10, 2011)

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