March 11th, 2010

Improve Thinking and Learning

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Here’s a list of some practical suggestions taken from a, “miniature guide for those who teach on how to improve student learning.” (Web address below) The guide was prepared by Richard Paul and Linda Elder, both well-known experts on critical thinking.

  • “Focus on fundamental and powerful concepts with high generalizability. Don’t cover more than 50 basic concepts in any one course.” Instead of presenting more new material, spend the time thoroughly analyzing these fundamental concepts.
  • Keep these basic concepts in the “foreground.” When a new concept is presented, weave it into those that students already understand. Show how the whole relates to this new part and how the part relates to the whole.
  • “Speak less so that they [students] think more.”
  • “Don’t be a mother robin—chewing up the text for the students and putting it into their beaks through lecture.” Rather the goal should be teaching students how to read the text for themselves.
  • Model good critical thinking for students. Think out loud for students; puzzle your way through problems. “Try to think aloud at the level of a good student, not as a speedy professional.” Students won’t be able to emulate the thought process if you think it through at too advanced levels or work too quickly.

This miniature guide is part of a “Thinker’s Guide” series that includes short books on a range of topics relevant to college teaching. Find them and a number of other excellent sources on critical thinking at this website: www.criticalthinking.org