Thinking Beyond Buildings: Critical Thinking

It’s been a bit of a long, hard slog this year for anyone following Iowa City Schools politics: a diversity policy, a Revenue Purpose Statement vote, a facilities planning process that generated a discussion about process and a recommendation to close school buildings, a school board vote to adopt said recommendation as amended (which may or may not retire Hoover Elementary), land purchases, and a school board election campaign.

The one topic that seems to have been sorely neglected this year (and most years, I daresay) is what goes on inside of the school buildings.

Critical thinking gets thrown around as an essential 21st century skill.  So, I was interested to see a link to Dan Willingham’s video in my Twitter feed today.  In the video he discusses critical thinking and challenges in encouraging students to engage in critical thinking.

Critical thinking is domain specific, rather than a general, transferable skill, that requires sustained practice.  Did you notice that he doesn’t mention that teaching critical thinking requires brand-new, 21st century learning environments?  I did.


2 thoughts on “Thinking Beyond Buildings: Critical Thinking

  1. Chris

    That’s an interesting talk. Not to take anything away from his points, but I’m not sure I like the use of the term “critical thinking” for what he’s describing, which I might just describe as “active” or “engaged” thinking (or just “good thinking”, or even just “thinking”). I wish the term “critical thinking” were reserved for the activity of *critiquing* something. I wish schools would work on helping kids to be able (and also to be inclined) to critique things that they read or are told, since that’s such an important skill for voters in a democracy to have. But it seems to be at cross-purposes to the schools’ desire to tell students what to believe and what to think.

    1. Karen W Post author

      Okay, now you have me thinking about how I have seen “critical thinking” used by educators. I think sometimes they use it in a way that means something close to what you are suggesting (at least on paper, if not in practice), but other times I think they use it because “problem solving” or “troubleshooting” or whatever they really mean doesn’t start with C and you can’t talk about education without having three or four or more items that all start with the same letter, right?

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