Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fostering Critical Thinking by Implementing Scholarly Behavior

One of our goals as teachers is to engage our students in critical thinking, going beyond just knowing the right answer, and bubbling the correct response into a multiple-choice assessment. We are doing an extreme disservice to our students if we don't provide them with the strategies and opportunities to analyze what they are learning and synthesize that information so that they can form their own theories and ideas about that particular concept.

I love the fact that one of the goals we are working on through our Teaching American History Grant Project , is teaching our students to think like a historians, and in particular, we are focusing on the skills of seeing the larger view of history as well as building a personal connection to the past.

In order to teach students to use these critical thinking skills, I believe we need to provide our students with specific strategies that exemplify what critical thinking would look like on a day-to-day basis. For the past several years, I have taught my students and their parents about scholarly behavior, because regardless of one's intellectual ability, everyone can make the decision to be scholarly. We would target one behavior each month, and students would need to reflect on that particular behavior each week, providing specific evidence of how they demonstrated that behavior.

Sometimes my students would struggle with trying to come up with concrete evidence to demonstrate their behavior; however, I believe that by examining primary source documents, trade books and other texts to to determine the "big picture" of history by teaching our students to determine the main ideas as well as teaching them to establish a sense of time, scope and sequence within a historical context, we provide them with a concrete means to "ponder ideas and problems", one of the scholarly behaviors. I also see that by encouraging my students to make personal connections to the past, this provides opportunities for my students to really view ideas and problems from multiple viewpoints in order to make those connections, another one of the scholarly behaviors. I truly can see that by teaching our students to think historically, we are providing them with numerous opportunities to document their own scholarliness, giving them a stronger sense of self-efficacy.

The following list is by no means my own; I attended a workshop for Gifted and Talented Education several years ago, and these concepts were introduced during that training.

Definitions of Scholarly Behavior:

Scholars come to school prepared to learn. They bring their tools (thoughts, questions, great attitudes) with them.
Scholars set both short and long term goals for themselves. They have vision.
Scholars exercise their intellect by trying challenging tasks.
Scholars view ideas and problems from multiple viewpoints and perspectives.
Scholars spend time pondering ideas and problems.
Scholars look at families of resources. They include fiction and non-fiction as well as different genres of research.
Scholars consider themselves “half-full”.  They exercise academic humility by realizing that they have more to learn.
Scholars save ideas, documents, and unfinished work so that they can come back to them later.
Scholars are curious. They ask thoughtful questions.

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