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By breaking the rubrics down for different grade bands, we have been able not only to describe what reasoning is but also to delineate how the skills develop in students from preschool through 8th grade.
However, I also believe that there are several generalizable skills that elementary school students can learn that have broad applicability to their academic and social lives. We began this work by first defining what we mean by critical thinking.
After a review of the literature and looking at the practice at other schools, we identified five constructs that encompass a set of broadly applicable skills: schema development and activation; effective reasoning; creativity and innovation; problem solving; and decision making.
However, there are still those in the education establishment and in the media who argue that critical thinking isn't really a thing, or that these skills aren't well defined and, even if they could be defined, they can't be taught or assessed.
First, there are those that argue that critical thinking can only exist when students have a vast fund of knowledge.
The guidelines suggested below propose how critical thinking skills can be assessed “scientifically” in psychology courses and programs.
The authors begin by noting something about psychology faculty that is true of faculty in many other disciplines, which makes this article relevant to a much larger audience.
For example, we defined effective reasoning as the skill of creating an evidence-based claim: students need to construct a claim, identify relevant support, link their support to their claim, and identify possible questions or counter claims.
Rubrics provide an explicit vision of the skill of effective reasoning for students and teachers.
With this in mind, we have developed a series of short performance tasks around novel discipline-neutral contexts in which students can apply the constructs of thinking.
Through these tasks, we have been able to provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their ability to transfer the types of thinking beyond the original classroom setting.