A few years ago, when I first started teaching at Centennial College, I was given the task to update a course syllabus. When examining the weekly learning objectives section, I noticed the previous creator/editor of the syllabus leaned heavily on Bloom’s taxonomy. Verbs like evaluate, create, knowing, and applying kept appearing before each learning objective. The glaring mistake to me was the verb “knowing”. How, specifically, will any educator measure if their students truly “know” the material? As Case (2013) mentions, the problem with Bloom’s taxonomy is how it was misinterpreted as a theory of teaching instead of being a theory of assessment as intended (Case, 2013). A second problem with the knowledge category in Bloom’s taxonomy is that Knowledge is a “lower-level” skill. Lastly, not all learning starts with knowledge of facts and core concepts. I will explain these problems further and how to solve them in the following paragraphs. Knowing is not specific enough: The verb knowing is not specific enough to describe how students in the course should be assessed, and assumes that by teaching a concept, students will automatically know it. When assessing students, educators should be able to identify a variety of ways the students can show that they know certain facts or concepts and never assume they “know” the material based on one test score or quiz. Multiple ways of assessing how much a student knows should be used instead to avoid any misconceptions by teachers on how students should be assessed. Knowledge is not just a memorization of facts: To assume critical thinking can’t happen at the “low-end” or the knowledge stage and that this stage is reserved for simply memorizing facts would be a mistake. Students, when learning something new, can choose and critically think about ways in which to perform research to gain a better understanding or knowledge of a topic (Hoffman, 2009). Some educators even believe that knowledge should be the “apex” of the pyramid and not placed at the bottom (Case, 2013). Knowledge is more complex to measure than Bloom’s taxonomy would have us believe. Not all learning starts with knowledge: Case (2013) lists one of the flaws of Bloom’s taxonomy is the assumption that students can’t use higher order thinking skills such as critical assessment/evaluation without learning the basics (Case, 2013). This is because the assumption is that lower order thinking skills are easy and higher order thinking skills are more challenging. The negative consequence from this is that teachers may avoid asking critical thinking questions (and avoid developing wonder) to their students when beginning a new unit, fearing that they aren't capable of this until the basics are covered. The Solution: Krathwohl (2002) solves some of these problems by creating a two-dimensional taxonomy that consists of a “knowledge” dimension that is separate from the “cognitive process” dimension (Krathwohl, 2002). This allows educators to assess different types of knowledge, (factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognitive) while placing the importance of knowledge in all cognitive processes (Krathwohl, 2002). References: Case, R. (2005). Moving critical thinking to the main stage. Education Canada, 45(2), 45-49. Case, R. (2013). The Unfortunate Consequences of Bloom's Taxonomy. Social Education, 77(4), 196-200. Hoffman, Mark. (2009) Learning to Think Critically, CUNYBMCC. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=R-NGhKc-pjE Date Retrieved: January 15, 2019. Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom's taxonomy: An overview. Theory into practice, 41(4), 212-218.
Teaching Strategies for Critical Thinking:
As a post-secondary teacher, I have noticed that my students fair better on tasks when there is a rubric or a set of criteria laid out for them before the task begins. Although, this activity, specifically, strategy number four-"Include others in decision making", made me realize that my students are capable enough to create their own criteria or rubric for our class. This semester, I am teaching my students presentation design, and the tips they get usually come from my own experience with presentations. However, I thought this might be a good opportunity to infuse some critical thinking into my classroom. Instead of me telling my students what makes a good presentation, I chose to display a few presentations on various topics and have them decide which presentation was best and discuss why. This is another teaching strategy for critical thinking as I would have my students "Judge the best" presentation and explain why they thought this way. The next step would be for students to pair up, write down some key elements of a great presentation and turn these elements into a rubric or criteria. In this way, the students are creating their own rubric for the next class where they will then be ask to start creating their own presentation based on the criteria that we created as a class. For the full lesson plan, please see the attached work document below. I tried this and I must say that I was surprised at how much my students knew about presentations already. Many of my students had little to no experience creating their own presentations but have definitely been exposed to them (mostly by their teachers in high school). I think this unit has helped me to think of asking more questions from my students, instead of simply telling them what a great presentation should be. This is the first time I had added a "Guided questions" section to my lesson plan and it helped me to remember that a large part of modelling critical thinking is asking questions without pretending to know everything right away. Even when it comes to presentation design, what made a good presentation five years ago may not be what makes a great presentation today.
My Strengths and Weaknesses in Pedagogy for Critical Thinking:
Based on the questions in the article The Anthology of Social Studies: Issues and Strategies for Elementary Educators by Roland Case and Penney Clark (2008) I created a checklist for the element of pedagogy of critical thinking in the attached Excel file below. This checklist made me realize my strengths in pedagogy for critical thinking lied in "teaching the tools" for critical thinking but my weaknesses lied in "assessing the tools" for critical thinking (Case and Clark, 2008). Case and Clark (2008) note that, "Assessment is a major obstacle for some teachers..." and it is definitely one of mine when it comes to my pedagogy for critical thinking (Case and Clark, 2008). For example, I always invite discussions for critical thinking, whether my students have them with a partner or the discussion is open to the entire class, I have been able to facilitate positive discussions around various topics in my classroom. I sometimes do this by posting questions around the classroom and have them post their answers with a sticky note. This will then lead to a discussion, on some of the the notes that were posted. However, I never assessed them properly which has been a glaring error. It is important to take note of who is participating? how did they come up with this answer? are they being critical or opinionated? and who needs to participate more? These are questions I was not assessing or recording before. Assessing critical thinking does not have to involve a lot of work. Simply monitoring discussions more closely with a class list in hand while making notes would suffice. This is something I will try to improve so that I can assess critical thinking more accurately. While doing this recently I found that this helped me track who was adding to the classroom environment and who needed to participate more and take a more active part in the classroom discussion. By not taking note of this, I might have missed an opportunity to encourage someone who is not participating to speak up and add their voice to the discussion every student's insight matters. I also noted that I was able to create a community of critical thinkers by always encouraging thoughtful, yet respectful discussions. I use a lot of different methods to create a community of critical thinkers but sometimes I will have my students team up with a group to discuss a topic, then post it the answers as a group in our discussion boards. However, I sometimes rush through critical thinking challenges by providing too much support to my students. Instead, to encourage critical thinking, I should allow my students enough time to think about the challenge and not rush to solve it for them or guide them too much. References: Case, R. & Clark, P. (Eds.). The Anthology of Social Studies: Issues and Strategies for Elementary Educators, Pacific Educational Press, Vancouver.
My Definition of Creativity:
I remember back in one of my first teaching placements while doing my Bachelor of Education through Trent University when my practicum advisor told me that I was too creative. As if creativity in education was a bad thing. He preferred practical activities straight from the textbook. He was afraid of trying new things, and hated the fact that I was comfortable coming up with my own activities for the grade 5 class that we were co-teaching. I had a horrible experience with this practicum advisor as he always assessed my lesson plans negatively when I strayed from the textbook, even though I made it clear in my lessons plans that I was following the Ontario curriculum. In my next classroom placement my mentor or practicum advisor loved all of the creative poems, games, and math activities I came up with for her grade 1 class. She even brought the principal and other teachers in to see one my classroom activities as it involved reading while making sock puppets. Then this activity led to students creating stories with the sock puppets they had created. The students seemed to appreciate this creative style I used too, which was the most satisfying moment of that teaching placement. I always wondered why the first teacher I worked with was so resistant to creative teaching practices. He wasn't a bad teacher, and he cared about his students, but he resisted creativity. He didn't hate me, he disagreed with the way I taught. If he had to come up with his own ideas, they might not work, and he might fail in the process. I know I have, but I keep trying new methods anyway. I don’t believe you have to have the most creative ideas to be a successful educator, but educators need to overcome the illusion that practicality is always better than creativity. Mueller, J.S., Melwani, S., & Goncalo, J.A. (2012), in their article "The bias against creativity: Why people desire but reject creative ideas”, demonstrate that uncertainty creates a bias against creative practice and causes people to fear creativity. As educators we need to embrace uncertainty to encourage creative practices. We also need to inspire others to lean towards creativity in the face of uncertainty. Otherwise, we keep educating some of the same types of students while completely ignoring others. That sock puppet activity that I tried and was afraid might fail benefitted two underachieving readers in the class who were extra motivated to read for the first time. Had I stuck to the textbook, I may have missed their potential for reading. This is why I believe the best definition of creativity is stated by Gini-Newman and Case (2015), “Creativity involves purposeful creation that is novel or unique and has value or significance” (Gini-Newman and Case, 2015). Creating a new lesson that allows for the inclusion of more students is both novel and valuable. Gini-Newman and Case (2015) also describe creativity as something that exists not only in the few, but something that can be nurtured in anybody. In my first teaching placement, my creativity was hindered, I ended up just teaching from a textbook and felt my work was lacking value. In my second teaching placement, creativity was encouraged, so it flourished. References:
Gini Newman, G. & Case, R. (2015). “Critical, creative, and collaborative dimensions of thinking, pp. 45-60, Creating Thinking Classrooms: Leading Educational Change for a 21st Century World. Vancouver, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium. Mueller, J.S., Melwai, S., & Goncalo, J.A. (2012). The bias against creativity: Why people desire but reject creative ideas. Psychological Science, 23(1), 13–17. doi: 10.1177/0956797611421018
Creative Educational Videos
Gini-Newman and Case (2015) state that, “Creativity involves purposeful creation that is novel or unique and has value or significance” (Gini-Newman and Case, 2015). Although, as an educator, it is difficult to measure or assess how a student values our creative efforts. Unlike a painting, we can’t put a monetary value on our teaching and compare it to others. However, I have discovered a new tool using the backstage view of YouTube’s Google analytics page to assess audience retention, or in essence, whether my students value the video by watching it all the way through, or clicking outside of it. There are many aspects of an educational videos that students could value, clear audio, video annotations, etc. but I have noticed when creating videos for my students, there are three consistent elements to the videos that add value and lead to greater engagement. The first one is adding a creative hook in the first 15 seconds. Sometimes this can be posing a question to gain interest or giving an interesting preview of what is to come in the video. Student retention drops dramatically when I have failed to do this. The second creative element that adds value would be telling an engaging story. Students seem to pay attention and appreciate a good story. Even my colleagues in my other class showed increased engagement when watching a video of mine when I told a story about growing up with a sister with a physical disability and how our current curriculum designs tend to leave these students behind. Lastly, keeping videos short and even cutting videos in half is something students appreciate and value. When I keep videos under the seven or six-minute mark, students show a higher retention rate. Creating educational videos has become a recent hobby of mine, and with the help of Google analytics, I can assess how engaging the videos are, and come up with ideas on how to increase student engagement by examining student retention rates in each video. References: Gini Newman, G. & Case, R. (2015). “Critical, creative, and collaborative dimensions of thinking, pp. 45-60, Creating Thinking Classrooms: Leading Educational Change for a 21st Century World. Vancouver, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium. PexelsVideo: https://videos.pexels.com/ Date retrieved, February 27, 2019
Thinking Strategies for Critical Thinking:
This semester, I tried to get students to create their own educational videos by brainstorming and imitating my own methods of creating videos. For a short view of the experience, please view the video below:
The tools that I use to teach creativity are, imitation and brainstorming. I’ve found that the best way to nurture creativity is to model it, or have others imitate it in their own way. Natalie Goldberg’s (1990) notion that sharing what works for you is the best way to help others inspired me to have my students create their own study material, specifically, educational videos, using the same creative techniques that I use to create new educational videos (Goldberg, 1990). To be specific, I will teach students to brainstorm and research ideas as a team. This could involve making notes or researching other educational videos online that cover similar skills that they are aiming to cover. Many of my creations come from a mix of inspiration from educators who post their material on YouTube. The second step in my creative process is to come up with a lesson plan. For educational videos, I use a simple template, the ROPES template (review/hook, overview, presentation, exercise, and summary). In this lesson plan, I have to use critical thinking to include only the best ideas from my brainstorming phase because there is only so much one can cram into a short, five-minute video. I encouraged my students to complete these stages in the creative process before starting to record their educational videos. References: November Alan, (2017) NovemberLearning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C84WHVGod-E Date Retrieved: February 23, 2019. Gini Newman, G. & Case, R. (2015). “Critical, creative, and collaborative dimensions of thinking, pp. 45-60, Creating Thinking Classrooms: Leading Educational Change for a 21st Century World. Vancouver, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium. Gini-Newman, G. (2017, Oct.). Inspiring wonder through learning and thinking. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBREL3VVbZI&t=532s Goldberg, N. (1990). Wild mind: Living the writer's life. New York, NY: Bantam Books. Pp xiii-5. ROPES Model-The Peak Performance Center. (http://thepeakperformancecenter.com/educational-learning/teaching-training/principles-of-instruction/ropes-model/ Date Retrieved: February 23, 2019. Stanley, D., & Zhang. (2018). Student-produced videos can enhance engagement and learning in the online environment. Online Learning, 22 (2), 5-26. Smith, K. (2011). Cultivating innovative learning and teaching cultures: a question of garden design. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(4), 427-438. Techniques for Creative Thinking. Retrieved from: http://members.optusnet.com.au/~charles57/Creative/Techniques/index.html