Teacher “training” vs. Teacher “professional development”

April 3, 2010 at 10:40 am 27 comments

My blog posts are picked up in Facebook via RSS feed, and Fred Martin commented there that he prefers “professional development” to “training” to describe in-service educational opportunities for teachers.  It’s a good point.  My advisor, Elliot Soloway, once appeared on PBS talking about how “Dogs are trained. Teachers aren’t trained. They’re taught.”  “Professional development” sounds more like what executives and other knowledge workers do, so it’s a better, more respectful, and more descriptive term.  I agree with all of that, but I propose an argument that claims that “teacher training” is not a bad thing, and may be something we need more of, especially in computing education.

Training” is defined as activity leading to skilled behavior.  Fire fighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and soldiers are “trained.”  Training is associated with providing service to the community, which is certainly what teachers do.  Training is about developing skill, and teaching is clearly a skill.  Athletes train.  I trained for three years for my black belt.  In these senses, “training” is about learning to the point of automaticity, so that the learner can demonstrate the skill under stressful conditions.

CS1 teachers do learn to the point of automaticity how to help students.  After a few years of teaching Media Computation, I could often tell what was wrong with a student’s program just by looking at the output image or listening to the output sound.  Totally silent output sound?  You may not be incrementing the target index, so all the source samples are being copied to the same target index.  Black edge on your composed pictures?  Probably an off-by-one error where you’re not changing the right and bottommost edges of the picture.  That automaticity comes from knowledge of the domain and seeing lots of examples of student work, so that you learn the common errors.  Such automaticity is useful to be able to help many students debug their programs in a brief class time or office hours.

A teacher’s job is stressful.  It is hard for a teacher to manage a classroom of (sometimes unruly, always attention-demanding) students.  A teacher must apply learning under stressful conditions, and reaching automaticity will help with multitasking around many students.  However, in computing education especially, we barely have time to teach teachers the basics of computing, let alone become proficient, and in no way, automatic.  Without the time and “training” to develop those automatic responses, teachers have to work harder, spending more time to figure out each student problem.

Fred’s right — “professional development” is more respectful, and clearly conveys that teachers are knowledge-workers.  “Training” is also an appropriate term, that recognizes the skilled service that teachers provide and the hard, stressful job that they have in responding to many students needs.  In computing education especially, we need to give teachers more support that looks like “training,” and not just introducing the concepts in “professional development.”

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How to teach teachers Most CS Professors Don’t Program

27 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tyson  |  April 3, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Isn’t “professional development” just a euphemism for “training”? At least, this has always been my perception as a teacher. There might be less resistance to “training” by using the phrase “professional development” instead.

  • 2. Alan Kay  |  April 4, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Hi Mark,

    Of course, we could take Elliot’s comment as an indication of what’s wrong with so many teachers!

    However, in the end it seems that the label is less important than how many teachers turn out, and this is what is troublesome. I think that it is (barely) possible for someone who doesn’t know a subject + a perfect curriculum to still help a learner (and that they would also start to learn if they have a taste for it).

    But many of the important subjects and their curricula are about processes and ideas, and the learning of them is partly about starting to *do* the processes and *have* the ideas within the domain. It is hard in a curriculum to capture all the good processes and ideas, so it really helps if there are some real practitioners around to provide quality control and encouragement when the students start thinking outside the box they are given.

    This is where helpers who don’t understand the content really fall down (and worse often try to control the learners to stay within the helpers’ comfort zones rather than vice versa).

    The real question we should be asking about teachers — one by one — is whether they have any taste and thirst for learning themselves, or whether they think of themselves as a combination of a “soldier in a complex framework” and as Joe Weizenbaum once remarked “guards in minimum security prisons”.

    I’m guessing that many would not pick either extreme despite the evidence, but think of themselves as “purveyors of education” (but without realizing that “education” is not a destination but a process and journey, and is almost impossible to convey by those who are not constantly trying to educate themselves over their entire lives).



  • 3. Brendan Murphy  |  April 4, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Perhaps teachers need to be both trained and developed. Development in terms of implementing curriculum or developing differentiated lessons. Then trained in managing classrooms, or filling out paperwork.

  • 4. Alan Kay  |  April 4, 2010 at 10:18 am

    When I was in school I noticed early on that e.g. when teachers assigned a “composition” (as it was called back then), they would never write one themselves. When they assigned a math problem, they would never give one to themselves and work it out.

    The message was “this stuff is a kind of yukky medicine that you have to take to get well, but I’m healthy so I don’t have to do this anymore”. (Kind of a vaccination theory with learning and education as the dread disease!)

    In some of college, and especially in grad school, things were very different! Some of the teachers just loved their subjects and were only too happy to work on them along side the students. I can remember several remarkable math teachers, some science teachers, an incredible Shakespeare professor, and especially the ARPA professors in that research community who were just “students with degrees”.

    And of course, in music and sports learning, one would feel cheated and in the presence of a charlatan if one’s teacher didn’t love the stuff and could and did play with you.

    The biggest mismatch in K-12 (and especially K-8) is between teachers and the subjects themselves. This is really difficult (I would say “not possible for most”) to fix with “training” and “professional development”. It takes a lot of work to get good in something even when you love it — and there is no question that most teachers do *not* love the subjects they teach.

    Best wishes,


    • 5. Mark Guzdial  |  April 5, 2010 at 7:44 am

      It’s a really interesting insight, Alan. It’s got me thinking about the implications for higher education. It’s related to Brendan Murphy’s recent blog post about passion and education. I’m going to put that in a post.

    • 6. Todd Lash  |  February 23, 2016 at 8:59 am

      I agree that most k-8 and probably more so k-5 teachers do not love the subjects they teach. They are generalists by definition and really never have a chance to be engrossed professionally in any one area. Moreover, most k-5 teachers are completely spoon fed a diet of boxed curriculum designed to be “teacher proof”. The current k-5 educational environment discourages teacher expertise in many ways.

      One exception that I have seen in k-5 is that of teachers who are trained in Reading Recovery. They go through relatively rigorous and ongoing “training” and are single subject teachers. They enjoy what they do, from what I have seen, and relish in learning more about their craft. Most of them identify themselves as reading experts and do have the “automaticity” that Mark describes above. However, that automaticity is not in teaching, but in the identification of reading problems. Once identified the RR teacher has many tools to draw on that a normal classroom generalist does not, due to their singular focus and the amount of work they have put toward developing it. Mark’s examples above around automaticity really are examples of identification and not response. We don’t want teachers who respond automatically. We want thoughtful teachers who are steeped in a subject they love and know well so that they spot problems and misconceptions early and easily and can then address a learning situation with care, infectious passion and dexterity.

  • 7. Kurt L.  |  April 4, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Interesting that, in contrast, academics seem to prefer the “training” label to the “professional development” one. For example, I often hear, “I’m trained as a sociologist” or “my graduate training was in biochemistry,” but I’ve never heard academics talk about professional development. I wonder if academics like to remind others that have skills (not just head-in-the-clouds theorists!) and non-academics like to remind others they’re more than a bag of skills (they’re professionals!).

    • 8. Mark Guzdial  |  April 5, 2010 at 7:41 am

      That’s a really interesting point, Kurt. You’re right — we often talk about graduate education as ‘training.” I wonder if that’s about skills, as you say, and also automaticity. “Yeah, I spent a lot of years in grad school, but I got really good at a very specialized set of skills.”

  • 9. Interesting Links 5 April 2010  |  April 5, 2010 at 7:42 am

    […] Mark Guzdial has an interesting discussion about just that set of words in a blog post titled “Teacher “training” vs. Teacher “professional development”” The discussion in the comments is particularly […]

  • 10. Yael Kidron  |  April 7, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Training suggests one-way communication. It suggests that there is a trainer and a trainee. Professional development has many forms. One of the most effective ones is a more bi-directional conversation and exploration. For example, teacher study groups can be a form of professional development. Also, effective workshops and coaching sessions are not just about presenting information, but about asking teachers to brainstorm about ideas and figure out the strategies that best work for their students. See tools we have posted on the Doing What Works website under the practice do pages at dww.ed.gov.

  • 11. weilunion  |  April 10, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    The following are the Miami Dade-County critical thinking standards I wrote in the year 2000, before every child was left behind. I was contracted by Dade-County public schools to write them and did so with the encouragement of Maria de Armas an administrator at the time. It is a shame if no teacher knows of them for it is critical thinking that students need to be taught and early. Of course the standards that you will read, cannot be meausred by the corporate ‘testing regimes’ and companies eager to get their products into schools, therey reducing teachers to clerks and students to products to be produced. The tests are then used to cobble money together from the ‘federal cage’ for if they are not good, not ony do you not get merit pay but your school can be blackbagged or put on an assassins list for closure. The privatization of education so changes the material conditions of teacher’s labor and student learning that it makes a mockery out of a nation that says it wants ‘thinking kids’. Take a look at these ‘standards’ and tell me that you would not be proud to teach them or if you already do and the importance of critical thinking. You can read moer of my articles at http://www.dailycensored.com or e-mail me at weilunion@aol.com for more about critical thinking and teaching/ Best Dr. Danny Weil The Critical Thinking Institute CRITICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING STANDARDS FOR DADE-COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS ADVANCED ACADEMIC PROGRAM Written and prepared by: Dr. Danny Weil The Critical Thinking Institute Edited by: Holly Kathleen Anderson, MA THE DADE-COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE PROGRAM MISSION: Students will demonstrate growth and development in critical and creative thinking. A Taxonomy of Critical and Creative Thinking Goals and Objectives for Students and Teachers Rationale: Critical and creative thinkers are interested in developing their capacity to solve problems, make decisions and continuously assess their thinking to determine its strengths, weaknesses and limitations. They are imbued with a sense of imagination and curiosity that calls on them to seek complex answers to complex questions. They are uncomfortable with complacency and seek to find new and innovative ways of approaching life’s possibilities. They are particularly interested in developing effective modes of thinking in the cognitive areas of abstract, systematic, evaluative, and collaborative thinking and they are aware of the affective area of emotional intelligence and its relationship to creative and critical thought. Critical thinkers seek to routinely evaluate their thinking and assess their thought patterns relative to criteria. They seek to subject what they think they know to critical scrutiny in the interest of achieving the best results, the best decisions and the best solutions to problems. Finally, critical and creative thinkers are concerned with all of the above as it affects good judgment and innovation. The following represents a taxonomy of critical and creative thinking goals and objectives. They have been divided into categories associated with modes of thinking that have been recognized as important in the development of critical and creative thinking. Abstract thinking is thinking that is comfortable and fluent with large ideas—a thinking that heralds ambiguity. Abstract thinking is thinking that is articulate and comfortable with abstractions and symbolic representations of information and ideas. Abstract thinkers reason deductively from general concepts to particular situations. Systematic thinking is grounded on an understanding that we as human beings construct systems and that there is a logic to all disciplines, theories, perspectives and positions. Systematic thinkers understand ideas and their interrelationships. Systematic thinking experiences ideas not in isolation from one another, but holistically within a complex web of interrelated ideas and principles. Systematic thinking seeks to constantly relate the parts to the whole and whole to parts and is essential to unlock logical systems of thought for purposes of analysis and evaluation. Evaluative thinking routinely experiments with and assesses its own work and underlying thinking. It is thinking which experiences itself in a constant state of pregnancy as it continually gives birth to new ideas and creative ways to foster improvement. Evaluative thinking is a commitment to thinking that is constantly scrutinizing itself and the thinking of others in the interest of self-betterment and continuous improvement. It is motivated and achieved by inner questioning and attitudes of humility and courage. Collaborative thinking recognizes our interdependence on the thinking of others. It is thinking that incorporates attitudes and dispositions that collaboratively confront increasingly complex problems within an atmosphere of civility and inquiry. It is founded on the notion of synergy; that if people follow a rational sequence of events and incorporate good values and attitudes of thinking amongst each other, they will perform beyond the sum of their individual resources. Collaborative thinkers understand that they do not surrender their individuality simply because they harness their efforts with others. On the contrary, much like a musician in an orchestra, collaborative thinkers understand that working with others serves to increase individual effectiveness and sense of self. Emotional intelligence, or the affective dimension of learning, recognizes that critical and creative thinking is more than just sets of cognitive skills but also involves a compilation of attitudes or dispositions that must be cultivated and nourished. Developing emotional intelligence involves experiencing a variety of situations with others and learning to understand how others see and process the world. Critical thinking teachers know that this intelligence is learned and they seek to offer students opportunities to develop an insight into the attitudinal aspect of thinking. They also know that these attitudes and dispositions are indispensable for open-minded critical and creative thinking and are recognized as essential for teaching creative and critical thought. The Five Dimensions of Critical and Creative Thinking Behaviors and Attitudes I. Problem Solving and Decision Making Dimension  S-1 Defining and Identifying Problems  S-2 Defining and Identifying Goals  S-3 Using Information Critically  S-4 Distinguishing Relevant from Irrelevant Information  S-5 Questioning Deeply: Learning to Think Socratically  S-6 Examining and Evaluating Assumptions and Beliefs  S-7 Generating and Assessing Effective Decisions and Solutions  S-8 Exploring Consequences and Implications  S-9 Making Plausible Inferences, Coming to Good Conclusions, Making Effective Decisions, and Learning to Interpret Critically  S-10 Giving Reasons and Evaluating Evidence and Alleged Facts II. Analytical and Evaluative Thinking Dimension  S-11 Avoiding Overgeneralizations and Oversimplifications  S-12 Developing Criteria for Evaluation  S-13 Evaluating the Credibility of Sources of Information  S-14 Analyzing or Evaluating Arguments, Interpretations, Beliefs or Theories  S-15 Analyzing and Evaluating Actions or Policies  S-16 Comparing and Contrasting Ideals with Actual Practice  S-17 Evaluating Perspectives, Interpretations or Theories III. Systematic Thinking Dimension  S-18 Comparing Analogous Situations: Transferring Educational Insights into New Contexts  S-19 Making Interdisciplinary Connections  S-20 Noting Significant Similarities and Differences IV. Collaborative Thinking Dimension  S-21 Reasoning Dialogically: Comparing Perspectives, Interpretations and Theories  S-22 Reasoning Dialectically: Evaluating Perspectives, Interpretations and Theories  S-23 Developing Ones’ Perspective  S-24 Listening Critically  S-25 Practicing Questioning: Learning to Explore Beliefs, Theories and Perspectives V. Emotional Intelligence/ Affective Dimension  S-26 Independent Thinking: Developing an Investigative Orientation  S-27 Developing Intellectual Empathy  S-28 Developing Intellectual Humility  S-29 Developing Intellectual Imagination and Curiosity  S-30 Developing Intellectual Efficacy  S-31 Developing a Tolerance for Ambiguity  S-32 Developing Intellectual Perseverance and Discipline  S-33 Developing Intellectual Courage  S-34 Developing Intellectual Civility  S-35 Developing Intellectual Integrity Problem Solving and Decision Making Dimension Principle: S-1 Defining and Identifying Problems Learning to clearly and precisely define problems in thinking is a substantial goal of critical thinking instruction. Fifty percent of all problem solving involves defining the problem. All good decisions and solutions to problems require a clear understanding of what the actual problem is. Helping students separate causes from solutions, symptoms from problems, and sub-problems from real problems is essential for learning to think critically. For example, defining the wrong problem can send a student down the wrong path to, at a minimum, irrelevant solutions, and assure that she will not understand the subject matter or concepts she is examining. Also, helping students problematize what they are learning—to take what they are learning and phrase inquiry in the form of questions to be answered through research and collaboration, is a goal of critical instruction. We want our students to problematize the issues they are learning and then take intellectual responsibility for pursuing reading, writing, speaking and listening in the interest of answering their own questions. This requires clear understanding of exactly what problems are and how we go about identifying them. Furthermore, it involves learning how to frame problems in divergent ways — ways that call upon expansionary thinking in the interest of creativity. Application to Classroom Instruction Using journalism, both print and broadcasting (*COAEP), to provide students with opportunities to identify and examine problems, teachers can ask such questions as how journalists themselves go about identifying, distinguishing and solving problems. Students can research how in real life reporters identify and examine public and private problems. They can become animated to see problems as environmentalists see them in all parts of the world and then discuss solutions to problems from various points of view. They can come to understand that how we frame issues as problems often is a result of our point of view and they can learn to identify points of view when analyzing problem statements. This can be extremely important in environmental studies (COAEP) where points of view abound. Students can be encouraged to identify problems for journalistic purposes and then write about these problems for a real audience. In environmental studies (COAEP), students can identify and target specific environmental problems in their communities, neighborhoods or in their states and country. Through an understanding of point of view, through speech, debate and literature (COAEP), students can discuss how different points of view see different problems and why. They become actively involved in critical analysis and problem solving (PACE V.C.1). They can then discuss these points of view through debate or discussion. By examining problems and issues within these contexts and more, students can learn what happens if problems are ill-defined or if they have not been adequately examined. *Miami-Dade County Public Schools Curriculum Options for Academic Excellence Program hereinafter referred to as COAEP Principle: S-2 Defining and Identifying Goals Whenever we think we think for a purpose; our thinking seeks to accomplish something. All disciplines, subject mater and in fact human endeavors in general, have a purpose. Helping students see the goals and objectives in what they are studying is essential to help them understand subject matter. Many problems with student understanding of say, biology or history, comes with the fact that they do not know why they are studying biology or history—what biologists and historians attempt to accomplish through their scholarly endeavors. By not identifying the goals contained within various disciplines, students cannot be expected to understand the discipline as a system. For example, without understanding what a biologist seeks to accomplish by studying cells, let’s say, the student cannot possibly hope to identify biological problems in the area of cellular formation or development. We cannot take for granted that our students understand what historians, biologist, mathematicians, artists, or journalists do; in fact we should assume the opposite and engage students in discussions as to the purposes behind studying one subject or another. Similarly, students too have goals, in the form of assignments, within any academic pursuit. Are they clear as to what they are attempting to accomplish and why? Have they identified their own objectives and the objectives of instruction in a given area? Application to Classroom Instruction Using speech and debate (COAEP), students would be able to identify the goal of a persuasive speech or argument. The teacher could ask them to identify the objectives of a debate and then organize their thinking around accomplishing this objective. In environmental science (COAEP), students could examine and discuss environmental goals and if they were rational. They could research various environmental concerns and see how problems and goals relate in environmental studies. In art, students would be able to see how artists’ goals are enhanced by the materials they choose to use and how a clear understanding of ones’ goal as an artist can impact greatly on the visual representation of their work (COAEP). For example, teachers could query students regarding the goals involved in using oil based paint as opposed to watercolors. Students could see the goals in art processes and then engage in their own art activities, setting goals and trying processes designed to enhance their artistic goals. Using shared inquiry through literature, students could be animated to clearly and precisely state story character’s goals and how their objectives and purposes affected their characters (COAEP). And, through simulated activities (COAEP), students could capture this understanding by setting their own goals and attempting to accomplish them in the form of simulations. Principle: S-3 Using Information Critically Critical thinkers recognize the importance of using reliable and relevant sources of information. They constantly seek to validate sources for information and they give less credence to sources which lack integrity or those that are biased. Critical thinkers know that they must question information critically to determine its over-all validity. They pay critical attention to how information is used and marshaled for a particular purpose. They also are aware of how information is used, classified and categorized. For example, good critical thinkers know that there is more than one point of view on any given issue and that these points of view often marshal and assemble information differently, depending on their positions, claims and assumptions. They interpret information within the wide context of a system of thought, not in isolation. Critical thinkers understand that to use information correctly they must pay attention to how they organize the information, how they categorize it and sort it. They realize that preconceptions figure into the use of information and they constantly seek to see information from more than one point of view. When using information, critical thinkers understand they have an obligation to verify the sources of information and seek alternative sources. Finally, they recognize that in an attempt to avoid becoming road-kill on the information superhighway, they must spend time analyzing and evaluating information before they use it. Application to Classroom Instruction As students do research in any area of concern, whether it be art, environmental studies, literature or drama and theatre (COAEP), they will be exposed to information within the field. As teachers, we can question students as to the sources of their information, encourage them to seek out alternative sources, and then work with them to use information to gain knowledge. Through our questions and activities we can help students see how various subject matters acquire, examine, and organize information for problem solving purposes. For example, in reporting a story in journalism, either broadcast or print, students should be encouraged to seek and examine a wide variety of information on a given issue (COAEP). Through research they can be animated to pursue information from various points of view and then compare and contrast the information to see patterns or discrepancies. In this way they can begin to see how various journalists use information and for what purposes. In simulated learning experiences (COAEP) involving hands-on experiences, students can assemble information, classify it and then use it to solve problems or make plausible inferences about that which they are learning. Using drama and theatre production (COAEP), students could use this forum as a way to present information about what they are studying or learning to a larger audience. This could take the form of sharing scientific information or historical information through a play or skit. And, using information from various sources, students in environmental studies could use information to make plausible inferences about world climate and then discuss problems or solutions to environmental problems (COAEP). Throughout these endeavors teachers would want to ask students how they assembled the information they received, what their sources were and how they determined reliability, what patterns they might have seen in the information and how they would use the information to make predictions or decisions. They would be queried as to how they might depict this information for others, how others might react to the information they have and what someone who disagreed with them might say. By getting students to appreciate and develop a healthy attitude regarding information acquisition and depiction, students will prepare themselves for a world where information has become one of the central features of modern life. Principle: S-4 Distinguishing Relevant from Irrelevant Information For students to think critically they must be able to tell the difference between facts that are relevant to a specific situation and those that are not. Critical thinkers focus attention only on relevant facts and seek to ferret out irrelevancy in their information bank. Since relevance is always the subject of point of view, students must understand that the determination of relevancy of facts within any discipline is a matter of debate and discussion. They must become comfortable with putting forth positions and then defending why they believe facts or information are relevant or not and how this affects problem solving within a discipline. What is relevant in one context may not be relevant in another. If we want students to become good purveyors of information, they must consistently seek to categorize information within categories of relevance. Application to Classroom Instruction When discussing an issue or problem, when giving reasons for a position or conclusion, or when arguing for a particular solution or decision, students can become sensitive to how we use information that is relevant. Many students assume all information is relevant within a context and thus do not know how to organize their thinking around those facts they need to make plausible arguments or seek valid conclusions. By asking students how specific facts would affect their decisions, or how certain information relates to what they are studying, students can see the necessity for relevant information. For example, in speech and debate (COAEP), students would be encouraged to organize their positions around information that was relevant to the topic of debate or to the topic of their speech. When working at putting together a speech or debate the teacher could ask students why they picked specific facts or information and how these relate to the goals of the debate or problem addressed in the speech. When sorting or evaluating groups of pictures in art instruction, for example (COAEP), students can explain their reasons as to why they feel the author put certain images in her work. When viewing a picture of a spring day in an impressionistic painting, students can be queried as to why the artist contained certain visualizations in her painting and why she left others out. In literature (COAEP), students could read a chapter of a text or story and note relevant details that they could then summarize in writing offering reasons as to why they thought the details were relevant. They could share and discuss what they thought and thus see the necessity to often argue for relevance. And of course social studies allows students to see how various positions organize information around their claims. And finally, children can develop a sensitivity to relevance by creating their own stories with irrelevant facts and then read each others’ stories to pick out the irrelevancy and argue why. Principle: S-5 Questioning Deeply: Learning to Think Socratically Critical thinkers know that to pursue issues with any depth they must put a large premium on questions. Being on the quest implies that we have many questions about the knowledge we seek to obtain. Helping students raise important questions about what they are studying will prepare them for the quest for knowledge within a subject area and allow them to create their own knowledge. Good critical thinkers actually try to figure out what they do not know and thus see the importance of questioning as a source of probing their reasoning and the reasoning of others. Since each subject area has its own set of unique questions, helping students see these questions as an organizing basis for all disciplines helps them understand the discipline as system. For example, the questions we ask in history are not the questions we ask in math, the questions we seek to answer in science are not the questions we ask when we seek to understand the English language. Helping students develop a sensitivity and insight into the various questions that comprise a discipline helps them seek answers and solutions to subject-matter problems; and, this helps students learn to problematize what they are learning for inquiry purposes. Application to Classroom Instruction Since texts fail to develop questions that delve very deeply, it is the responsibility of both the student and teacher to formulate critical thinking questions that promise to uncover the discipline in question. One idea the teacher can use is to start any activity by asking what kinds of questions students might have about what they are going to study. This allows them to begin to generate questions which could serve as the basis for classroom discussion or activity. For example, in environmental studies, lets say global warming (COAEP), students might be asked by the teacher before inquiry begins what questions they might have about global warming or the environment. These could be listed on the board and then used as the basis for a classroom discussion as well as research and writing. In journalism (COAEP), students could be encouraged to conduct interviews using questions that they formulate before the interview. When reading texts (COAEP), students can turn the text headings into questions and then read to answer their own questions. They can then formulate questions that go beyond the text and find sources for answers that they would then judge critically. Helping students ask and formulate questions should be a central goal of critical and creative instruction and teachers should model their own questions outloud to students, letting students see them questioning themselves and the world around them. Students should be encouraged through inquiry instruction to develop an understanding of the external questions we ask others and the internal questions we might ask ourselves. For example, when appreciating art (COAEP), students might wish to think about questions they could ask the artist if she was present. When organizing a speech, students might be asked what questions they would need to ask themselves to assess whether they are accomplishing what they have set out to accomplish. By helping students see internal questioning as metacognition, or the art of self-assessment, students can begin to develop an outlook towards the world that seeks understanding through questioning as opposed to self-righteousness through mere statements. They can then begin to not only answer questions, but question answers. Finally, the variety of questions we ask students will help top model for them the types of questions that they should be thinking about (PACE V.B.1). Principle: S-6 Examining and Evaluating Assumptions and Beliefs Critical thinkers know that the starting point for all reasoning are the assumptions or beliefs we form as human beings. Whether personally or within academic disciplines, assumptions comprise the foundations for all knowledge and lead us to conclusions about math, science, history, environmental studies, etc.. Distinguishing between what one knows and what one merely believes is the goal of critical thinking and independent critical thinkers seek out assumptions both in their own reasoning and in the reasoning of others and subject them to the magnifying glass of scrutiny. They know that to proceed based on false assumptions will inevitably lead to false solutions and misguided decisions. Helping students question assumptions in both scholarly endeavors as well as within their own assemblage must be a goal of good instruction. Helping students understand the assumptions they make and the assumptions they will be studying is essential for artful critical thinking instruction. Furthermore, students should be animated to question assumptions in the interest of creativity and self- improvement. Students first recognize assumptions and then distinguish them from facts before they can be evaluated and it is this process that should be afforded rigorous instructional time. Application to Classroom Instruction Since assumptions are within everything that we hear, read, see and do, teachers should look for opportunities to encourage students to identify assumptions. Every discipline is based on assumptions about the discipline. So, for example, when studying dinosaurs we make assumptions about their size and diet based on bones and other paleontological evidence we find. We also make inferences based on these assumptions. Working with students to help them identify the underlying assumptions behind what they are studying is crucial for making plausible assumptions. For example, within literature based inquiry (COAEP), students can be questioned as to what assumptions characters in stories are making and how these assumptions affect their decisions, solutions and actions. They can then be asked about their own assumptions regarding this issue or that issue. Such questions as to what story characters might have assumed to arrive at conclusions or decisions would be valuable. In chess (COAEP), players make assumptions and then engage in moves based on what they believe or assume is the best strategy. Engaging students in metacognitive activities that help them identify these assumptions and how they affected their game would be an excellent lesson. Asking students for their own assumptions could be done within any academic pursuit. For example, when studying environmental studies or when reading journalistic pieces (COAEP) students could be asked what assumptions the authors might have and what assumptions they have regarding issues. They could be encouraged to compare and contrast assumptions on one issue or another for recognition and evaluation purposes. In drama and theatre (COAEP), students should be able to see the importance of understanding the assumptions of a character before that character is acted out. Understanding a character’s belief structure would be essential to a good dramatic enactment of that character’s persona. Similarly, if students were to engage in simulation (COAEP), for example conjuring up an imaginative civilization or city, they would need to identify the assumptions that underlie the conclusions as to how the city would be run and what rules and laws might be adopted. Finally, through questioning, teachers would be able to ask students to examine their own assumptions within any area of academic endeavor and then discuss their reasons and evidence with other students in the form of a speech or debate (COAEP). Principle: S-7 Generating and Assessing Effective Decisions and Solutions Generating and assessing effective decisions and solutions to problems is a goal of critical thinking. Critical thinking is interested in good results and critical thinkers know that good results are the product of good reasoning. Because solutions and decisions must be generated and conjured up in thought, critical thinkers know that using information wisely, identifying problems clearly and subjecting assumptions to the light of scrutiny comprise much of what they will generate in terms of solutions and decisions. They also know that the process of generating effective solutions and decisions is not a product of hasty or sloppy decision-making or problem solving, but is a slow methodical process whereby comparisons must be employed to seek the best solution or the best decision. And, because solutions and decisions effect others, critical thinkers know the importance of points of view and they seek points of view when attempting to generate effective solutions and decisions. One last point: critical thinking is based on non-linear, divergent thinking and critical thinkers know that the more expansionary their thinking becomes, i.e. the more abstract and holistic, the more creative their solutions and decisions will be. Application to Classroom Instruction Unfortunately, what teachers and students confront in most textbooks relative to problem solving and decision making are problem-solving steps that the student is forced to accept when attempting to solve a problem. Whether it is an algorithm in mathematics or a positivistic approach to a social studies problem, the approach tends to be the same: linear, convergent thinking steps whereby students are never encouraged to generate their own solutions or, at a minimum, understand how the solutions or steps we generate are formulated. This unnecessarily limits divergent thinking process that seeks to expand reasoning through consideration of a host of problem solving approaches. Students need to consider how others approach problems and come to solutions, not just linear models that ask not for thinking, but blind obedience. So, for example, when discussing environmental solutions with students (COAEP), the teacher would want to bring into consideration many points of view, perhaps those of Native Americans, farmers, business people, labor organizers, other cultural approaches, etc. Encouraging students to see how others have formulated problems and generated solutions allows them to see different reasoning and problem-solving approaches. As we discussed earlier, problem solving and solution generation relies to a great degree on the problem formulation or a clear and precise understanding of the problem. Thus, it is recommended that the teacher have the student state the problems to be solved or decisions to be made clearly. As students, they should explore causes of problems, for example causes of a problem they are looking at journalistically (COAEP), and then after reasoning within multiple points of view about these causes, seek to reformulate the problem again. This encourages creative, divergent thinking and helps students see the relationship between the solutions and decisions they generate and the problems they are attempting to solve. In speech or debate (COAEP), students should seek to marshal reasons for their conclusions and solutions and explain how they came to generate that which they have generated. Asking questions of students that ask them to identify the problem, come up with solutions, examine solutions, and recognize multiple points of view surrounding issues and problems all must comprise teacher questioning and students should be encouraged to question themselves deeply in these areas as well. In chess, for example (COAEP), students should be able to see how their decision to play the game one way is a generated solution on their part and they should seek to understand their game as an attempt to solve a problem. Finally, when studying environmental studies (COAEP), teachers might want to provide students with opportunities to evaluate solutions tried and to proposed alternative solutions based on examined assumptions and beliefs. Principle: S-8 Exploring Consequences and Implications Critical thinkers can see the implications or consequences of statements and thinking. They reason consequentially. This allows them to develop a richer and fuller understanding of the meaning and implications of their thinking. Critical thinkers know that all thinking has implications and they seek to understand the consequences—what follows—from thinking. When considering beliefs or decisions, critical thinkers analyze the implications of such beliefs or actions. Understanding that all thinking has consequences allows critical thinkers to plan alternative courses of action, anticipate a wide range of solutions to problems and learn to prioritize conclusions, decisions, and solutions based on the implications and consequences of their thinking. Application to Classroom Instruction Teachers should ask students to consistently state the implications of the thinking they are confronting or embracing. When using literature (COAEP), teachers could ask students to state the implications of a character’s actions. They could then work to change the story relative to the consequences they would like to see. In environmental studies (COAEP), students should be able to state the implications of changes in environmental policy, who is affected, problems that arise, and assumptions behind policy decisions. Through questioning they can come to evaluate the policies relative to the consequences as seen from multiple points of view. In art appreciation and instruction (COAEP), students should be able to comment on the implications of using specific colors or brush strokes when painting for one purpose or another. This will allow them to see the painting as a system that itself has a logic where painting decisions are based on the consequences of style and stroke, not simply a product. And, when conducting speeches or debating issues (COAEP), students should be able to argue for points of view based on consequences that they have analyzed. This will allow them to develop a critical understanding of debate. Principle: S-9 Making Plausible Inferences, Coming to Good Conclusions, Making Effective Decisions and Learning to Interpret Critically An inference is a statement about the unknown based upon what is known. All of us make inferences; we could not live without them. And within the body of all disciplines can be found inferences or conclusions about the world. In science, scientists infer the climate on Jupiter only to be confronted with evidence from the Space Telescope that tells them their inference was wrong. Social scientists advocate policy solutions to problems that they infer are correct only to discover they might have been wrong. Critical thinking seeks to reach sound conclusions, make effective decisions and generate good solutions based on observation and information. It is thinking obsessed with good judgment. Critical thinkers know it is important to distinguish what they observe from what they conclude and they distinguish instances when they are guessing from cases when they are coming to sound conclusions. They also know that it is important to include the reasoning of other points of view when making decisions and generating solutions. They are aware of the tendency of bias in thought and look for evidence before coming to conclusions. When interpreting situations, critical thinkers know that their perception of the world influences how they see reality or interpret life’s messages and they seek to examine the assumptions underlying their interpretations and are interested in how others interpret similar situations. Since all of our interpretations are based on what we infer, critical thinkers know that they must subject inferences to critical examination in the interest of good judgment. Application to Classroom Instruction Teachers can animate students to make inferences based on almost any academic pursuit. Students in primary grades can be asked to infer the world when dinosaurs roamed; students in older grades can be asked to make inferences about classmate actions or school policies; and using literature (COAEP), all students can be asked to make inferences about story titles, characters, and story actions. Using chess as an example of inference generation, students can discuss how their inferences have consequences for the way they play the game. They can explain how they arrived at conclusions to play the game one way or another and begin to see how their reasoning develops. In environmental science instruction (COAEP), students can propose their own inferences or predictions as to what might happen if specific environmental policies were or were not adopted. When observing science experiments, they can learn to distinguish their observations from their inferences and learn to critically interpret experiments. This will allow them to develop scientific thinking as opposed to just doing science. In art appreciation (COAEP), students can infer situations, issues and history from paintings and then use research to check the accuracy of their inferences. And, of course, teachers should help students generate personal examples in their own lives of when they might have made good or bad inferences and what happened. Helping students gain an insight into the conclusions they come to, the decisions they make, and the interpretations they engage in helps students learn to form good judgment and promotes character development through reasoning. Principle: S-10 Giving Reasons and Evaluating Evidence and Alleged Facts Since critical thinking is reasoning, or coming to conclusions based on reasons, critical thinkers know that their reasoning has elements or components that they must pay attention to. They are interested in taking their reasoning and the reasoning of others apart in the interest of systematic understanding. They look to see how the dance we call reasoning is assembled and know that the dance is comprised of steps. Critical thinkers know that all reasoning requires evidence for conclusions reached and critical thinkers have a healthy appreciation for evidence and reasons. Teachers must learn to give reasons for their sown actions, decisions, and directives (PACE III.B.4). This modeling will allow students to see the importance of evidence in reasoning. When reasoning, critical thinkers are comfortable being asked for and giving reasons for their conclusions or decisions. They do not find a request for their evidence intimidating or threatening. In fact, they consistently look for reasons and evidence in what they are studying and in the claims they make and hear. More than that, critical thinkers look for evidence that does not agree with them and they invite critique of evidence that does. Critical thinkers know that evidence is what we use to support claims or arguments; it’s proof. They also know that not all information and facts are evidence and they work to evaluate evidence collateral to assumptions or claims. Finally, critical thinkers know that evidence is not always complete, accurate or relevant and they evaluate evidence with a set of criteria. Application to Classroom Instruction Teachers should always ask students for their reasons when they come to conclusions about anything. Teachers can consistently ask questions like: How do you know? Why do you think that is true? What evidence do you have? When students’ answers seem incomplete or not fully developed, the teacher should continue probing reasoning. These might be questions like: What other evidence do you have? How do you know the information is true? What assumptions are you making and how do you know they are true? When discussing interpretations of literature or art (COAEP), students should be routinely asked to show specifically where in the material they got that interpretation. The sentence, passage or art representation can be clarified and discussed and the students’ interpretation better understood and examined. Students can learn to distinguish evidence from information by being instructed in the relationship between claims and evidence. For example, when studying environmental studies (COAEP), they should be encouraged to examine environmental claims from multiple points of view in light of the evidence and reasons being used to support the claims. They might then use speech or debate (COAEP) to discuss the evidence and comment on its veracity or validity. Some questions teachers would wish to ask might be: Why do you think so? How do you know? Where did the evidence come from? How do we know it is true? What is the evidence supporting? Why? Is there any reason to question the evidence? What reasons? How might we find out what other evidence exists? Analytical and Evaluative Thinking Dimension Principle: S-11 Avoiding Overgeneralizations and Oversimplifications Simplifying problems and experiences in an attempt to make them easier to understand and act upon is natural and normal and a necessary part of analytical and evaluative thinking. Generalizations and simplifications by themselves are not bad, however oversimplifying and overgeneralizing, i.e. viewing things in terms of black and white with no sensitivity to the complexity and intricacy of problems and issues, can result in miscommunication, misrepresentation and outright distortion. For example, viewing people or groups as “all bad or all good” would be an example of an oversimplification leading to a stereotype. Seeing the differences between useful simplifications that serve to inform and misleading oversimplifications that seek to misrepresent and distort is an important critical thinking skill. When analyzing and evaluating situations critical thinkers seek to scrutinize generalizations, probe for exceptions and then as a result use appropriate qualifiers in their language when discussing issues and beliefs. They are aware of the problems with over-generalized language such as, everyone, all people, always and never. Application to Classroom Instruction Using children’s literature to enhance reading skills (COAEP), teachers can ask questions of the literature that tends to oversimplify. For example, if a literature selection overlooks factors by stating one cause of a problem situation or event, the teacher can pose questions to students seeking students’ reasoning regarding other possible contributing factors. For example, questions such as, Was it all M’s fault? How or in what way? Did X help create the problem? How and why? Is this situation ‘just like that one’? What are some differences?, are some examples of questions teachers could ask. Also, through simulations of events (COAEP), students can play devils advocate roles and bring other points of view to that which they are studying. This is especially true for history or social studies where often times simplistic reasons for behaviors or causes of situations are put forth. And, through such activities as speech or debate (COAEP), students can be instructed and encouraged to develop an insight into the appropriate use of qualifiers in language such as ‘highly likely’; ‘probably’, ‘not very likely’, ‘often’, ‘usually’, ‘seldom’, ‘I doubt’, ‘most’, ‘many’ and ‘some’, to name a few. This allows students to deeply understand principles of generalization (PACE V.A.3). Principle: S-12 Developing Criteria for Evaluation Since critical thinking is a search for merit, truth and consequently good judgment, critical thinkers know that developing and using criteria for evaluation is an important thinking process. They know that their judgments are the result of the criteria they apply to their thinking. And, critical thinkers know that preferential criteria, i.e. the criteria we develop to make choices such as what to wear, what ice-cream to buy, etc., are different than the criteria we develop and use to form reasoned judgment. Critical thinkers know that reasoned judgment on one issue or another involves the necessity to include multiple points of view. Preferential judgments, on the other hand, are simply what we like and require no other points of view. Further, critical thinkers are aware that they have values and how those values enter into the formation of their judgments and criteria. When developing criteria, critical thinkers are aware of the purpose of their evaluation; they pay attention to what is being evaluated and the function that it is supposed to serve. And, critical thinkers know that criteria can vary depending on points of view and thus they seek to identify and take into consideration a wide variety of points of view when engaging in fairminded evaluation. Application to Classroom Instruction Whether in environmental studies, art appreciation, or literature (COAEP), the student will always be evaluating. Whenever this occurs, the teacher can ask the student the purpose of the evaluation, what they are attempting to evaluate, the criteria they are using or developing to evaluate and the consequences of the evaluation. Students need to gain an insight into the difference between the preferential criteria they use, such as what movie to go to or what shoes to buy, and the criteria we develop when engaging in reasoned judgment. When evaluating a performance in theatre (COAEP), for example, the student should be able to explain her criteria for what she thought was good about the play and what was not. The teacher can then ask how preferential criteria we develop might be different than the criteria we use to make judgments that require reasoning. Whenever the teacher discusses criteria in a group setting she should elicit multiple points of view and ask them for their reasoning as to how they developed the criteria and why. The teacher might share how she evaluates students and discuss criteria with them. Students should be encouraged through questioning to compare and contrast differing criteria and then come to conclusions as to why they are different and the consequences of using one set or another. As much as possible, students should be encouraged to develop criteria for their own mental performance in and out of school; this way they can learn to routinely examine their own lives against criteria they have authored. These metacognitive activities can take the form of simulations (COAEP) and performance and portfolio assessment. Helping the student see that criteria is issue specific and then having them develop and apply criteria will give them opportunities to gain an insight as to a criteria’s purpose and objectives. Some questions that might be useful would be: What are we evaluating? Why do people evaluate X? What are X’s for? Can you name and describe an X that is good? One that is bad? How did you decide what is good and bad? Are there other categories of criteria we should consider when evaluating X? What are the characteristics of a good X and why? When student responses are too vague or reveal little, the teacher can ask what the student means. This allows her to explicate on what she means by what she says and at the same time see the importance of the criteria for words we use when speaking and attempting to communicate. Principle: S-13 Evaluating the Credibility of Sources of Information In a world that is characterized by information overload, learning to assess the reliability of sources of information is essential for today’s consumer of information. Critical thinkers know that the information they receive is only as good as the source it comes from. They are concerned with evaluating sources of information; they know that vested interests serve to often skew information and they seek alternative points of view when evaluating sources of information. Critical thinkers analyze not simply information that agrees with their position but also information that serves to disagree with them. They consistently seek contradictions in information and then seek to reconcile discrepancies. They realize that misinformation and misperception influences how we think and thus we often see what we want to see even if it is not there. Critical thinkers pay close attention to the tendency for bias when judging the credibility of informational sources. Application to Classroom Instruction When discussing an issue upon which people disagree, one which requires reasoned judgment, the teacher can encourage students to gather information from a variety of sources representing different points of view. We want students to research different points of view if they are to see how information is assembled by various frames of reference. They can discuss discrepancies in the information and then discuss motives behind various points of view and how these motives might influence the information provided. In speech and debate (COAEP), students should be encouraged to not only verify their sources of information but also research sources not in line with their own reasoning. This is essential thinking for debate exercises as debaters should be able to clearly and precisely set forth information and sources their opponents will rely on. When looking at art criticism (COAEP) and especially published art critiques, students could be animated to discuss the sources of the critique and how they feel these sources might influence the critique itself. Principle: S-14 Analyzing and Evaluating Arguments, Interpretations, Beliefs or Theories Instead of using mere preference as a tool for agreeing or disagreeing with a position or claim, critical thinkers know that they must base their judgments on reasoning. They seek to penetrate arguments and assess their merits by using their reasoning to explore assumptions, how arguments assemble and verify information, the consequences and implications of beliefs and theories, and how arguments frame issues and for what purposes. Critical thinkers are sensitive to strengths and weaknesses in arguments, and as we have discussed, they have a developed criteria they use to judge claims and premises. When evaluating or judging an argument or position, critical thinkers have a healthy appreciation for evidence and attempt to justify claims and conclusions in light of the evidence set forth to substantiate them. Furthermore, critical thinkers analyze arguments and theories in opposition to one another—alongside one another, so to speak,—as a way of highlighting key assumptions and differences, contrasting claims, and comparing what they might have in common. Application to Classroom Instruction Whether it is environmental studies, speech and debate, literature, or art appreciation (COAEP), students will be presented with arguments, interpretations and beliefs. Their jobs will be to analyze them in the interest of reasoned judgment. Therefore these moments should be capitalized on by the teacher to teach processes for analyzing arguments and theories. Instead of asking students if they disagree or agree with a position, the teacher should encourage students to analyze positions alongside one another. A teacher might utilize questions like: What do these arguments propose? How are they different? What information do they rely on? Why is it different? What sources does the information come from? Why do they use different sources? What reasons and evidence are given by these points of view in favor of their assumptions? What are their assumptions anyway? By practicing analytic techniques such as identifying assumptions, looking for evidence, noting how arguments use information, analyzing their purposes and how they see problems or questions at issue, allow students to develop the micro-skills of familiarizing and practicing analytic techniques. They soon become more comfortable in knowing what to look for and how to put forth a good argument. So, in speech they can plan better by knowing the components of argumentation (COAEP). In journalism, they can write a more comprehensive account of events by knowing how their information fits into theories and interpretations (COAEP). And in literature, they can better understand characters and their mental formulations (COAEP). Whenever possible, teachers should encourage students to develop their own theories, ideas and arguments and then entertain them with others for purposes of analysis. This allows them to transfer these critical thinking insights into their own lives. Principle: S-15 Analyzing and Evaluating Actions and Policies All of us are asked each and everyday to evaluate actions and policies. Whether it is judging behavior, rules, procedures, actions of people or the actions of ourselves, we are constantly analyzing and evaluating actions and policies. When evaluating actions and pollicies, critical thinkers pay copious attention to criteria and the consequences of actions and policies. They know that actions rest on assumptions and critical thinkers list evaluating of assumptions as an important aspect of evaluating and analyzing actions and policies. Application to Classroom Instruction When reading literature, students are consistently introduced to the actions of storybook and literature characters. The teacher can encourage students to raise questions about the actions and policies they read about. The teacher could ask questions such as: Why did X do that? What were the consequences of his actions? What reasons did he give for his actions? Who benefited from his actions and who did not? Why? How do you decide what actions to engage in? What do you think about….? When looking at pollution when studying environmental policies (COAEP), students should examine and analyze these policies. They should look at the policies as they affect all points of view and not just the point of view of the environmentalist or polluter. They should have opportunities to discuss school policies and classroom policies and if possible develop their own rules for actions. This way they can learn how policies are designed, for what purpose, for whose benefit, under what conditions and surrounding what issues. This allows them to evaluate real policies in a real context. And of course when studying history and social studies, students can consistently analyze and evaluate the policies of governments, countries, corporations, and citizens. Principle: S-16 Comparing and Contrasting Ideals with Actual Practices Critical thinkers attempt to contrast facts and ideals. They understand the gap between reality and possibility. This is especially true for those interested in self-improvement and social improvement. Without the ability to see ourselves accurately and clearly, we are not able to admit to our weaknesses and frailties. The tendency, however, is to see ourselves and social reality wedded to what we would like ourselves and reality to be, not what they truly are. Critical thinkers seek to see the gaps between what currently exists and what might be, between what is and what is not. They understand that pointing out the discrepancy between ideals and actual reality is a necessary and fundamental thinking skill. Application to Classroom Instruction Whenever students study and discuss society and social issues, whether they are environmental, judicial, social or ethical, they should be comparing ideals with actual practices. In literature, students could compare and contrast actions and statements by characters and stories to show discrepancies between ideals and actual practice. When discussing issues such as generosity and honesty, for example, students could be encouraged to express their views on whether the general claim that everyone should be generous or honest is true in actual practice. They could use examples from their own lives to show relevance and understanding (PACE V.A.4). Text books consistently present sanitized versions of social events and students should be afforded resources that allow them to see how what is depicted ideally compares to actual practice. For example, when studying the free-market students would want to see where this ideal might be violated in reality. This would mean looking underneath the surface of the claim to actual situations where this assumption does not work. Socially idealistic claims are made in environmental studies by many points of view and students would have opportunities to see how actual practice compares to these claims. In assembling speeches or debates, students should be able to submit evidence from actual practice that shows idealistic claims to be false. This allows them to pay attention to details while at the same time learn to analyze generalities through specifics. In their own lives, the teacher might animate them to become conscious of their own actions and how their actions might or might not be supporting the ideals and behaviors the student herself professes or wants. These discussions can be used to talk about school policy, behavioral problems and conflict resolutions. Principle: S-17 Evaluating Perspectives, Interpretations or Theories Whenever we are evaluating perspectives, interpretations and theories, we are lying them beside one another in order to test their weaknesses and strengths. We want to see how ideas stack up against one another so that we can judge them. We call this dialectical reasoning. As soon as we begin to scratch the surface of perspectives or theories, we begin to see which ideas are consistent, which clash, which are not logical, which are rational, and on and on. We do this so we might develop our own perspective, find ideas we wish to integrate with those we already accept, and reconcile conflicts that might exist. To do this, we need to feel comfortable moving in and out of conflicting theories, beliefs and points of view. We engage in the notion of critique in the interest of synthesis or the development of new ideas. Application to Classroom Practice Anytime the student is faced with two or more points of view on any issue she must evaluate perspectives and interpretations side by side. This dialectical reasoning can be encouraged through stories in literature (COAEP). Speech, debate and environmental studies all engage divergent points of view (COAEP) and thus can be opportunities for reasoning dialectically. Real life affords countless opportunities to reason dialectally and students should be encouraged to express their own voice alongside that of authority when evaluating perspectives. Questioning assumptions, inferences in thinking, how information is used, the consequences of thinking, as well as how points of view identify goals and problems would be the substance of discussion. Students should be questioned as to how conflicting points of view reason and thus they should be able to analyze the constituent parts of a reasoned argument. Systematic Thinking Dimension Principle: S-18 Comparing Analogous Situations: Transferring Educational Insights into New Domains Whenever we think, our mind organizes information in such a way that we are able to use it. When we apply ideas to new situations we look for analogies. Analogies allow us to transfer what we are learning or discovering into our own lives into new contexts. Analogies help make learning relevant and should be encouraged as a form of visualizing thinking. Critical thinkers forever look to transfer what they have learned into new contexts. They know that this transfer, or learning to reason by analogy, enhances their ability to capture an idea or system of thought. By offering teaching and learning opportunities that are personalized and relevant, students can begin to see how education affects their own lives and the issues they involve themselves in (PACE III.A.6). For the student to gain an insight into how to analogize situations they must have opportunities to organize course material. By helping students organize material and then apply insights into a multitude of analogous situations, they will be able to see repeated patterns, common situations, and varied organizing principles. Furthermore, they will increase their ability to retain information as they will learn how to develop analogous thinking as a form of reference for what they are learning. Application to Classroom Instruction Critical teaching asks students to become authors of their own learning. It encourages them to do this by applying what they have learned to other situations that are analogous. For example, when studying an environmental problem (COAEP) in one state or one community, the student might be encouraged to look for analogies or similar situations in their own communities or states and then study how this situation is handled. This will allow them to transfer the insights from one situation into another, to find out what is similar and what is different. In studying literature (COAEP), students should be able to compare and contrast analogous situations. Conflicts in literature usually parallel something in real life and the teacher should look for opportunities for students to transfer their insights into concrete, relevant situations they might face. When learning a new skill or discovering a new insight or way of doing something, students should be encouraged to use it in other but analogous situations. This way they will see the shortcomings and merits of the skills they use. This will allow them to recognize common problems in usage along with diverse and situation specific problems. When learning a drama principle (COAEP), for example, the teacher could discuss with students how this might be used in analogous situations, like giving a speech or presenting an impassioned plea to a jury. And, by encouraging students to come up with analogies of their own, both the student and teacher can assess if learning has and is taking place. Principle: S-19 Making Interdisciplinary Connections Critical thinkers do not let the fragmented approach to learning control their thought patterns. They look to conceive of the parts relative to the whole and the whole relative to the parts and thus know the necessity of transferring insights across and through disciplines. They understand that all learning is interdisciplinary. By using insights from one subject matter to understand another, they are able to uncover similarities in systems, patterns and in thoughts among disciplines. By approaching issues from a multitude of different perspectives, critical thinkers develop a more holistic approach to learning and understanding that offers greater width and depth. With the assembly-line or fragmented approach to knowledge that divides knowledge into disciplines or subject matters, students unfortunately often do not see the interdisciplinary connections between what they are learning. They come to see mathematics as something done during math period or math time and not as something that, let’s say, the author or the artist does. They learn that the arbitrary distinctions between disciplines control their thinking and they have a difficult time discovering the logic of what they are learning. Finally, by offering comments, questions, demonstrations and examples of what they are learning, students Reply
  • 12. Tyson  |  April 18, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Related to the topic of the language we use, I just came across this anecdote:

    “A principal friend of mine was frustrated with attendance at evening literacy workshops for parents. Plenty of parents were showing up – but they were virtually all women. Finally, she changed one word on the invitation and saw the attendance of dads triple. The change? She described the events as “clinics” instead of “workshops” on the flyer that went home with students. “These guys know sports clinics, and I hadn’t realized ‘workshops’ would sound so feminine to them,” she explained.

    Lev Vygotsky wrote “there is a world in a word,” and it’s surprising how small changes in language can influence perceptions.”


  • 13. weilunion  |  April 18, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Lev Vygotsky wrote “there is a world in a word,” and it’s surprising how small changes in language can influence perceptions.”

    A good point and this is why Freire counseled we teach students to read the ‘world, not just the word’. This can only be done presently by resistance to this world. For in this struggle, we change language from that of privatization and commidfication to one of hope and possibility and in this way we not only read the world, we breathe a new world into a system of mendacity.

    Any critical learning on behalf of teachers and students will require we read the world, be literate as to how the purveyors of capitalism and social despair assemblew their plans, implement them and the consequences for all of us. And in this reading we will find not only the Lance Burton economic trick, but we will be able to combat it and create a more just world where education is not reduced to obedience training but is heralded and encouraged as lberation, both subjectively and objectively

    Danny Weil

  • 14. Jenn  |  October 13, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Professional development is apart of most professional settings. Often teachers perceive professional development as something they HAVE to complete according to contracts, but professional development is something that all teacher should want to participate in. We as educators encourage our students to continually learn and become life long learners. What are we showing our students when we don’t want to continue our learning as educators. When my students ask why they need to learn something in our curriculum, I find something in life that the content would pertain to. I also give example to my students how I am continually learning as well. Taking online course, participating in trainings, and watching colleagues teach are just a few to mention. If we ourselves do not believe in life long learning, then how can we sincerely teach this to our students?

    • 15. Jack Shaw  |  October 26, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      To some organizations, professional development means a training day of best practices. This isn’t professional development; this is a day of opportunity. It could be a sharing conference; most people are sharing drinks. Ironically, it is during those moments of relaxed opportunity the best information to aid in one’s quest for professional development occurs.

      Rather than a training day, the organizational attitude should be about helping individuals learn and grow within as well as outside the organization. An employee who feels his or her worth is a valuable employee that gives more all the time, knowing the reward is always there. It doesn’t have to compensatory unless he or she measures his or her worth by that compensation. However, that does take away from self-satisfaction.

      By having an attitude of continually exploring and learning new aspects of our profession, we, indeed, become professional. I was a spokesperson, then a teacher and finally, a trainer. Today, I do both, and I’m constantly comparing the two words on my training and development blog. One blog in particular is the one garnering the most hits. Guess which one that is. It’s on this very topic. I’m not saying I got it right or even say it better than others, but training versus teaching is different and sometimes the same. We have interchangeable definitions and usage.

      I keep my eye on professional development because that’s where the two subjects come together.

  • 16. Carolyn  |  October 3, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    One component of any kind of teacher education — whether it’s called professional development (my preference) or training — is that it should be based on expressed teacher need. Surveys created by teacher professionals yield invaluable data that can inform programs design and delivery. Trust me on this one.

    • 17. Peter Donaldson  |  July 20, 2013 at 10:38 am

      I completely agree with Carolyn on how useful it is to survey teachers about what their needs and priorities are. We’ve recently completed a national survey of computing teachers in Scotland (132 responses out of a population of around 500-600 active computing teachers). The wealth of insights it’s given us is invaluable including what methods of delivery would be most effective. A full day start with regular face to face contact and then a full day close was by far the most popular option with online delivery having a fairly negative reaction.

  • 18. Providence Christian Academy  |  April 15, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    I am of the mindset that training is important to anyone that wants to learn a new skill or has just landed a new job. Professional development I like to think is when you attempt to further your skills and are constantly trying to improve your newly found skills or a job that you have had for years.

  • 19. katrinafalkner  |  May 20, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    Interestingly, in Aus we are moving away from the use of professional development, or training, to professional learning. Our teaching associations prefer this as it moves the tone of the discussion away from ‘something that is being done to teachers to rectify’ to place more ownership for the teachers in directing and controlling their own learning. I think it also acknowledges the respect and inherent interest that teachers have for learning, either driven by their specialist subject matter, or for a general passion for learning, and understanding learning,

    • 20. Carolyn Fay  |  May 20, 2016 at 7:51 pm

      The national Teacher Center movement dealt with all these issues over 30 years ago. The semantics of training/in-service vs. professional development was more essentially concerned with the question of who determined the needs of teachers (duh) and, very importantly, who then designed and delivered programs to meet those needs. It was an exhilarating time to be a teacher. Great learning and empowerment ran rampant. The movement didn’t last for any number of reasons. One of them, amazingly, was that NEA and AFT — both of whom helped create and promote the whole Teacher Center concept — became lukewarm. Bigger fish to fry, alas.

  • 21. D Czechowski  |  October 11, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Slightly off the main topic, but a potential poor association: achieving a level of “automaticy” as you described it is not a sign of educational mastery. Quickly knowing where a problem lies models mastery of the domain, but not the learning process.

    • 22. Mark Guzdial  |  October 14, 2017 at 11:47 am

      David, I disagree. How People Learn explicitly says that automaticity is part of expertise (see page 44, Chapter 2)

      People’s abilities to retrieve relevant knowledge can vary from being “effortful” to “relatively effortless” (fluent) to “automatic” (Schneider and Shiffrin, 1977). Automatic and fluent retrieval are important characteristics of expertise.

      Fluent retrieval does not mean that experts always perform a task faster than novices. Because experts attempt to understand problems rather than to jump immediately to solution strategies, they sometimes take more time than novices (e.g., Getzels and Csikszentmihalyi, 1976). But within the overall process of problem solving there are a number of subprocesses that, for experts, vary from fluent to automatic. Fluency is important because effortless processing places fewer demands on conscious attention. Since the amount of information a person can attend to at any one time is limited (Miller, 1956), ease of processing some aspects of a task gives a person more capacity to attend to other aspects of the task (LaBerge and Samuels, 1974; Schneider and Shiffrin, 1985; Anderson, 1981, 1982; Lesgold et al., 1988).

      Learning to drive a car provides a good example of fluency and automaticity. When first learning, novices cannot drive and simultaneously carry on a conversation. With experience, it becomes easy to do so. Similarly, novice readers whose ability to decode words is not yet fluent are unable to devote attention to the task of understanding what they are reading (LaBerge and Samuels, 1974). Issues of fluency are very important for understanding learning and instruction. Many instructional environments stop short of helping all students develop the fluency needed to successfully perform cognitive tasks (Beck et al., 1989; Case, 1978; Hasselbring et al., 1987; LaBerge and Samuels, 1974).

      • 23. D Czechowski  |  October 15, 2017 at 1:47 am

        Mark, I agree that automacity indicates mastery. I was trying to describe that my concern is with what skill the instructor should be ascribed mastery of — the domain or instruction of the domain.

        I don’t believe that diagnosing student errors with ease is necessarily evidence of instructional mastery. For me, once I’ve identified the error, I still have to correct the misunderstanding that lead to the error not just fix the error — Why didn’t they increment the target index? Sometimes this is simple, but often the errors are borne out of misconceptions

        Comp Ed teachers definitely have a greater challenge because sometimes we have to be able to debug code before a student’s learning can be assessed. Kind of like expecting a composition teacher to first translate each essay before grading it.

        • 24. Mark Guzdial  |  October 15, 2017 at 2:02 pm

          David, if a teacher can recognize the student error automatically, then all the teacher’s attention can be spent on helping the student understand the error and/or correct the misconception. This is *exactly* why identifying the error is important to automatize, because the important part is figuring out what the student is misunderstanding and how to correct it.

          I don’t usually like to use personal introspection, but I think it’s a useful example here. I’ve been teaching computer science for 38 years. I’ve been teaching Media Computation for 15 years. When students are working on image processing, about 60% of the time, I can figure out the student’s problem by looking at the output picture, without looking at the code. (The rest, I do have to look at the code.) I’ve seen lots of broken image processing code. I study misconceptions, so I can then start a dialogue with the student to figure out what the student is thinking about with respect to the program and their mental model of the notional machine.

  • […] (2010) writes that training is a necessary activity, which he likens to the type of precise, guided practice nurses or computer technicians receive. He […]

  • […] (2010) writes that training is a necessary activity, which he likens to the type of precise, guided practice nurses or computer technicians receive. He […]

  • […] (2010) writes that training is a necessary activity, which he likens to the type of precise, guided practice nurses or computer technicians receive. He […]


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