Tag Archives: No Debate: Kids Can Learn By Arguing

The News Literacy Project helps to teach critical thinking skills

16 Apr

 

Moi wrote in Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person:

 

There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the state of education in America. A lot of that dissatisfaction comes from the belief that the education system fails to actually educate children and to teach them critical thinking skills. The University of Maine at Augusta defines an educated person:

 

An educated person exhibits knowledge and wisdom; recognizes and respects the diversity of nature and society; demonstrates problem solving skills; engages in planning and managing practices; navigates the on-line world; writes and speaks well; acts with integrity; and appreciates the traditions of art, culture, and ideas. Developing these abilities is a life-long process. http://www.uma.edu/educatedperson.html

 

Essential to this definition is the development of critical thinking skills.

 

Melinda Burns writes in the Miller-McCune article, No Debate: Kids Can Learn By Arguing about Columbia professor Deanna Kuhn’s assertion that developing debate skills in children helps to develop critical thinking skills.

 

But how do kids become deep thinkers? To find out, Kuhn, who’s the author of a book titled Education for Thinking, and Amanda Crowell, a doctoral candidate at Columbia’s Teachers College, set up an experiment at a public middle school in Harlem. Forty-eight students, mostly Latinos and blacks, took philosophy classes twice a week for three years, from sixth through eighth grades, and every year debated four new subjects. The kids became experts on, for example, home schooling, animal rights, the sale of human organs, and China’s one-child policy. Under a coach’s supervision, they chose one side or another on an issue and tried to anticipate their opponents’ arguments. They often debated in pairs — not face to face, but online, in a sort of Socratic inquiry via Google Chat. By debating electronically, the students were able to consult each other and reflect before firing off comebacks.

 

At first, as each new topic was introduced, the researchers were startled: the youngsters were clueless about complexity. (“Prisoners, not animals, should be used in medical research because prisoners are guilty and animals are innocent!”) And early in the experiment, the kids showed no interest in the written questions and answers offered by their coaches. By the end of year two, though, they had developed a thirst for evidence.

 

As each quarter drew to an end, students held a “showdown,” a verbal debate where every three minutes, two new students — one from each side — would rotate into the hot seat. During the post-showdown debriefing, coaches awarded points for good moves (counterarguments and rebuttals), took away points for bad moves (unwarranted assumptions and unconnected responses), and declared the winning side.

 

All the while, a separate group of 23 students at the school studied philosophy in a more traditional way, using a textbook. Their teacher led discussions; the students rarely broke into sides, or held formal debates. They never argued online, but they wrote a lot in class — 14 essays apiece per year, compared to four in the experimental group.

 

At the end of every year, as a test of their progress, the students wrote essays on a subject neither group had ever discussed: seniority-based pay versus equal pay for teachers. At the end of the third year, everyone wrote an essay on whether family members and doctors should assist in euthanasia.

 

Hands down, the winners were the students in the experimental group — even though they’d had much less practice writing. By the end of year one, researchers found, two-thirds of the students in that group were considering and addressing opposing arguments in their written essays—a skill demonstrated by only 38 percent of the students in the comparison group. By the end of the third year, nearly 80 percent of the students in the experimental group were writing essays that identified and weighed opposing views in an argument. Less than 30 percent of the students in the comparison group were doing so. http://www.miller-mccune.com/education/no-debate-kids-can-learn-by-arguing-38932/

 

The key is developing the idea that facts should be used to support an opinion. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-person/

 

Lyhn Bui writes in the Washington Post article,Schools demanding news literacy lessons to teach students how to find fact amid fiction :

News literacy programs are expanding in classrooms across the country, with a growing nonprofit sector dedicated to the cause and new education standards that require students to read and analyze more nonfiction text.

 

Younger students might feel that all information is created equally,” said Alan C. Miller, president of the News Literacy Project and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who worked as an investigative reporter with the Los Angeles Times. “If something is put on the internet, they tend to believe it.”

 

Miller’s Maryland-based nonprofit organization develops lesson plans, activities and curriculum for middle and high schools, teaching students to “sort fact from fiction in the digital age.” Students learn to spot bias in stories, discover what makes sources credible and verify information.

 

We focus heavily on using the standards of quality journalism to assess the credibility of all news and information,” Miller said.

 

The program also partners with journalists who visit classrooms as part of the lessons, including editors and reporters from about two dozen news organizations such as the New York Times, ProPublica, NPR, CBS News and The Washington Post,.

 

NBC News national correspondent Tracie Potts has volunteered with the News Literacy Project since 2009. On a recent Thursday, she visited Ife’s media literacy class in Silver Spring.

 

Potts brought examples of different polls about sequestration from sources such as Gallup, MSNBC, Fox News and Business Insider. She then urged students to ask critical questions: “Who can I trust?” “Where is this information coming from?” “How can we say that one source of news is better than another?”

 

Being a smart news consumer is akin to being discriminating about other choices in life, she told students: “It’s sort of like going out to eat. You don’t want to stop anywhere along the side of the road. You’re going to scrutinize where your food is coming from.”

 

Demand to teach that sort of healthy skepticism and critical thinking is on the rise.

 

When the News Literacy Project first launched in classrooms, it reached about 650 students in Maryland and New York in 2009. Four years later, the project has expanded to Chicago, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and it is expected to reach about 3,800 students by the end of the school year.

 

The new Common Core education standards have driven that demand, Miller said. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core, which requires nonfiction to comprise 70 percent of what a student reads by senior year.

 

Principals and teachers say lessons from news literacy extend beyond teaching students about journalism.

 

At Walt Whitman High School, where principal Alan Goodwin first hosted News Literacy Program pilot lessons, Goodwin said he sees his students applying what they have learned in the classes — fact checking, research, using multiple sources — as they write papers or make decisions in their everyday lives.

 

It helps students understand what they should believe and not believe and what sort of research they should do,” Goodwin said.

 

 

Here is how the News Literacy Project describes its purpose:

 

Rationale

 

The News Literacy Project (NLP) is an innovative national educational program that mobilizes seasoned journalists to help middle school and high school students sort fact from fiction in the digital age.

The project teaches students critical-thinking skills that will enable them to be smarter and more frequent consumers and creators of credible information across all media and platforms. It seeks to light a spark of interest in students to seek information that will make them more knowledgeable about their communities, the nation and the world.

The project also aspires to elevate the mission of news literacy nationally through classroom programs, digital media, workshops, public events and the news media itself.

NLP shows students how to distinguish verified information from spin, opinion and misinformation — whether they are using search engines to find websites with information about specific topics, assessing a viral email, viewing a video on YouTube, watching television news or reading a newspaper or a blog post. 

Students are being taught to seek news and information that will make them well-informed and engaged students, consumers and citizens. They are also being encouraged to produce news and information accurately, fairly and responsibly to make their own voices as credible and powerful as possible.

You can see NLP in action in a video report created by the project: “How to Know What to Believe”

The “PBS NewsHour” also produced a six-minute report about NLP that aired in December 2011.

The project has created a new model by forging partnerships among active and retired journalists, the project’s local coordinators in New York City, Chicago and the Washington, D.C., area, and English, history, government, humanities and journalism teachers. Journalist fellows and teachers are devising units focusing on the importance of news to young people, the role of the First Amendment and a free media in a democracy, and the best ways to discern reliable information.

Working with educators, students and journalists, NLP has developed original curriculum materials based on engaging activities and student projects that build and reflect understanding of the program’s essential questions. The curriculum includes material on a variety of topics, including viral email, Wikipedia, search engines, YouTube and the news, that is presented through hands-on exercises, games, videos and the journalists’ own compelling stories. 

Additional video and broadcast reports that capture the project in action and showcase exemplary student work can be found on the project’s YouTube channel

Twenty-two news organizations are partnering with NLP. This website features a national directory of volunteer journalists, including their biographies and photographs. The project has about 200 journalists enrolled in its online directory, including broadcast correspondents, authors of best-selling books and winners of journalism’s highest honors. Since 2009, journalist fellows have made more than 400 presentations in classrooms, conferences, workshops and other NLP programs. 

The journalists are matched with classes based on the curriculum. For example, a White House or political reporter might do a presentation to a government class, former foreign correspondents might speak to a class focused on international issues, and a feature writer, a columnist or an investigative reporter might talk to an English class. Broadcast journalists work with students creating video or audio reports in after-school programs.

NLP is increasingly using Skype to bring journalists from around the world to its classes across the country. It also devised and delivered its first digital pilot unit in the Chicago Public Schools this past June. The unit retains the voice of journalists through screencasts and a live video webcast. NLP is expanding this effort in Chicago and plans to introduce a digital unit to other regions this school year.

Even as young people increasingly participate in the national conversation through such forms of communication as text messages, blogs, Facebook and Twitter, the concept of news literacy is not widely discussed in America’s public schools. With the 24-hour news cycle and the explosion of online information, today’s students have access to unprecedented amounts of information. Yet they are also confronted with the daunting task of determining the reliability of myriad sources of “news” — and surveys show that they are increasingly uninterested in information with a civic purpose.

The News Literacy Project seeks to reverse these trends. In addition, at a time when negative reports about the news media abound, it presents students and their teachers with positive role models of journalists and insights into how news is reported, edited and produced. But its biggest impact promises to be on the nation’s civic life: When young people are exposed to information that is in the public interest, the country’s democratic grass-roots are strengthened. 

Our goal should be that every American possesses the skills to discern news from infotainment, fact from opinion, and trustworthy information sources from untrustworthy,” said Michael Copps, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission. “Happily, there is good work being done on the literacy front. One example is the News Literacy Project.”

NLP is reaching young people as they are becoming increasingly aware of the news and are developing the habits of mind that can shape consumption patterns for a lifetime. They are doing so at a time when they are confronted with myriad sources of greatly varying credibility. The nation’s education system is not confronting this challenge; the concept of news literacy is not widely discussed in public schools. Moreover, as a Carnegie-Knight task force reported in 2007, mandatory testing has led to a decline in the use of the news in classrooms, squeezing out one of the best ways to prepare students for their role as citizens at a time when it may be more needed than ever. 

With today’s explosion of media content, young people are often overwhelmed by information. A June 2012 study of American youth (“Participatory Politics: New Media and Youth Political Action,” by Cathy Cohen and Joseph Kahne) found that 84% of respondents say they are bombarded with information and “would benefit from learning more about how to gauge what news is trustworthy.”

A 2008 study by the Pew Research Center found that 34 percent of young adults age 18 to 24 report receiving no news from any source on a typical day. A 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 8- to 18-year-olds spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day on entertainment media — a 20 percent increase in the past five years. It also found that “use of every type of media has increased over the past 10 years, with the exception of reading” — and reading, of course, includes newspapers and magazines.

In July 2012, Pew reported that, worldwide, “YouTube is becoming a major platform for viewing news.” In 2011 and early 2012, the center found, the most searched term of the month on YouTube was a news-related event five out of 15 months.

At the same time, the report said, “clear ethical standards have not developed on how to attribute the video content moving through the synergistic sharing loop. Even though YouTube offers guidelines on how to attribute content, it’s clear that not everyone follows them, and certain scenarios fall outside those covered by the guidelines. News organizations sometimes post content that was apparently captured by citizen eyewitnesses without any clear attribution as to the original producer. Citizens are posting copyrighted material without permission. And the creator of some material cannot be identified. All this creates the potential for news to be manufactured, or even falsified, without giving audiences much ability to know who produced it or how to verify it.”

The need for young people to develop their own standards for truthful, reliable information is all the more important because today’s students are producers as well as consumers. Whether emailing, texting, interacting on Facebook, posting on YouTube or blogging, they are increasingly part of the national conversation.

 

Origin

The project was founded in early 2008 by Alan C. Miller, then an investigative reporter with the Los Angeles Times. The idea arose from his experience talking about his career as a reporter and why journalism matters to 175 sixth graders at his daughter’s middle school in Bethesda, Md.  Student thank you notes indicated he had connected, and prompted him to think about a new way to make a difference. English teacher Sandra Gallagher wrote to him: “All of the information you shared was interesting to them and pertinent to our curriculum. You brought to life the idea of `newspaper’ and opened a new perspective of thinking.’’ http://www.thenewsliteracyproject.org/

 

Critical thinking skills go hand in hand with cultural literacy. Moi wrote in Cultural literacy: Is there necessary core knowledge to be academically successful?

 

Back in the day there was this book entitled “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know.” It was published in 1988 and was written by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. Moi liked the concept, some others, not so much. “Cultural Literacy” is defined by Education. Com:

 

Having sufficient common knowledge, i.e., educational background, experiences, basic skills, and training, to function competently in a given society (the greater the level of comprehension of the given society’s habits, attitudes, history, etc., the higher the level of cultural literacy). http://www.education.com/definition/cultural-literacy/

 

Marci Kanstroom wrote E.D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy and American Democracy which was published in Education Next liked the concept. http://educationnext.org/e-d-hirsch-cultural-literacy-and-american-democracy/ Others, like Patrick Scott criticized the concept in articles like Scott’s A Few Words More about E. D. Hirsch and Cultural Literacy. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/378146?uid=3739960&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=55881093943Scott takes issue with Hirsch’s criticism of education icons Dewey and the NEA.

 

https://drwilda.com/2012/03/12/cultural-literacy-is-there-necessary-core-knowledge-to-be-academically-successful/

 

Moi wrote in Critical thinking skills for kids are crucial: The lure of Superbowl alcohol ads:

 

The issue is whether children in a “captive” environment have the maturity and critical thinking skills to evaluate the information contained in the ads. Advertising is about creating a desire for the product, pushing a lifestyle which might make an individual more prone to purchase products to create that lifestyle, and promoting an image which might make an individual more prone to purchase products in pursuit of that image. Many girls and women have unrealistic body image expectations which can lead to eating disorders in the pursuit of a “super model” image. What the glossy magazines don’t tell young women is the dysfunctional lives of many “super models” which may involve both eating disorders and substance abuse. The magazines don’t point out that many “glamor girls” are air-brushed or photo-shopped and that they spend hours on professional make-up and professional hairstyling in addition to having a personal trainer and stylist. Many boys look at the buff bodies of the men in the ads and don’t realize that some use body enhancing drugs. In other words, when presented with any advertising, people must make a determination what to believe. It is easy for children to get derailed because of peer pressure in an all too permissive society. Parents and schools must teach children critical thinking skills and point out often that the picture presented in advertising is often as close to reality as the bedtime fairy tail. Reality does not often involve perfection, there are warts.

 

See, Admongo                                                                               http://ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/admongo/html-version.shtml

 

and How to Help a Child With Critical Thinking Skills http://www.livestrong.com/article/178182-how-to-help-a-child-with-critical-thinking-skills/#ixzz2Jlv5L6HR

 

https://drwilda.com/2013/02/02/critical-thinking-skills-for-kids-are-crucial-the-lure-of-superbowl-alcohol-ads/

 

 

Related:

 

Critical thinking skills for kids are crucial: The lure of Superbowl alcohol ads                                                                                    https://drwilda.com/2013/02/02/critical-thinking-skills-for-kids-are-crucial-the-lure-of-superbowl-alcohol-ads/

 

 

Where information leads to Hope. ©                  Dr. Wilda.com

 

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Report from Center for American Progress report: Kids say school is too easy

10 Jul

In Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person, moi said:

There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the state of education in America. A lot of that dissatisfaction comes from the belief that the education system fails to actually educate children and to teach them critical thinking skills. The University of Maine at Augusta defines an educated person:

An educated person exhibits knowledge and wisdom; recognizes and respects the diversity of nature and society; demonstrates problem solving skills; engages in planning and managing practices; navigates the on-line world; writes and speaks well; acts with integrity; and appreciates the traditions of art, culture, and ideas. Developing these abilities is a life-long process. http://www.uma.edu/educatedperson.html

Essential to this definition is the development of critical thinking skills.

Melinda Burns writes in the Miller-McCune article, No Debate: Kids Can Learn By Arguing about Columbia professor Deanna Kuhn’s assertion that developing debate skills in children helps to develop critical thinking skills. http://www.miller-mccune.com/education/no-debate-kids-can-learn-by-arguing-38932/ The key is developing the idea that facts should be used to support an opinion. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-person/

The Center for American Progress has just published Do Schools Challenge our Students? What Student Surveys Tell Us About the State of Education in the U.S. by Ulrich Boser and Lindsay Rosenthal

Here is the press release from the Center for American Progress:

RELEASE: American Students Say Schoolwork Is Too Easy

Surveys Reveal Critical Information About the State of Education

July 10, 2012

Contact: Katie Peters
Phone: 202.741.6285
Email: kpeters@americanprogress.org

Read the report.

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new state-by-state analysis of student surveys that looks at the rigor of school work and how much students are engaged in an education that will prepare them for college and the modern workplace.

The report found, for instance, that 37 percent of fourth graders say their math work is often or always too easy. Almost a third of middle schoolers report they read less than five pages a day at home or at school. And in a competitive global economy where the mastery of science is increasingly crucial, 72 percent of eighth-grade science students say they are not being taught engineering and technology, according to the analysis of a federal database. What’s more, a significant number of students across grade levels say they do not understand what their teacher is saying.

Over the past few years, many states have engaged in promising reforms that address the issues raised by this report. But our findings suggest we need to do far more to improve the learning experience for all students,” said Ulrich Boser, co-author of the report and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “We hope that the findings and recommendations outlined in this report foster new and better ways to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.”

The findings come at a key time. Researchers increasingly believe that surveys of students can provide important insights into a teacher’s effectiveness. When the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released findings from their Measures of Effective Teaching project last year, they found that student feedback was a far better predictor of a teacher’s performance than more traditional indicators of success such as whether a teacher had a master’s degree. The mounting evidence on the importance of student surveys has been shaping policy at the state and local level as well. Still, this important source of information—the student—has yet to find its full voice.

The report’s authors, Ulrich Boser and Lindsay Rosenthal, examined one of the richest sources of national student survey data and conducted an analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress’s background surveys. Key national findings from the analysis include:

  • Many schools are not challenging students, and large percentages of students report that their school work is “too easy.” Nearly one-third of eighth-grade math students nationwide report that their math work is often or always too easy. Among high schoolers, 21 percent of 12th graders say their math work is often or always too easy, while more than half report that their civics and history work is often or always too easy.
  • Many students are not engaged in rigorous learning activities. Almost a third of eighth-grade students report reading less than five pages a day either in school or for homework. They also report that they rarely write lengthy answers to reading questions on tests, and just a third of students write long answers on reading tests less than once or twice per year. Thirty-nine percent of 12th-grade students say they hardly ever or once or twice a month write about what they read in class.
  • Students don’t have access to key science and technology learning opportunities. Most teenagers say their schools don’t provide important learning opportunities in science and technology. For instance, 72 percent of eighth-grade students say they are not taught about engineering and technology.
  • Too many students don’t understand their teacher’s questions and report that they are not learning during class. Nationwide, less than two-thirds of middle-school students and just under 50 percent of 12th-grade students report they feel like they are always or almost always learning in math class. Students also report difficulty understanding their teacher’s questions.
  • Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to have access to more rigorous learning opportunities. Seventy-four percent of higher-income fourth-grade students say they often or always understand what their science teacher is saying, compared with just 56 percent of lower-income fourth-grade students.

Based on these key findings, the analysis provides the following recommendations:

  • Policymakers must continue to push for higher, more challenging standards. Districts, states, and the federal government must invest in raising the bar so all students graduate from high school ready for college and the workplace. This includes expecting more of teachers, parents, and our schools.
  • Students need more rigorous learning opportunities, and our nation needs to figure out ways to provide all students with the teachers—and the teaching—that they deserve. For instance, we need to do more to promote next-generation teacher evaluation systems that give teachers the feedback that they need.
  • Researchers and educators should continue to develop student surveys. While the National Assessment of Educational Progress surveys clearly tell us something about students’ experiences in their classroom, more sophisticated survey instruments must be developed to capture student perspectives.

Read the report:Do Schools Challenge our Students? What Student Surveys Tell Us About the State of Education in the U.S. by Ulrich Boser and Lindsay Rosenthal

Related Resources:

To speak with a CAP expert on this topic, please contact Katie Peters at kpeters@americanprogress.org or 202.741.6285.

Education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), the teacher(s), and the school. All parts of the partnership must be active and involved. Parents are an important part because they enforce lessons learned at school by reading to their children and taking their children for regular library time.

Related:

Study: Early mastery of fractions is a predictor of math success https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/study-early-mastery-of-fractions-is-a-predictor-of-math-success/

Pros and cons of homework                                            https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/pros-and-cons-of-homework/

Research papers: Student Motivation: An Overlooked Piece of School Reform                                                                      https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/research-papers-student-motivation-an-overlooked-piece-of-school-reform/

Study: When teachers overcompensate for prejudice https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/study-when-teachers-overcompensate-for-prejudice/

Cultural literacy: Is there necessary core knowledge to be academically successful?                                       https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/cultural-literacy-is-there-necessary-core-knowledge-to-be-academically-successful/

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person

22 Jan

There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the state of education in America. A lot of that dissatisfaction comes from the belief that the education system fails to actually educate children and to teach them critical thinking skills. The University of Maine at Augusta defines an educated person:

An educated person exhibits knowledge and wisdom; recognizes and respects the diversity of nature and society; demonstrates problem solving skills; engages in planning and managing practices; navigates the on-line world; writes and speaks well; acts with integrity; and appreciates the traditions of art, culture, and ideas. Developing these abilities is a life-long process. http://www.uma.edu/educatedperson.html

Essential to this definition is the development of critical thinking skills.

Melinda Burns writes in the Miller-McCune article, No Debate: Kids Can Learn By Arguing about Columbia professor Deanna Kuhn’s assertion that developing debate skills in children helps to develop critical thinking skills.

But how do kids become deep thinkers? To find out, Kuhn, who’s the author of a book titled Education for Thinking, and Amanda Crowell, a doctoral candidate at Columbia’s Teachers College, set up an experiment at a public middle school in Harlem. Forty-eight students, mostly Latinos and blacks, took philosophy classes twice a week for three years, from sixth through eighth grades, and every year debated four new subjects. The kids became experts on, for example, home schooling, animal rights, the sale of human organs, and China’s one-child policy. Under a coach’s supervision, they chose one side or another on an issue and tried to anticipate their opponents’ arguments. They often debated in pairs — not face to face, but online, in a sort of Socratic inquiry via Google Chat. By debating electronically, the students were able to consult each other and reflect before firing off comebacks.

At first, as each new topic was introduced, the researchers were startled: the youngsters were clueless about complexity. (“Prisoners, not animals, should be used in medical research because prisoners are guilty and animals are innocent!”) And early in the experiment, the kids showed no interest in the written questions and answers offered by their coaches. By the end of year two, though, they had developed a thirst for evidence.

As each quarter drew to an end, students held a “showdown,” a verbal debate where every three minutes, two new students — one from each side — would rotate into the hot seat. During the post-showdown debriefing, coaches awarded points for good moves (counterarguments and rebuttals), took away points for bad moves (unwarranted assumptions and unconnected responses), and declared the winning side.

All the while, a separate group of 23 students at the school studied philosophy in a more traditional way, using a textbook. Their teacher led discussions; the students rarely broke into sides, or held formal debates. They never argued online, but they wrote a lot in class — 14 essays apiece per year, compared to four in the experimental group.

At the end of every year, as a test of their progress, the students wrote essays on a subject neither group had ever discussed: seniority-based pay versus equal pay for teachers. At the end of the third year, everyone wrote an essay on whether family members and doctors should assist in euthanasia.

Hands down, the winners were the students in the experimental group — even though they’d had much less practice writing. By the end of year one, researchers found, two-thirds of the students in that group were considering and addressing opposing arguments in their written essays—a skill demonstrated by only 38 percent of the students in the comparison group. By the end of the third year, nearly 80 percent of the students in the experimental group were writing essays that identified and weighed opposing views in an argument. Less than 30 percent of the students in the comparison group were doing so.

http://www.miller-mccune.com/education/no-debate-kids-can-learn-by-arguing-38932/

The key is developing the idea that facts should be used to support an opinion.

The Critical Thinking Community has several great articles about critical thinking at their site. In the section, Defining Critical Thinking:

A Definition
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.

The Result

A well cultivated critical thinker:

  • raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and
    precisely;
  • gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to
    interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought,
    recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.  (Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008). http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766

The question is how to teach critical thinking skills.

David Carnes wrote the excellent Livestrong article, How to Build Critical Thinking Skills in Children.

Critical thinking skills are typically developed over a long period of time through educational exercises designed to develop them. Because critical thinking is a lifelong habit, critical thinking skills are best developed during childhood.

Step 1

Having your child read passages of some length in which the author argues a point and then reaches a conclusion that others may dispute. Although political commentary is ideal for this purpose, it is best to choose a passage that does not require background knowledge that your child is unfamiliar with.

Step 2

Quiz your child after each passage to make sure that she understands the facts upon which the argument is based. Although the memorization of facts does not constitute critical thinking, it is the starting point from which critical thinking may proceed.

Step 3

Make your child think analytically. Analytical thinking involves the ability to recognize patterns and separate ideas into components, according to Elizabeth Shaunessy, assistant professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of South Florida. Ask your child questions about the passages he reads that are designed to test these abilities. For example, you might have your child rank several passages according to their degree of relevance to a particular topic touched upon by all of them.

Step 4

Encourage your child to think synthetically. Shaunessy describes synthetic thinking as the ability to generalize, reach conclusions and use information in a new way. Have your child read several passages about related topics, and then ask her a question that is not directly answered by any of the passages. Your child will then have to use the information in the passage to answer the question without parroting the author’s thinking.

Step 5

Test your child’s ability to make judgments. Evaluative thinking is the ability to choose the best among several options that each have advantages and disadvantages, and to examine opinions for bias. Have your child read “for” and “against” passages on the same subject, and ask him to choose which one he agrees with and say why. Then ask him to take the opposite point of view and give arguments that an opponent could use against his opinion.

Step 6

Engage your child in an activity that is interesting and that regularly employs critical thinking skills. This activity need not be verbal–it may be mathematical or even musical. Dave Rusin, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Northern Illinois University, notes that music always has an underlying mathematical structure. If your child has an interest in music, you could encourage her to compose her own music using either musical notation or computer software that graphically represents musical structure.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/167563-how-to-build-critical-thinking-skills-in-children/#ixzz1kB28AgFS

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

Aristotle

The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Derek Bok

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©