As we near the end of a three year AISI project focused on infusing the critical thinking process into best practices, I continue to be inspired and excited by the learning that has taken place with our teachers and students. What at first seemed daunting and overwhelming has become embedded in the work we do with students.
Our students embrace critical challenges and view them as opportunities to become personally involved in tasks that require judgment. The students have come to appreciate the value of building criteria to focus their learning. They enjoy the brainstorming and placemat activities around the process and have garnered a good understanding of the difference between qualitative criteria and requirements. The students also enjoy the process of embedding qualities when developing qualitative criteria as many spirited discussions, conversations, and debates are the norm. Words such as evidence, conclusion, accurate, relevant, inference, and evaluate have become part of the students working vocabulary. With practice, they have also become more conscious of the variety of thinking strategies available for their use and are able to refer to the critical challenge to guide their choice. The students have become comfortable with four different habits of mind and have been observed using the language when working collaboratively.
The critical thinking tools have become the framework that the students adhere to as they are moving through a critical challenge and a knowledge of the six prompts has given them a stronger understanding of each critical challenge. By building communities of learners, we are able to create rich learning environments for our students to expand their thinking.
Ingrid Phare is a grade four teacher at Brookwood School in Spruce Grove. She has been a lead teacher for the Critical Thinking AISI project.