Tag Archives: critical thinking

Types of Debate Proposition

In debating, the proposition is the main issue or the central topic of the debate. In general, there are three types of propositions. The three types of propositions are propositions of

  • Fact
  • Value
  • Policy

Understanding the differences in these three types of propositions is important in developing a strategy for a debate.

Proposition of Fact

A debate that is defined as a proposition of fact is a debate that is focused on whether something is true or not. For example, a debate may address the following proposition of facet.

Resloved: human activity is contributing to global warming

The affirmative side would argue that humans are contributing to global warming while the negative side would argue that humans are not contributing to global warming. The main concern is the truthfulness of the proposition. There is no focus on ethics of the proposition as this is when we come to a proposition of value.

Proposition of Value

A proposition of value looks at your beliefs about what is right or wrong and or good and bad. This type of proposition is focused on ethics and or aesthetics. An example of a proposition of value would be the following..

Resolved: That television is a waste of time

This type of proposition  is trying to judge the acceptability of something and or make an ethical claim.

Value propositions can also have these other more nuances characteristics. Instead, affirming the good or bad of a proposition, a proposition of value can also make a case of one idea being better than another such as…

Resloved: That exercise is a better use of time than watching television

Now the debate is focus not on good vs bad but rather on better vs worst. It is s slightly different way of looking at the argument. Another variation on proposition of value is when the affirmative argues to reject a value such as in the following.

Resolved: That encouraging the watching of television is harmful to young people

The wording is slightly different from previous examples but the primary goal of the affirmative is to argue why television watching should not be valued or at least valued less.

One final variation of the proposition of value is the quasi-policy proposition of value. A quasi-policy value proposition is used to express a value judgement about a policy. An example would be

Resolved: That mandatory vaccinations would be beneficial to school age children

Here the affirmative is not only judging vaccinations but simultaneously the potential policy of making vaccinations mandatory.

Proposition of Policy

Propositions of policy call for change. This type of proposition in pushing strongly against the status quo. Below is an example.

Resolved: That the cafeteria should adopt a vegetarian diet

The example above is using for clear change. However, notice how there is no judgement on the current state affairs. In others words, there is not judgement that the non-vegetarian diet is good or bad or that a vegetarian diet is good or bad. This is noe reason why this is not a proposition of value.

In the case of a proposition of policy, the affirmative supports the change while the negative supports the status quo.

Conclusion

Debate propositions shape the entire direction and preparation for the debate itself. Therefore, it is important for debaters to understand what type of proposition they are dealing with. In addition, for teachers who are creating debates, they need to know exactly what they want the students to do in a debt when they create propositions.

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Phrasing Debate Propositions

Debating is a practical way for students to develop communication and critical thinking skills. However, it is often the job of the teacher to find debate topics and to form these into propositions. A proposition is a strong statement that identifies the central issue/problem of a controversial topic.

There is a clear process for this that should be followed in order to allow the students to focus on develop their arguments rather than on trying to figure out what they are to debate about.

This post will provide guidance for teachers on developing debate propositions. In general, debate propositions have the following characteristics

  • controversial
  • central idea
  • unemotional word use
  • Statement of affirmative’s wanted decision

We will look at each of these concepts in detail

Controversial

Controversy is what debating is about. A proposition must be controversial. This is because strong statements for people to take a position. With a slight push to the edges students are not required to dig deep and understand the topic. Below is an example of an uncontroversial proposition

Resloved: Illegal immigration is sometimes a problem in the world

This is not controversial because it’s hard to agree or disagree strongly. The mildness of the statement makes it uninteresting to debate about. Below is the same proposition but written in a more controversial manner

Resloved: Illegal immigration is a major problem that destabilizes nations all over the world.

The revised proposition uses languages that is less neutral yet not aggressive. People have to think carefully where they stand.

Central Idea

A debate proposition should only address one single idea. The safest way to do this is to avoid using the word “and” in a proposition. However, this is not a strict rule but rather a guideline. Below is an example of proposition that does not have one idea.

Resloved: Illegal immigration and pollution are major problems that destabilizes nations all over the world.

The problem with the proposition above is to determine if the debate is about illegal immigration or pollution. These are topics that are not connected or the debaters must find ways to connect them.  In other words, this is messy and unclear and the proposition cannot have these characteristics.

Unemotional Words

Propositions should avoid emotional language. One of the foundational beliefs of debating is rational thought. Emotional terms lead to emotional thinking which is not the goal of debating. Generally, emotional terms are used more in advertising and propaganda than in debate. Below is an example of emotional language in a proposition.

Resloved: Illegal immigration is an abominable problem whose deprived, lawless, existence destabilizes nations all over the world.

The terms here are clearly strong in how they sound. For supporters of illegal immigration such words as abominable, depraved, and lawless are going to trigger a strong emotional response. However, what we really want is a logical, rational response and not just emotional attacks.

Statement of affirmative’s wanted decision

This last idea has to do with the fact the proposition should be stated in the positive and not negative. Below is the incorrect way to do this.

Resloved: Illegal immigration is not a major problem that destabilizes nations all over the world.

The proposition above is stated in the negative. This wording makes debating unnecessarily complicated. Below is another way to state this

Resloved: Illegal immigration is beneficial for nations all over the world.

This slight rewording helps a great deal in developing clear arguments. However, negative affirmatives can appear in  slightly different manner as shown below.

Resloved: Illegal immigration should be decriminalize.

The problem with this statement is that it provides no replacement for illegal immigration. When debating identified problems must be matched with  identified solutions. Below is a revised version of the previous proposition.

Resloved: Illegal immigration should be decriminalize and replaced with a system of open borders who monitor the movement of people.

This proposition has a strong opinion with a proposed solution.

Conclusion

This is not an exhaustive list of forming debate propositions. Rather, then goal here was to provide some guidelines to help teachers who are trying to encourage debating among their students. Off course, the guidelines provided here are for older students. For younger, kids it would be necessary to modify the wording and not worry as much about the small details of making strong debate propositions.

Presumption & Burden of Proof in Debating

In debating, it is important to understand the role of presumption and burden of proof and how these terms affect the status quo. This post will attempt to explain these concepts.

Status Quo

The status quo is the way things currently are or the way things are done. The affirmative in a debate is generally pushing change or departure from the status quo. This is in no way easy as people often prefer to keep things the way they are and minimize change.

Presumption

Presumption is the tendency of favoring one side of an argument over another. There are at least two forms of presumption. These two forms or judicial presumption and policy presumption.

Judicial presumption always favors the status quo or keeping things they way they are currently. Small changes can be made but the existing structure is not going to be different. In debates that happen from the judicial perspective it is the affirmative side that has the burden of proof or how must show that the benefit of change outweighs the status quo. A common idiom that summarizes the status quo is “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

The policy form of presumption is used when change is necessary to the status quo. Example would be replacing an employee. The status quo of keeping the worker is impossible and the debate is now focused on who should be the replacement. A debate from a policy perspective is about which of the new approaches is the best to adopt.

In addition, the concept of burden of proof goes from the burden of proof to a burden of proof. This is because either side of the debate must provide must support the argument that they are making.

Burden of Refutation

The burden of refutation is the obligation to respond the opposing arguments. In other words, debaters often need to explain why the other side’s arguments are weak or perhaps even wrong. Failure to do so can make the refuting debater’s position weaker.

This leads to the point that there are no ties in debating. If both sides are equally good the status quo wins, which is normally the negative side. This is because the affirmative side did not bring the burden of proof necessary to warrant change.

Conclusion

Structure of debating requires debaters have a basic understanding of the various concepts in this field. Therefore, understanding such terms as status quo, presumption, and burden of proof  is beneficial if not required in order to participate in debating.

Background of Debates

Debating has a history as long as the history of man. The is evidence that debating dates back at least 4,000 years. From Egypt to china and even in poetry such as Homer’s “Iliad”  one can find examples of debating. Academic debating is believed to have started about 2,500 years ago with the work of Pythagoras.

We will look at the role of culture in debating as well as debate’s role in academics in the US along with some of the benefits of debating.

Debating and Culture

For whatever reason, debating is a key component of Western civilization and in particular Democratic civilizations. Speculating on why can go on forever. However, one key component for the emphasis on debating in the west is the epistemological view of truth.

In many western cultures, there is an underlying belief that truth is relative. As such, when two sides are debating the topic it is through the combine contributions of both arguments that some idea of truth is revealed. In many ways, this is a form of the Hegelian dialectic in which thesis and antithesis make syntheses. The synthesis is the truth and can only be found through a struggle of opposing relative positions.

In other cultures, such as Asian, what is true is much more stable and agreed upon as unchanging. This may be a partial reason for why debating is not as strenuously practice in non-western context. Confucianism in particular focus on stability, tradition, and rigid hierarchy. These are concepts there often considered unthinkable in a Western culture.

Debating in the United States

In the United States, applied debating has been of the country from almost the beginning. However, academic debating has been present since at least the 18th century. It was at the beginning of the 20th century that academic debating begin to be taken much more seriously.  Intercollegiate debating during this time lead to the development of several debate associations that had various rules and ways to support the growth of debating.

Benefits of Debating

Debating has been found to develop argumentation  skills, critical thinking, and enhance general academic performance. Through  have to gather information and synthesis it in a clear way seems to transfer when students study for other academic subjects. In addition, even though debating is about sharing one side of an argument it also improves listening skills. This is because you have to listen in order to point out weaknesses in the oppositions position.

Debating also develops the ability to thinking quickly. If the ability to think is not develop a student will struggle with refutation and rebuttals which are key components of debating. Lastly, debating sharpens the judgment of participants. It i important to be able to judge the strengths and weaknesses of various aspects of an argument in order to provide a strong case for our against an idea or action and this involves sharp judgment.

Conclusion

With its rich history and clear benefits. Debating will continue to be a part of the academic experience of  many students. The skills that are developed are practical and useful for many occupations found outside of an academic setting.

Types of Debates

Debating has a long history with historical evidence of this practice dating back 4,000 year. Debating was used in ancient Egypt, China, and Greece. As such, people who participate in debates are contributing to a rich history.

In this post, we will take a look at several types of debates that are commonly used today. The types of debates we will cover are as follows.

  • Special
  • Judicial
  • Parliamentary
  • Non-formal
  • Academic

Special Debate

A special debate is special because it has distinct rules  for a specific occasion. Examples include the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. These debates were so influential that there is a debate format today called the Lincoln-Douglas format. This format often focuses on moral issues and has a specific use of time for the debaters that is distinct.

Special debates are also commonly used for presidential debates. Since there is no set format, the debaters literally may debate over the rules of the actual debate. For example, the Bush vs Kerry debates of 2004 had some of the following rules agreed to by both parties prior to the debate.

  1. Height of the lectern
  2. type of stools used
  3. Nature of the audience

In this example above, sometimes the rules have nothing to do with the actual debate but the atmosphere/setting around it.

Judicial Debate

Judicial debates happen in courts judicial like settings. The goal is to prosecute or defend individuals for some sort of crime. For lawyers in training or even general students, moot court debates are used to hone debating skills and mock trial debates are also used.

Parliamentary Debate

The parliamentary debate purpose s to support or attack potential legislation. Despite its name, the parliamentary debate format is used in the United States at various levels of government. There is a particular famous variation of this called the Asian parliamentary debate style.

Non-formal Debate

A non-formal debate lacks the rules of the other styles mentioned. In many ways, any form of disagreeing that does not have a structure for how to present one’s argument can fall under the category of non-formal. For example, children arguing with parents could be considered non-formal as well as classroom discussion on a controversial issue such as immigration.

This form of debate is probably the only one that everyone is familiar with and has participated in. However, it is probably the hardest to develop skills in due to the lack of structure.

Academic Debate

The academic debate is used to develop the educational skills of the participants. Often the format deployed is taken from applied debates. For example, many academic debates use the Lincoln Douglas format. There are several major Debate organizations that promote debate competitions between school’s. The details of this will be expanded in a future post.

Conclusion

This post provided an overview of different styles of debating that are commonly employed. Understanding this can be important because how you present and defend a point of view depends on the rules of engagement.

Critical Thinking and Debating

Debating is a commonly used activity for developing critical thinking skills. The question that this post wants to answer is how debating develops critical thinking. This will be achieved through discussing the following…

  • Defining debate
  • Debating in the past
  • Debating today

Defining Debate

A debate is a process of defending or attacking a proposition through the use of reasoning and judgement. The goal is to go through a process of argumentation in which good reasons are shared with an audience. Good reasons are persuasive reasons that have a psychological influence on an audience. Naturally, what constitutes a good reason varies from context to context. Therefore, a good debater always keeps in mind who their audience is.

One key element of debating is what is missing. Technically, debating is an intellectual experience and not an emotional one. This has been lost sight of over time as debaters and public speakers have learned that emotional fanaticism is much more influential in moving the masses the deliberate thinking.

Debating in the Past

Debating was a key tool among the ancient Greeks. Aristotle provides us with at least four purposes for debating. The first purpose of debating was that debating allows people to see both sides of an argument. As such, debating dispels bias and allows for more carefully defined decision-making. One of the  characteristics  of critical thinking is the ability to see both sides of an argument or to think empathically rather than only sympathetically.

A second purpose of debating is for instructing the public. Debates for experts to take complex ideas and reduce to simple ones for general consumption. Off course, this has been take to extremes through sound bites and memes in the 21st century but learning how to communicate clearly is yet another goal of critical thinking.

A third purpose of debating is to prevent fraud and injustice. Aristotle was assuming that there was truth and that truth was more powerful the injustice. These are ideas that have been lost with time as we now live in a postmodern world. However, Aristotle believed that people needed to know how to argue for truth and how to communicate it with others. Today, experiential knowledge, and emotions are the primary determiners for what is right and wrong rather than cold truth.

A final purpose of debating is debating in order to defend one’s self. Debating is an intellectual way of protecting someone as fighting is a physical way of protecting someone. There is an idiom in English that states that “the pen is mightier than the swords.” Often physical fighting comes after several intellectual machinations by leaders who find ways to manipulate things. Skilled debater can  move millions whereas a strong solider can only do a limited amount of damage alone.

Debating Today

One aspect of debating that is not covered above is the aspect of time when it comes to debating. Debating is a way to develop critical thinking but it is also a way of developing real-time critical thinking. In others words, not only do you have to prepare your argument and ideas before a debate you also have to respond and react during a debate. This requires thinking on your feet in front of an audience while still trying to persuasive and articulate. Not an easy task for most people.

Debating is often a lost art as people have turned to arguing instead. Arguing often involves emotional exchanges rather than rational thought. Some have stated that when debating disappears so does freedom of speech. In  many ways, as topics and ideas become more emotionally charged there is greater and greater restriction  on  what can be said so that no one is “offended”. Perhaps Aristotle was correct about his views on debating and injustice.

Differences in Thinking

Critical thinkers and problem solvers are two groups of people.  Sadly, these two groups are almost mutually exclusive. However, it is important that thinkers and solvers develop both skillsets to a certain level of competence.

The purpose of this post is to try and explain in detail critical thinking vs problem-solving in term of individual differences.

Thinking is a slow deliberate process that takes to do. In other words, a person must decide to think. Since there is a requirement of active effort, thinking is something that few people value and appreciate as they should.

Thinking involves processing information from the viewpoint of central processing. This means to examine the content of a message for its worth. Furthermore, when a person is developing their own arguments thinking involves developing support for one’s position. Often when people argue or disagree today they tend to get upset. This is an indication that their emotions are determining their position rather than their mind. They might use their mind on occasion to strengthen their argument but the foundation of their position is often emotional rather than based on strong thought.

 

Developing the mind usually involves reading. Reading exposes an individual to good and poor examples of thinking.  From these examples, an individual thinks about the strengths and merits of each. This process of thinking about other people’s thoughts helps a person to develop their own opinion. When an is formed it can be shared with others who are then able to judge for themselves the merit of the person’s opinion.

 

This process of thinking is not often required for academic studies. The focus has moved more towards problem-solving. Problem-solving is In an excellent form of thinking when the end goal is often binary in nature. This means that when a problem solves, either they solve the problem or they do not.

 

Critical thinking involves a certain fuzziness to it that problem-solving lacks  For example, whether a speech or paper is good or bad involves critical thinking because judging quality involves fuzziness to it. This sense of a shade of gray would make solving problems difficult at the least. T

 

However, if you are called to determine why a computer does not connect to the internet this is problem-solving. The goal is to get back on the internet. You have to think but the desired outcome is clear. Once the computer is back on the internet there is nothing to think about. In most cases, particular with non techie people, how you get back on the internet does not even matter. In other words, the “why does this work” is often something that problem solvers do not care about but this is exactly the type of thing critical thinking has to be able to explain when developing an argument.

 

Problem-solving involves action and not as much contemplation. The focus is on experience and not theory. It is not that problem-solvers never read and contemplate, rather, they learn primarily through doing. Examples include trial and error. 

Most companies want problem solvers and not necessarily critical thinkers. In other words, businesses want things done. They do not want people going around and questioning unless this helps to solve a problem.  Companies claim to want thinking but what they really want are people who think how to solve the company’s problems. Questioning the company is not one of the wiser things to do.

The fuzziness of critical thinking frustrates problem-solvers who want to solve problems and not simply talk. This is not a negative thing but rather a difference in personality. The problem is that problem solvers and critical thinkers do not see this as a matter of difference but a matter of ignorance on one hand and irrelevance on the other hand. Thinkers think and problem solvers do is a common description of both sides

 

Conclusion

Critical thinking and problem-solving are two skills that everyone needs. To focus on either to the exclusion of the other is detrimental. A combination of thought and action creates a balanced individual who is able to get things done while still have a depth of thought to support their actions.

 

Computational Thinking

Computational thinking is the process of expressing a problem in a way that a computer can solve. In general, there are four various ways that computational thinking can be done. These four ways are decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithmic thinking.

Although computational thinking is dealt with in the realm of computer science. Everyone thinks computationally at one time or another especially in school. Awareness of these subconscious strategies can help people to know how they think at times as well as to be aware of the various ways in which thinking is possible.

Decomposition

Decomposition is the process of breaking a large problem down into smaller and smaller parts or problems. The benefit of this is that by addressing all of the created little problems you can solve the large problem.

In education decomposition can show up in many ways. For teachers, they often have to break goals done into objectives, and sometimes down into procedures in a daily lesson plan. Seeing the big picture of the content students need and breaking it down into pieces that students can comprehend is critically to education such as with chunking.

For the student, decomposition involves breaking down the parts of a project such as writing a paper. The student has to determine what to do and how it helps to achieve the completion of their project.

Pattern Recognition

Pattern recognition has to refer to how various aspects of a problem have things in common. For a teacher, this may involve the development of a thematic unit. Developing such a unit requires the teacher to see what various subjects or disciplines have in common as they try to create the thematic unit.

For the student, pattern recognition can support the development of  shortcuts. Examples include seeing similarities in assignments that need to be completed and completing similar assignments together.

Abstraction

Abstraction  is the ability to remove irrelevant information from a problem. This is perhaps the most challenging form of thinking to develop because people often fall into the trap that everything is important.

For a teacher, abstractions involves teaching only the critical information that is in the content and not stressing the small stuff. This is not easy especially when the  teacher has a passion for their subject. This often blinds them to trying to share only the most relevant information about their field with their students.

For students, abstraction involves being able to share the most critical information. Students are guilty of the same problems as teachers in that they share everything when writing or presenting. Determining what is important requires the development of an opinion to judge the relevance of something. This is a skill that is hard to find among graduates.

Algorithmic Thinking

Algorithmic thinking is being able to develop a step-by-step plan to do something. For teachers, this happens everyday through planning activities and leading a class. Planning may be the most common form of thinking for the teacher.

For students, algorithmic thinking is somewhat more challenging. It is common for younger people to rely heavily on intuition to accomplish tasks. This means that they did something but they do not know how they did it.

Another common mistake for young people is doing things through brute force. Rather than planning, they will just keep pounding away until something works. As such, it is common for students to do things the “hard way” as the saying goes.

Conclusion

Computational thinking is really how humans think in many situations in which emotions are not the primary mover. As such, what is really happening is not that computers are thinking as much as they are trying to model how humans think. In education, there are several situations. In which computational thinking can be employed for success.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

There have been concerns for years that critical thinking and problem-solving skills are in decline not only among students but also the general public. On the surface, this appears to be true. However, throughout human history, the average person was not much of a deep thinker but rather a doer. How much time can you spend on thinking for the sake of thinking when you are dealing with famine, war, and disease? This internal focus vs external focus is one of the differences between critical thinking and problem-solving.

Critical Thinking

There is no agreed-upon definition of critical thinking. This makes sense as any agreement would indicate a lack of critical thinking. In general, critical thinking is about questioning and testing the claims and statements made through external evidence as well as internal thought. Critical thinking is the ability to know what you don’t know and seek answers through finding information. To test and assert claims means taking time to develop them which is a lonely process many times

Thinking for the sake of thinking is a somewhat introverted process. There are few people who want to sit and ponder in the fast-paced 21st century.  This is one reason why it appears that critical thinking is in decline. It’s not that people are incapable of thinking critical they would just rather not do it and seek a quick answer and or entertainment. Critical thinking is just too slow for many people.

Whenever I give my students any form of opened assignment that requires them to develop an argument I am usually shocked by the superficial nature of the work. Having thought about this I have come to the conclusion that the students lacked the mental energy to demonstrate the critical thought needed to write a paper or even to share their opinion about something a little deeper then facebook videos.

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is about getting stuff done. When an obstacle is in the way a problem solver finds a way around. Problem-solving is focused often on tangible things and objects in a practical way. Therefore, problem-solving is more of an extroverted experience. It is common and easy to solve problems with friends gregariously. However, thinking critically is somewhat more difficult to do in groups and cannot move as fast as we want we discussing.

Due to the potential of working in groups and the fast pace that it can take, problem-solving skills are in better shape than critical thinking skills. This is because when people work in groups several superficial ideas can be combined to overcome a problem. This groupthink if you will allow for success even though the individual members are probably not the brightest.

Problem-solving has been the focus of mankind for most of their existence. Please keep in mind that for most of human history people could not even read and write. Instead, they were farmers and soldiers concern with food and protecting their civilization from invasion. These problems led to amazing discoveries for the sake of providing life and not for the sake of thinking for the sake of thinking or questioning for the sake of objection.

Overlap

There is some overlap in critical thinking and problem-solving. Solutions to problems have to be critically evaluated. However, often a potential solution is voted good or bad by whether it works or not which requires observation and not in-depth thinking. The goal for problem-solving is always “does this solve the problem” or “does this solve the problem better”. These are important criteria but critical thinking involves much broader and deeper issues than just “does this work.” Critical thinking is on a quest for truth and satisfying curiosity. These are ideas that problem-solvers struggle to appreciate

The world is mostly focused on people who can solve problems and not necessarily on deep thinkers who can ponder complex ideas alone. As such, perhaps critical thinking was a fad that has ceased to be relevant as problem solvers do not see how critical thinking solves problems. Both forms of thought are needed and they do overlap yet most of the world simply wants to know what the answer is to their problem rather than to think deeply about why they have a problem in the first place.

Critical Thinking Strategies

Developing critical thinking is a primary goal in many classrooms. However, it is difficult to actually achieve this goal as critical thinking is an elusive concept to understand. This post will provide practical ways to help students develop critical thinking skills.

Critical Thinking Defined

Critical thinking is the ability to develop support for one’s position on a subject as well as the ability to question the reasons and opinions of another person on a given subject. The ability to support one’s one position is exceedingly difficult as many people are convinced that their feelings can be substituted as evidence for their position.

It is also difficult to question the reasons and opinions of others as it requires the ability to identify weaknesses in the person’s positions while having to think on one’s feet. Again this is why many people stick to their emotions as it requires no thinking and emotions can be felt much faster than thoughts can be processed. Thinking critically involves assessing the strength of another’s thought process through pushing them with challenging questions or counter-arguments.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Debates-Debates provide an opportunity for people to both prepare arguments as well as defend in an extemporaneous manner. The experience of preparation as well as on the feet thinking help to develop critical thinking in many ways. In addition, the time limits of debates really force the participants to be highly engaged.

Reciprocal Teaching-Reciprocal teaching involves students taking turns to teach each other. As such, the must take a much closer look at the content when they are aware that they will have to teach it. In addition, Reciprocal teaching encourages discussion and the answering of questions which further supports critical thinking skills development.

Discussion-Discussion through the use of open-ended question is another classic way to develop critical thinking skills. The key is in the open-ended nature of the question. This means that there is no single answer to the question. Instead, the quality of answers are judged on the support the students provide and their reasoning skills.

Open-ended assignments-Often as teachers, we want to give specific detailed instructions on how to complete an assignment. This reduces confusion and gives each student a similar context in which learning takes place.

However, open-ended assignments provide a general end goal but allow the students to determine how they will complete it. This open-ended nature really forces the students to think about what they will do. In addition, this is similar to work in the real world where often the boss wants something done and doesn’t really care how the workers get it done. The lack of direction can cause less critical workers problems as they do not know what to do but those who are trained to deal with ambiguity will be prepared for this.

Conclusion

Critical thinking requires a context in which free thought is allowed but is supported. It is difficult to develop the skills of thinking with activities that stimulate this skill. The activities mentioned here are just some of the choices available to a teacher.

Teaching Reflective Thinking

Reflective thinking is the ability to look at the past and develop understanding and insights about what happened and using this information to develop a deeper understanding or to choose a course of action.  Many may believe that reflective thinking is a natural part of learning.

However, I have always been surprised at how little reflective thinking my students do. They seem to just do things without ever trying to understand how well they did outside of passing the assignment. Without reflective thinking, it is difficult to learn from past mistakes as no thought was made to avoid them.

This post will examine opportunities and aways of reflective thinking.

Opportunities for Reflective Thinking

Generally, reflective thinking can happen when

  1. When you learn something
  2. When you do something

These are similar but different concepts. Learning can happen without doing anything such as listening to a lecture or discussion. You hear a lot of great stuff but you never implement it.

Doing something means the application of knowledge in a particular setting. An example would be teaching or working at a company. With the application of knowledge comes consequences the indicate how well you did. For example, teaching kids and then seeing either look of understanding or confusion on their face

Strategies for Reflective THinking

For situations in which the student learns something without a lot of action a common model for encouraging reflective thinking is the  Connect, Extend, Challenge model. The model is explained below

  • Connect: Link what you have learned to something you already know
  • Extend: Determine how this new knowledge extends your learning
  • Challenge: Decide what you still do not understanding

Connecting is what makes learning relevant for many students and is also derived from constructivism. Extending is a way for a student to see the benefits of the new knowledge. It goes beyond learning because you were told to learn. Lastly, challenging helps the student to determine what they do not know which is another metacognitive strategy.

When a student does something the reflection process is slightly different below is an extremely common model.

  • what went well
  • what went wrong
  • how to fix what went wrong

In this model, the student identifies what they did right, which requires reflective thinking. The student also identifies the things they did wrong during the experience. Lastly, the student must problem solve and develop strategies to overcome the mistakes they made. Often the solutions in this final part are implemented during the next action sequence to see how well they worked out.

Conclusion

Thinking about the past is one of the strongest ways to prepare for the future. Therefore, teachers must provide their students with opportunities to think reflectively. The strategies included here provide a framework for guiding students in this critical process.

Thinking Skills

Everybody thinks, at least we hope everybody thinks. However, few are aware of the various skills that can be used in thinking. In this post, we will look at several different skills that can be used when trying to think and understand something. There are at least four different skills that can be used in thinking and they are…

  • Clarification
  • Basis
  • Inference
  • Evaluation

Clarification

Clarification, as you can tell from the name, is focused on making things clear so that decisions can be made. Clarification involves developing questions, analysis, and defining terms.

Clarification lays the groundwork for determining the boundaries in which thinking needs to take place. In many ways, clarification deals with the question of what are you trying to think about.

Basis

Basis involves categorizing the information that has been gathered to think about. At this stage, a person decides if the information they have is a fact, opinion, or just incorrect information.

Another activity at this level is assessing the credibility of the sources of information. For example, facts from experts are considered more credible than the opinions of just anybody.

Inference

Inference involves several different forms of reasoning. These forms of reasoning have been discussed in a previous post. The forms include inductive, deductive, and abductive reasoning.

Whatever form of reasoning is used the overall goal is to develop conclusions based either on principles or examples. As such, the prior forms of thinking are necessary to move to developing inferences. In other words, there must be clarification and basis before inferences.

Evaluation

Evaluation involves developing a criteria upon which to judge the adequacy of whatever decisions have been made. This means assessing the quality of the thought process that has already taken place.

Assessing judgment is near the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy and involves not only having an opinion but basing the opinion on well-developed criteria. This is in no way easy for anybody.

Tips for Developing Thinking Skills

When dealing with students, here are a few suggestions for developing thinking skills.

  • Demonstrate-Providing examples of the thinking process give students something to model.
  • Question-Questioning is an excellent way to develop thinking. Most of the thinking skills above involve extensive questioning.
  • Verbalize thinking-When students are required to think, have them verbalize what they are thinking. This provides insight into what is happening inside their head as well as allows the teacher to analyze what is happening.

Conclusion

Thinking involves questioning. The development of answers to these questions is the fruit of thinking. It is important to determine what one is trying to do in order to allow purposeful thinking to take place.

Reasoning

Reasoning is the process of developing conclusion through the examination of evidence. This post will explain several forms of reasoning as listed below.

  • Inductive
  • Deductive
  • Causal
  • Analogical
  • Abductive

Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning involves looking at several specific instances or facts and developing a conclusion. Below is an example

  • Fact 1: Dad died from smoking
  • Fact 2: Grandpa died from smoking
  • Fact 3: Uncle is dying from smoking
  • Conclusion: Smoking kills

In the example above, there are several instances of the effect of smoking on people. From these examples, the conclusion reach was smoking is deadly.

The danger of this form of reasoning is jumping to conclusions based on a small sample size. Just because three people died or are dying of smoking does not mean that smoking is deadly in general. This is not enough evidence to support this conclusion

Deductive Reasoning 

Deductive reasoning involves the development of a general principle testing a specific example of the principle and moving to a  conclusion. Below is an example.

  • Principle: Everybody is mortal
  • Specific example: Thomas is a man
  • Conclusion: Therefore, Thomas is mortal

This method of reasoning is highly effective in persuasion. However, the principle must be sound in order to impact the audience.

Causal Reasoning

Causal reasoning attempts to establish a relationship between a cause and effect. An example would be as follows.

You slip and break your leg. After breaking your leg you notice that there was a banana on the ground. You therefore reason that you slipped on the banana and broke your leg

The danger of causal reasoning is it is sometimes difficult to prove cause and effect conclusively. In addition, complex events cannot often be explained by a single cause.

Analogical Reasoning

Analogical reasoning involves the comparison of two similar cases making the argument that what is true for the first is true for the second. Below is an example.

  • Fact 1: Thomas is good at playing the trumpet
  • Fact 2: Thomas is good at playing the French Horn
  • Conclusion: Thomas is probably good at playing the trombone

The example above assumes that Thomas can play the trombone because he can play other brass instruments well. It is critical that the comparison made is truly parallel in order to persuade an audience.

Abductive Reasoning

Abductive reasoning involves looking at incomplete information and trying to make sense of this through reasonable guesses. Perhaps the most common experiences people have with abductive reasoning is going to the hospital or mechanic. In both situations, the doctor and mechanic listen to the symptoms and try to make a diagnosis as to exactly what the problem is.

Of course, the doctor and mechanic can be completely wrong which leads to other problems. However, unlike the other forms of reasoning, abductive reasoning is useful for filling in gaps in information that is unavailable.

Conclusion

Reasoning comes in many forms. The examples provided here provide people with different ways these forms of reasoning can be used.