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November 23, 2017

“How To” or “Not How To,” That Is the Question

Editor’s Note: Jennifer Kahler is Assistant Principal at Glenallen Elementary School and a Mind in the Making facilitator.

Taking time out of their summer break to continue to develop and grow as educators, participants of Mind In The Making’s Team Key cohort grappled with the question “How To” or “Not How To?”

Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind In the Making, defines her fifth essential life skill, Critical Thinking, as the ongoing search for valid and reliable knowledge to guide our beliefs and actions. As with all seven of Galinsky’s essential life skills, critical thinking is a skill that we need to teach and promote within our students. The participants discussed its importance, not only for observing students’ performance in the classroom but for the daily challenges they will eventually face as adults.

The participants themselves partook in several critical thinking activities such as creating and conducting an experiment to determine which material when made into a ball will travel the furthest distance. They also had to create a hat to be modeled in a fashion show. Both times, the cohort had minimal direction other than learning intention and success criteria. What may have been seen as a lack of instruction enabled the cohort to think critically, collaborate, and synthesize their thoughts.

This led to an in-depth discussion as to when do we as educators teach “How To” vs. not teaching “How To.” As a whole, the participants concluded the following:

  • As we all know, the classroom teacher knows their students best. As we teach how to think critically, the “How To” is necessary.
  • As we continue to teach and promote, we need to gradually release the responsibility of critical thinking to the learner.
  • Since each skill develops at a different rate for each child, we may find within the same lesson the “How To” may vary to meet the needs of each student.

As with most child development questions, there is not one blanket answer. What we do know for sure is critical thinking needs to be explicitly taught and promoted to prepare students to deal with everyday situations with ease, responsibility, and confidence.

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