Blog Post: Critical Thinking: What, Why, and How (Part 3 of 3 - "Lower Order Learning")

Richard Paul Archives
Dec 29, 2020 • 2y ago
Critical Thinking: What, Why, and How (Part 3 of 3 - "Lower Order Learning")

{"ops":[{"insert":"Richard Paul’s introduction to the program for the 7"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" International Conference on Critical Thinking (1989) bore the title, ‘Critical Thinking: What, Why, and How.’ This article was divided into three sections: ‘The Logically Illogical Animal,’ ‘Knowledge as Thinking,’ and ‘Lower Order Learning.” The third of these appears below.\n"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"There are a variety of forms of lower order learning in the schools. We can understand the forms by understanding the relative lack of logic informing them. Paradigmatically, lower order learning is learning by sheer association or rote. Hence students come to think of history class, for example, as a place where you hear names and dates and places; where you try to remember them and state them on tests. Math comes to be thought of as numbers, symbols, and formulas, mysterious things you mechanically manipulate as the teacher told you to get the right answer. Literature is often thought of as uninteresting stories to remember along with what the teacher said is important about them."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"We can improve student performance only by improving their thinking. We can improve their thinking only by creating opportunities and incentives for them to think. We can provide them with opportunities and incentives for them to think only if those who teach are given time to thoughtfully redesign their instruction. We can create time to thoughtfully redesign instruction only if we ease the compulsion to cover huge amounts of subject matter. We can reduce the obsession to cover huge amounts of subject matter only if the curriculum is restructured to focus on basic concepts, understandings, and abilities. We can restructure the curriculum to focus on basic concepts, understandings, and abilities only if faculty understand why such a focus is essential to the kind of higher order learning that engenders rational and responsible citizens, workers, and persons, people for whom adaptability is a way of life."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"In education the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We need to forge connections that shape the parts to form a coherent educational whole. To achieve this there is nothing more important than a clear conception of education embedded in curriculum, inservice and instruction. No significant reform of education can take place unless we face up to the didactic lower order conception of education that informs daily practice. Present instruction as structured implies an equation between parroting information and acquiring knowledge. Faculty at every level of education often feel compelled to cover information even though they know their students do not significantly understand and will soon forget it. Behind this practice is a network of uncritically held assumptions that need to be made explicit and refuted, namely:"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"1)     that students will learn "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"how"},{"insert":" to think if only they know "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"what"},{"insert":" to think,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2)     that knowledge can be given directly to students without their having to think it through for themselves,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"3)     that to become educated is to store up content analogous to a data book,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"4)     that quiet classes with little student talk are typically reflective of students learning,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"5)     that students can gain significant knowledge without seeking or valuing it,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"6)     that material should be presented from the point of view of the authority, the one who knows,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"7)     that superficial learning can later be deepened,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"8)     that coverage is more important than depth,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"9)     that students who can correctly answer questions, provide definitions, and apply formulae demonstrate substantial understanding, and"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"10)  that students learn best by working alone in silence."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"One who understands and values education as higher order learning holds a very different set of assumptions, namely:"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"1)     that students can learn what to think only as they learn how to think,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2)     that knowledge is acquired only through thinking,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"3)     that educated persons are those who have learned how to gather, analyze, synthesize, apply, and assess information for themselves,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"4)     that classes with much student talk, focused on live issues, is a better sign of learning than quiet classes, focused on a passive acceptance of what the instructor says,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"5)     that students gain significant knowledge only by valuing it,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"6)     that information should be presented so as to be understandable from the point of view of the learner, and this requires that it be related to the learner’s experiences,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"7)     that superficial learning is often mislearning that stands as an obstacle to deeper understanding,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"8)     that depth is more important than coverage,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"9)     that students can often provide correct answers, repeat definitions, and apply formulas while yet not understanding those answers, definitions, or formulas, and"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"10)  that students learn best by working together with other students, with a good deal of experience in mutually supportive debate and empathic exchange of ideas."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"These contrasting beliefs about education, knowledge, teaching, and learning have contrasting implications as to how textbooks should be written, how instruction should be carried out, and how students should go about learning. If the first set of statements collectively define a didactic conception of education, the second define a critical conception of education. If the first set encourage lower order learning, the second encourage higher order. A paradigm shift is needed to bring higher order thinking [to] classroom reality. The sessions of the Ninth Annual and Seventh International Conference on Critical Thinking and Educational Reform are focused on making this shift a reality."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"}]}

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