Thursday, June 3, 2010

Critical Thinking and Social Studies - Day 1

This week I attended a feedback session with the curriculum writer for the Social Sciences in Saskatchewan, and I am now sitting is a session with Roland Case of the Critical Think Consortium related to the renewed Social Studies documents. I have used a number of CTC documents and resources before - and I'd recommend them for librarians, history teachers etc. In particular, the summary of critical challenges is good place for social science teachers to start.

The type of Inquiry Case is discussing is a relatively closed form of inquiry. He makes the argument that we have specific curricular outcomes, so we need to direct the questions. However, he sees Inquiry as a process of developing intellectual tools throughout. Critical thinking doesn't happen at the end, it occurs throughout.

Case looks at 5 categories of tools (which he had us develop through concept attainment):
  • Background Knowledge
  • Criteria for Judgement
  • Critical thinking vocabulary
  • Thinking strategies
  • Habits of mind
Students learn inquiry tools and practice inquiry skills throughout, using AFL to practice, get feedback and improve. The culminating task is interesting: "Draw on at least 3 past civilizations, recommend the the 2 most important lessons for future societies to remember. As a class, agree on the 5 most important lessons, and in groups, create artifacts to bury in a class time capsule expressing one of these lessons." I like this question because it is built to cumulatively, has some group and individual task, involves the academic and tactile and lends itself to differentiation.

I was gone from the session for an hour while attending an admin meeting, then returned to activities designed to help us check our understanding of the difference between fact questions, feeling/preference questions and questions that require informed judgement.

I think that these sessions would be helpful for teachers as they work towards understanding inquiry, and the direct ties to curriculum are very helpful. I'm hoping to see more on backwards design tomorrow.

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