What Does It Mean To Be a Critical Thinker? 21/180

Contributed by Heather Morningstar, High School Principal

Remember the old adage, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat that day. Teach a man to fish, and he will never be hungry”? This theory necessitates that schools today teach students to think critically. Critical thinking is a term often bandied about in educational circles, but what does it REALLY mean to be a critical thinker?

Critical thinkers are:

  • inquisitive about a wide range of issues
  • concerned with becoming and remaining well-informed
  • alert to opportunities to use critical thinking
  • self-confident in their own abilities to reason
  • open-minded regarding divergent world views
  • flexible in considering alternatives and opinions
  • understanding of the opinions of other people
  • fair-minded in appraising reasoning
  • honest in facing one’s own biases, prejudices, stereotypes, or egocentric tendencies
  • prudent in suspending, making or altering judgments
  • willing to reconsider and revise views where honest reflection suggests that change is warranted

(Based on the APA Expert Consensus Delphi Report description of strong critical thinkers).

HOW DO WE FOSTER CRITICAL THINKING IN OUR SCHOOLS AND HOMES? What kinds of conversations and activities develop these skills among our students?

What trends will influence the future of learning? 18/180

Future_road_signThe Center for Digital Leadership recently shared a white paper that proposes several trends to impact the future of education. Which do you think we should consider in Salisbury?

  • Use of personalized learning strategies: Exemplars should demonstrate evidence of tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments to the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, and cultural backgrounds of individual students.
  • Use of project- and work-based learning opportunities: Whether facilitated through strategic partnerships or cross-disciplinary collaboration, exemplars should demonstrate the use of hands-on teaching methods and/or extracurricular experiences that provide opportunities for students to apply their learning to complex questions, problems or challenges.
  • Use of data-informed instruction: Exemplars should demonstrate how formative assessments and data analytics are used to inform day-to-day instruction and early warning indicator systems.
  • Evidence of deeper learning outcomes: Exemplars should demonstrate adoption of deeper learning outcomes that emphasize an academic mindset whereby students have opportunities to master core academic content, think critically, solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively and direct their own learning.
  • Evidence of strategic technology integration: Exemplars should demonstrate how the strategic and effective use of technology and digital media supports and enhances the teaching and learning process.
  • Evidence of innovative uses of time: Exemplars should include an explanation of how competency-based learning, flexible scheduling or other non-traditional uses of time are supporting personalized learning.

How to learn? From mistakes, 17/180

Learning by its nature includes a certain amount of failure. “Learning is instructional,” says Diana Laufenberg, former teacher at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy and now Executive Director of Inquiry Schools. Take ten minutes to watch this inspiring talk to see and hear about an innovative classroom built on experiential learning, student voice and learning from failure. What elements should be a part of our classrooms?

Collaborative Conversations! 16/180

Today, district and building leaders met with secondary department chairs to discuss department goals, curriculum needs, focus areas, etc. Our department chairs and department members have much to share about teaching and learning. They are the experts in their content and often possess knowledge of diverse resources. What other groups within our organization would provide additional perspectives? How do we include various perspectives (both within and outside the organization) as we innovate this year?


Is asking questions an art? 15/180

W150324_POHLMANN_FOURTYPES-1This year we are asking a lot of questions in order to develop a vision for teaching in learning in our classrooms in 2020.  I found an article that helps us understand different types of questions.  These questions take into account the view of the problem (wide or narrow) as well as the intent of the question (affirm what we know or discover something new).  

The authors (Tom Pohlmann and Neethi Mary Thomas) highlight 4 types of questions.

  • “Clarifying questions help us better understand what has been said. In many conversations, people speak past one another.”
  • “Adjoining questions are used to explore related aspects of the problem that are ignored in the conversation.”
  • “Funneling questions are used to dive deeper.”
  • “Elevating questions raise broader issues and highlight the bigger picture.”

This is an interesting resource as we continue on this journey to innovate Salisbury!