Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Few Thoughts about Thinking

I think two of the most important things we want our children to become are lifelong learners and critical thinkers. I believe that if we teach children to think critically, they will constantly learn. So, our greatest challenge as teachers is to help children learn to think.

When I taught upper elementary grades, I found that students often wanted to be told what to do and simply regurgitate facts because it was "less work" than trying to find a solution for themselves. That's fairly typical of children, and people in general, to look for an easy way out, so there's no real surprise there. Now that I'm working with younger children, I notice that many of them don't seem to know how to begin to solve problems and think for themselves or even know that they should try to think for themselves. Many young children's very first response is to ask or tell an adult. It seems that they expect to be told every move to make and often have very few problem solving skills. In my experience teaching kindergarten and 1st grade, I've become more and more aware that focus of WHAT children learn is not nearly as important as teaching them to THINK in order to learn. When we teach the critical and higher level thinking skills within the subject matter, learning the content will come. Confucius once said, "Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous."
In a day of such emphasis on achievement tests and high scores, the urge is to drill facts and academic knowledge. It's hard not to "teach to the test" when your job and reputation revolve around the scores of your students. However, it's in the students' best lifelong interest to learn to think. Alec Bourne is quoted as saying, "It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated." Where does that leave our achievement test scores? Hopefully where they should be...as just one piece of evidence of learning - not as the ultimate indicator of the child's intelligence or education.

Think about it. As Aristotle said, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

1 comment:

Joan said...

So many children (and their parents) think that the purpose of school is to "get good grades" or even just to "stay in school." School would be entirely different if the focus was on "becoming educated".