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Information is not knowledge.

Most teachers recognize the need for promoting critical thinking, regardless of content. They understand that learning is truly accomplished when students can acquire, evaluate and apply knowledge. Possessing information without the ability to apply it is not enough. Such a deficiency can be traced to a method of teaching that overemphasizes memorization and rote learning. Rote implementation, which is often robotic, differs from application, which is a thought-process activity. Children are capable of higher thought processes, especially as they mature. Most current educators are starting to place more emphasis on critical thinking.

A Boston College study for the National Science Foundation concludes that standardized tests force teachers to teach lower-level thinking skills and rote memorization. The study also states that this approach distorts a curriculum by encouraging teachers to "teach for the test." Mathematics and science curriculum reformers say it is more important to know how to analyze and solve problems than to simply state procedure (USA Today, October 19, 1992, p. 1).

Until recently, instruction for critical thinking has received limited attention. This may be the result of several conditions, but two reasons are probably paramount. First, teacher preparation has not adequately emphasized research, analysis, evaluation and transfer of learning. Successful teachers invest more time to thoughtful planning and "self-reeducating" in order to apply qualitative, not just quantitative, learning.

The second reason critical thinking has not been emphasized is the scarcity of methods for meaningful appraisal of curriculum programs for teaching essential skills. Supervisors must encourage teachers to strive toward these aims. While discussion and written reports are valuable for promoting thinking skills, school administrators should support teachers' use of more challenging activities, as well.

Many factors should be considered when teaching critical thinking: teachers, pupils, objectives, content and goals. Teachers can promote thinking skills if they are cognizant of student abilities and proficient in promoting such skills as analysis, creative thinking and transfer of learning.

The real test of a pupil's competence is not the mere possession of a skill, but rather performance in a real situation. If students are to be effective using a particular skill, content and materials should be related to their experience. The teacher must provide relevant, appropriate elements. And no one recipe or specific strategy should be used.

What activities can the teacher use to promote critical thinking? The following are some of the many strategies:

* Outlining

* Graphing

* Summarizing

* Interpreting

* Relating

* Classifying

* Researching

* Evaluating

* Identifying fact or opinion

* Generalizing

* Drawing parallels

* Self-correcting

* Applying criteria

* Hypothesizing

Measuring qualitative outcomes of instruction is challenging. It is much easier to assess quantitative skills that can be measured in objective questions. Preparing students for these types of tests should be avoided, however, because they de-emphasize higher-order skills.

In conclusion, determining the solution is as important as finding the correct answer. Critical thinking skills are more important than rote implementation. Keep in mind the old proverb: "Give me a fish and I will be fed today. Teach me how to fish and I will be fed forever."

The purpose of this column is to stimulate debate of timely issues affecting children, youth and families. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of Childhood Education or the Association for Childhood Education International. Readers are urged to respond by submitting manuscripts or letters to: Dr. Joan Moyer, CE Issues Editor, Curriculum, Arizona State University, Tempe AZ 85287-1711.

Permission to reproduce this column intact is not required. Copyright [C]1995 Association for Childhood Education International.

Norton Tener is Professor of Secondary Education, Rowan College of New Jersey, Glassboro.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Association for Childhood Education International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Issues in Education
Author:Tener, Norton
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Column
Date:Dec 22, 1995
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