Critical Thinking 101?

So I was trying to grade my students’ reading exams today. An exam, btw, that my colleague and I came up with together. As I started looking at the first person’s exam, I realized that I wasn’t entirely sure that I could even answer all the questions so I went back and took the test myself.

One of the questions we asked was, “create 2 critical thinking questions using either when, why, or how.”  – A task that we’ve done some in class.  Anyway, it occurred to me as I was taking the test, that I’m not totally sure I know what “critical thinking” questions are.  It’s a term we throw around in education circles quite freely. And it comes up often in skill team meetings and I nod along with everyone else and agree that “oh yes, our students need to work on critical thinking” but, what does that mean exactly?

So, I googled it. Here’s at least one resource that came up that might lead to others, I’ll try to add more in a bit, but here’s some food for thought to start with. …

http://www.criticalthinking.org/aboutCT/CTquestionsAnswers.cfm

Here’s another, more in brief:
http://www.criticalthinking.org/aboutCT/ourConceptCT.cfm

Back in a bit, after I finish grading a few more tests.

Teaching? Testing?

So, I’m not totally clear what this post will turn in to. I just finished reading the Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet post from a day or two ago. The topic was standardized testing and civil disobedience. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/a-father-agonizes-should-his-s.html?wprss=answer-sheet
I’m not quite sure what got me interested in this blog anyway, but it’s mostly about educational policy and so on. Lately it seems like there’s been a lot of chatter (or backlash) against the school system and teachers in America. I admit, I haven’t been paying close enough attention so I won’t comment much on all of that.

However, one of my colleagues and I have been talking some about testing procedures. Assessment was one of the best classes I took in my MATESOL program and I left the class firmly believing in alternative assessments, authentic assessments, and most of all: purposeful assessment. And yet, I seem to be finding myself falling back into the more typical types of tests. Maybe it’s because I’m still a novice teacher. Maybe it’s the nature of the program in that we teach people to prepare them for university studies. Or maybe it’s because I’m trying to work with colleagues and trying to meet the learning objectives set forth by the administration. We’re encouraged (maybe required?) to make our tests “Communicative” in nature – so no multiple guess etc. That’s fine, but in some ways it still seems like we are testing artificially. I don’t know, maybe I’m just not completely understanding it.

I mean, how do you test reading comprehension anyway? To me, you read to learn to read. Vocab development helps and word parts help w/figuring out new words, but are reading comprehension questions and main idea questions, etc. really the best way to assess this? I guess I’m just not sure. Everything seemed so clear cut and easy and made so much sense in the assessment class. Now, … I guess we’ll see how the first set of finals goes.

Still have a lot to learn I fear.