Are we Prepared to Let our Students Think Critically?

The whole concept of education seems to have changed. In our modern pedagogical jargon we refer to things such as critical thinking, developing reflective judgment, and fostering independent reasoning as the newest tendencies. However, coming to think of it, aren’t those characteristics inherent to the thinking process? Our deliberating, just in order to be ours, doesn’t it have to be critical, reflective and independent?
         The concept of teaching as sharing knowledge with our students is no longer accepted if by knowledge we understand a bundle of facts, truths and principles that are fed in oral or written form by preceptors to disciples. People used to think of teachers as individuals full of knowledge distributing it among the students, pretty much as in the example presented by Jim Scrivener, of a full pitcher (the instructor) pouring its contents into empty mugs (the students).

But if we go back to our ancient Greek roots, we cannot imagine the pedagogues merely splitting out pieces of wisdom. The concept that the real mission of a teacher was to educate their students to think could not have been strange to them.

         In much more modern times but still far from our contemporary millennial thinking, Bloom clarified different aspects of teaching and learning far from just spoon feeding intellectual stuffing. So, critical thinking cannot really be an invention of recent days.
         However, in the teaching of foreign languages, as in other aspects of education, it is appalling how we cling to worn out and erroneous formulae. Just an example of that should suffice to demonstrate it. Only a few years ago in a major learning institution a supervisor was coaching teachers in proper exam correcting techniques telling us that we should exclusively accept the answer offered in the answer key. When we asked why we could not accept an equivalent answer, he told us: “Because the answer in the answer key is aligned with the textbook and this is what the students have been taught and, therefore, what they have to answer.”  We wonder what that type of attitude has to do with educating.
Are you ready to let your students think independently?
Do you accept alternative meaningful answers?


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