"Our schools are not teaching students to think. It is astonishing how many young people have difficulty in putting their brains definitely and systematically to work…"
One of the most difficult things teachers face is the ongoing quest to teach and assess higher-level, critical thinking skills. It challenges us in many ways: First, teachers’ content knowledge and understanding of the concepts must be at an extremely high level. Second, the lesson design that includes thinking skills must include the use of a taxonomy level. The most popular, Bloom’s, is often used by teachers as a way to measure their lessons, but embedding ‘thinking-skills’ and assessing them remains challenging on a day to day basis.
As, I read this chapter and thought of its implications I was reminded of the opening portion of the book when Moss and Brookhart discussed the idea of an “espoused theory of action” vs. an actual theory of action. We often say we believe that higher-order thinking skills are important and we want to improve them for our students. However, the assignments we require of students many times do not align with those beliefs. A stroll down a hallway in almost any school will reveal a “learning objective” posted on a bulletin board or whiteboard that uses statements such as, “Students will investigate, analyze, and interpret…” , but when you really examine the task or activity, students get by without doing any of those things. Why? Is it a lack of knowledge on the part of the teachers? Is it a deficit within our curriculum that does not provide appropriate activities? Is it that our students are ready for these types of activities, so we change them? Any of these answers may be partially true.
How does the learning target process change that? Well, maybe it doesn’t, however I believe it has the potential to help. Misalignment is a huge issue with curriculum writing and lesson planning. Teachers must establish the instructional objectives in such a way that students have to apply thinking skills within the assignments. This involves flexibility and the use of formative assessment throughout a lesson. If the tasks that we give to students do not ask them to utilize their thinking skills, we are not challenging their thinking as we should. Differentation (see Chapter 6) is the key to successful implementation. As the authors note, “Not all students will learn exactly the same content details and processing skills, but at the end of the lesson , they should all be able to say “I can do those three things. If not, they should be able to say, “I cannot do this yet, so here’s what I need to know.” (pg. 120)
· How do you measure thinking skills and/or creativity in your classroom?
· How often do you use rubrics, not for content knowledge, but to assess higher-order thinking?