Recently, myself included, I listened to people complaining much about their college education, for the many courses they had to "teach themselves." So, which is it? Critical thinking skills or paying a lot of money to read and deliver the information to ourselves. If the latter is the case, why would we continue to pay large amounts of money to educate ourselves?
I don't have the answer. However, let's take a look at what defines critical thinking:
According to Critical Thinking. org:
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.
For me it is much simpler than this long and detailed quote. To me, Critical Thinking is taking learned information, assimilating it, and applying it to other information through intuitive leaps.
What does this have to do with education and teaching oneself? Well, for me I think that educators often miss the mark. If there is no base of knowledge the learner cannot make intuitive leaps. On the other hand, many learners come to courses to be "taught" information and for many decades, that is what educators did. Now in the world of No Child Left Behind teachers are more focused on test scores than helping students make intuitive leaps.
As an elementary school student, I was placed in the Learning Disabilities program where I was pulled out of regular classes to attend my Resource learning class. These teachers were tasked with finding a way that helped students, like me, find a new way to assimilating the learning in the mainstream classrooms. What they did was teach us how to grow things, make recipes and on top of that building our reading comprehension. I learned skills that my mainstream classmates did not... applying learning concepts to real world scenarios. Sure, they were often simple topics like doubling or tripling a recipe using fractions and calculating the results. But fractions were not nearly as daunting in this scenario.
How do we get people to apply critical thinking principles when the are taught to not think and relate information to other topics? How do we get past the fear? What do we say to students who feel they had to "teach themselves?"
Caryn Morgan, corporate trainer, obtained her Masters Degree in Adult Education and Training