Not to brag, but I teach at three colleges. It’s a cold hard fact of the college professor lifestyle. One is a traditional community college where I teach in the classroom. Another is a non-profit liberal arts college operating mostly online. My third and longest employer was a publicly traded for profit college that went into the hands of private for-profit investors in 2016. I teach here in person and online.
I appreciate my varied teaching history for the simple reason that it provides ample evidence and example to test my beliefs as they relate to higher education. Further, as I believe higher education’s delivery methods and purpose is experiencing rapid change, it may be best to keep many eggs in my basket. Historically (a good critical thinking lens to employ), I know at least one will falter and one will flourish. I take the same approach to financial investment – buy what you know but diversify as much as is reasonable.
I’m preparing for a July class at University of Phoenix (UOP), which means it’s time to dust off the syllabus and see what to cut and what to revise. Certainly, more about spotting fake news is appropriate.
Related to that, I have been reading and re-reading this: the [ill] logic of climate denial and still crafting details to make it a classroom exercise rather than a lecture. I’ve found the really important thinking parts of the class need to be discussed. I can test terminology knowledge and MLA formatting with little effort. It’s the big points, mostly that your thinking is at the very least a “shared” phenomenon, I want them to analyze.
Each college schedules under a different philosophy. However, each of those philosophies embrace TED Talks! UOP holds all undergraduate classes once per week, at night, for four hours, over five consecutive weeks. With twenty hours of class time to fill, my behavior is like a shark’s. I am in constant motion, seeking the signs of new content and relevant activities and useful discussion topics. I just bought a thesaurus, thanks for asking.
This TED Talk video, linked below, is wonderful on many levels. I find it best to introduce at the end of week one (analysis of the state of our own thinking) or the start of week two (exploring ways of asking questions to uncover knowledge…aka the Socratic method…named for Dave Socrates).
First, it breaks the ice. Giving people a video demonstrating how silly “other people’s” ideas are generates some laughs.
Second, it aligns with the learning outcomes of the course and the pace of the textbook reading.
Third, it let’s me introduce my personal biography and history with critical thinking. The section on backward masking transported me to junior high, the early 80’s. I completed 4th-12th grade at an evangelical Christian school. I grew up learning the facts about the Bible and America that are on full display today at the highest levels of our government. Backward masking was introduced as the means by which secular society influences behavior. We mostly just found it funny, at times a bit scary.
I learned then that if you want someone to believe like you do, you must teach them. It rarely happens organically. Yes, I do believe the best higher education is non-organic. I might someday come to the conclusion that the best higher education is delivered by non-humans. I might even concede that it may be best to circumnavigate the person entirely, and just teach AI inspired devices directly. But that’s a blog for another day.
Living as a human my entire life, the last decade paddling around in higher education, shaped my belief that teaching via processes like “childhood” and “school” generate behaviors and values we desire most consistently. The everyday observations by a child regarding adult behavior, and the standardized lesson planning in education shape our beliefs, often to the detriment of other types of critical thinking evidence.
Media often gets the credit. Media however, is the wall of your echo chamber, bouncing back what you’ve already put into the universe. When it reaches your ear again, it sounds like confirmation. But it’s not…
It’s like this video I show in my critical thinking class. When we are told what is “there”, lo and behold, we usually “see” it. And that is where critical thinking begins in earnest!