Category Archives: critical thinking

How We Teach Students About Values

College campuses are getting a good deal of attention these days. In fact, we always have something to bemoan about our school systems. Why? One reason is because it is a generally shared experience. However, on close inspection, the education experience will vary for people based upon things that may not align with our values.

One of our values is enshrined in our Declaration of Independance: the “pursuit of Happiness”. The assumption is that this is our own happiness, but we often pursue the happiness of others. Sometimes this is good, such as when we help someone rise and they take us with them. Or we work under someone, help them be successful, then we get to have their job when they promote or move on.  Too often, we allow systems to impede that happiness. If we value the pursuit of happiness, we are obligated to remove as many obstacles as we can. Doing so benefits ourselves and others.

With the holidays at hand (some would argue that we have been in the holiday season since Halloween), and New Year’s nipping at its heels, it is natural and healthy to reflect on our schools. I would recommend this activity with a caveat – ignore your campus mission statement. Those will always align with your values.  Choose a bigger challenge; you are a seasoned professional and are up to the task.

I recently spoke with a student in an accelerated master’s program.  He loved his teachers and felt the peers in the class were great to work alongside.  However, when he signed up for his evening program, no one mentioned he would need to take day classes to fulfill his electives.  No small obstacle when your target market is working adults.  Now, did the college commit a lie of omission, or did the student selectively not hear that detail?  Reasonable people will disagree here.

Thank goodness we are not trying to solve THAT problem.  Instead, take this example and apply it to your school. Why? Because most of us cannot change the big things at our schools, but we can affect the little things.  How we communicate, what we communicate, and when we share all will either keep a student on track or contribute to his or her failure.   Whatever we pursue in our careers, it is usually in our interest to find ways to improve the path for others.  At the very least, we should not knowingly set traps for those who rely upon us to teach them from a place of truth.  We can do this, we can live this.

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Filed under college teaching, critical thinking, higher education, Uncategorized

Great TED Talk for Critical Thinking

I like to think of my classroom as a place for solid infotainment, to steal an idea from television news.  Students need new content to dissect and discuss constantly.  Like it or not, we live in a fast paced society, and that lifestyle has found its way into the classroom. Better to embrace it and adapt then to “fight the good fight” to the bitter end.  The fact is, students need teachers to look for many different ways to facilitate open communication and expose new college students to a wide range of ideas.

Which is why this talk comes in handy during week one.  Why People Believe Weird Things from @michaelshermer is the perfect antidote to the clock-watching and smartphone searching that begins in earnest as we start the fourth hour of class together.  It’s funny, moves from point to point with purpose, and uses so many cultural references (UFO’s, drugs, music, religion) that almost anyone can find a part to enjoy.  I particularly love the backward-masking section because in high school, we actually studied how to find all the hidden satanic messages in heavy metal 80’s rock.

The title gets people talking. Students come to understand the joke in the title…what we consider weird is usually a matter of perspective. What I think is normal; what you think is weird.  Five weeks of critical thinking will cure most of that illness.  A video that makes people laugh, makes people think, and provides dozens of discussion topics, is certainly worthy of any educator’s attention.

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Filed under belief, classroom management, college teaching, critical thinking