1 Developing Critical Thinking Skills Saundra Yancy McGuire Slide 1 TutorLingo On Demand Tutor Training Videos To view Closed Captioning, click on the Notes tab to the left. For screen reader accessible documents, please click on the ADA Transcripts tab on your launch page. This link contains complete transcripts, action plans, and resources for each workshop. You may also access these documents by clicking on the Resources button. After completing the workshop, return to your launch page to complete the evaluation. Each workshop will be timed and tracked and submitting the evaluation will validate workshop completion. Slide 2 Hello. I m Dr. Saundra Yancy McGuire, retired Assistance Vice Chancellor and Professor of Chemistry at Louisiana State University. And I was also the director of the University Learning Center, the Center for Academic Success for about 12 years. And so today we re going to talk about a topic that s very important in tutoring sessions, and that is how do we teach critical thinking skills to the students that we re tutoring. And so I d like to start by asking a reflection question, and that is, what do you think are the primary goals of a tutor? So I d like for you to think about that and write down about two or three goals that you think are really, really important for tutors to do in their sessions, and when you write down those two or three, I d like for you to decide, among those, which one do you think is the absolute most important. So I ll give you a minute to think about that. Slide 3 I m sure you came up with lots of answers to the question about the primary goals of tutors. But when I ve asked this question to tutors, and I ve asked the questions to many, many tutors, typically the answers come in one of two types of categories. The first category is tutors may say, Well it s really to help students understand the concepts or its to explain information to students, or, really, to help students solve problems. The other category is tutors will say, It s really to help students understand how to learn the information themselves. And although all of those goals are really, really important, I think that the primary goal, really, is to help students learn how to learn the material on their own, because if you teach students how to learn on their own, then they re going to be able to focus on the basics, and even though you might have been thinking, well, if I teach students how to learn on their own then they re going to learn to tutor themselves and I ll just work myself right out of a job. But that s not going to happen at all, because they will still come to you, but they will learn the
2 basics before they come to the session and then when they come to the session, you ll be able to work with them on more advanced topics, and you ll be able to go over the kinds of concepts and skills and strategies that they ll need to use to really master the course at much higher levels. Slide 4 So if we re talking about teaching students how to learn on their own, then we re really talking about teaching them critical thinking skills. So how can you teach students to think critically? Well first you ll have to teach them what critical thinking is, because most students will not have heard this, and then you ll have to teach them very specific learning strategies, and you ll have to model these strategies during your tutoring sessions, and then finally, you ll have to give you students some time to practice these strategies during the tutoring session so you can see exactly how they re applying the strategies that you ve taught them. Slide 5 So we ve said that you ll need to teach students what critical thinking is, but in order to do that, you have to know yourself, and so we re going to talk about a definition of critical thinking. Now I ve seen many, many definitions of critical thinking over the years, but there s one definition that I particularly like, and that s a definition that was developed by Diane Halpern who is a psychologist at California State University, and she states that critical thinking refers to the use of cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. Now I ve taken that definition and actually simplified it a bit, and just paraphrased it to say critical thinking is using your brain to develop plans and actions that lead to success. And I think this definition is particularly important in tutoring situations, because, as tutor, you want you students to use their brains and not rely on you for doing everything for them. Many times I ve talked with tutors, and they tell me that their most frustrating experiences are if they re tutoring a student and it s clear that the student really doesn t want to think for themselves, they want the tutor to do everything. But many times, students are resistant to thinking on their own simply because nobody s ever taught them how to do this, how to think and how to learn. So as tutors, you can actually teach your students to use their brains to plan and implement strategies that will allow them to learn the material. Slide 6 Now we ve said that critical thinking is just using your brain to develop plans and actions that lead to success. And Halpern has identified some thinking skills that can be taught and learned, and these skills were cited by Melissa Thomas is the Handbook for Training Peer Tutors and Mentors that was edited by Agee and Hodges, and she cited these skills that were actually developed by Aretz, Bolen, Devereux, and the three main components of those thinking skills are content knowledge, a positive disposition towards critical thinking, and also reflective thinking skills. And reflective thinking skills are also known as metacognitive skills, and I found that these skills are not difficult to teach students, and when students learn these skills, they have a huge impact on student performance and success.
3 Slide 7 We said that metacognitive skills can be very, very impactful in student success, and I want to give you an example of that. This is an example of one of my students. Back in April of 2011, Joshua sent me an e mail, and in his e mail, he said, Personally I m not so good at chemistry, and, unfortunately, at this point, my grade for that class is reflecting exactly that. I m e mailing you, inquiring about a possibility of you tutoring me. And so Joshua knew that I was a chemistry professor, he was doing horribly in the subject, and he wanted me to tutor him. I did not tutor Joshua at all. Instead, I had one session with him when I taught him metacognitive skills, and then five weeks later, on May 13th, he sent me the following e mail after he had made an A in the course. He said, I made a 68, 50, and another 50. These were on the test before we started working together. And then after I taught him metacognitive thinking skills, he made an 87, an 87, and he even made 97 on the final. He says, I ended up earning a 98 in the course, but I started with a 60, which was a D. I think what I did different was make side notes in each chapter, and as I progressed onto the next chapter, I was able to refer to these notes. I would say that in chemistry everything builds from the previous topic. So I was able to teach Joshua how to analyze what he was doing to learn the information and then to use specific skills that allowed him to be very successful. Slide 8 So let s talk about exactly what metacognition is. Metacognition was a termed that was coined by a cognitive psychologist John Flavell back in And he identified metacognition as the ability to think about your own thinking. When I talk with students about it, I explain that it s almost as if you have a big brain outside your brain looking at what your brain is doing. And that brain is analyzing, is she just memorizing information for the test or a quiz or does she know the information well enough that she could teach it to others? It s your ability to be consciously aware of yourself as a problem solver, recognizing that if you have a problem, for example, you have a math test coming up and you re not sure exactly what the content is going to be, then that metacognitive brain steps in and starts developing strategies and says, Well I can consult the syllabus. I can talk with other students. I can talk with the professor. So if you are in problem solving mode, then you re not sitting back waiting for someone else to answer all of your questions, you know that you can get answers yourself. And it s your ability to not just monitor your mental processing but to plan and control it. So if you find yourself in memorization mode, then that metacognitive brain says, Stop, you need to understand this information, and you start implementing strategies in order to do that. Slide 9 Now that we know what metacognition, let s talk about how tutors can teach students metacognitive strategies. Well, first, you re going to have to teach students that they can think about their own thinking and learning and purposefully plan strategies that are going to help them
4 succeed, and then you ll have to teach them that there are different levels of learning, of thinking, and this is Bloom s Taxonomy of Thinking Stills, and we re going to talk about that more in just a minute. And then you can teach them that they can solve many of the problem situations that they think they are encountering just by generating strategies and trying out those strategies to solve that. And so I want to give you an example of what we re talking about, how you can use metacognition to solve problems. So, for example, if there s a test coming up and before we talked about a math test, but it could be a Spanish test or history test or any test and the student doesn t know exactly what the content is going to be or how to prepare for the upcoming test, then that metacognitive brain springs into action and immediately generates strategies like look at the syllabus, talk with the instructor, talk with other students in the course, and even form study groups with other students in the course. Study the textbook and the notes very carefully, and then schedule a tutoring session after studying the material on your own, because when you go to the tutor, you want to make sure that you re able to ask those questions that you could not have answered on your own. Slide 10 So it s very important for us to spend some time teaching our students what cognitive science has demonstrated over the past 30, 40 years, or so. The things that we know from the cognitive science about learning are, one, active learning is much more lasting than passive learning, and that s why, in tutoring sessions, many times student will want to come and have the tutor explain everything and they re only listening, but that s very passive. But if you get the student to talk and explain things to you, that s much more an active strategy. We know that thinking about thinking is very important. Teaching students how to control their thinking and even using the term metacognition is extremely important. And we also know that the level at which learning and thinking occurs is extremely important, and that s where Bloom s Taxonomy of Thinking Stills comes in, and we re going to talk more about that in detail now. Slide 11 We re going to look at the levels that deal with cognitive thinking. And as you ll see, the very lowest level is remember, just straight memorization. If you re memorized the definition verbatim or a formula verbatim, then you re at the remembering level. If you re at understanding, then you could take that information and paraphrase it, put it in your own words. You could explain it to your 80 year old grandmother or your 8 year old nephew in words they understand. If you re at applying, now you can take that information and you can answer questions that you ve never seen before, you can work problems that you ve never seen before because you really understand the information. If you re at analyzing, you can take any concept, a complex concept, and break it into simpler components and show how those simpler components fit together to
5 make the overall bigger concept, and if you re at evaluating, you can look to ideas, to theories, to ways of approaching a problem, and evaluate whether one of those is better than the other, one is more likely to lead to success than the other. And, finally, if you re at creating, now you can come up with your own theories, your own ideas, your own ways of doing things. That no one else has developed. Slide 12 Now that we ve seen what the levels of Bloom s Taxonomy of Thinking are, I d like you to do a little activity. I want you to think of two courses that you ve taken, but those two courses required you to learn at different levels of Bloom. Maybe one really focused more on memorizing information and another focused more on really evaluating information that you had learned, and I d like for you to think about how did you study differently for those two courses, which one of those courses do you think you put more time and energy and effort into, and, finally, what strategies did you use to excel in the course that required you to think at higher levels? So take a few minutes to think about that and then jot down your answers, and we ll come back and talk about how you can use that in your tutoring. Slide 13 When you were thinking about the things that you may have done differently to study for the course that focused more on lower levels of Bloom s Taxonomy of thinking, versus higher levels of Bloom s, I m sure you came up with the idea that you really had to do a little bit more for the courses that focused on higher levels. And so this is very important for students to recognize. And one way that tutors can get students to focus on the different levels of thinking according to Bloom s taxonomy is really to ask them some very specific questions. For example, what level of Bloom s are most of the questions or problems in this particular course, and how are you planning to study for the next exam? How are you planning to prepare for the next tutoring session? What actions are you going to take to learn the material in the course? And your students will actually see that if it s about memorization then they require a very different strategy than applying. And then asking them how much time are they planning to spend on learning and really focusing on the idea that they really should plan to spend about two hours outside of class for every hour that they spend in class. And then also, what do you think what does the student think they can do to make the tutoring sessions more productive, and actually have them spend some time reflecting on that. And they should come up with if they ve memorized the information they need to memorize, before they get to the session, then you can work with them on higher levels of Bloom s. Slide 14 Now it s important to help students really understand the different levels of thinking according to Bloom s, because if the students you tutor are similar to the students I ve worked with, you re going to find that most of them will have worked only on the lower levels when they were in high school. And I have asked many, many students this, in fact, in class, and as you see on the next slide, many of them say that they ve worked only at the remembering and understanding levels in
6 high school, but they recognize that to excel in their college courses, they ve got to be operating at least at application and analyzing or higher. So the question is, how can we help students move from those lower levels of Bloom s Taxonomy of Thinking to higher levels? And there is an excellent tool with that that I m going to share with you now. Slide 15 To help students move from lower levels of thinking to higher levels of thinking, we know, but the students don t always know, that they have to learn the material in the course as the course is progressing, as opposed to counting on memorizing information just the night before the quiz. And so a very, very useful tool for helping them to implement strategies to move themselves higher is the study cycle. The study cycle is something that was developed at the Learning Center at LSU, and we adapted it from a cycle that Frank Christ had come up with. He called it the Preview, Learn, Review, Study System, and we ve adapted it slightly. But there are five steps to the study cycle. The first step is to preview information that s going to be covered in class before you go to class. What this does is gives your brain the overview of what s going to be covered, and we know from cognitive science that if you brain as an overview, a big picture, it s much easier for it to get the details and put into a big picture, as opposed to just getting the individual details and trying to create its own big picture. So it s important to preview, spend about ten minutes before class, previewing what s going to be covered. And then the second step is just go to class. Often, I ve found that students want to rely on the tutor to teach the information, and some of them don t even go to class. But we ve got to really affirm with our students and really insist that they go to class because we need them to hear the information from the professor. And then if they ve done the previewing, they can actively engage in class sessions. And then the third step is to review what was covered in class as soon after class a possible so they can move information from short term memory into long term memory, and that also only takes about ten minutes if they do it correctly. But now it is important for them to do more intense longer study sessions, and we ve actually shown them how to organize those. We call them intense study sessions. So they need to just take a minute or so to plan what they re going to learn, and then 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 50 minutes to really study very intensely the information, and then review what they ve just studied, take a break, and if they have time, they can come back and review it, and then finally, they need to assess their strategies and determine if they re getting the results that they want to get using their current strategies or if they need to implement additional strategies to complement the ones that they re using. Slide 16 Now that we ve seen the steps in the study cycle, I d like for you to think about, in your own learning, in your own classes, which of the steps in the study cycle do you routinely perform, and which ones do you not usually perform, and of those that you don t usually perform, which ones do you think you might be able to add in order to be more efficient in our own studying? And I ask
7 this because I ve had many tutors tell me that once they start using the study cycle themselves, they find that they are much more efficient in their learning. They re still making the As that they were making them before, but now they re making them in a lot less time and much more efficiently. Slide 17 There s a great tool that tutors can use to get students focused on metacognitive strategies, and that s a metacognitive get acquainted activity that you can use with your students in the first tutoring session that they have with you, and it s just a series of questions that you can ask. And these series of questions actually appeared in the book Teaching Study Strategies in Developmental Education that was edited by Hodge s, Simpson, and Stahl, and it was an article by Simpson and Rush. And Simpson and Rush proposed three questions, the first being, What do you believe is important to understand and learn in this particular subject, whether it s chemistry or history of psychology or philosophy; then the second question is, What do you believe to be critical characteristics of successful students in this course ; and then finally, How will you study and prepare for exams in this course. And I think these are great questions because it gets the students focused on the idea that the students who do well in this course are not just the smart students, but they re students who spend time on the material, students who use very specific learning strategies, and they will have to develop for themselves learning strategies that they will use throughout the course to learn, as opposed to focusing on getting information just from the tutoring session or studying the night before the exam. Slide 18 In addition to helping students understand what metacognitive thinking skills are, it s very important to model these skills during a tutoring session so that they can really understand what they are and know how to implement them when they are away from the tutoring session. And so I m going to give you an example of a way to do that. So, for example, if you were tutoring psychology, let s say, and you were helping one of your students understand the different between negative reinforcement and punishment, you could ask the following questions to help them understand how we can move up the levels of Bloom s Taxonomy of Thinking. So, for example, at the very bottom level, at remembering, the question might be, What are the definitions of negative reinforcement and punishment? Just tell me what the definitions are from the textbook or from your notes. And then they can give you those verbatim. But at level two, at understanding the question would be, How would you explain the meanings of those terms in your own words, or if you had to explain them to a sixth grader, what words could you use to make sure they understood them, and then at application, or applying the question might be, Of two scenarios and you could come up with two scenarios or you might get some scenarios from a textbook which of those two scenarios is an example of negative
8 reinforcement, and which one is an example of punishment, because now they ve got to apply the definitions. And then at the next level, analyzing, you might ask what aspects of the examples that you ve just given them, those scenarios, would determine the category into which they had placed each scenario. So what was it about one scenario that made it negative reinforcement? What was it about the other scenario that made it punishment? And then at evaluating you could ask them something like, If you were with elementary school students, do you think that negative reinforcement or punishment would be much more effective if we wanted to change their behavior? And then finally, at the level of creating, we might ask them to come up with two scenarios from their own life, one in which they were punished and the other where they actually were exposed to negative reinforcement in order to change their behavior, and how did they feel about each one of those, and which one of them did they think really impacted their behavior more? Slide 19 So we ve seen one way of modeling metacognitive thinking by moving up the levels of Bloom s Taxonomy of Thinking, but there are some other ways to model this for our students, and one example would be just to select a sample problem or a question and then solve it yourself or answer it yourself for the student, but as you re going through solving the problem, just explain out loud, verbalize exactly how you are arriving at the solution or the answer, showing the student how you broke the problem or the question into parts, and, also, you can demonstrate how you would use resources to get information that might not be at the forefront of your brain. How do you find out the formulas that you need use? How do you use the index in the textbook to come up with specific definitions of terms that you might not know? And using those resources like the textbook, like the notes, even information on websites, many of your students will not be familiar with how to use those resources. One way would be to reverse roles. Take something that you are pretty certain that your student really understands very well and ask them to play the role of tutor, you re going to play the role of students, and as they are tutoring you in this particular area, then listen very carefully to what they re saying, listen for the metacognitive learning strategies that they re discussing, and see which ones of those that you think might need reinforcing so that you can go over those again with the student, and then encourage the student to really start implementing those strategies as soon as possible so that they can see the positive results, and that s very motivating for them to continue to use them. Slide 20 Another really important aspect of metacognitive thinking is understanding how you are as a learner, your characteristics. For example, do you find that you re much more alert and a better learner during the morning hours or during the afternoon hours or in the evening? Do you know what your learning style is? Are you a visual learner? Do you like to look at images? Are you an auditory learning? Do you find that you learn better from listening to things? And so you can have your student determine his or her learning style preference and personality type. And there are
9 many different kinds of assessments that students can do to see exactly what are their specific characteristics that might impact their learning. And there are very many free websites that provide short assessments of the kinds of characteristics of students as learners. And if you talk with your supervisor, they can give you more information about sites to go to, and, also, how you yourself can determine what your specific learning preferences are. Slide 21 So as an activity, what I d like for you to do now is think about how might you tutor someone who has a preference for images, is a visual learner, differently than you might tutor someone who obviously is more of an auditory learner. They tend not to like pictures and visuals but they love listening. And if you had to tutor these two students, what could you do differently and how could you model good learning strategies to each of these students? Slide 22 So to summarize what we ve talked about in this session, we ve said that we can teach students, tutors can teach students critical thinking strategies, what critical thinking is, and specific strategies. We can teach them that metacognitive thinking is a very effective process for increasing their learning. We ve seen that Bloom s Taxonomy of Thinking is a great tool for moving students from lower levels to higher levels of thinking, and we ve seen that the study cycle is an effective tool for helping students move from a lower level to higher levels, and we ve seen that when we model critical thinking skills, metacognitive skills, and have our students reverse the roles with us as tutors, they become the tutor, we become the students, then this can really help to ensure that the student really understands what critical thinking is and will be committed to using critical thinking skills going forward. So I want you to have fun developing your students into critical thinkers who can become their own tutors, but you ll never be out of a job if you do that. Slide 23 Now it s time to complete the evaluation. Please go back to the launch page and click on the Click to Complete Evaluation button in the lower right hand corner. Each workshop session is timed and tracked and submitting the evaluation will validate workshop completion. For screen reader accessible evaluations and resources, please click on the ADA Transcripts link on your launch page.