Teacher Learning Community

Fall 2016 TLC: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

Course leader:
SEED Team

Teacher Quality Standards

  • QS III: Teachers plan and deliver effective instruction and create an environment that facilitates learning for their students.
    • Element D: Teachers establish and communicate high expectations and use processes to support the development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

This set contains all of the resources used in the Fall 2016 TLC Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills.

Resources

Creating Classroom Culture

In this activity, we will explore what a classroom culture of high expectations looks like. We will review resources, engage in action research, and collaboratively share on the discussion board to think about the role of a growth mindset, mistakes, and persistence in a classroom with a culture of high expectations.

Lesson Planning for Higher Order Thinking

Essential Question: How do teachers support students in developing critical-thinking and problem solving skills and persisting in the application of these skills in their learning?

In this activity we begin the challenging, yet crucial task of developing lessons that promote and encourage critical thinking.  Proficient teachers in our focus teacher quality standard need to explicitly teach “higher-order thinking and problem solving skills.” But as you will read in this activity’s anchor resource, critical thinking is not a skill that can truly be taught.  Students need “background knowledge and practice” in order to think deeply and apply that knowledge. In this activity you will collect data about students’ thinking through a classroom observation, then engage in an analysis of this data with a peer. As you dive into this process, keep in mind that “Teaching students to think critically probably lies in large part in enabling them to deploy the right type of thinking at the right time.” The hope is that by the end of this activity, you will have a better understanding of how to guide your students’ to know what tools they need and when they need them in order to address complex problems and challenging learning opportunities.

 

Structures for Problem Solving and Higher Order Thinking

Essential Question: How do teachers support students in developing critical-thinking and problem solving skills and persisting in the application of these skills in their learning?

In activity two, you designed lessons that promoted and encouraged critical thinking. This activity will extend those efforts to include opportunities for students to apply deep thinking and solve challenging problems. Planned learning experiences should  allow students to creatively approach problems in a way that encourages the asking of thought provoking questions, relates prior knowledge to new information, and reexamines beliefs in a logical fashion, all leading to valid conclusions. In order to do so, you will examine one of three learning structures that lend themselves to “students applying higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills to address challenging issues”: whole class discussion, collaboration or non-linguistic representations.   

 

Handing the Thinking Over to Students

Essential Question: How do teachers support students in developing critical-thinking and problem solving skills and persisting in the application of these skills in their learning?

In this activity you will revisit the Grant Wiggins article, Great Teaching Means Letting Go. You will explore some new anchor resources as well that will encourage you to think about how you balance the ideas of “letting go”, providing students with voice and choice, while holding them to high expectations and mastery of standards and learning targets. We have intended for you to see throughout this TLC a progression from what the teacher does, to what students and teachers do together, to what we empower students to do in a less directed, yet intentional, way.