The paper will outline how students of today are approaching towards learning with a different perspective then their ancestors. The reason is the change that has been brought about due to the ease of information that is available to the students of today as compared to the past. The paper presents the shift in the learning process of the students in light of the Habits of Minds theory as presented by Costa and Kallick’s which states that the students who want to be self directed learners approach towards their learning experience with different attributes and a framework which motivates them to achieve a preset goal. The paper holds the stance that this is the best way of learning for the student not from the perspective of his excellence in academics, but, in the work place environment as well.
Introduction and Background
A lot of emphasis and discussion has been there in schools, colleges and universities regarding the importance of critical thinking that should be injected into the students. Although this looks like a healthy sign for not only the student but also the society and the economy that the next generation that comes out would have a better reason to support and bolster their decisions, however, research tells that this is not as perfect as it seems. The reason is the fact that although 90 percent of the teachers and instructors claim that they emphasize more on critical thinking, only 19% of these 90% have been able to clearly define clearly thinking, 9% have been able to define inference and assumption clearly and 4 % were able to differentiate between inference and implication.
Therefore, the paper will first discuss several topics that will show the importance of critical thinking in students today and then connecting it with the recommendations which state why teachers are required to know what they actually think they know discussed in the above paragraph.
The research case study that has been used for this report talks about Habits of mind which refers to the specific traits and characteristics of those students who actually follow a set framework to come up with decisions that are based on critical thinking and self directed learning. The difference that this theory argues is the motivation and goal that a student has when he uses the approach of self directed thinking or when he chooses to be spoon fed by the teacher.
Factors affecting Critical Thinking in Learners
As described in the article by Costa & Kallick, 2009, it has been argued that one of the biggest reasons why many students are not able to think critically in a university level educational institution is their past experience and practice in learning context. In simpler words, critical thinking has to be practiced somewhat suddenly as situations appear, but, as these students have always studied in a locked up set pattern of course outlines and prescribed learning material and methodologies, these students do not have the practice to think critically in the university level when they are suddenly exposed to courses where critical thinking is considered to be important (Visser & Schlosser, 2003).
Also, the learners are made to learn in the closed class room environment where time is the biggest constraint. The teacher tries to cover as much as possible in the class room without encouraging discussions and criticism that students can indulge on each other performance or stance. A set piece of assignment with a similar learning material and similar format for assignments is given without leaving room for students to use their own creativity and reasoning to make a difference. These students are then conditioned to work like this in their future lives as well.
Habits of Minds
According to Kallick and Costa, students should be taught concepts in a way that they are not spoon fed to them that they can use as it is for certain problems. But, they say that the students must be motivated and encouraged to use their own decision making model and a process of understanding the concept so that they are able to face every problem related to a concept easily rather than only facing the fixed problems blindly. Therefore, in their article, Kallick and Costa present a framework that they say most of the leaders and pioneers use to come up with decisions that are not based on rote learning, but, they have invested their brain behind them. They are mostly accurate, more logical and more reasoning is applied then by a spoon fed student (Costa & Kallick, 2009).
Discussion on the Literature
Outline of the “New Style of Learning”
According to the new style of learning, the learning is more than the material that we read in books and produce in the final exam paper. It is more applicable with the real life situations that students face when they go out in their professional lives. It is important because they must be ready to face the challenges as they are mostly quite different from the ‘idealistic theory’ that is written in light of ‘ideal’ situations.
The outline suggests the following:
1. Students must not be educated in a locked up environment, but they must be encouraged to select their own electives and do what they enjoy doing.
2. Reasoning activities based on real life or hypothetical cases must be encouraged to put students in a test where they have to themselves apply the knowledge that get from class discussions and books.
3. Critiques and discussions in class room must be encouraged rather than skimming through topics to complete the set number of topics.
4. Debates, mock trials and arguments are the best way to enable the students to express themselves.
5. Students should be taught and allowed to use visual representation of their ideas and thoughts that led them to come to a certain conclusion.
6. Must be encouraged to right their own small researches, articles and think sheets in which they reflect the concepts that they have in their minds.
7. Encourage use of other sources apart of course material only.
8. Increased equity amongst participants so that everyone has a level playing ground to compete with others for their own reasons and conclusions (Visser & Schlosser, 2003).
Do you agree with it?
In the appendix, a pie chart and a graph show that 90% of students and employees agree that they want to be a self dedicated learner and a critical thinker. Not only do they want to be one, but also they confirm that they have used this technique and have seen better results and clearer concepts rather than being spoon fed. Of these 90%, 40% are students who claim to score better in MCQs through critical reasoning and self directed learner and the rest are employees who maintain that they have been able to present their point of view of more confidently and actually use their degree in their work rather than making guess work and copying what others do.
Moreover, a person who has a goal to learn something rather than passing a grade will be a better off conceptually rather than the later one. The reason is that there is a level of satisfaction that one achieves by having a reason to be proud that he knows what he learns and has the ability to reproduce. These people learn from their experiences, and while they experience, they make mistakes which they tend not to make in the future unlike others (Costa & Kallick, 2009).
Is it Suitable for University and Workforce for today?
Certainly, both University and Workforce life are interrelated. What a student learns in university and college life, he tends to replicate the attitude at work as well. For example, taking an example of a Self directed student, we see that when he comes up with a case study, he identifies the specific problem that he has to solve rather than going hit and trial method. Then he analyzes the nature of the problem and makes a plan how he will use different sources to overcome it. Then he chalks down alternatives that can be used. Uses different methods and by the time he short lists the best answer, he has now mastered the concept. Now this very student will also go and have a professional life and we can see what brilliant manager he will turn out to be. Today, multinational and large companies do not take into account the grades that a student has achieved, but, they basically hire the attitude that a student has. The attitude of flexibility, responsibility and critical thinking which the student has learned from his educational background.
Role of Habits of Mind
The following table is self explanatory in terms of the role of Habit of minds in a life of a student.
(Costa & Kallick, 2009)
The table shows exactly the qualities that students should have in order to have the ‘attitude’ that will enable them to stand out from the crowd of all the ordinary rote learners. These are the students who will be motivated to follow all the habits that are listed on the left side of the table. For example, they will have a persistent attitude and fear and giving up on a problem will not be a part of their life any more. They will know the difference between loosing and giving up because when you lose, you learn a lesson, when you give, you shy away showing your incapability not only to others but proving to oneself as well.
All of us use critical thinking in our daily lives. When we go for shopping or decide a place to eat out, we undergo a decision making process in which we evaluate time, money simultaneously. Why cannot students use this critical thinking in their daily lives as well? If they do, they will be the most rational decision makers that the world has ever seen. Same goes for those who are self directors and follow the habits of minds framework. They evaluate, analyze and work for solutions and conclusions rather than taking the shorter route and ending up with texts and alphabets on their minds, and no experiences.
Therefore, coming back to the start of discussion, where teachers were discussed, we see that these teachers should start learning what critical thinking is and how they can play the essential role in the life of the student while driving the student to the right path. A student without a direction will not be able to handle the critical thinking and self directed learning practice on his own and will be de- motivated soon.
Teachers must also encourage students in a way that they must be put into situations where they can be evaluated not on the basis of their exam performance but the way they explain and express their point of view. The tutor should encourage the critical thinking that the student uses rather than the wrong concept that he has used. They must not evaluate on the answers, but, evaluation on the process of coming to the answers is important.
(Costa & Kallick, 2009)
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Campbell,J.(n.d.). Theorising Habits of Mind as a Framework for Learning. Retrieved May 1, 2009. From Central Queensland University website: http://www.arre.edu.au/06pap/com06102.com
Costa,L. & Kallick,B. (2009). Leaning and Leading with Habits of Mind :16 Essential characteristics for success. Alexendria: USA
Siemens, G (2006). Connectivism: a new learning theory? Retrieved from http://www.surfspace.nl/nl/Redactieomgeving/Publicaties/Documents/Connectivism%20a%20new%20theory.pdf
Visser, L & Schlosser, C (2003). Crtitical Thinking in distance Education and Traditional Education. Quarterly Review of Distance Education.