Career & Education

Teaching our children to reason

Dr Karla
Hylton

Sunday, June 09, 2019

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Thinking happens automatically, but we don't always think critically or logically. For that to happen, and for good and robust thinking to become second nature, as with everything else, practice is required.

When the mind is trained to deliberately inquire, see both sides of the story, question and make inferences, tough challenges can be overcome and remarkable discoveries made.

Children should learn these skills from a young age, which means that learning to think must also be fun.

Transforming our students into inquiry-based learners will not be easy. The entire classroom climate will have to be changed. Our educators must be retaught how to model and support students in developing excellence in thought process. This begins with redefining the teacher. The 21st- century teacher can no longer be the information keeper and dispenser but instead must become the conductor of learner-based education where knowledge is generated by the student thinking and asking questions.

The aim of teaching students how to reason is for them to 'know' rather than to have 'memorised'. It affords ownership of the knowledge and challenges students to become innovative thinkers. No longer will our students be told what to think and what to do; they will have the skills to question, analyse, compare, contrast and evaluate for themselves.

The days of regurgitating knowledge have long passed and we are now in the era of learning to question, investigate and infer. Hence, the implementation of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) system which strengthens the training of primary level students to reason and think critically.

I cannot emphasise enough just how important it is to have a strong teacher training component as our education system shifts towards intentionally fostering reasoning and critical thinking. The quality of our teachers and administrative support will determine the success of increasing our children's thinking skills.

Critical thinking, also called reasoning, is increasingly important in this 21st century setting where “thinking outside the box” is becoming a staple job requirement irrespective of the career field.

The capacity to reason is a skill which results in sound conclusions based on explanations and evidence. It results from information processing, reflection, problem-solving and evaluation. It also involves assessment of credible sources of information. These skills have irrefutably been shown to enhance academic achievement.

A primary objective of learning reasoning skills is to transform our culture into one of vigorously questioning ideas using Socratic questioning strategies. Socratic questioning is named after the philosopher Socrates who used the teaching method of focusing on discovering answers by asking the right questions. In modern education, this method encourages active learning.

Socratic Questioning

These are adapted from RW Paul's six types of Socratic questions (http://www.umich.edu/~elements/probsolv/strategy/cthinking.htm ).

1. Questions seeking clarification:

• Why do you say that?

• What do you mean by...?

• How does this relate to our discussion?

2. Questions that examine assumptions:

• What could we assume instead?

• How can you verify or dispprove that assumption?

• On what basis do we think this way?

3. Questions that review reasons and evidence:

• What would be an example?

• What is that comparable to?

• What do you think causes this to happen? Why?

4. Questions probing viewpoints and differing perspectives:

• What would be an alternative?

• What is another way to look at it?

• Why is this the best?

• What are the strengths and weaknesses of...? How are...and ...similar?

• What is a counterargument for...?

5. Questions that investigate implications and consequences:

• What generalisations can you make?

• What are the consequences of that assumption? What are you implying?

• How does... affect...?

• How does...tie in with what we learned before?

6. Questions about the question:

• What was the point of this question?

• Why do you ask this question?

• What does...mean?

• How does...apply to everyday life?

Parents can start assisting today by asking their children to consider opposing views and to question the information they are given. Depending on their age, discuss current affairs and examine both sides of the story, look for assumptions, biases and prejudices. Ask open-ended questions and shepherd the thinking process. Do not be quick to help your child formulate solutions. Accept your child's mistakes, for he or she must experience failure in order to grow.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools . She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, biochemtutor100@gmail.com or khylton.com .


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