What is critical thinking? What does it look like in our classrooms and schools? Is it something we can quantify? I modified Tom Shimmer’s 21st Elevator Answer Challenge by asking colleagues if they could explain critical thinking and what it looks like. Some people had concise answers, but too many had no real answer, especially about how it looks in their lessons or classrooms.
As a district, we spend a significant amount of energy and time on critical thinking, but how effective this is if we don’t really know or can’t agree on what it is. Recently I spent a day at another high school which has spent the last three years pushing the concept of critical thinking for staff and students. I was really impressed by how much success the current administration has had with this initiative (I had been part of the team which first started this journey 5 years ago), but what became apparent to me was the work which still needs to be done. It’s not enough to have posters in class rooms and try new teaching strategies. Tasks need to be rigorous, assessments need to reflect the learning practices, and assessment feedback has to help the student improve his or her work. As a system, we need to keep working on these essential elements in order to move beyond the words on a poster and into some real change in our practice and student learning.