Monthly Archives: November 2018

The criticality of critical thinking in the classroom

written by Girish Mulani and Soumen Das Choudhury, Freelance Training Consultants, British Council 

Why do we have brakes in a car? Take a moment and try to answer the question before you read further.

Here are some answers from a class of teenagers:
To stop the car.
To slow it down.
To prevent accidents.

Were these some of your answers? All of them are correct but one may surprise you: So that you can drive fast!

When explored further, this unusual answer responds to another question: What is the real purpose of a car: to drive it or to stop it? And that’s how critical thinking works.

Identified as a 21st century skill, critical thinking can be defined as the process of thinking carefully about a subject or idea, without allowing feelings or opinions to affect you. [1] In other words, it is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skilfully conceptualizing, applying, analysing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. [2]

Often closely associated with problem solving, these skills promote self-directed thinking that produces new and innovative ideas and that solves problems. They are also about reflecting critically on learning experiences and processes, and about making effective decisions. [2]

The process of critical thinking

Critical thinking can be divided into seven stages:
1. Formulate the question clearly and precisely.
2. Identify the purpose, reasons, goals and objectives of what needs doing or answering.
3. Gather information, facts, data, evidence, experiences about the problem from various sources.
4. It’s also a good idea to get different points of view.
5. Distinguish between facts and assumptions / opinions.
6. Analyse and try to find similarities between similar incidents in the past.
7. Conclude and decide on the actions to be taken or opinion to be formed

Critical thinking in the classroom

Very often as teachers, we feel the pressure to know all the answers and to have all the solutions. However, in our experience of being teachers and teacher educators, this has been the most liberating aspect of our practice. When we focus on developing the curiosity of learners to explore and question, it’s not up to us to have all the answers – it’s up to them! We delivered a workshop at the recent ELTAI conference where we demonstrated just how this could be done. Using ‘fake news’ as our topic, we showed teachers how simple learner training can help young people today discern the reliability of all the information that is thrown at them on a daily basis.

These questions can help teachers be more purposeful in promoting critical thinking with their learners:

  • How am I directing learners in the classrooms to think beyond the obvious?
  • What should I do to hone their skills to think beyond the textbook?
  • How can I adapt the syllabus to promote critical thinking?
  • And am I, in fact, asking questions to make them think at all? If yes, what are those questions?

 Resources

  • Improve your own critical thinking skills by doing free Sudoku puzzles. You can pause, print, clear, modify difficulty level and ask, ‘How am I doing?’ in the middle of the puzzle.
  • Encourage your learners to create their own stories based on current events or topics using StoryboardThat.
  • The Critical Thinking Workbook, available as a free download, helps you and your students develop mindful communication and problem-solving skills with exciting games and activities. As a paid support, there is also a teacher’s workbook.
  • For teachers, watch this sample lesson on encouraging critical thinking with the help of the map of the world.
  • For a paid course, Business Result, published by Oxford University Press, comes with interesting case studies at the end of each unit. Except for beginners, there is  one for each level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
  • Preparing charts on a given topic, using song lyrics for subjective interpretation, giving project work, analysing simple situations and showcasing practical aspects of them, brainstorming ideas, reflecting at the end of a lesson on what was learnt and more importantly how it was learnt are some of the ways to promote critical thinking in the classroom.  
  • Watch this creative lesson, Learning to be a superhero, which develops critical thinking.  

 Additional references:

[1] dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/critical-thinking

[2] The Foundation for Critical Thinking at www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766. Last accessed on 21 November 2018.

[2] schoolsonline.britishcouncil.org/international-learning/core-skills Last accessed on 21 November 2018.

 

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Make meetings matter – Expert tips to improve your meetings  

Meetings that run on endlessly or where everyone is preoccupied with their gadgets can be a frustrating part of work for most of us. Don’t jump on the ‘boring meetings’ bandwagon. Here are 4 tips to hold effective meetings that energise your team and leave clear objectives.

1The endgame   

Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve through this meeting. Clearly define to the group what will happen because of this time spent together so they will better focus in the meeting.  Share clear action items, like ‘by the end of this meeting we will have created a marketing action plan with timelines and decided on leads for each activity.’

The medium   

A face-to-face meeting may not be the best medium to achieve your outcome. A shared, collaborative document such as Google Docs provides, or an online meeting platform such as Zoom or Skype for Business can help your team review a proposal in real time. Project updates could be shared effectively through a project management tool or communication platform such as Basecamp, Asana, Slack, or Microsoft SharePoint. Our ‘myEnglish Workplace’ courses delivered online with a teacher to facilitate is a great starting point to practice and build confidence using online collaboration tools for meetings and more.

The invite 

2Meetings are more productive if you engage your invitees even before the physical meeting happens. The meeting actually starts as soon as the invite is sent out. Set a clear, specific agenda so people know exactly what to expect. For instance, ‘identify three business opportunities’ sounds more specific and organised than ‘discuss business development’. Include all the details so that people know the venue and what to bring. Perhaps you could set a task for attendees like ‘think of one key opportunity to share with the group’ so that everyone comes prepared. Effective communication like this helps build long-lasting and effective work relationships. For more tips on relationship building, read this interesting article with language tasks.

The preparation 

3Use the pre-meeting time to carefully plan your approach. Have discussions with key players attending the meeting to uncover any important or sensitive topics. Understand the team dynamics if you want people to collaborate in the meeting and don’t want any surprises. Get a preview of the participants’ thoughts before the meeting. This helps you anticipate concerns, questions or challenges so you can prepare clear solutions.

What are your top tips to make meetings more interactive? We’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave your comments below.

If you know someone who spends a lot of their time in meetings, share this article with them. You could also enquire about our ‘Managing Meetings’ workshop for organisations which focuses on preparation, planning and timing in meetings, and skills needed for chairing a meeting.   

Each year, the British Council reaches over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications. The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs.  Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant in our courses.   

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact us on 0120-4569000 or visit our website for more information.

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