Category Archives: Schools

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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Quality at the core

It was a day-long conference dedicated to raising standards of quality in education. The speakers and audience — some of the best teachers, trainers, heads of schools and representatives from expert education bodies like NCERT, Quality Council of India, CBSE, IATEFL, AI-NET, NCTE, Accreditation UK and English UK — made it an unforgettable experience.

Organised by the British Council as a part of a week-long series of programmes around schools, the Quality Standards in Education conference held in Delhi on 29 November aimed to advance the debate about quality standards in education, to look at current thinking and practice in relation to quality in schools and what currently is happening to ensure that quality.

ELT expert George Pickering addresses a session the Quality Standards conference in Delhi

ELT expert George Pickering addresses a session the Quality Standards conference in Delhi

Presentations looked at the factors that can influence quality in the classroom: our teachers and the way they develop professionally; our examinations and attainment targets; the role that teacher associations play; we are particularly interested in discussing how professional associations for schools can be influential in supporting school development and in setting standards. They looked closely at the English Language Quality Standards Programme and the benefits it brings to participating schools.

There were discussions around institutional capacity building and the importance of quality being embedded in a school’s systems.

Experts from various organisations spoke about their experience in the area of quality in education and how they contributed to it. Discussions revolved around continuous professional development for teachers and forming associations for schools as a means to further quality.
The audience participated enthusiastically and many interesting questions were posed to the speakers. An audience member passionately asked about what could be done to raise the profile of teaching as a profession to encourage more talented people to aspire to become teachers.

Ashok Pandey, Principal, Ahlcon International School, while presenting a session on a roadmap for an Indian professional association for English medium schools, stressed on the importance of knowledge sharing among peers and said that only schools that share their knowledge and expertise can remain competitive in today’s day and age.

More information on the English Language Quality Standards Programme is available at https://www.britishcouncil.org.in/english-quality-standards/

Or you can write to elqsp.india@britishcouncil.org

Contributed by Shivangi Gupta

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Schools of the future: digital, inclusive and empowering

Action Research success stories by accredited teachers were in focus on the second day (3 December 2014) of the Teacher Accreditation programme organised by the British Council in Delhi .

The first session chaired by Dr Angela Cook included discussions on International Learning and Global Education where action researchers addressed global issues in the education domain prevalent in most countries and how they are being addressed internationally. The researchers experienced that kids learn better when they are empowered and given responsibilities, whereby they can interactively mix with other children, be more confident and innovative in their thinking and actions. Not only children but this serves as a learning process for teachers as well.

The other simultaneous session chaired by Arijit Ghosh focussed on discussing digital Innovation in the classroom to enhance learning capacities. Action researchers through their experience learned that digital games are a smart way to teach, learn and map what is being taught to the curriculum. This is not only true for higher achievers but covers children with all abilities. Smart and digital media component attracts students easily and ensures complete involvement as children are always enthusiastic about playing games and in turn learning playfully.

After informal discussion and exchange of opinions over refreshments there were two simultaneous and engaging sessions for mentors and mentees. The former chaired by Karanam Pushpanadam focussed on challenges and opportunities for mentoring Teacher Researchers. The mentors came up with concerns which they face while guiding their mentee for the action research projects. They believe certain level of flexibility in the completion timeframe, regular face to face interaction with mentees for better understanding and communication, multiple review stages, restricted submission size are some aspects which if included as guidelines in delivering the 2 3 4projects would facilitate the mentoring process and enable achieving better and more result oriented outcomes.

The other concurrent session featured action research success stories which centred around projects aimed at inclusion and mainstreaming students and learners with special needs. This session chaired by Rittika Chanda Parruck featured some truly interesting cases where it has been observed that exposing children with special needs to activities is one of the best ways to assess their strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly. This is a positive and good practice of inclusion which makes children happy and gives them a direction. Susan Douglas mentioned a very interesting practice followed in the UK which is a more social rather than medical model of inclusion of children with special needs where a school adopts to the needs of a child rather than the other way round. She emphasized that every child is educable provided they are placed in the right settings which they deserve. The presenters acknowledged British Council’s support and effort to bring a positive change in the lives of children with special needs through their work in action research projects.

The final session of the conference featured a keynote speech from Andy Buck on Schools of the future: Time for change. He pointed out that as teachers their prime responsibility lies in instilling aspirations, resilience and confidence in children to face challenges to be successful as a human being and as a professional. A favourable climate is what he referred to in terms of the learning
environment in a class can immensely impact children to feel included. Teachers should
give their student a voice so that they may take charge and work together towards inclusive
growth. Andy acknowledged the work of all action researchers and their contribution towards
making a positive change in schooling for children.

The Teacher Accreditation Conference concluded with closing comments by the chairperson Susan Douglas who acknowledged the participation of all teachers, teacher researchers and all those who supported to make the conference a success.

Contributed by Ruma Roy.

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Teacher researchers – the agents of change

The Teacher Accreditation Conference being held in New Delhi as part of a week-long series of events around school education began on 2 December at with participants from all over the country enthusiastically contributing through various sessions in the field of action research not only in English but education system as a whole.

Susan Douglas who chaired the conference  and briefed the participants on the context of this  event.

Susan Douglas who chaired the conference
and briefed the participants on the context of this
event.

The programme began with a welcome note from Susan Douglas who chaired the conference and briefed the participants on the context of this event. This was the first time that an electronically operated voting pad was distributed for participants to key in their opinion on Q&A polls held after each session. Instant statistics were generated and displayed, which ensured complete involvement. The result of these polls will eventually feed into a high level roundtable of policy makers to be held on
4 December.

Sam Freedman, Director of Research, Evaluation and Impact at Teach First

Sam Freedman, Director of Research, Evaluation and Impact at Teach First

Sam Freedman, Director of Research, Evaluation and Impact at Teach First spoke about the value of research in education system. He emphasized on the importance of creating research based professionals, the steps that leads to research based profession and the positive changes that teacher researchers may bring about.

 

A session on action research success  stories

A session on action research success
stories

Next was a session on action research success
stories chaired by Rittika Chanda Parruck
where accredited teachers presented stories of
their successful research for Improving
Mathematics and Science Teaching. The other
parallel session chaired by John Shackleton featured presentations from ELTReP recipients and Connecting Classrooms researchers on English Teaching. There were interactive Q&A rounds after each session for the audience to share their experience and views on action research.

Dr Angela Cook spoke on the GTA programme in India

Dr Angela Cook spoke on the GTA programme in India

Dr Angela Cook, an independent consultant
in the education sector spoke about the
Global Teacher Accreditation (GTA) programme
in India. She pointed out the GTA model is adaptable for all students and this can develop a new level of professionalism and motivation in individuals associated with teaching at various levels.

 

The morning and noon sessions were followed by a round of informal interactions and knowledge sharing over tea while the participants viewed poster exhibition of research submissions by themselves and their fellow researchers. 

6

An engaging session by John Shackleton

An engaging session by John Shackleton

After a round of evening refreshments and discussions was an extremely engaging session by John Shackleton who interactively explained Continuing Professional Development (CPD) framework and how this could help a teacher develop as a professional and evolve into a Teacher Educator to contribute to the teaching profession in a meaningful way.

 

A teacher an award for research

A teacher an award for research

The day concluded with a lot of enthusiasm and positivity over certificate distribution to successful Global Teacher Accreditation Awardees as a token of appreciation and acknowledgement of their meaningful contribution through their research efforts. Participants said they found the sessions engrossing and look forward to many more such effective engagements as this experience enabled them grow as professionals.

Contributed by Ruma Roy.

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Delegates from Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Taiwan visit Indian schools

The British Council is holding a week-long series of programmes around schools education in Delhi which began on 28 November with the international launch of its global publication Innovations in Continuing Professional Development for English Language Teachers followed by a conference on Quality Standards in Education on 29 November.

On the third day of the Schools Week, 27 Inward Study Visit Delegates from Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Taiwan visited Indian schools to observe the Indian curriculum in schools systems. The delegates were first taken to the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) at Karnal which is a government-run residential school. This school, where 75% students are from rural and underprivileged backgrounds, is run by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India.

Schools Inward Study Visit Delegates from Taiwan, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia at the JNV School, Karnal.

Schools Inward Study Visit Delegates from Taiwan, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia at the JNV School, Karnal.

 

The delegates were taken on a tour of the school and were explained various aspects the school system and the curriculum being followed through interactive sessions with the school authorities who also acknowledged the Connecting classrooms programme by British Council and its positive impact. The Connecting classroom programme is also a part of their annual report.

Next, the delegates were taken to the DLF School at Ghaziabad which is a recipient of the Global School Enterprise awards. This is a privately-owned school and markedly different from JNV Karnal. The principal of this school presented to the delegates the ways their association with British Council in the last five years has enabled them gain international exposure and build their capacity.

The contrast between the schools covered in the visit gave the delegates a view of the socio-economic range that Indian school system spans and of the adaptable model that runs equally well for rural and urban set-up of the education system.

Contributed by Ruma Roy.

 

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