We all know the importance of teaching critical thinking skills with students in the classroom, but how do we foster critical thinking skills with adults in professional development settings such as an Intel Teach course—especially in online environments? How do we encourage our participants to reflect deeper, elaborate more, and collaborate effectively on ideas and discussions?
Share your success strategies and ideas between October 15 and November 20 to have your name entered into a drawing for a wireless headset. A minimum of 10 community participants must respond and engage in discussion for the drawing to be held. The contest will end November 14, but the thread will be still available for future discussion.
Unfortunately, for legal reasons, we can only ship prizes within the U.S.,but the contents of this discussion are applicable to every Intel Teach educator worldwide, so please help build a solid set of tips and resources for everyone. We look forward to your contributions.
One thing that comes to mind for me is how my fourth grade team has evolved. Our current team is very close and collaborates daily. We have a team wiki that we use regularly and we have classroom wikis linked to each other so we can easily check in with each others' classrooms. Just two years ago, essentially the same team was very much splintered, in large part because we were located in three different areas of the school and only one part of the team did anything online. We knew we needed to do something about our disunity, so we created our team wiki, and each member bought into it. Little by little we became a team again. Eventually we added google docs to our collaborative tools and now do things such as create field trip notices, work out grade-level activity plans, and share notes about students without even meeting face-to-face. An extra plus is that our face-to-face meetings are more efficient because we often have a lot of the work already hashed out online.
It sounds like you were able to create a strong community by idnetifying real needs within the community, and finding resources that serve those purposes. Staying focused on tasks that you can accomplish gives everyone a feeling of purpose and a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm. Kudos to you and your team for finding that commom bond.
What I have found to help encourage inquiry in the teachers I am training is to give the them plenty of time to learn and practice the skill we are teaching. If they have a product at the end of the training I can them facilitate refelctive discussions. These discussions are carefully structured with questions that require reflection, synthesis, and analysis.
How you ask a question is as effective with adults as with students. You need to open up questions to open thinking. If we want deeper questions, we need to make sure we ask a question that will create thinking. Carving out time for discussions and sharing of ideas is so important.
When working with adults I have found it helpful to make sure there is an opportunity to share their voice at the beginning of a session. They seem to be more willing to engage in a discussion when we do this. Online, having them post thoughts on a topic and requiring them to respond to other posts seems to get he creative juices flowing and helps to get to the critical thinking level. It seems as though the more we discuss, the higher level the thinking seems to flow.
Making sure that participants know you recognize and respect them as producers and not just consumers of information is critical. Adult learners bring a wide variety of skills and knowledge to the training environment, so I try to build on that. I have used a structure called Give and Get at the beginning of a training series where partners interview one another to get reponses to these questions: 1. What are your ideas about what you can GIVE to this group? (What might you bring to the table that will benefit everyone? What are your strengths?) 2. What do you hope to GET out of this training?
Partners then introduce one another to the whole group. This is a good way to acknowledge that everyone adds value to the group and to begin building a viable learning community. Of course, this is easy to do in a face-to-face environment with chart paper and markers for every pair, but with advances in technology, you can accomplish the same thing online. Using breakout rooms in Elluminate is one way I've facilitated pairs or trios collaborating on a task and then reporting back to whole group. You can even import their screens into the home window so they can use them as they share.
When I am inserving adults (educators), I break up the day with inspirational videos. I want the adults to be motivated and excited about InTel Thinking Tools.
I found the following videos very inspirational:
**YouTube- No arms, no legs, no worries Nick Vujicic
**Inspiring student of how an autistic student helps his team win a basketball game in Rochester, N.Y. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/02/23/earlyshow/main1339324.shtml
**You Tube- Against All Odds
Patrick Henry Hughes was born blind but plays in the University of Louisville pep band thanks to the aid of his father.
I attended a seminar once for facilitators called "Numb Butts, Numb Minds", basically if your participants are sitting there politely listening to you like good little learners, they will retain almost nothing. I've taught primary, HS, and adults and this rule is practically the same for any age-group.
During a f2f training session, select activities that are meaningful and will bring people out of their seats and participate.
For an engage community discussion, select topics that will do the same and structure and foster the conversation so that others feel like they can contribute and receive valid, useable information.
How do we encourage our participants to reflect deeper, elaborate more, and collaborate effectively on ideas and discussions? ONLINE
There are many things I use in an online setting to get the participants to reflect and collaborate. I use Discussion Groups where a question is posed and the participant has to give an initial answer and is then required to respond again to the other participants. I do that with their assignments also. They are pre-warned in the beginning of the course that an answer of "yes or I like that" is not an appropriate response.
Video chats are also a nice way for the participants to conference/respond to each other.
The participants are also required to take a survey at the end to reflect on the course and instructor.
How I've found success with encouraging deeper discussions online is to use the socratic method to my participants' posts. If they post a response, I consistently come back with a deeper question to help them think it through more effectively.
I also encourage them to find videos from YouTube, Schoolsworld.tv, or Edutopia that demonstrates their thoughts - if applicable.