Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Expert Teachers' Beliefs about Use of Critical-Thinking Activities with High- and Low-Advantage Learners

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Expert Teachers' Beliefs about Use of Critical-Thinking Activities with High- and Low-Advantage Learners

Article excerpt

In a middle-school science class, a teacher asks students to interpret a graph indicating that the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere has increased in recent decades. Then the teacher asks students to think through what will likely happen should this warming trend continue for another century. After some brainstorming and discussion, aided by the teacher's guidance, the students come up with a set of detailed predictions concerning the impact of global warming. Such a lesson instantiates the concept of critical thinking (CT): "cognitive skills and strategies that increase the likelihood of a desired outcome ... thinking that is purposeful, reasoned, and goal-directed--the kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions" (Halpern, 2003, p. 6). The teacher could have opted to share her knowledge of the topic in a lecture format (an approach comparatively low in CT), but the high-CT lesson had the benefits of making students active in their learning and requiring them to reason as scientists do.

Research has shown such lessons to be educationally effective (for a review see Alexander & Murphy, 1998; see also Brown & Campione, 1990; Lambert & McCombs, 1998; Pogrow, 1990, 1994; White & Fredrikson, 2000). Many educational psychologists and teacher educators regard CT-oriented activities as essential to optimal educational practice (e.g., Browne & Keeley, 2001; Ennis, 1987; Halpern, 2003; Henderson, 2001; King & Kitchener, 1994; Kuhn, 1999; Raths et al., 1986; Resnick, 1987; Torff, 2003). Moreover, contemporary testing procedures increasingly require performances emphasizing CT skills (Yeh, 2002); for example, the SAT now includes an analytic essay--a task posing greater CT challenges relative to earlier formats featuring only multiple-choice questions. Similarly, a recent high school biology exit examination in New York State charged students to write essays describing an experiment that would test a particular theory--a task requiring learners to engage in scientific reasoning.

Accordingly, educational researchers have addressed the issue of how to help students gain CT skills (Brown & Campione, 1990; Browne & Keeley, 2001; Ennis, 1987; Henderson, 2001; O'Tuel & Bullard, 1993; Perkins, Jay, & Tishman, 1993; Pogrow, 1990, 1994; Raths et al., 1986; Resnick, 1987; Torff, 2003). In this work, a distinction is typically drawn between high-CT activities (e.g., debate, discovery learning) and low-CT ones (e.g., lecture, drill), although the amount of CT required of learners in a given lesson may also be treated as a continuous variable.

Teachers' beliefs about high-CT and low-CT activities have been the focus of a growing body of literature in teacher education (Pogrow, 1990, 1996; Raudenbush, Rowan, & Cheong, 1993; Torff, 2005; Torff & Warburton, 2005; Warburton & Torff, 2005; Zohar, Degani, & Vaakin, 2001; Zohar & Dori, 2003), based on theory and research indicating that beliefs influence how teachers interact with learners and organize classroom tasks (Anning, 1988, Calderhead, 1996; Fang, 1996; Fenstermacher, 1994; Hollingsworth, 1989; Nespor, 1987; Pajares, 1992; Putman & Borko, 1997, 2000; Richardson, 1994, 1996, 2002; Smylie, 1988). The subset of this work that focuses on teachers' CT-related beliefs has investigated the relationship between such beliefs and teachers' perceptions of learners' advantage level--i.e., learners' academic track, achievement level, or SES advantages (Oakes, 1990; Page, 1990; Pogrow, 1990, 1996; Raudenbush et al., 1993; Torff, 2005; Torff & Warburton, 2005; Warburton & Torff, 2005; Zohar et al., 2001; Zohar & Dori, 2003). Studies investigating differences in CT-related beliefs for high-advantage and low-advantage learners have been motivated by the assertion that teachers judge high-CT activities to be ineffective for low-advantage learners, whom are purportedly seen as ill prepared to handle high-CT activities and in need of a remedial regimen of low-CT ones (Pogrow, 1990, 1996; Raudenbush et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.