Enhancing Learning and Thinking

By Robert F. Mulcahy; Robert H. Short et al. | Go to book overview

15
Evaluating Programs That Claim to Teach Thinking Skills: Critical Issues and Options

Carmel French and Fred French

A multiplicity of programs claiming to teach problem solving, metacognitive strategies, critical thinking, reasoning, and cognitive instructional strategies abound as evidenced in this volume and in work by Chipman et al. ( 1985) and Chance ( 1986). Despite the multiplicity of programs to teach "thinking," no specific and comprehensive basis to understand the effectiveness and efficiency of such programs exists, with the possible exception of work by Baron ( 1987). Nevertheless, school jurisdictional administrators, to name but one group, would like to know more about the effectiveness and efficiency of these programs.

There is a real need to understand the nature and merits of these programs since, as stated by Sternberg ( 1983), thinking skills programs have the potential to be both a tremendously valuable component of learning and another bandwagon in education that may cause considerable harm. Differentiating among these options is critical for education and the learner.


THE NATURE OF COGNITIVE INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAMS: BASIS AND EVOLUTION

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of thinking skills programs, a clear understanding of such programs is needed. While this may appear to be a simplistic given in any evaluation, there are many approaches to the teaching of thinking. Baer ( 1988) states that educators and psychologists have yet to develop a body of knowledge about the nature of thinking, much less the teaching of thinking. Yet over two hundred programs that claim to train thinking skills

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