Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present these instructional strategies from Teaching Critical Thinking: Using Seminars for 21st Century Thinking by Terry Roberts and Laura Billings. The book shows how a seminar approach can lead students deeper into a text and improve their speaking, listening and writing skills, as recommended by the Common Core State Standards.
This article examines how to create and define speaking, listening and thinking goals and provides examples of where to begin for each.
An individual participant contributes to thoughtful dialogue not only by speaking, but also by listening and thinking. Although speaking is fairly simple to track, measuring listening and thinking skills is much more complicated. It bears repeating that speaking, listening and thinking are all important habits we practice in dialogue. Therefore, all are skills that need to be coached and assessed.
Given that full participation in thoughtful dialogue includes these three interrelated skills (speaking, listening and thinking) we use a multi-step assessment process: (1) Identify, (2) Practice, (3) Assess.
Before starting any seminar or group discussion, we advocate taking some time to set personal and group participation goals. At this point, the more specific the goal related to speaking, listening and thinking, the more likely one can achieve it. Often we hear teachers say they want students to “be respectful” during a seminar and certainly we agree with that idea. But what does being respectful look or sound like?
It is vital to describe participation goals in clear behavioral terms that students understand. In that way, we clarify what the sub-skills of collaborative and intellectual dialogue look and sound like—both to help improve the quality of the discussion and to enable sound measurement practices. Then, we have students practice the discrete sub-skills through discussion. Finally, we assess how the students perform based on valid and reliable data.
The following lists contain suggesting seminar or group discussion process goals for students.
Representative goals for speaking
Representative goals for listening
Representative goals for thinking
The ability to disagree agreeably is a speaking skill as well as a thinking skill. This is an important reminder to students that thinking together through dialogue is not a debate, but rather an investigation of ideas. The goal is to engage in thinking together about ideas in a way that leaves personal prejudices behind.
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