To Prepare Learners for The 21st Century, Kindergarten, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Curriculum should emphasize the Teaching of Thinking
Where everyone else sees roadblocks or obstacles, only good thinkers can see possibilities. Good thinkers are people who employ thinking skills to solve problems, make sense of experiences, make plans, ask questions or organize information to deduct meaning (Nilson, 2016). Thinking skills are the mental activities that one can employ to make connections, process information, create new ideas and make decisions (Nilson, 2016). Everyone may have thinking skills, but not everyone can effectively deploy them. The ability to effectively deploy good thinking skills is developed over time. It is for this reason that 21st schools are emphasizing the incorporation of the thinking skills into teaching to help the learners develop effective thinking skills and apply to solve problems, make decisions and generate new ideas to solve personal and societal problems.
Incorporating thinking skills to teaching students right from kindergarten to higher learning is of huge importance to the learners. According to Tsai, Chen, Chang & Chang (2013), an in-depth integration of critical thinking skills in teaching K-12 learners augments academic rigor and boost results in standardized tests. Through critical thinking skills in instruction, learners get a chance to understand why something has happened but not to simply understand what has occurred. In other words, critical thinking skills stimulate curiosity for knowledge. The deeper understanding of how something occurred serves the student a chance to deeply analyze the circumstances contiguous to the occurrence and the differing viewpoints about the results. This scenario of engaging the learner in deep analysis of the content can be encouraged by a tutor who allows the students to discuss and welcome free thought processes without the urge to rush to what is correct.'
Also, incorporating thinking skills in teaching is a way of motivating learners to develop critical thinking skills which will be useful for them in pursuing their careers and solving problems. When a teacher utilizes various approaches such as questioning and essays that adhere to Bloom's Taxonomy higher order thinking, the learners are engaged in critical thinking (Smith & Szymanski, 2013). In this way, the learner will be equipped with thinking skills that will be of great value in pursuing challenging careers that need critical thinkers to succeed. Moreover, developing critical thinking skills among learners in science fields encourages them to become more experimental, establishing a better understanding of the scientific processes and questioning aspects of the sciences (Tsai et al., 2013).
Nevertheless, thinking skills are varied, and as a teacher, one may need to opt for a few which are effective for the learner given the subject. For example, in teaching chemistry, some of the most effective thinking skills to incorporate into teaching would be analyzing, connecting and generating. Analyzing entails breaking down information so that its parts can be examined and detect the relationships that lead to better understanding of the organizational structure (Jensen, McDaniel, Woodard & Kummer, 2014). Concepts in chemistry are complex, and they have to be split into parts for the student to examine each and bring it together to understand it as a whole. For example, the process of making a gas has to be split into heating, vaporizing and condensing for the learner to understand each step, yet it would be difficult to understand the whole process without splitting into parts.
Connecting is another crucial thinking skill for teaching chemistry. It involves making connections between related pieces of data to construct knowledge (Jensen et al., 2014). Chemistry is a course made up of several topics which student understands is dependent on previous topics. Using connecting, the teacher can help the learner to connect concepts from previous topics to better understand higher concepts.
Similarly, generating is a thinking skill involving the production of new information, products or ideas (Jensen et al., 2014). In teaching chemistry, the learner is given an opportunity to utilize the acquired knowledge to produce new innovative products through their independent projects.
Incorporating thinking skills discussed above in teaching a chemistry class needs a skilled choice of teaching approaches. These may include discussion, questioning, and project-based teaching. Discussing encourages free thought processes among the students which in turn stimulates a deeper understanding of the concepts. It is when the students have deeply understood the concepts that they can analyze the circumstances surrounding their occurrence (Tsai et al., 2013). On the other hand, questioning teaching approach helps the learners to explore and discuss concepts. When questioning is used to introduce a concept, the students will be able to recall and explore previous content related to the current one and connect the two as a foundation for understanding the present concept. Likewise, project-based teaching in chemistry allows the students to apply the acquired knowledge in generating new products through the projects they have been guided to establish.
In summary, incorporating thinking skills in teaching is essential as it helps the learners to increase their scores on standardized tests, develop critical thinking skills and to become more experimental by understanding scientific processes. Thinking skills are varied, and a teacher may choose those that best suit the subject being thought. Successful incorporation the thinking skills need accompanying teaching approaches that allow the student to develop those skills.
Jensen, J. L., McDaniel, M. A., Woodard, S. M., & Kummer, T. A. (2014). Teaching to the test or testing to teach: Exams requiring higher order thinking skills encourage greater conceptual understanding. Educational Psychology Review, 26(2), 307-329.
Nilson, L. B. (2016). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. John Wiley & Sons.
Smith, V. G., & Szymanski, A. (2013). Critical Thinking: More than Test Scores. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 8(2), 16-25.
Tsai, P. Y., Chen, S., Chang, H. P., & Chang, W. H. (2013). Effects of Prompting Critical Reading of Science News on Seventh Graders' Cognitive Achievement. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 8(1), 85-107.
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