Tuesday, February 18, 2014

CPD: Creativity and Critical Thinking in Higher Education - Week 4

Week 4 of my Continuing Professional Development qualification in "Creativity and Critical Thinking in Higher Education" being delivered by the DIT  Learning, Teaching & Technology Centre.

Really, really enjoying this module.


We started with Roisin and Jen asking each group giving a verbal presentation of their ideas from the Ideas Exchange activity, concerning gamification:
  • Team Digital  Immigrants proposed the use of Duolingo (https://www.duolingo.com), a free language-learning and crowdsourced text translation platform.
  • Team TELOS suggested the use of Cisco's Packet Tracer (https://www.netacad.com/web/about-us/cisco-packet-tracer) to play "king of the hill"
  • Team JEEVI suggested a game for surveyors on a golf course, and a 3D refrigerator simulator.
  • Team FiveStar (my team) proposed the use of points and badges.

Gamification in the context of education focuses on looking at ways that the features of games; with their use of levels, rewards and competition, can be used in to motivate students to learn. One particular facet of gamification is the use of digital badges to recognise achievement or skills attainment. Some of these badges are broadly recognised. and benefits include making education more engaging and widely accessible. The more the student engages and participates the more badges and points they get.
Talk #1: Critical Thinking by Dr. Gerry Mac Ruairc

Gerry Mac Ruairc from UCD gave a fascinating talk on Critical Thinking, he thinks that in the online teaching world, critical thinking is "sharper" than in the classroom setting.

He discussed the nature of critical thinking, is it a set of general skills or a discipline-specific phenomenon. He suggested that there are problems presenting learning as a hierarchy, it might not always make sense to move from the basics to the more complex.

Reflection: The notion of rejecting hierarchies in education is very dear to my heart, I think the idea of higher-order thinking versus lower-order is a nonsense, they are interdependent, and taxonomies like Bloom's should be renamed as "Bloom's Model".

Gerry presented a general 3-tired model of critical thinking:
  • Critical Thinking
  • Critical Thought
  • Critique
and presented 3 models of critical thinking.

MODEL 1: Four Traditions of Criticality (Stables, 2009):
  • The Critical Method, science-based, e.g. Popper
  • Literary Criticism, cultural studies, e.g. Leavis
  • Social Criticism, e.g. Freire, Habermas
  • The Deconstructive, e.g. Derrida
Reflection: This model got me very excited, these are the themes and the people that we are including in our infographic, and these are people who are featured in my teaching. Karl Popper, the philosopher of science, is featured very heavily in my "Research Methods and Proposal Writing" module. His notion of falsifiability is central to our modern idea of  what science is, and the preeminence of the experiment. F.R. Leavis, the British literary critic, gets a mention on my talk on "Hackers and Hollywood", Leavis wrote a rebuttal to C.P. Snow's The Two Cultures. Paulo Freire and J├╝rgen Habermas, the advocacy researchers, are also mentioned several times in  my "Research Methods and Proposal Writing" module. Finally, Jacques Derrida, the linguistic philosopher, gets a mention in my "Foundations of Assistive Technology" module where we look at the social construction of the notion of disability.

MODEL 2: Critical Thinking in Professional Practice (James, 2010):
  • Critical Skills
  • Critical Knowledge
  • Critical Disposition
Reflection: This model is very good as it breaks down critical thinking into a series of steps and skills, making it clear that Critical Thinking is not a simple, singular concept, but is incremental and developmental.

MODEL 3: Critical Thinking in Assessment and Curriculum (Maton, 2009)
  • Semantic Density versus Semantic Gravity
  • Theory/Academic versus Practical/Tools
  • Verticality versus Grammaticality
Reflection: Karl Maton's model of critical thinking is excellent, it describes the oscillation between practical and theory in any discipline, and how learning outcomes mediate that oscillation.

Gerry mentioned that for assessing Critical Thinking blogs can be surprisingly effective, as well as essays, forums, and wikis to a lesser extent. In this regard he echoed Patricia Broadfoot's call to "challenge educational hegemony", and he suggested the power of capstone projects to overcome over-assessment.

Talk #2: Socratic Questioning by Dave Kilmartin

Dave Kilmartin, Head of the Career Development Centre at DIT gave an absolutely awesome talk on the use of questions in Critical Thinking.

Dave started by suggesting we think of Kipling's poem:

I keep six honest serving-men  
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and 
When And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.
- Rudyard Kipling, "Just So Stories" (1902)

Then asked us to consider the purpose of education, answers included:
    * to develop
                - personally
                - economically
    * "to draw out from"       
                - in a constructivist sense       
                - to develop their own skills
    * to enlighten
    * to increase awareness
    * to broaden their horizons
                - in terms of their discipline
                - in terms of their society
                - in terms of the world
    * imparting knowledge
    * transformation
    * educate individually
                - individually
                - as a group
    * empower them with skills to become autonomous learners
    * question the status quo
    * promote lifelong learning
    * to help understand and normalise the rules of society

Dave mentioned Ron Barnett's 2004 call for an ‘ontological turn’ in curriculum and pedagogy
away from a focus on knowledge and skills to a ‘pedagogy for human being’.

Dave asked us the purpose of asking questions:
    * to stimulate discussion
    * to encourage reflection
    * to look at things at a different angle
    * to test the validity
    * to understand

Some questions are less powerful:
Yes/No, Which, Who When, Where

Some questions are more powerful:
What, How, Why, What if?

What are the components of a well-reasoned argument?
    * Facts
    * Logic
    * Deduction
    * Openness
    * Lateral thought
    * Proof
    * Evidence
    * Multiple perspectives
    * Clarity


Reflection: An awesome talk that gave real, practical advice on how to use questions in the classroom, and what motivates students.

  • Barnett, Ronald (2004), "Learning for an unknown future", Higher Education Research & Development, Vol. 23, No. 3, August, 247-260. 
  • James, N., Hughes, C., & Cappa, C., 2010, "Conceptualising, developing and assessing critical thinking in Law".
    Teaching in Higher Education,15(3):285-279.
  • Maton K., 2009, "Cumulative and segmented learning: exploring the role of curriculum structures in knowledge building". British Journal of Sociology of Education 30(1)  pp 43–57. 
  • Stables, K., 2009, "Educating for environmental sustainability and educating for creativity: Actively compatible or missed opportunities?" International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 19, 199-219

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