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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Critical Thinking & CCSS -- Are They Compatible?

Way back in 1983, the National Commission of Excellence in Education described the U.S. as a “nation at risk.”  That report fostered an opinion that American students, and by extension, American education, were deficient.  The NCEE findings further explained that the demise could be attributed to a failure of education to foster critical thinking.  Predictably, critical thinking became a buzzword in education.

Picture the one room schoolhouse a century ago, presided over by a ruler wielding marm who imparted information and content.  That wisdom was returned by rote.  Students were passive receptacles who dutifully practiced their times tables on slates.

Fast forward to the 1980s when that NCEE report shocked a nation.   There was an immediate focus on providing critical thinking skills to active learners.  The shift to knowing how to think versus rote recall was dramatic.  Starting in kindergarten, teachers began asking open ended questions, encouraging collaborative problem solving, and allowing children to make decisions.  

Now, in the 21st century we have a new buzzword: CCSS.  Over and over, I have heard elementary teachers complain that strict adherence to the Common Core State Standards has supplanted the creativity that was a hallmark of early education and limits the opportunities to teach children how to think.  I wonder if the sense of urgency the CCSS imparts precludes the chances to encourage students to be problem solvers.  Is strict adherence to timelines robbing our students of time to learn critical thinking?  Are they mutually exclusive?  What do you think?

You may be interested in these critical thinking products in my TPT Store: