Working the Critical Thinking “Standards”

Our project last week, was to think of a real scenario in which to apply the CT standards. I chose to work through a framework for considering the implications of a marketing slogan for campus. Here is my assignment posting:

Assignment:  Find questions in Exhibits 5.3 through 5.10 (pages 109-116) that you can explicitly bring into your [scenario - or instruction]. Discuss how you did so. Try to make the questions as empowering as possible. In other words, however you decide to “present” the questions help participants [students] see that such questions, when deeply embraced and applied, lead [to better outcomes, and for students to] the development of intellectual skills.

I envision this professional application as something happening within the working committees on campus around our most recent and pressing problem – decreasing student enrollment. Along with this problem, we have identified the need to describe a campus identity and create a marketing plan, that will be embodied through a strategic plan.

One aspect of the campus identity that has been identified is creating a culture that serves students well.

Below, I have asked a series of questions using the CT elements and standards in a pretend scenario that campus and committee members could use as we discuss and evaluate the ideas that come to the table during the coming weeks of planning and discussion.

Additionally, I believe the CT disposition of intellectual humility will be essential in this entire process. This assumes the stance that none of us has the “right” answer that must be defended. Rather, an attitude of openness and listening should govern the process whereby people of good will and aptitude place their ideas on the table. Ideas are listened to with the disposition that the final answers will grow from the collective ideas. We resist going to right to solutions until voices are gathered and reflected upon. We assume that something new will emerge from the collective idea-gathering that may be something new that hasn’t yet been considered.

With that said, here is one application of the CT framework at this point in time:
1) Campus members consider the identity statements (slogans, vision, mission, strategic plans) from their points of view. Are they clear, broad enough, relevant to the market? Are they too restrictive (students only, traditional students only, faculty only, etc.)? Do they leave out other stakeholders? Are they too narrow? Are the ideas irrelevant to what would really draw new students? What do contemporary students really want?  Why do they choose one college over another? Have we identified and included all critical points of view?

2) Have we asked the right questions based on our issues?  How do we attract more students to campus? What is our niche? What’s our identity? What can we do well? What shouldn’t we be trying to do? What new programs might we need? What programs can be cut? What are the consequences? Do we understand the significance of the questions? What would the outcomes be? Are the questions we are asking encompassing enough to allow us to uncover the underlying assumptions and implications of our ideas?

3) Do we need more information ? What do we really know about the marketplace drivers? We have a lot of hearsay and what people believe, but has anyone done a recent market study? What does it say? What about focus groups on campus and in the community? What would they tell us?  Is every voice getting heard or are certain groups getting more floor time? What other information do we need about students, faculty, staff. the community?

4) What are the underlying assumptions that we are making in this process? Have we identified and analyzed these? Take for example, the notion of online learning. Is it the magic bullet? One question would be, “What does this stance assume?” – That our students want more of online learning? Is it really the best thing for them? How much would it really cost in design and development, training, and materials development? How would we monitor quality? Is there anything contradictory in our findings – for example, the gap between student needs/wants and student abilities? Can all students be successful in online courses?

5) Consider the implications of any vision/mission/strategic plan action item: Ask, are our expectations too high… too low? Unrealistic? Are our goals measurable? Attainable? Are they significant? Did we leave anything out? Take for example, a student-centered attribute as a campus vision. What are the possible implications of this in a consumer-driven culture. What impact might this have on retention, quality and standards when under-prepared students meet high academic standards? Does the statement need to be qualified? Do the terms need to be well-defined with a common understanding by all sides so to avoid unintended consequences.

6) Additional standards we can use to evaluate the ideas that come to the table would be clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, and fairness.

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2 Responses to Working the Critical Thinking “Standards”

  1. Pingback: Game Day #1 (Monday) Active, Critical Learning Principle | Gaming Learning Principles Exploration

  2. Pingback: Game Day #1 (Monday May 21) Active, Critical Learning Principle | Gaming Learning Principles Exploration

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