We have all heard the term ‘critical thinking.’ In fact, we all are encouraged to get our students to be ‘critical thinkers.’ But what does this actually mean?  I came across a new term the other day in some reading I was doing which has sparked a lot of internal conflict and questions. The term is uncritical thinking.  When I read it, I immediately went to Google to define critical thinking. As I read the multiple definitions, I noticed an interesting pattern. All of them had a component of what the learner does with the information not what the teacher wants (i.e. – standards stipulate) the learner should do.

The definitions scream of Bloom’s higher levels of cognition.  This inquiry into the definition leads me to wonder if we, too often and definitely unintentionally, teach ‘uncritical thinking’ – the possessing of the one and right answer that we have in our mind when we develop the lesson, look at the standards, or know it to be what and how we learned. In a first grade math lesson, the teacher was addressing the standard for tally marks and graph completion.  She brilliantly led the lesson with multiple questions at the upper levels of Blooms in order to illicit the students’ prior knowledge and basis for where the students needed support. The students were giving amazing answers to her open-ended questions which indicated their learning need was higher that the teaching level planned – tally marks. The indicator was when one student verbalized ‘tally mark’ to a question; the teacher’s voice inflection rose indicating, ‘Yes, they got it, tally mark.’

Interestingly enough, she and I debriefed the lesson, and we talked about her voice inflection at the words tally mark. We then realized that she had indicated to her students that tally mark was the answer (uncritical thinking) she was looking for, but we also noted that had she stopped there, the learning level would have actually lowered in the room.

What is your ‘tally mark?’