Sep 20

What is the most useless thing you learned at school today?

… and other provocative questions to engage in critical thinking.

Hello Glen Cairn Families,

Critical thinking is one of the key competencies we want to foster within students at Glen Cairn PS.  There are many ways that families can encourage children to think critically in everyday situations, but we need to establish a shared understanding of what we mean by “critical thinking” first.  Critical thinking is not as simple as being “critical” or offering a critique, although those activities are related.

Professor Garfield Gini-Newman

Critical Thinking is using CRITERIA when thinking.  We use criteria when thinking all the time, and making that obvious to children will help them hone their own critical thinking skills.  In the video below, Professor Garfield Gini-Newman provides the example of deciding which car to purchase.  While we may have an ideal car (I think mine is an Austin Mini Cooper, old school — what is yours?), there are criteria that we must take into consideration when deciding on the best car for our circumstances.  For instance, what criteria do you think that I would have to take into consideration when deciding on my next vehicle?  I have two children.  We live in Kanata and I need to pull a small sailboat on a trailer from time to time.  I don’t want to spend all my money on a car, but I would like something with some style.  I want to be environmentally friendly and I don’t want to spend too much on fuel.  Those are the considerations that go into forming the criteria I will take into account when ranking different vehicle options for myself.  Do you think that a Mini meets my criteria?  Why or why not?

Have a look at this 5 minute clip of Professor Gini-Newman discussing the “3 C’s – Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking and Collaborative Thinking”.

If you find that you aren’t getting much when you ask your kiddo, “What did you do at school today?”, try asking, “What was the most useless thing you learned at school today?”  Then ask, “What was the most useful?”  Follow up by asking your child to think about what makes some learning more useful?  What are the criteria for a learning experience that make it more or less useful to you?  Feel free to let me know how the conversation goes – I’m sure it will be interesting and lively!

Critical thinking is for everyone.



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  • Isabel

    I love the comment that critical thinking is for all types of learners! Great suggestion for engaging a discussion with my kids. I will use it today!

    • http://twitter.com/shannoninottawa Shannon Smith

      Thanks, Isabel!