Critical thinking: testing a new workshop








Earlier this year, I wrote about how I need to reboot my teaching efforts. I am not talking about a complete abandonment of my previous efforts, but just a newer and fresher look. I love teaching. Teaching students make me feel like I am part of their process, and however small my contribution is in the whole picture of their education, I feel like I was there. I love talking to students after sessions to hear what they understood, and the best part of it is that sometimes the students are able to connect the dots right there in front of you. It might not be a Eureka! kind of moment, but just a little insight that suddenly made something else clear for them. I will not deny that I sometimes come into classes where none of the students are interested, and I can’t seem to wake them up, or where everyone just stares in complete silence and refuse to engage with you. Most times, though, there are at least a few who choose to participate in discussions or at least ask some questions that allows you to clarify things and move things forward.

I have been teaching for at least 14 years. I have never used manuscripts, because I can’t make them work for me, but in the beginning I think I held very tightly on to my keywords and went through the information like I just pushed the “Play”-button on Spotify. The class started and “Play” and the lecture just came out of the speaker that was my mouth. Fortunately for me, I hardly ever get nervous, so I could do this pretty effortlessly, but of course it probably was of little or no use to the students to hear me babble on about Boolean logic etc.

In the years that have passed since I started teaching, I have tried to continuously improve my practice. Small changes here and there, assessment, new changes, assessment etc. I believe that it is important to evolve as a teacher even though I have taught for years. Every now and then, as I described earlier this year, I get an itch for change. If I don’t act on it, I feel disengaged and lose my motivation. It doesn’t have to be something big. Maybe just a couple of new activities or new assessment forms, or a new collaboration. Anything, really. It usually starts with reading some new journal articles or new books, or attending a conference.

When I came across DeBono’s “Six critical thinking hats”, I felt like trying this with students. I have long felt that we spend way too much time still on the classic one-shot instruction with “Click here, click here” sessions (database demonstrations). I wanted to include more on critical thinking. After reading an article (1) discussing the thinking hats I made a new session in form of a workshop. I found a newspaper article (in Norwegian) on care technology (like GPS, security alarms etc.) and made questions according to the six different hats that the students could answer in groups. I tested the session on my colleagues, and decided to cut quite a few of the questions to make it more suitable to do in one 45 minute session. Earlier this month, I found an article (about ageing and nursing homes) relevant for master students in nursing, and made new (but similar) questions to all  six hats. I gave the students 10 minutes to read this short article (approx. two pages), but most were done in six minutes or less. There were only eleven students present for this class, so in stead of doing it in groups as a workshop, we had an open discussion. It went really well! The students were happy to get a new framework for critical thinking, I was happy to engage with the students in their discussion, and it felt really fresh for me. I don’t expect this to work as well every time, but it felt great to try something new. The evaluation forms I got also suggested that students need more focus on critical thinking skills, and that they were happy to engage in a more active session, rather than a lecture format. Wohoo!

1. Kivunja C. Using de bono’s six thinking hats model to teach critical thinking and problem solving skills essential for success in the 21st century economy. Creative Education. 2015;6(03):380-91.