Teaching What's Not On the Test
The state and national tests have been the magnets that pull the content matter taught in schools. Schools cannot afford to ignore what's on the tests, so they automatically teach to those standards in order to stay in the game. An unintended consequence is that what is not on the tests is put aside and not taught at all. Ok most non-essential things are eliminated, except for dinosaurs, not on any test, but prevalent in every elementary school. The state legislators and the test makers are pushing to have more critical thinking elements on the tests, but if schools, school districts and charters have already put critical thinking on the list of non-essentials, then Houston...we have a problem.
When most say "critical" thinking, they usually refer to "harder" thinking, not the particular thinking that requires, evaluation, deduction, induction, criticism, and valuation. These thinking skills are quite different from creative thinking which involves problem-solving, synthesis, and creation, which are also different from analytical thinking involving comparison, categorization, classification, heuristics and observation. Yet no test makes any distinction about which thinking they are testing.
The interesting thing about employing these thinking skills in the classroom is that they make the drudgery of learning basic facts and skills more palatable and also at the same time make learning more permanent and useful. Just like any other part of the body, if these thinking skills are used daily, students get better at using them and if rarely used, then they will be of little use on the state standardized tests.
How do you implement these three thinking skills in your class?