California Educator

May 2015

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A T O C E A N S I D E H I G H S C H O O L , we view critical think- ing, as defined in Paul and Elder's The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking, Concepts and Tools, as "the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improv- ing it." What critical thinking looks like is a person who raises key questions and issues, finds and assesses perti- nent information, and develops sound conclusions and solutions to problems. To do this, the student must effectively communicate, problem-solve, and be committed to open-minded think- ing. How does a Marine Corps Junior ROTC program align its curriculum with the Common Core standard of critical thinking? Oceanside MCJROTC has developed a strategy enabling critical thinking to supplement significant portions of MCJROTC instruction, which is focused on leadership education and instruction on citizenship, personal growth and responsibility, and general military subjects. The strategy includes task design centered on analyzing and evaluating information stressing the stu- dent's ability to communicate both verbally and in writing. Task design and critical thinking Three primary methods used to promote critical thinking are case studies, questioning techniques, and problem-solving activities. Critical in the task design is to ensure all students can participate both orally and in writing. Another aspect of task design is to enable student progress using Norman Webb's Depth-of-Knowledge (DOK) levels. Level 1 focuses on basic recall of information — who, what, where, when and why. Level 2 requires more skill through identification and summarization of major events and patterns of behavior. Level 3 is oriented on strate- gic thinking requiring students to support ideas with details and examples. Finally, DOK level 4 requires more extended thinking through analyzing data and reporting the results along with solutions to specific problems. This year I used Meyer and Brown's Practicing Pub- lic Management: A Casebook for questions that facilitate critical thinking. Students are assigned to read the case and answer questions in writing. The writing assignment is turned in at the beginning of class, and the remainder of the class is used to discuss the case. The Socratic method using DOK question stems works well, e.g., how is related to ? As students respond, the instructor can prompt the class for information covering the various DOK levels. The goal is to get the students to progress to higher DOK levels offer- ing input supported by evidence that supports their conclusion. Also, as students answer questions, their peers can be asked if they agree or disagree and why. Each question promotes DOK level information, and if the instructor is strategic in task design, various DOK levels can be targeted from the readings, film, etc. The goal is to have students justify their thinking and reasoning based on evidence. Recently Oceanside Principal Ron Pirayoff asked staff to look at how we close the "knowing-doing" gap with critical thinking. Through our profes- sional learning community (PLC) sessions, we believe the task of critical thinking is understood, but how do we ensure more students and classes are critically thinking than before? Narrowing the "knowing-doing " gap One way we are closing the gap is through our questioning techniques. We maintain a high expectation for our students to justify their answers by providing evidence to support their position. Questions are linked to the various DOK levels requiring students to pause and reflect for a moment before providing the first thought that comes into mind. As students answer, other students are expected to be ready to respond with their position on the issue. Case studies, persuasive speeches, team-building activities like the Basic Leadership Camp, and group projects like our recent participation in CyberPatriot (a national cybersecurity education program), have been used to exercise critical thinking in addition to the daily prompts and questions discussed earlier. Oceanside High School has conducted instructional rounds that have pro- duced encouraging results. It has been my experience from last year and during this first semester that the majority of the students have worked at DOK levels 1 and 2. I have tried this semester to improve my task design to incorporate more level 3 and 4 tasks. The students' work this semester should provide a gauge on their progress from level 1 and 2 DOK tasks to level 3 and 4 tasks. Critical thinking has become a part of our MCJROTC curriculum and fits nicely into the other areas of academic instruction. ROTC and the Common Core How one Oceanside teacher incorporates critical thinking into curriculum By Col. Brian Kerl, Oceanside Teachers Association Cadets answer questions in Oceanside High School's Marine Corps Junior ROTC classroom. Guest column Perspectives 21 V O L U M E 1 9 I S S U E 9

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