January 21, 2009

More on critical thinking skills and content knowledge

Here's a good passage on critical thinking skills and content knowledge in the context of teaching students to make inferences:

Education has long been enamored with higher order or inference questions. While educators are correct in calling for numerous inferential items, they must realize that large doses of inferential items will not necessarily improve students' inference skills. especially for instructionally näive students. The problem occurs when the inference items assume knowledge and skills the students do not have; and yet, teacher guidance is not provided. For example, consider the inference item: "As the location of the subatomic particle becomes more precise, what would you infer about its momentum?" Or consider this example: "When John walked out onto the street, he nictitated rapidly." Where do you think John has been? These are inference items, but working many items similar to these would not improve an average adult's skill in drawing inferences. Similarly, exposing students, especially low-performing ones, to inference items is not sufficient. The items must be carefully selected and sequenced, and careful instruction must be provided. Students must know relevant vocabulary, assumed relationships,a nd how to draw inferences if practice exercises are to be helpful.


Direct Instruction Reading, 4th edition, p. 237, n.1.

I'm wondering what the readers' reactions are since the opinions seem to span the spectrum.

7 comments:

Dick Schutz said...

This reader's reaction is "spot on"--as far as the spot goes.

Before a student has been taught to read, the background info has to be communicated using spoken language. That's slow going. Best to defer serious work on this stuff until after a kid can read.

Then are are complex instructional design decisions re student choice, what to get into kid's memory and what to reserve for Internet memory retrieval.

I see from amazon.com that Doug and colleagues are coming out with a 5th ed. Hopefully, it will bring DI into the Internet age.

Downes said...

> For example, consider the inference item: "As the location of the subatomic particle becomes more precise, what would you infer about its momentum?" Or consider this example: "When John walked out onto the street, he nictitated rapidly." Where do you think John has been?

These are not inference items, they are memory items.

In each case, a key premise is missing, and the primary task for the reader is to recall the missing premise.

Knowledge of inference will provide a clude as to the nature of the premise, but will not provide the premise itself; this is a straightforward task of recollection.

Actual exercises of inference do not illicitly combine elements of direct recollection.

Since these are not infrence items, the author's contention, that "exposing students, especially low-performing ones, to inference items is not sufficient" has not been proven.

KDeRosa said...

I don't see missing premise.

let's take the easier one and use a more well known synonym:

When John walked out onto the street, he blinked rapidly. Where do you think John has been?

I might infer he was in a movie theater or some other place dark and the street was brightly lit causing John the blink.

The problem requires more than recollection to solve.

Not knowing the definition of a work does not make a missing premise.

Dick Schutz said...

The notion that "critical thinking skills" exist is part of the romantic tradition. I stumbled across a link on the Reading Reform Foundation msg bd to a talk by E. D. Hirsch, the most vocal proponent of "content knowledge," on "The Roots of the Education Wars."

www.catholiceducation.org/articles/education/ed0174.html

The piece is very relevant to this thread and to other dialog that goes on here. It's worth a read.

Tracy W said...

I'm with this - part of the way I make my living is by translating between electrical engineers and economists. People can be very smart in their own area, but just make wrong arguments outside that because they don't have the background knowledge.

Dick Schutz said...

Amen, Tracy. For further proof of that, see comments made on this very site re standardized tests and IRT. If you haven't constructed several and administered several thousand, it's easy to get lost in the fog that surrounds these matters.

Tracy W said...

Amen, Tracy. For further proof of that, see comments made on this very site re standardized tests and IRT.

Dick, I think we are hopelessly split on IRT, because I believe the mathematics in the text you provided over your assertions. However, if you wish to reopen this debate, please tell me the answers to the last two questions I asked you, in other words, what exactly do you believe about IRT, so I can ask a psychometrician, and how large a number of students would it take you to be convinced that a standardised achievement test with a large number of students can result in subjects piling up at the top.