Why critical thinking is critical
Amidst the global interest in AI and ChatGPT, this blog delves into why critical thinking is not just important but absolutely crucial for our learners and our society.
"Critical thinking is the ability to analyse information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings. Critical thinking also involves the ability to understand and apply concepts such as logic, reasoning, and evidence-based problem-solving." – ChatGPT
This isn’t a blog about artificial intelligence (AI) and the implications for education. There are plenty of better informed people who are exploring this, 'The dawn of AI has come, and its implications for education couldn’t be more significant' and 'ChatGPT could be used to improve learning in schools, PPTA, AI expert say'. This is a blog about why critical thinking is not just important but absolutely crucial for our learners and our society.
I asked an AI to write this blog for me as part of an exploration into how ChatGPT and other AI work. I was curious to see the quality of the product and to consider the opportunities and pitfalls for education. Looking at the paragraph above, my thoughts were “The prose is a bit dead - how would I improve it?” and “That answer seems accurate but is unsatisfying - what more do I want to know?”
When I thought about my reactions to the AI, I wondered “Is this the end of essay writing as a key literacy skill?” and “What might our learners need to navigate this new world?” Then I thought about my own thinking. 'How did I know to ask these questions about the AI-generated answer?' My answer, of course, was: critical thinking!
The advent of artificial intelligence is only one reason to enhance the critical thinking skills of your students. The curriculum refresh is weaving through each curriculum area mātauranga Māori, disciplinary literacy and critical thinking skills. We can see this in the ‘Do’ strands of the Aotearoa New Zealand's histories curriculum and the refreshed Social Sciences curriculum. We can expect to see it continue as each area is refreshed.
Critical thinking as a specific focus is being woven through every area of our curriculum because of the threat of "misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation" to the cohesion of our society. 2022’s parliamentary protests threw this into stark relief for New Zealanders and contributed to the actions the Ministry of Education is taking. While our learners’ PISA results for critical literacy put them above the international average (61% vs 47%), ERO has noticed that the key competencies of thinking and using language symbols and text are not being explicitly taught in Years 1-8. Our Minister of Education, Hon Jan Tinetti, outlined the importance of critical thinking in developing citizenship and combatting misinformation in a 2022 briefing. Critical thinking also has powerful connections to disciplinary literacy and promotes creativity and problem-solving through encouraging learners to be curious and questioning.
I’ll let the AI have the last word... Hey ChatGPT, write a conclusion in the style of an informal blog about why teaching critical thinking is crucial in New Zealand classrooms.
“So there you have it, folks, critical thinking is crucial in New Zealand classrooms, and it's about time we give it the attention it deserves! Whether you're a student, teacher, or just someone interested in education, it's important to understand why critical thinking skills are so important for our future success. By fostering critical thinking, we can help our students develop the ability to solve problems, make informed decisions, and think creatively and independently. It's the kind of skill set that will serve them well no matter what they do in life. So let's start talking more about critical thinking in the classroom and make sure it becomes a priority in education. Our future depends on it!”
In the next part of this blog, I’m going to leave my AI buddy behind and take a look at the fun part: how we can teach critical thinking to our learners.
Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. (2022). How to identify misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.
Hon Jan Tinetti. (2022). Briefing Note: Strengthening critical thinking and digital safety in a refreshed New Zealand Curriculum. New Zealand: Ministry of Education.
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