I presented a full-day workshop at the American Center in Delhi for secondary teachers today. (For westerners, that’s “sorta like the Embassy” in “New Delhi” for “high school teachers.”) As with every group I’ve met, the teachers were engaged and interested asking many excellent questions throughout the day. I learned from them, as I have with all the groups, even more about the complex system they work in. India can be quite challenging for teachers, but I am consistently impressed by how dedicated and earnest the teachers I meet here really are.
The program today was on the need to teach critical thinking skills along with English language proficiency and some techniques for doing both.
The workshop, Stimulating Critical Thinking Through Writing: Designing, Assigning, and Assessing Effective Tasks, will be further developed and presented again as a live workshop in Gujarat. In addition, I’ll upload online material for use by teacher trainers who’ve attended the workshops and want to share with colleagues.
The issue the workshop addresses is that employers, CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), NCF (National Curriculum Framework), the Department of Education in Gujarat, and many tertiary institutions have begun to call for greater focus in the classroom and in examinations on, both, English language proficiency and higher order (critical) thinking skills. The country no longer wants its teachers encouraging a great deal of rote learning as has been the case in the past.
Gujarat, my home state in India, has already implemented changes at the higher levels. Its universities are being asked to incorporate higher order thinking skills in exams. In addition, the State Board exams for schools have moved almost entirely away from content/literature type questions.
The new question papers in Gujarat for secondary schools are virtually all proficiency based. In other words, the questions can be answered by a student who has the proficiency to communicate in the English language. Knowledge of particular content, especially memorized content, such as literature, is no longer tested on the exams.
The question is how teachers with limited training, time, and resources can prepare students for these changes. The premise of this set of workshops is that stronger writing instruction can go a long way toward improving both English proficiency and critical thinking skills.
At present, the workshop introduces a working definition for “critical thinking” that gives teachers a practical approach to material choice and instruction methods. As the workshops are developed further for different audiences, they will be paired with activities that help teachers to improve their own writing skills while they learn techniques for using writing tasks to stimulate critical thinking in students.
I’ve posted the first part of the workshop here with speakers’ notes to help teacher trainers understand the slides. I strongly recommend that you attend one of my live workshops before attempting to use the material. As always, the material is copyrighted and credit is given to all the photographers and sources in the full PowerPoint. Please respect the copyrights, but feel free to download it and use it for educational purposes. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions. IF you use it, and have ideas for improving it, I’d love to hear from you here.
I’ll post more on this after I get home. For now, I’ve got to finish getting ready for an entirely different two-day workshop with university faculty beginning first thing in the morning. Guess I better sleep fast.