Skills of Critical Thinking

Featured

Critical thinking and related literacies are viewed as essential soft, work or life skills to be taught and learnt by school students, apprentices, trainees, university students, employees and broader society, but how?

Following is parts of an article from The Conversation focusing upon argumentation, logic, psychology and the nature of science to help people understand and analyse the world round us in an age of fake news, conspiracy theories, anti-science and anti-education sentiments.

‘How to teach all students to think critically

December 18, 2014 2.27pm AEDT

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills.

The new course would be an elective next year and mandatory in 2016 with the university’s deputy vice-chancellor for education and students Shirley Alexander saying the aim is to give students some maths “critical thinking” skills.

This is a worthwhile goal, but what about critical thinking in general?

Most tertiary institutions have listed among their graduate attributes the ability to think critically. This seems a desirable outcome, but what exactly does it mean to think critically and how do you get students to do it?

So what should any mandatory first year course in critical thinking look like? There is no single answer to that, but let me suggest a structure with four key areas:

 

Argumentation

The most powerful framework for learning to think well in a manner that is transferable across contexts is argumentation.  Arguing, as opposed to simply disagreeing, is the process of intellectual engagement with an issue and an opponent with the intention of developing a position justified by rational analysis and inference.

 

Logic

Logic is fundamental to rationality. It is difficult to see how you could value critical thinking without also embracing logic.  People generally speak of formal logic – basically the logic of deduction – and informal logic – also called induction.  Deduction is most of what goes on in mathematics or Suduko puzzles and induction is usually about generalising or analogising and is integral to the processes of science.

 

Psychology

One of the great insights of psychology over the past few decades is the realisation that thinking is not so much something we do, as something that happens to us. We are not as in control of our decision-making as we think we are.  We are masses of cognitive biases as much as we are rational beings. This does not mean we are flawed, it just means we don’t think in the nice, linear way that educators often like to think we do.

 

The Nature of Science

Learning about what the differences are between hypotheses, theories and laws, for example, can help people understand why science has credibility without having to teach them what a molecule is, or about Newton’s laws of motion.  Understanding some basic statistics also goes a long way to making students feel more empowered to tackle difficult or complex issues. It’s not about mastering the content, but about understanding the process.’

 

This article is from 2014, however it is unclear what Federal and State Education Departments are doing to include the explicit teaching and learning of critical thinking skills to students via curricula and syllabi?

For more articles about university teaching and learning skills click through.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

ID Instructional Design Models in Education

Cognitivism and Connectivism Learning Theory page as part of an EdX Instructional Design course.

Cognitivism is student centred learning via an existing knowledge base and building upon it according to learner preferences, how they organise memory, how information is linked, learning how to learn, problem-solving and the student learning journey is supported by clear instructions and information (Hanna, 2017).

Further, there is the Three-Stage Information Processing Model including Sensory Register to assess inputs, Short-Term Memory where input can be stored e.g. 20 seconds and then Long-Term Memory and Storage retrievable by linkages that have been developed (Mergel, 1998).

Application of andragogy for adult learning versus pedagogy for school.

Adult Learning Theories in Higher Education (Image copyright Pexels)

Connectivism is like social learning through others or networks, identify patterns, knowledge based round networks and exemplified in complex learning e.g. round information and technology (Ibid.).

Both can be used for the same education and exemplars, by using both theories to support instructional design, student centred activity and learning, building upon knowledge and experience for inexact outcomes; as opposed to behavioural focus.

In the first case, cognitivism using a course e.g. ‘Introduction to Digital or e-Marketing for Small Business’,  focus upon one learning outcome, ‘ability to analyse (digital) marketing and communication’

Rather than present information or content activities which maybe new and/or overwhelming, assess the knowledge level before training, then drive instruction and achievement of learning objectives via learners and learner centred activity (but monitored an assessed closely).

Instructional Design for Adult Learners in ‘Introduction to Digital or e-Marketing for Small Business’:

Preview by using images to elicit key words, channels etc. related to conventional marketing and communication.

Presentation repeat preview to include digital also and elicit the elements.

Practice by learners listing both types of elements in a small business example marketing and communications; report back to class.

Production in pairs for their own business, assist each other, compare notes then present to each other/class.

Wrap-up Class discussion and/or milling activity to compare with other learners’ ‘production’ and feedback on key points, rules or issues.

Connectivism can be applied to the same course area and learning outcome, not just in the direct learning environment but post learning, i.e. back in the workplace and business environment.  Accordingly, if learners are mostly small business people, already responsible for marketing and communications and sharing a desire to improve application of digital in their business practice, they should be motivated for connectivism.

Within the formal learning, connectivism would fit cognitivism approach above, with symmetry in each phase, but especially with increase in learner interactivity with production and wrap up or review.  Connectivism can then also be followed up informally by learners remaining in communication with each other (e.g. WhatsApp or LinkedIn Group), industry sector networking opportunities and/or local chamber of commerce.

Andrew Smith Melbourne LinkedIn Profile

 

Reference List (Harvard):

 

Hanna, M. (2017) Learning Theory Matrix. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8d28/2833c35fb8b9ea74bf2c930cea22fb1e0fad.pdf (Accessed on: 16 November 2017).

Mergel, B. (1998) Instructional Design & Learning Theory.  Available at: http://etad.usask.ca/802papers/mergel/brenda.htm#Cognitivism(Accessed on: 17 November 2017).

 

TAE40116 Certificate IV Training Assessment Package – ASQA Review Submission

Submission for TAE40116 Training Package Review

 

Written by Andrew Smith; submitted 3 April 2018

Introduction

There has been much discussion amongst training practitioners about the updated TAE Training Package.  One of the main issues has been the perception that it has been designed for quality administration and assessment while neglecting quality of actual training delivery and learning.

ASQA Australian Skills Quality Authority Certificate IV Training and Assessment TAE40116 Review

TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment – ASQA Review (Image copyright ASQA)

This has been experienced by the writer currently upgrading BSZ to TAE via a registered training organisation (RTO) by distance learning; PO Box with ‘assessors’ and ‘trainers’ based offshore.  Further, the delivery is based upon basic pedagogy of presentation of content, regurgitation of content according to instructions while seemingly unable to offer explanations or insight for trainees, especially delivery and learning skills based upon andragogy.

 

What is the TAE Training Package?

 

Description

 

This qualification reflects the roles of individuals delivering training and assessment services in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

This qualification (or the skill sets derived from units of competency within it) is also suitable preparation for those engaged in the delivery of training and assessment of competence in a workplace context, as a component of a structured VET program.

The volume of learning of a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is typically six months to two years. (Department of Education & Training 2018).

At face value the TAE40116 appears to be a relevant and practical qualification for vocational education and training to deliver accredited training packages, assure quality with a focus upon assessment.  However, there have been many criticisms of the package from practitioners, industry and other stakeholders, why?

Issues with TAE Training Package and Delivery

 

According to the Resources Training Council

 

It has become a qualification for the training industry, not industry that trains. They do not understand workplaces where training and more importantly the outcomes (assessment) must be fit for purpose to achieve what VET is all about.  VET should be about producing safe, proficient (productive) workers and providing an opportunity for learning to be built on as people move along their chosen career path (Munro 2017).

 

From an experienced VET training practitioner

 

To improve assessment practices of RTOs and improve skills and knowledge of trainers and assessors we need to:

  • Update our regulatory framework and move to a real outcome-based regulation, where relevant industry stakeholders have a say in the registration/re-registration process
  • Support the National Regulator in building the required capabilities to assess compliance in a diverse and complex environment
  • Ensure the National Regulator provides an even-playing-field to RTOs
  • Identify the different issues within the assessment system, and consequently identify gaps in current workforce skills (in all AQF levels not only entry level) and update the TAE training package accordingly (Castillo 2016).

 

Research criticisms have included: one size fits all approach whether novice trainer or an already well experienced and/or qualified trainer or teacher, trainer assessor expertise or skills, questions over subsequent assessment outcomes, lack of depth related to training and learning delivery, no clear development pathway and the skill outcomes from the TAE for practitioners to deliver (Clayton 2009).

The focus of criticism has been directed at sub-optimal education and training pedagogy (learning theory for children and young adults or novices) of both the TAE and practitioners for quality delivery, learning and trainee assessment outcomes.  These revolved round, preparedness of trainers to train, opportunity to learn content knowledge, delivery quality, learning the practice of good teaching or training, learning from experts, then more about planning and assessment (Ibid.)

The latter issue of assessment has been raised within sectors whether validation between providers, or simply better understanding of assessment by practitioners (Halliday-Wynes & Misko 2013)

Further, expert input often hints at what is lacking by focusing upon learning theory or ‘pedagogy’ for children and youth, as opposed to ‘andragogy’ for youth and adults.  The latter would be exemplified by self-directed learning or training, responsibility, experience, motivation to learn and preference for real tasks and problem solving (Educators’ Technology 2013); supported by well skilled trainers.

 

Training Delivery and Learning Quality

 

However, delivery of some TAEs has more to do with education and training or ‘pedagogy’ influence from two generations ago manifested in trainer or teacher directed, or top down.  This assumes trainees have no relevant knowledge or practical input to offer, focus upon systems, processes and assessment round any given package, but not delivery i.e. developing quality training and learning skills.  Additionally, very content driven for good reason, however, it is presented or instructed (not elicited) then regurgitated or replicated for satisfying requirements for assessment, then assumed optimal for the workplace?

The significant size of the VET sector requires standard packages, systems, processes and assessment to be compliant and manageable.  However, the risk is that system quality may be based upon indirect top down paper-based systems and processes of (quality) compliance that are reactive when issues emerge, if discovered.  For example, sub-optimal training and learning, versus proactive measures through more intrusive evaluation of actual training delivery quality or bottom up informing.

Quality maybe improved by intrusive quality assessment through mystery shopping on any given TAE course, dynamic (publicised opportunities) for feedback from trainees and clients, evaluation of specific programs and trainers or evidence of dynamic quality evaluation of skills versus merely possessing a TAE qualification or ‘ticket’.

 

References:

 

Castillo, A 2016, Newly endorsed Certificate IV in Training and Assessment – Same Issues, LinkedIn Pulse, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/newly-endorsed-certificate-iv-training-assessment-amaro-castillo/ >

 

Clayton, B 2009, Practitioner experiences and expectations with the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAA40104): A discussion of the issues, NCVER Melbourne, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.ncver.edu.au/__data/assets/file/0023/4658/nr08504r.pdf >

 

Department of Education & Training 2018, MySkills: Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.myskills.gov.au/courses/details?Code=TAE40116 >

 

Educators’ Technology 2013, AWESOME CHART ON “PEDAGOGY VS ANDRAGOGY”, viewed 1 April 2018, < http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/05/awesome-chart-on-pedagogy-vs-andragogy.html >

 

Halliday-Wynes, S & Misko, J 2013, Assessment issues in VET: minimising the level of risk, NCVER, viewed 22 March 2018, < http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/801600/AssessmentIssuesInVET_MinimisingTheLevelOfRisk.pdf >

 

Munro, J 2017, The TAE debacle – a resources sector view, Resources Training Council, viewed 31 January 2018, < http://www.resourcestraining.org.au/news/the-tae-debacle/ >

Soft or Work Skills Development of Students for Employment

Soft or Work Skill Development

We often hear talk about generic work skills, soft skills or digital related, but what are they and why are they important?

Hard skills may shortlist you for a job interview, but soft skills will have you selected, and may include the following which could also be described as personal attributes or selection criteria:

 

Communication, Organization, Teamwork, Punctuality, Critical Thinking, Social Skills, Creativity, Interpersonal Communication, Adaptability and Friendliness (Berger 2016).

 

According to Harvard Business Review article ‘DEVELOPING EMPLOYEES: The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations’:

 

Smart organizations have recognized that introducing new technology into the workplace isn’t about hardware or software: it’s about wetware, also known as human beings. If you want to be the kind of nimble business that can make the most of successive waves of tech innovation, you need human beings who can adapt to change. That means equipping each person in your enterprise with the skills and mindset that will help them successfully adapt whenever you introduce new tools like Slack, Basecamp, or even Google Drive into your workplace. But what exactly are these digital skills? They may be more familiar and low-tech than you think (Samuel 2016).

 

These could include goal focus, collaboration, communication, learning, troubleshooting and enjoyment.

 

Another view from traditional work of soft skills would designate planning workload, communication, reports, presentations, collecting/using information, note taking, data literacy, projects, ethics, problem solving, decision making, team work, meetings, negotiation, stress management and reviewing one’s own personal skills and development (Bingham and Drew 1999).

 

How does one develop these soft or work skills for work, community and life?

 

According to Open Colleges Australia the following tips are needed to teach students soft skills:

30 Tips to Teach Soft Skills

  1. Give students authentic choices about how they’re going to learn and be assessed.
  2. Provide a learning environment where trust, initiative, and taking risks are encouraged.
  3. Hold all students to the same high standards.
  4. Model perseverance by not giving up on students.
  5. Support students by helping them find their own way.
  6. Demonstrate alternate paths to content mastery.
  7. Teach to the whole person (not just the “student”).
  8. Treat your students as mature individuals, even when they aren’t following instructions.
  9. Talk about tailoring communication styles for different audiences.
  10. 1Build students’ interpersonal skills through an environment of humility and respect.
  11. Help students practise taking on different roles in different situations.
  12. Differentiate opportunities for personal growth and opportunities for team growth.
  13. Cultivate a sense of responsibility through meaningful and unique contribution.
  14. Assign group exercises that give people the opportunity to speak, listen, write, organise, and lead.
  15. Assess learning through interactive evaluations that demand real-world demonstrations of learning.
  16. Challenge students’ reactions to new obstacles and situations.
  17. Emphasise that the same solution doesn’t necessarily work every time, even in the same situation.
  18. Incorporate exercises in delayed gratification in order to build persistence and grit.
  19. Start grading students on how well they listen to their peers.
  20. Discuss the importance of social-emotional intelligence in the real world.
  21. Design opportunities for students to build and demonstrate resilience.
  22. Make learning a personal experience, highlighting the way education shapes personality.
  23. Create opportunities for students to innovate, both on their own and in groups.
  24. Draw attention to the differences between online and in-person social etiquette.
  25. Reward students who are willing to admit they’re wrong.
  26. Recognise students who are committed to communicating ideas to others.
  27. Hold brainstorm sessions in which students list the possible uses for various soft skills.
  28. Help build motivation through principles of self-reliance (read: Emerson, Thoreau).
  29. Keep an open ear and encourage students to develop new thoughts and ideas they may have.
  30. Develop learning ability through greater awareness of individual learning processes (Briggs 2015).

 

Teaching, training or tutoring approaches to learning need to be centred upon student centred andragogy for adults not teacher centred pedagogy for children, see related article blog FLIPPED Model – Pedagogy or Andragogy in Higher Education Teaching Learning.

 

 

References:

 

Berger, G 2016, Data Reveals The Most In-demand Soft Skills Among Candidates, LinkedIn Talent Blog, 30 August, viewed 30 March 2018, < https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2016/most-indemand-soft-skills >

 

Bingham, R & Drew, S 1999, Key Work Skills, 1st edn, Gower Publishing Ltd., Aldershot.

 

Briggs, S 2015, 30 Tips to Cultivate Soft Skills in Your Students, Inform Ed – Open Colleges, 1 May, viewed 30 March 2018, < https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/30-ways-to-cultivate-soft-skills-in-your-students >

 

Samuel, A 2016, ‘DEVELOPING EMPLOYEES: The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations’, Harvard Business Review, 5 February, viewed 21 March 2018,
< https://hbr.org/2016/02/the-soft-skills-of-great-digital-organizations >

VET Vocational Education Training TAFE TAE and Related Issues

Following is an excerpt from a news article and an Education Minister’s press release proposing new source of school teachers while the vocational system is in a state of flux with the sub-optimal TAE Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and quality.

Workplace Training in Australia and the TAE Certificate IV in Training and Assessment

Workplace Training in Australia and the TAE Photo by Mikes Photos from Pexels

From tradies to teachers: The plan to ‘shake up Australia’s schools‘.  The Turnbull government wants to encourage tradies to become teachers, and nurses to swap the clinic for the classroom, under a plan to “shake up” the country’s schools.

A national review of teacher registration – to be announced Saturday – will look to streamline the process for becoming a teacher around Australia……

At present, most states require teachers to attain at least a diploma of education, if not an undergraduate teaching degree……..

….Education Minister Simon Birmingham said it should be easier for people with experience in specialist areas to teach those trades at schools and vocational colleges…

…Australia’s falling position on global literacy and numeracy rankings, as well as disappointing NAPLAN results, have worried education ministers around the country.

 

The article does not offer any context or reason for the Minister’s or the government’s ‘plan’?

The Australian Education Council has not made any related public statements, let alone conducted research?

For the government, the Minister and the Education Department’s interest, there TAE40116 – Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is already a pathway for trades and healthcare personnel to teach or train:

Qualification Description

This qualification reflects the roles of individuals delivering training and assessment services in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

This qualification (or the skill sets derived from units of competency within it) is also suitable preparation for those engaged in the delivery of training and assessment of competence in a workplace context, as a component of a structured VET program.

The volume of learning of a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is typically six months to two years.

Licensing/Regulatory Information

Achievement of this qualification by trainers is a requirement of the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015

 

Further, in a relate article from Jim Munro, CEO of the Resources Training Council ‘The TAE debacle – a resources sector view’:

It is this writer’s opinion, that since BSZ, this program has been slowly hi-jacked by those who have no idea of what happens in the real world of workplace training. It has become a qualification for the training industry, not industry that trains.

 

One has observed in the past generation or two, several significant changes including removal of many technical streams and sometimes active ‘dumbing down’ of high school or matriculation education curricula (lower competency for entry to STEM or university, lack of skills in language, literacy and numeracy LLN, and removal of explicit teaching of ‘critical thinking’), teaching becoming too academic and pedagogic (teacher directed) based, versus andragogic (student centred); overseen by teacher unions, the (hollowed out) bureaucracy, resurgence in old conservative ideas of education and looking down at VET or TAFE.

Appears to be following the US conservative and/or nativist strategy of supporting elite schools and compromising the rest, leading to sub-optimal education and training outcomes in society and employment, exemplified by dumbing down, anti-science sentiment, leveraging or compromising sympathetic paid academia or research for political purposes etc.; leading to or maintaining more compliant, observant and respectful (to authority) society?

Ten years ago, we had John Howard promoting the anti ‘black arm band’ version of history, school chaplain program (outsourced to some dubious US influenced charities), last week the Liberal Opposition in Victoria mooted the idea of police permanently based in schools and now federally the government is planning that ‘tradies’ and ‘nurses’ can transfer into high schools, why do they want this disruption?

It may also follow the nostalgia of work and need to have influence, not just for conservatives of the right, but old ‘culturally specific’ white working-class conservatives in the important upper age median vote, who used to vote Labor?

They could do better by improving the Cert IV qualification or TAE which is seriously flawed due to focus upon narrow training package inputs, and assessment outputs with administration of related process and document management, or Taylor’s ‘Scientific Management’ as used on assembly lines.

However, the TAE ignores or is not fit for purpose when it does not equip trainers with practical skills to deliver quality training and learning, more about leading learners to become robots (workers following instructions) in a system of processes made easier to administer and audit; maybe the intention?

Rather than reinvent the wheel just fix up the existing wheel to offer training or teaching opportunities to ‘tradies’ and nurses, maybe review and improve the career or further study counselling youth receive from teachers, parents and peers, while repairing TAE and VET sector’s reputation?