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Making Critical Thinking Matter – Prioritizing Higher Order Instruction in a World of Constraints with Featured Guest, Colin Seale of thinkLaw

gtchat 08152017 Critical Thinking

This week on Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT our featured guest was Colin Seale, Esq. Colin is the Founder and CEO of thinkLaw, which helps educators teach critical thinking to all students through an award-winning, standards-aligned supplemental curriculum based on real-life legal cases and powerful & personalized professional development that helps educators apply critical thinking across grade levels and subject areas. thinkLaw partners with over 60 schools in 11 states as part of its revolutionary agenda to create a world where critical thinking is no longer a luxury good.

Colin and his team provided excellent information on the importance of teaching critical thinking in schools. Critical thinking is considered one of the most important 21st century skills. The days of viewing education as an information delivery service are gone. Students need to learn critical thinking as it is viewed as a ‘life skill’ necessary for success today.

“We are preparing students for entire industries that do not exist yet. Critical thinking cannot be a luxury good! It is the precursor to innovation. STEAM means zip if students can’t find, communicate, and solve real problems.”                                                                                                                                 ~ Colin Seale, Esq.

Innovative educators are realizing that learning ‘how to think’ trumps content every time. The world’s best education systems know that engaging students’ passions can tip the scales for learning. Colin explained, “[There has been a] paradigm shift: content vs. depth is a false choice. Start with powerful questions and motivate content acquisition.”

Why is it so hard to get today’s K-12 students to think deeply? K-12 students’ brains have been numbed by endless test prep and testing. Smart educators are just saying ‘NO’! Many students must endure hours, semesters, or even years of sitting in classes being required to relearn what they already know. Students think deeply about what they are passionate about. It’s time to tap into those passions! As Colin told us, “We rarely encourage risk-taking and too often punish mistakes. Freedom to fail = Freedom to think.”

Engineers tend to struggle analyzing poetry. We need to make critical thinking transferable across subject areas. From the earliest years in school, cross-curricular teaching strategies can achieve a valuable liberal arts education. ‘Critical thinking’ should never rely on a single approach or methodology. Creative teaching is essential. Regarding professional development , Colin said, “it must be personalized and practical so teachers can apply it immediately. Otherwise, it’s just eye candy. Creativity, communication and collaboration must be embedded within all critical thinking activities.”

gtchat 08152017 Critical Thinking TL graphic

Content knowledge is much easier to assess than critical thinking skills. Colin suggests, “Just like GT testing, critical thinking assessment is best when it’s authentic and varied. Tie it to meaningful activities!” It should cover problem interpretation, inference, analysis explanation and evaluation skills. Critical thinking assessment tools take time to produce; worksheets and standardized testing need to be replaced.

“The crux of critical thinking assessment is students supporting their thinking with sound reasoning.” ~ Sarah Pfeiler, thinkLaw Team

Finally, we discussed practical methods and tools teachers can use to focus on critical thinking more regularly. Early on, teachers need to impress on students that there can be multiple solutions to problems; seek the best. Even very young students can be taught introspective skills; how does ‘what I know or believe’ affect decisions. Colin added, “Students who care about the problems they solve will persevere through the problem-solving process!” A transcript of this chat may be found at Storify.

gtchat 08152017 Critical Thinking TL graphic 2


Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at Noon NZST/10 AM AEST/1 AM UK  to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the authorLisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered        by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


Free Sample Lesson Download for #gtchat Participants

thinkLaw (Twitter)

The thinkLaw Team

thinkLaw (Facebook)

Silence is Not an Option: The Educators’ Call to Action #Charlottesville

6 Critical Thinking Questions for Any Situation

3 Tips for Helping All Students Become 21st Century Communicators

Critical Thinking Should Not Be a Luxury: 3 Strategies for Unleashing the Potential of Every Student

Three Tools for Teaching Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

5 Questions Principals Should Ask to Assess Critical Thinking Instruction in Teacher Observations

3 Strategies for Increasing Student Voice in Your Classroom

Thinking Like a Lawyer: Powerful Strategies to Teach Critical Thinking to All Students (webinar)

Cybraryman’s Questioning Techniques Page

Cybraryman’s Critical Thinking Page

FlexFridays Take Learning Beyond the Classroom

Photo and logo courtesy of ThinkLaw.

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

Strategies for Teaching Critical Thinking

gtchat 04052016 Critical Thinking


“Critical thinking is not to be devoured in a single sitting nor yet at two or three workshops. It is a powerful concept to be savored and reflected upon. It is an idea to live and grow with. It focuses upon that part of our minds that enables us to think things through, to learn from experience, to acquire and retain knowledge.” ~ Paul Hurd, State of Critical Thinking Today

Research indicates that having a standard definition of critical thinking can enhance its teaching. (Choy/Cheah 2009) According to Hurd (2004), “Critical thinking is the art of thinking about thinking with a view to improving it. Critical thinkers seek to improve thinking, in three interrelated phases. They analyze thinking. They assess thinking. And they up-grade thinking (as a result).”

“Critical thinking is the ability to conceptualise, analyse, synthesize, evaluate information and challenge assumptions.” ~ Jo Freitag, Gifted Resources 

In light of the importance of teaching critical thinking, we turned out attention to discussing whether or not teachers are being prepared at the undergraduate level or subsequently during professional development opportunities to do so. Most were in agreement that not only are teachers not prepared, but their time is preoccupied with test prep. Also, they lack incentive to promote thinking which doesn’t support support standardized testing and is difficult to assess. Only one teacher at this chat reported working in a district that actively supports and expects the teaching of critical thinking.

What strategies work best for teaching critical thinking? Educators need to act as facilitators of discussions that may not result in ‘right’ answers. One strategy involves writing essays based on prompts that adhere to Bloom’s Taxonomy of  Higher Order Thinking. (Smith/Szymanski 2013). Another is to have students create a wiki about subject they’re studying or analyze existing wikis; enhance tech skills. (Snodgrass 2011) Other strategies offered included teaching students questioning techniques, problem-based learning, identify the ‘big’ ideas, and stepping back to listening to student-voice. For more ideas, see links below.

Assessing critical thinking skills can be difficult, but it can be done. Assessment of critical thinking instruction can include course evaluation; analyze students’ understanding of critical thinking Teachers can assess whether students can reason between conflicting viewpoints. Educators should continually provide valuable feedback to students before considering assessment. One school mentioned during chat experimented with newspaper blackout poems, and analyzed each article for bias to practice critical thinking here.

“Critical thinkers know how to ask the RIGHT questions.” ~ Stacy Hughes, a Texas teacher

What are some intellectual traits of a critical thinker? Critical thinkers have ability to realize personal limitations; recognize personal bias; willing to work through complexities. They are willing to change when faced with evidence contrary to their own beliefs.

“Whether enrolled in preschool, elementary, middle, or high school, the integration of critical thinking skills into the daily content and lessons is essential for achieving …(Tomlinson, 2003). This infusion, along with also taking into account student interest, readiness, and learning styles, provides the foundation and walls for raising the ceiling of students’ scholastic growth and intellectual stimulation.” ~ McCollister and Sayler in Lift the Ceiling

The benefits of learning how to think critically can extend throughout a student’s life. During their school years, in-depth focus on enhancing critical thinking increases rigor & standardized test scores (Van- Tassel Baska, et al. 2009). By tracking patterns in information – seeing info as a process; students develop skills of recognition and prediction. Students who can think deeply, make relevant connections and reasoned decisions; value and respect ideas of others. They can think independently; consider multiple perspectives; go beyond surface learning. A transcript of this chat may be found at Storify.

gtchat-logo-new bannner

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at  Noon (12.00) NZST/10.00 AEST/1.00 UK  to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered        by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


Teaching Gifted Kids to Explain Their Thinking 

When Kids Have Structure for Thinking, Better Learning Emerges

Preparing Leaders for Deeper Learning

Assessing Deeper Learning: A Survey of Performance Assessment and Mastery-Tracking Tools (pdf)

6 Entry Points for Deeper Learning

10 Great Critical Thinking Activities That Engage Your Students

Tech That Spurs Critical Thinking l

Applied Disciplines: A Critical Thinking Model for Engineering

The State of Critical Thinking Today: The Need for a Substantive Concept of Critical Thinking (pdf)

Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life (Amazon)

The Question Game: A Playful Way To Teach Critical Thinking

6 Rules to Break for Better, Deeper-Learning Outcomes

How Do We Raise Critical Thinkers? (Infographic)

The Importance of Teaching Critical Thinking

Lift the Ceiling: Increase Rigor with Critical Thinking Skills (pdf)

Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools (pdf)

Intellectual Growth, School, and Thriving of the Gifted (pdf) in TEMPO Page 9

Infusing Teaching of Critical & Creative Thinking into Content Instruction for Elem Grades (Amazon)

Teaching Critical Thinking in Age of Digital Credulity 

Critical Thinking Pathways

What It Means To Think Critically

Using a Question Building Chart to Provoke Student Thought

Sprite’s Site: Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking Testing and Assessment

Cybraryman’s Critical Thinking Page

Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners (Amazon)

Defining Critical Thinking

Orientation Lecture Series: Learning to Learn Developing Critical Thinking Skills (pdf)

How to Foster Critical and Creative Thinking

Photo courtesy of Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain  Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

How to Foster Critical and Creative Thinking

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Critical thinking is the ability to recognize and challenge assumptions, and to understand context in a given situation. Creative thinking involves developing unique and useful ideas. This week at #gtchat, we discussed how to foster both critical and creative thinking.

Andrea of explained that “critical thinking is thinking with an emphasis on understanding and questioning rather than simply accepting standard procedures.” Critical thinkers can ask relevant questions and research alternatives. Critical thinking includes compare/contrast; sequencing; analysis and assessment of ideas. Mary St. George of New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education and Gifted Online said, “Critical thinking looks beyond what ideas are to whether they are relevant, accurate and wise.”

Our thoughts then turned to creative thinking. Audrey Fine, GT specialist and past-president of Alabama Association for Gifted Children, said, “Initially, brainstorming comes to mind, but just for a start.” Angie French, a GT specialist in Texas, told us, “Creative thinking is fun and exhilarating when it’s at its best!” and Mona Chicks added, “Creative thinking is putting together ideas that didn’t belong together before, but they do now.” Creative thinkers have the ability to question their own thinking; to engage in divergent fields of study. Creative thinking can often be characterized as ‘futuristic’ thinking.

What does a 21st century skills framework look like? This framework sees students as problem solvers. Corin Goodwin, Executive Director of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, characterized it as “creative and entrepreneurial; able to follow one’s own path; find resources one needs. It is very networked in many ways.” In this century, we must promote critical and creative thinking to solve the global challenges we all face.

With all the emphasis on STEM & seeming dedication to achievement, why do gifted kids drop out of school? Too often gifted students grow weary of what they see as ‘playing the game’; grades become irrelevant to personal goals. “Not all kids relate to STEM. Nor are all built for achievement,” explained Lisa Lauffer of Artisan of Creative Miracles. Krissy Venosdale of Venspired said, “Achieving is unfulfilling. Especially when you achieve by jumping through hoops. Creating and exploring? That’s engaging!” Jo Freitag of Gifted Resources told us, “Often gifted kids style of thinking and learning is very different from classmates – it may appear to be daydreaming and off topic.”

Next, we explored the benefits of becoming mentally fit. Mental fitness introduces the purpose of thinking; the means to accomplishing goals. Andrea of said, “mental fitness is just like physical fitness in that a student is prepared to tackle whatever challenges they face.” A mentally fit mind is trained to focus and is an engaged mind.

Our final question was ‘How do we begin to create engagement for gifted students?’ Gifted students rarely need relentless repetitions; eliminate ‘kill and drill’. Curriculum design must consider its ‘meaningfulness’ to the student; be responsive to individual students. Just say ‘no’ to easy answers and require accuracy in outcomes; involve struggle and embrace learning from failure. And these suggestions from out participants:

  • Respectfully complex work is inherently engaging for many gifted children. ~ Mary St. George
  • Appropriate level of challenge, student choice around material and pace, and enrichment ~
  • Allow gifted kids to follow their passions and spend more time learning how to learning with their unique styles. ~ Barry Gelston
  • Provide opportunities for them to use their interests as a base for learning. ~ Carol Bainbridge
  • Make learning relevant with students learning what they need to know and then able to demonstrate it to an authentic audience. ~ Tony Rudd

A full transcript can be found at Storify.


Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented and sponsored by is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7E/6C/5M/4P in the U.S., Midnight in the UK and Saturdays 11 AM NZST/9 AM AEST to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our new Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media    Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal 2015 (pdf) Joan Smutny, editor

Engaging & Challenging Curriculum: Supporting Advanced & Gifted Learners (Amazon)

Fostering Critical & Creative Thinking in the K12 Classroom: Overview (pdf)

AUS: Critical & Creative Thinking across the Curriculum

Nurturing Critical & Creative Thinking Skills (Slideshare)

Strategies to Promote Critical Thinking in the Elementary Classroom

Critical & Creative Thinking

Teaching Creative Thinking with Awareness & Discovery Questions

Helping Students Transition to Critical & Creative Thinking (pdf)

Making Thinking Visible: Building Understanding through Critical & Creative Thinking

Teaching Critical Thinking: An Evidence-based Guide

Learning to Learn Creative Thinking & Critical Thinking DCU – Ireland (pdf)

Cybraryman’s Critical Thinking Page

Sprites Site Doggy Classroom Dynamics Compares Critical vs Creative Thinking Styles

Why Technology Alone Won’t Fix Schools


Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

Educating for Global Competence

Educating for Global Competence centered on how and why we need to educate our students to take on a greater presence on the global stage. More and more complex issues have arisen over time and there is a greater need for great minds to solve these problems ~ Clean drinking water, mass migration, climate instability and world peace are a few of the global issues facing us. All these require critical and higher-order thinking to solve. A complete transcript of this chat may be found here.

This week’s chat was scheduled at a different time to see if this would affect attendance. It did! Our next chat will be back to the regular schedule!


Global Risks, World Economic Forum

Cybraryman’s Multi-Cultural Page

Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk: The Danger of a Single Story

Flat Classroom Conference  #flatclassroom

Global Classroom Twitter Chats 2nd Saturday of the month (3 chats)

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