Tag Archives: critical thinking

Teaching Morals in School -Character Education

Teaching values and morals in our schools can also be called “character education”. This is much debated on one hand and then much needed on the other. Education is generally focused on three things: knowledge, skills, and character.

Knowledge naturally covers the learning that is actually assimilated and usable in the future. It is also general knowledge that creates a well rounded mind and ultimately a well rounded person. This knowledge base allows students to experience a wide variety of subjects and therein find their particular interest and specialty. This is probably why in continuing education they require two years minimum of “general education”.
Skills refers to what the student can do or perform with the knowledge they have been given. It isn’t good enough to just give the information back on tests, students should come out with skills that they can use in the work place.
Character refers to the type of people that the school produces. If we do not teach character building values and morals in the schools we could be missing a great chance to better society. The debate comes in when parents believe that there is not place for anything but scholastic knowledge in the public schools.
Teachers and administrators will most likely argue the point that values and morals such as honesty and integrity are always okay and that there are no religious conflicts with such teachings. It isn’t that they are “God based” or “Christian” values and morals but that we need more upstanding and honest men and women in the world who are willing to do the right thing and stand up for what they know to be right.
Another attribute of character education is fostering pro-social traits. For example, an elementary school student may mistreat another student and the teacher may have to give a lesson on empathy and/or sympathy. These traits ultimately benefit the individuals, our families and then a society as a whole.
Character education can be taught in a wide variety of ways but it usually is not a specific topic in the curriculum. Rather it is a whole school focus that intertwines with scholastic education. That you are kind, you do take care of your neighbors, you treat the world and all those in it with the respect you want shown to you. Schools can do specific things such as focus on good role models and employ good role models, talk about heroes worth of being called heroes and what a hero really is, and then there needs to be reinforcement to see the kudos for what has been accomplished or shown. All students (young and old alike) like to see the fruits of their efforts.
Other things that can be brought about are critical thinking and problem solving skills, how they apply to the world and how to solve social problems. Helping students see as many sides to a situation as possible is a great thing and helps them in years to come with all of the interpersonal relationships. Students can also be taught how to break a situation down to make the best of a bad situation. For example, you can present a problem that there is no ideal answer to (like the welfare issues in the government). It can be taught that while there is no ideal answer other than to not have that issue you can choose from the options that you have wisely and try to foresee the pros and cons of each answer.

Toddlers, Preschoolers and Problem Solving

We have all observed a toddler or preschoolers ingenuity with solving problems. They may use a straw as a spoon, they may use any number of objects as a hammer. They realize that to get to something they want to reach they have to stack boxes and climb or open drawers on a dresser to use it as a ladder. While some of these may cause panic in parents and caregivers they are all great signs that the toddler is learning to solve problems on their own. Naturally caution needs to be observed so that the child’s safety is the priority.

It is crucial for parents and caregivers to realize that at times the best thing they can do when they see their child facing an obstacle is to stand back and let them find the solution. How else can they possibly gain the critical thinking skills necessary to do the task themselves. This critical thinking process is key as the child grows, matures and finally becomes an adult.

Certain toys are great for teaching children cause and effect. For instance a jack in the box. The child knows that if they crank the handle eventually Jack will pop out. Or a peg board with a hammer where the child learns that hammering down the different shaped pegs causes them to have to turn the board over to continue hammering. These are great toys and there are so many like them that teach cause and effect and don’t cost a lot of money.

Puzzles are great for kids for many reasons. This gives a child spatial reasoning as well as critical thinking and problem solving techniques. Just think of the steps a child goes through as they do a wooden puzzle that may have different animals that they have to match and put in the right spot. The child first identifies which picture looks like the puzzle piece they are holding, they then go to put the piece in the appropriate spot (motor skills), when it doesn’t work the child realizes that turning and twisting it will eventually make it fit. This is a great key for learning how to solve problems. It teaches the brain that you just keep working at something but keep trying different ways to solve the problem.

By providing interesting and stimulating (this does not mean high volume or high dollars) toys for your toddler and preschooler you will foster the ability to solve problems. Also, you will find yourself with a much more content toddler and a happier child overall. After all, these skills build self confidence and a child’s work is his play. Early childhood development is important. Remember that you can help your child gain further skills if needed by enrolling them in preschools (if old enough) and play or preschool groups with structured activities are great.

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning is actually a broad spectrum term in regards to many educational approaches between instructors and students. The idea is that pupils are presented with situations where they will depend on and be accountable to each other. This is very much like cooperative learning and can take in things like writing, group discussions, group tasks, and more.

Collaborative learning does not just have to take in the pupils in any setting. It can also include the wonderful world of technology. Students can use computers to bring data, make graphs, and other tools to their learning experience. The wonderful thing about using computers and networking in this way is that we can and do have virtual classrooms. Where material is presented, students discuss via forum or discussion threads and e-mail groups. Ideas are shared and brainstorming happens. The end result is the same as if they were sitting in a room together but sometimes even greater because each student has the ability to bring technology into play. With online encyclopedias, publishing’s, statistics and more, the world is at a student’s fingertips and the information can be shared.

The basic idea behind collaborative learning is that the students know that they “sink or swim together”. For example, in Army boot camps they use this in some field training. They will send a group of soldiers into a situation that seems impossible and they know that they have to communicate, work together and become united to overcome the challenge. These can be great team building experiences. Not only for the K-12 student, but the military personnel or a Fortune 500 company. Basically all groups can benefit from such challenges, including families.

A key finding in studies done on collaborative learning is that not only does this strengthen groups of people and make them come together but it raises critical thinking skills. It has been identified that when a group uses collaborative learning skills they produce better results, are more creative and are more efficient than individuals going about the same task.

More benefits of collaborative learning are:

Builds student’s self esteem
Creates an environment conducive to exploratory learning
Develops high critical thinking skills and thought processes
Fosters good social skills
Helps student’s with self management skills
Students take responsibility for each other, not just themselves
Is great for interpersonal relationships
Student’s learn to not criticize people, but individual ideas and concepts
Promotes problem solving

The benefits of this learning method are endless, the above are just a few key points. No matter what learning environment you are in, there is a good chance that collaborative learning could be a great thing to implement.