Reflection workshop critical thinking and debating

By Omar MarthaScreen Shot 2015-06-25 at 1.31.52 PM-1

What I wanted to achieve with the short workshop was that the students would get a bit of an idea on what it means to actually think critically about things around them. This idea came around because we often notice that the students can’t really explain why they do something, or readily believe anything they are told.

The video series I used for the class is a college level module on the subject of critical thinking. I had them follow the parts that covered what critical thinking is, how to understand arguments, various types of arguments, and how to evaluate an argument someone is using to validate its strength. After watching the videos, they were shown a couple of video fragments and had to evaluate the arguments the people in the video were using based on what they had just seen in the critical thinking videos. The fragments covered people like Dr. Oz making claims about food products that, according to him, should never be eaten. But also fragments from a press conference by Prime Minister Asjes about his recent trip to China.

What I noticed with this part was that some students had issues with the level of English being used. While not anything out of the ordinary, the clips use some big words that the students didn’t seem to be familiar with. The fact that they wouldn’t ask anything if they didn’t understand something meant that I had some trouble gauging how well they were understanding the matter. I tried to solve this by stopping the video and asked targeted questions about what was just explained to see if the students understood or not.

After this they had to participate in a small debate “competition”. Two groups of three students were given a statement —for example “Greentown is a good idea”— and each team was tasked to be either pro or against the statement. They would have to come with well formulated arguments to back up their claims. The students seem to have enjoyed this part quite a lot. A good deal of them would try to do some research on the subject given in the 5 minutes they got to prepare for a round. Certain students though, didn’t really care for the core idea behind the exercise; which was looking at a problem from both (or more) points of view. These students would have an obvious opinion about the subject at hand and would either have a really hard time taking the other side, be very weak in their arguments, or plainly refuse to play the counter side to their opinion. 
I also noted that even when students were tasked with forming arguments along a line they agreed with, they would sometimes have a hard time doing this properly. An example of this was the statement “gay marriage should be legal on Curaçao”.

The majority of students seemed to be pro this statement but failed miserably at defending it.

From what I’ve seen in this short workshop I was able to conclude that I should probably schedule the whole module for the next school year. I would have to spread out the module over a longer time period since it’s a pretty heavy subject. Maybe one day every two weeks. Hopefully this would lead to the students at least having a better grab of the idea of critical thinking and be more free in its usage. 
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Aside of this it’s probably also better to put a stronger emphasis on the academic development of the students. Incorporating reading assignments into the regular presentation assignment could be a way to move in this direction.

One thought on “Reflection workshop critical thinking and debating

  1. Thank you. I believe it is of great importance to bring this level of commination to the students, the younger the better. Understanding and/or interpreting verbal and non-verbal communication is challenging and I love the fact that this trigger the kids to be critical without being offensive, but form and defend their opinion in open communication with other students….. Can’t this be done at all schools on Curacao?

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