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Un-Learning

Danny Well makes a good point:

In other words, people have to learn uncritical thinking as well; uncritical thinking is also learned activity.  Therefore not all teaching and learning is good.  How do we differentiate the chad from the wheat?

In order to analyze what we want students to learn, we first have to analyze what students are learning with the instructional strategies that we are using now. We have to analyze not what we hope we are teaching, but what we are in reality teaching.

This isn’t an easy practice. As a history teacher, when I got a stack of 42 very similar sounding essays comparing and contrasting Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, what I thought I was teaching was students to compare and contrast. In reality, what I had taught them was to write for me, their teacher.

They all had similar reasons, they all had similar transition sentences. At that point, I had to rethink how I had presented the lesson and the assignment. Students didn’t feel comfortable breaking out what they thought where my expectations for the essay, which meant that I had somehow, whether intentionally or unintentionally, presented the idea that there was one right way to write or do this particular assignment.

I wasn’t teaching critical thinking, I was teaching uncritical follow my example thinking. It’s not easy to admit that you aren’t teaching what you think you are teaching, but when you can, your students will certainly benefit!