WHAT {DO YOU, AS A} CRITICAL THINKER, DO TO LEARN? – PART 6A – CRITICAL THINKING SERIES

Disclaimer: Good Day, Readers.  WealthBuildingPowers blog is a financial literacy/competency blog and does not provide specific investment recommendations.  

STYRON’S INTRODUCTION

I sincerely wish before college, I had read and utilized this blog! The good news, it is NEVER TO LATE TO LEARN!

Jim Leemann, Ph.D.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to learn?  In school, we often conflate learning with memorizing.  Do you remember cramming for an examination the night before the test?  How much of what you crammed into your brain the night before can you remember a week later?  Better yet, how well do you think you would do taking an examination on the same material one month later?

Before we delve into Learning, if you are interested in digging deeper into Critical Thinking, please consider joining The Center for Critical Thinking Community online webinar Q & A sessions, many of which are free.  To learn more go to: https://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/webinar-workshops-community-online/1381#the-prevalent-role-of-concepts-in-human-thought-and-action

What do Critical Thinkers do to learn?

Part A

In this column, we will explore ways to improve learning, how the best students learn, the organizing concept and logic behind a topic, thinking within the logic of a subject, making a course/work project work for you, important activities for successful learning, deciphering the logic of an article and book, and learning how to evaluate an author’s reasoning.  Learning involves taking an active role in planning your learning by focusing on the goals you want to achieve, the questions you want to answer, the information you need, the concepts you want to understand, and the perspectives you need to accept.

Strategies for Improving Learning

Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder present in their Critical Thinking – Learn the Tools the Best Thinkers Use 18 ideas that can give you the means to improve your learning.  A variety of ideas are given to allow flexibility in learning depending on the subject.

Idea #1 – Begin by thoroughly understanding the requirements of what you will need in order to learn the subject.  For a student, find out how the class will be taught and what is expected of you.  Ask questions about grading policies, for example, is a grading rubric used.

Idea #2 – Work ideas into your thinking through active reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Idea #3 – Consider the subject you are studying as a form of thinking.  In other words, if you are studying economics, think as an economist.

Idea #4 – Engage in discussions by asking questions to find out what you know and, better yet, find out what you do not know.

Idea #5 – The content of every subject we study is always comprised of a system of interconnected ideas wherein you want to relate new learning to previous learning.

Idea #6 – Consider your boss or your teacher as your coach, and you are a team member practicing your thinking in a manner exemplified by your coach.

Idea #7 – Think of the textbook or company work products as the thinking of the author(s) by explaining the main points of the text to another student or co-worker as if you were the author.

Idea #8 – Use the time you are in class or meeting with your colleagues on a project to practice thinking within the subject area, drawing upon the fundamental concepts and principles of the course or project.  Don’t be a passive participant, thinking knowledge acquired will freely flow into your brain.

Idea #9 – Whatever content you encounter, relate it to issues, problems, and practical situations in your life and work.  Failing to do so means you do not know the content.

Idea #10 – Identify the studying and learning skills you need to develop and practice those skills at all opportunities, making course corrections when you discover a weakness.

Idea #11 – Ask yourself, “Can I explain this content to someone, not in this class or working on this project?  If you cannot, you have not learned the content well enough.

Idea #12 – Identify and elaborate on the key concepts of the course or work project during the first two or three class sessions or weeks on the project.  Then relate your key concepts to what you learn afterward.  Fundamental ideas can become the basis for all others.

Idea #13 – Routinely ask questions to explain the missing pieces in your learning.  Ask them of yourself, your teacher, or your project manager.  Questions such as, can you elaborate further on concept x?  Can you give us an example of concept y?

Idea #14 – Prepare yourself before coming to class or attending a project meeting by summarizing, either orally or in writing, the main points of the previous class or project meeting.  Failing to summarize the main points means you have not learned them.

Idea #15 – Use the Intellectual Standards to test your learning.  Ask yourself, am I clear, accurate, precise, relevant, logical, and am I looking for what is most significant?

Idea #16 – Writing is an excellent way to learn.  Write summaries of the important points from your textbook or other reading material and test yourself on these main points.

Idea #17 – Employ active listening and frequently check to be sure you are indeed actively listening.  Test yourself by summarizing what your teacher or project manager is saying in your own words.

Idea #18 – Frequently evaluate your reading by distinguishing what you understand from what you do not understand.

How The Best Students Learn

Learning through the medium of the school classroom has been the traditional means most of us have been exposed to when it comes to learning.  Typically, teachers impart a body of knowledge to students through lectures and homework over the course of several weeks and use quizzes and examinations to determine what the students have learned.  Students rely on taking notes during lectures, trying to anticipate points that might be on a test, and then cram one or two nights before an examination endeavoring to store a large volume of information in their short-term memory.  Neither approach leads to what Drs. Paul and Elder call Deep Learning.  In fact, they note students using these means go from being passive learners to desperate learners and from being inactive learners to frantic learners.

Drs. Paul and Elder present the following ideal ways to become the best student learner.  Practicing these will significantly improve your learning journey. They include:

  1. Become proficient in reading, writing, speaking, and listening
  2. Acquire and effectively use significant information, reasoning well, communicate effectively, solve problems, and exercise sound personal and professional judgment
  3. Become proficient in formulating, using, and assessing goals and purposes, questions and problems, information and data, conclusions and interpretations, concepts and theoretical constructs, and points of view and frames of references
  4. Think more clearly, accurately, precisely, relevantly, deeply, broadly, logically, and fairly
  5. Be more intellectually perseverant, responsible, disciplined, humble, empathetic, and productive
  6. Act more reasonably, ethically, and effectively in thinking through personal and professional issues
  7. Commit to a lifelong pledge to learn to effectively address a world of accelerating change, intensifying complexity, and increasing interdependence

Obviously, developing these skills will not surface by merely taking notes and cramming for examinations.  It will take focus and practice on your part to set yourself apart from your fellow students.

Organizing Concept and Logic Behind a Subject

The organizing concept and logic behind a subject or discipline is often the same as the one behind a course.  Drs. Paul and Elder offer eight central structures that define a form of thought.  Each form of thought answers these questions about the eight elements of thought in a slightly different way.

  1. What are the goals or objectives of the course or discipline?
  2. What questions or problems will be central?
  3. What concepts will be fundamental?
  4. What information will I need to reason well within this subject?
  5. What point-of-view or frame-of-reference do I need to learn to reason within?
  6. What assumptions define the course or discipline?
  7. What kinds of conclusions will I need to learn?
  8. What are the payoffs (implications) of reasoning well within the discipline?

Understanding the form of thought that defines the subject allows you to think within the discipline, similar to the way experts think in the field.

Thinking Within the Logic of the Subject

Once you have the big picture of a subject or course, plan your learning in stages as the content of the subject or course begins to unfold.  Attend class or your work project meetings armed with questions you create from your class notes and textbook or prior project meeting notes.  Seek out other reference sources to expand your understanding of the subject.  For a subject, consider one or more of the following questions to ask:

  • What is the main goal of studying this subject?
  • What are people/experts in this subject trying to accomplish?
  • What kinds of questions do they ask?  What kinds of problems do they try to solve?
  • What sort of information or data do they gather?
  • How do they go about gathering information in ways that are distinctive to this subject?
  • What is the most basic idea, concept, or theory in this subject?
  • How should studying this subject affect my view of the world?
  • How are the products of this subject used in everyday life?

Using these overarching questions, here are questions you can use on a given day in class or at a project meeting:

  • What is our main goal today?
  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • What kinds of questions are we asking?  What kinds of problems are we trying to solve?
  • What sort of information or data do we need?
  • How can we get that information or data?
  • What is the most basic idea, concept, or theory we need to understand to solve the problem we are considering?
  • How should we look at this problem?
  • How does the problem relate to everyday life?

Bio: Jim Leemann, Ph.D.

Dr. Leemann has had a 45-year career that has included being in the forefront of the safety, occupational health, and environmental fields in both the private and public sector. In addition, for 22 of those years, Dr. Leemann was an adjunct assistant professor teaching a variety of environmental and public health courses in the country’s oldest school of public health. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, master’s degrees in industrial hygiene and environmental engineering, his doctorate is in systemic management, which he has used to apply systems thinking methods to address organizational management problems.   

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ABOUT ME

I am a proud nerd (as my beautiful wife and daughter have told me) investment and finance blogger with an N.C.  State, Chemical Engineering, University Rutgers, MBA and Harvard University, Advanced Management education.

I left a corporate career because I desired to make a difference as a speaker and writer.  I was blessed to be coached and mentored by strong women and men in my family and professional life.  It is my time to serve and give back.

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I started my first business at ~13 years of age (a small but brilliantly created plant nursery). I am a successful investor in stocks, options, real estate and am happy to share my finance and investment lessons.  I am NOT a licensed financial advisor.  Please do not construe my suggestions on this blog as recommendations for your situation.  As an investor, you must establish your risk/loss tolerance.  Investment in any asset involves risk, including complete loss. 

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Powers Investments Management, LLC

This blog will provide, information and simple strategies, that will assist you to achieve YOUR financial objectives and long term targets. For over 30 years, I solved multi-million dollar problems, for Fortune 10-250, companies. My formal education includes: Business, Finance and Chemical Engineering {Problem Solving} at: Harvard, Rutgers and North Carolina State. And an additional 30+ years, managing my family’s investment decisions. I currently manage/advise people with net-worths ranging from the tens of thousands to several million dollars.

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