One response to “Critical Thinking in the Classroom: Turn Liberty Middle School’s Fail into a WIN”

  1. Kim

    I agree that this lesson had the start of an exceptional lesson. The idea of researching political candidates in order to help a campaign creates an authentic learning experience which could serve to motivate students and help them see real-world connections in the classroom. The group work would promote the use of social skills, communication, and collaboration. The assignment would also serve to promote various aspects of literacy as well as application of the class’ content.
    However, to limit this project to researching one politcal side and frame it in the context of finding weaknesses does the very opposite of what an authentic learning experience should do; it narrows the research into a teacher-directed, closed assignment. Rigorous instruction and critical thinking often involve presenting challenging, ambivalent content or activities to students. Set a specific criteria for what weaknesses AND strengths are in a candidate based on class content (or have students create this criteria as a class before they conduct research) and allow them to evaluate a candidate on their own, without the teacher’s viewpoint. Ask students to analyze various platforms of opposing candidates, identify points of difference or conflict, and develop a list of questions that a moderator might ask to spur a lively debate. Give students a specific platform (or allow them to choose) such as global warming or taxes and have them evaluate and justify which candidate would be “best” to address that single issue (again, establishing specific criteria based on class brainstorming for what “best” would mean). But please don’t do a student’s job by evaluating the candidate and asking students to dig up evidence to support it. Biases aside, it’s plain poor teaching when you give students the answer instead of letting them think and reseach on their own!
    6th Grade English Teacher
    Montgomery County, MD

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