Which one is more important? Critical thinking skills or memorizing?
The answer may seem obvious to you. If you are a teacher, then you wouldn’t want your students memorize things. Instead, you’d be glad to see that they can think critically. The same is true if you are a parent but what about students? Which one is more important for them?
The answer is not as clear as you may think. Let me give you an example. Below is a math question
– A man charges $2 for a pen and has been selling about 100 of them a week. He estimates that for every $0.50 price increase he sells 10 pens less. What price will maximize the revenue?
This is a typical quadratic modelling question. It is from real life and needs thinking. The first step is writing a function. You may know how to deal with a given quadratic function but in this case it is not given and if you can’t figure out what is going on, you can’t write a function and can’t solve the question. So, you need to be a critical thinker but a memorizer can memorize how to write a function by watching/listening/reading similar questions.
Suppose a mistake is made and instead of $3.50 the answer is found as $350. At this point critical thinker realizes there is a problem and controls his/her work and finds the error. The memorizer, on the other hand, won’t think about the meaning of high price. On a classic exam, he/she will continue with the next question and get partial credit but in a multiple choice test he/she can find the answer because there won’t be any $350 in choices which means there is an error.
The major difference between these two students is about using time. Critical thinker spends time thinking but memorizer just starts solving the question as he did in the past at least thousand times. When it comes to finding the error, the same thing happens again. Now, which one is more important in a college entrance examination with lots of multiple choice questions – using time wisely and solving as many questions as possible or thinking critically on each question? The answer seems blurred to me.
This situation is valid for our classrooms, too. Making lots of group activities, collaborative studies or tasks requiring critical thinking, etc. won’t mean anything if you still assess your students in a 40 minute exam. We need different assessment methods in our classrooms and I believe we can do it by using technology.
Project Based Learning, Game Based Learning and other types of learning theories can be enriched by technology. New technologies offer students lots of opportunities. They can easily create a content, share it or watch and comment on others’ work, collaborate and discuss things anytime, anywhere. The key point is that we shouldn’t try to assess new skills with old methods. Otherwise, the results will not be satisfactory.
P.S.: This article got a great interest in LinkedIn. If you have a LinkedIn account you can see the comments and discussions going on at http://goo.gl/xmJH7 and http://goo.gl/0hDG0