Quality or quantity?

Students reading The New Times. File

What does teaching thinking consist of? As complex and sophisticated as it seems, it is actually not. On the contrary thinking skills can be adequately taught by deliberately considering how we as educators present the information to our students and what we make them do with it. For younger children, it could simply be using the content of the story and asking them questions such as, what do you think this story will be about — before reading the story.

While they are reading simple questions that require them to use clues to work out meaning, it can effectively encourage them to process information. These questions can sound like this; how do you know that the girl was happy, sad or angry? Give evidence.

How would you feel if you were Jack being chased by the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk? And after they read, asking them to continue the story in the same way it was written ensures that they will process it and link old information to create new stuff. At the end of one lesson, you have consistently provided them with the scaffold to think creatively.

Does this exercise look difficult? The challenge would be the availability of time; at least that is what most teachers’ argument is. That there is simply not enough time to dwell on a single topic long enough as that will mean not finishing the syllabus adequately. So the million franc question is: what is more crucial, quantity or quality? 

What we want to achieve when all is said and done is what should guide the conversation between all the concerned stake holders: parents, policy makers, curriculum developers and ultimately, educators. Do we want to focus on getting as many facts as possible crammed into children’s heads, or do we want to challenge them into thinking creatively and smartly?

Of course to accomplish this great feat will require a lot of effective rethinking of our curriculum to ensure that the end product of the education structure is a smart, seasoned thinker, confident in working out any challenge that comes their way because their minds and brains have been well cultivated.

Today’s world demands for people who can think on their feet, and fast too. Anyone short of this is left hills behind. How can we do the same things in our education system and expect different results? What does that make me and you? Einstein has the answer to that question. 

 

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