Why Advanced Thinking Skills Are Needed For All Students

Why Advance Thinking Skills Are Important For Our Graduates


All of us attended school and all of us remember that the teacher had all the knowledge and we had to guess what she or he knew, so we could demonstrate that understanding.  Quite often that teacher would play the game of, “Guess What I Am Thinking?” And if we did not give the answer, we were shamed or another student was called upon.  He or she was taping to the lowest level of cognitive skills, memory. 

But is the knowledge level of cognition, the lowest level as identified by Bloom and others, sufficient for success in our current and ever changing world? Today’s educator’s task is to prepare students to live and thrive with access to all sources of information and skills. Our young need to learn how to dissect all available information, separate fact from fiction and learn how to integrate the available information into a practical form. Our educators need to help our students navigate that minefield called The Internet. Artificial intelligence can serve as a tool to navigate the Internet intelligently too. Most students come to school with the internet in the palm of their hands.  But, just being able to cruise the internet is insufficient. We need to guide student beyond that lowest level of cognition. 

To accomplish these tasks, our K-12 students need advanced thinking skills.  Those skills, practiced with frequency, would engage and empower students to be prepared for this changing world and workplace.  All students, when they leave our schools for a job or higher education, the demand for a different preparation is clear.  Work places are changing with automation and robotics replacing those jobs that required repetitive tasks.  The pandemic has accelerated that change with regular jobs disappearing being replaced by automation or robotics who do not get sick and who do not need rest. 

The skills of creating thinking, critical thinking, inquiry learning, problem based learning and how to work collaboratively, are the life skills of the Information Age, and if taught with fidelity, would narrow the elusive achievement gap, preparing our students for this changing world. 

Why are these skills important? These advanced skills are needed in the coursework students need to take on while still in high school.  Students interested in a more rigorous pathway to college would take on advanced classes and AP coursework.  Students well versed in critical and creative thinking would be prepared for success in those advanced courses.

Not all students are destined for college or advanced degrees.  A trade school is an appropriate match for students looking to move into the workforce earlier than their peers. Either pathway would demand that capacity to engage in those advanced skills of this legislation. 

One example experienced by high school students is the “Woods” courses many high schools have abandoned. Despite the growing need for knowledgeable cabinetmakers, those programs met their demise, in part, due to a greater dependence on test prep.  Yet, we know that work requires a different preparation. In one metro school district, a partnership was developed between a community college, and cabinet shop and the school district’s “Woods” program.  Students who had moved successfully through three levels of “Woods” moved into a cabinet building program, in which they worked on a technologically advanced cabinet design machine that require programming that they had to learn.  They engaged in problem solving, they applied critical thinking and creative thinking as they developed capacity to guide cabinet making with this equipment.  After graduating from high school and completing a year-long program at the community college they were offered employment, in a high paying job, with the cabinet shop. 

Another example I observed was a student with whom I had worked decided one of his long-term inquiries would be to examine, in an in-depth analysis, of a state agency’s computer system and recommend changes and upgrades.  Over a six-month effort he complied his understanding of the current systems and recommended research supported changes. Four months later we was asked to intern at Microsoft with two summers working at tasks at Microsoft’s home in Portland.  Completing his 4 years at UM IT program, he was hired to return to Portland in a full time position.   

Some inquires in classrooms are completed collaboratively by students.  This practice reflects the methods employed by big and small corporations who divide up tasks to complete a complex product.  SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd. or Shenzhen DJI Sciences and Technologies Ltd. in full, more popularly known as its trade name DJI which stands for Da-Jiang Innovations, is a Chinese technology company headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, with manufacturing facilities throughout the world, including the US. Those facilities take on different tasks to complete a drone for the international market.  The camera was could have been created in Indonesia, while the drone engines may be designed China and built in other markets, and the controls might be assembled in the US.  Collaboration is a critical skill for the future and there exists evidence of that suggest collaborative learning positively impacts student achievement.   



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