Learning Labels Show Methods Behind Skills (Like Critical Thinking)


A movement to track skills is a step forward, but the next movement is to track the underlying methods and applications behind skills. Teaching critical thinking – a pinnacle skill – is something we need to work on. My reasoning comes from two books published a few years ago: Our Underachieving Colleges by Derek Bok and Academically Adrift by a team of authors. Two quotes summarize their findings:

It is impressive to find faculty members agreeing almost unanimously that teaching students to think critically is the principal aim of undergraduate education. – Derek Bok

No statistically significant gain in critical thinking, complex reasoning, or writing skills for at least 45 percent of students. (Students who took CLA+ before college and after two years of college.) – Academically Adrift authors

But, this is not a persuasive article trying to convince you the need to scrutinize and put more time and resources into developing this skill. I think this is already agreed upon. Rather, this is an article about a solution to this problem, what is being done with Skills / Learning Label™ . This technology addresses the problem in three ways:

First, a practitioner assigns many skills (critical thinking) for any task – regardless of the discipline or subject, type of task, or education stage. So, for higher education, a practitioner creating a task in humanities (summarizing thoughts of a philosopher), economics (applying game theory in an actual situation), or marketing (ranking and choosing copy for a campaign), references critical thinking in the task. It appears on the learning label and is tracked as a leaner completes the task.

Second, a practitioner references standards behind skills (critical thinking). Through the Skills Label interface, it is possible to assign standards for each skill in a task. Assign the standards through the administrative interface, and they appear on the labels themselves.

Standards can be commonly accepted ones (like Common Core); standards can be dynamic ones (created and recognized by a group of professors / institutions). This video provides an initial introduction to the standards interface.

Third, a practitioner references underlying methods and application behind the skill. Perhaps a teacher / professor does not find a suitable set of standards, so assigns specific methods or applications behind the skill. For example, in this task, the learner uses reasoning, ranking, summarizing, deducing, etc.

All of this can be accomplished in an unobtrusive, non- time-consuming way. (It is built into a Label Wizard to quickly construct the labels.) Once the standards or methods are in place, they are easily accessible through the administrative interface.

Furthermore, this level of detail and functionality works for all skills in Skills Label.

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