CIA FIRST Middle School Middle and High School Humanities Coordinator Daryl Thompson, walks us through the present and growing relationship between creativity and job prospects
Today, employers around the world view critical thinking skills as an essential requirement for the modern day job market. We see them referenced prominently in job advertisements and educational journals. Employers value workers who know how to bring creative solutions to the conference table and help businesses to be innovative and competitive.
But critical thinking doesn’t always come easily to people.
It is, in the majority of cases, a learned skill.
Therefore, it is important to identify the most important characteristics associated with critical thinking. The definition has shifted through the times, but today it is primarily associated with the ability to apply solutions to problems after analysing multiple perspectives. In a world of overloaded information, it is vital that critical thinkers can sift through the multitude of knowledge available and determine what is useful in order to solve the problem at hand. This also requires a shift in educational practice to meet this demand. A fundamental change is needed where the transmission of knowledge is transformed to a student centred classroom environment where skills and understandings are constructed through debate, discussion and inquiry.
Not so long ago, schools transmitted knowledge to students who had a good idea of the job they wanted in the future. If you wished to be a travel agent you may have concentrated on Geography, a future journalist may have needed qualifications in English Language and Literature. These jobs are quickly becoming obsolete with the advent of the internet. Comparison websites for travel destinations and much more easily accessible digital news platforms are closing down printed publications rapidly. This situation heralds a change in what graduates require to be successful. The new economy places increasing demands on flexible intellectual skills, and the ability to analyse information and integrate diverse sources of knowledge in solving problems. Good critical thinking promotes such thinking skills, and is very important in the fast-changing workplace.
At CIA FIRST we recognize the importance of critical thinking skills and we have them embedded into each of our assessment types. The Performance Task (PT) is an authentic, real life problem solving project which incorporates modern critical thinking skills through the Schoolwide Learner Outcomes (SLOs). These SLOs include the skills of appraising information for reliability and validity, making informed decisions after analysing multiple perspectives and identifying problems and finding solutions to those problems.
This is exactly what employers are looking for today and they often ask for evidence of problem solving examples in interviews. At CIA FIRST, every PT is an example. In Social Studies, we have our High School students looking at the Mekong River and whether using dams is a positive or negative solution for the welfare of the people of Cambodia. In an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) unit we get our students to look at devising a plan for the networking and computer architecture for a proposed new CIA FIRST campus. These are real world problems which need to be solved using specific, modern skills. CIA FIRST is embedding these skills in our students for the unpredictable job markets of the future.
We also employ the Habits of Mind into our curriculum (HoM). These are a set of 16 problem solving skills which include flexibility, collaboration and creativity and are seen as key components of what many educators term ‘21st Century Skills’.
It is very important to instill and maintain a culture of inquiry which promotes the development of these important life related skills within CIA FIRST. Through the school’s accreditation process, we concluded that many existing schools are too rigid, formal and detached from real life. Upon reflection, we realised that students required opportunities to inquire, to think, to self-reflect in an authentic real-life context which would enable them to be able to transfer their learning to new situations beyond the classroom.
To be successful in this educational setting and subsequently the modern marketplace, critical thinking skills must be acquired. AT CIA FIRST, the students have a theoretical background on why these skills are important. Through our Understanding by Design curriculum framework they will also have the practical application through problem solving performance tasks to be prepared to use these vital critical thinking skills now and in the future.