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Critical thinking problem solving and decision making lesson plans

But as I sat down to write this installment, I had a bit of an epiphany.

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Our success with this technology standard depends completely on how willing we are to let go of the reins and let the students drive their own learning.

That was apparently written in 1993 about changing college teaching. But we now have the tools and the experience to know that we should be using inquiry and critical thinking with our youngest students as well. Most of my students are afraid to bring home anything less than an A.

The grades are what drive their achievement, not the learning. What they cram for a test is gone within weeks, and all they have learned is how to do well on tests. Have they retained anything of value?

My middle school students just finished up a project in which they created short surveys, had fifty or more people respond to them, and then graphed the results for an analysis report.

The older students had a proposed independent variable and dependent variable. Their graphs should have helped them determine if there was any kind of correlation between the two variables. I have a speech I give several times over the course of the project, which goes a little something like this: To say otherwise would be a lie, and will cost you points on the grade. We are fighting an uphill battle on this one, folks.

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How can we get our students to think critically, solve problems, and make decisions, when the dialog inside their minds sounds like this: Which choice will make my parents happy?

How can I still get an A if I start on this project two days before it is due? Which of my friends is on Facebook right now?

ARCS stands for attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction. By allowing them to find and choose a problem to solve, we get their attention, keep it relevant to them, enable them to gain confidence by trial and error, and just sit back and watch them derive satisfaction from their results. Have your students start locally: How can they decide on a problem to solve, develop a solution, and report on their experiences in ways that provide numerous opportunities for decision making?