A Critical Thinking Exercise – Which would you rather battle?

 In Case Studies, Education

See how this simple exercise had over 100 people brainstorming and voting on the best arguments. Industry professionals meets VET teachers to bring currency to the curriculum.

Ask yourself this.  Which would you rather battle?

1 horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?

This was the question posed to attendees of the Industry Currency day where over 110 VET teachers were asked to share and debate their views using GroupMap as their audience response system. This professional development session was focused on ways to improve critical thinking skills – a key learning outcome for 21st century learning in any curriculum.

perth industry forum groupmap

Each person was asked to pick a side initially. Then, in small groups add their arguments to be shared as part of a collaborative learning exercise. Here’s some of the ideas they came up with. Could you think of any others?

With the opposing views  captured, this became the perfect fodder for a healthy debate. But we wanted to take it one step further to work out which arguments were the strongest.

Using the concepts of logical fallacies (flaws in logic) and the simple like/dislike buttons, people voted up the arguments that they felt best made their case.  The best and strongest arguments would then float to the top and the results shown. The goal was to focus on the strongest arguments put forward by the each side.

Running through the ideas allowed people to comment and to support and challenge what was being said by their peers. This form of collective learning certainly isn’t something you could do with simple polling.

After discussion, the audience was then asked who would change their minds based on the arguments presented. Whilst a hypothetical discussion, it highlights the importance of forming a good argument free from logical flaws.

Hosted by Training Council (FAPSTC) and held at Curtin University, the Industry engagement forum provided a technology driver environment for the VET sector to interact with speakers and industry representatives. More than 40% of year 12 students undertaking a VET qualification in 2014.  The event itself was an overall success.

“Alison Sweet, event organizer from FAPSTAC said: “Teachers can gain insights to help them take industry intelligence and embed it into their classrooms, creating relevant, authentic and innovative environments.”

Part of the session also included an interactive industry Q&A powered by GroupMap. “We wanted to lead by example “ said Sweet, “and make the most of collaboration tools like GroupMap. It allows audience members to ask questions to presenters as they have them, engaging those that might not be comfortable asking questions in a large group forum. By being able to retain questions that are not answered on the day, and leaving the platform open for new questions throughout the event, the transfer of information and collaboration can be maximised.  It also allows teachers to see industry technology in practice, making its incorporation into classrooms easier to imagine and implement.”

Additional sessions included test running a new social media platform called FauxBook, insights into careers in business, finance and technology from Microsoft and BankWest and industry updates from a panel of industry speakers.

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Ready to try your own critical thinking exercises?

Here’s 5 tips to consider to help students become independent learners.

  1. Set examples that do not have a straight forward answer. These are your non-Google”able” items that challenge the student ability to examine perceptions, inferences and conclusions. “Which is better? Oranges or bananas?”
  2. Start and end with “Why”. This is a clear sign that people are engaging in thinking. In fact, a simple technique is to ask Why 5 times so you really drill down into the basic logic.
  3. Aren’t questions great? It’s been said that learning stops at an answer and thinking happens during question.  A socratic style and deliberate questioning with the group will certainly get those neurons firing.
  4. Engage in visual thinking. In this blog example, we used a 2 column list just to represent opposing views. You could also use Plus, Minus Interesting, 6 thinking hats or a collaborative mind map to give people different thinking activities. The use of space with graphic organizers promote more expansive thinking, but with the context of the activity.
  5. Give them time to think. Want to avoid that awkward silence when you ask a large group a question? Critical thinking exercises require a little introspection and processing time. Give people a chance to brainstorm individually first (yes, this is a feature in GroupMap) so that they can then share it more broadly with the wider group.

If you would like to watch a quick critical thinking exercise in action, please watch the below video.

Jeremy is a facilitator, trainer and business manager who is passionate about helping people think better together. He has received recognition as Sessional Teacher of the Year (Curtin University), Young Professional of the Year (AIMWA). His roles have ranged from facilitating workshops and strategy planning days, designing software applications and helping set up sustainability based restaurants in New York and London. He writes about group decision making, collaboration, entrepreneurship and creativity.
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