Most schools—especially in areas of high ethnic and economic diversity—have concerns over “student achievement gaps,” academic-success differences related to demographics. This post series looks at ideas for remedying the problem.
Since student achievement gaps involve a variety of social and psychological issues, no blog can cover every point unique to your classroom. There will be times you have to work out your own approaches from scratch.
You’ll be best prepared for these times—and best equipped to help students develop their own skills for overcoming opportunity gaps—if you understand critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
The Art of Critical Thinking
You’ve probably guessed that “critical thinking” does not mean skill in blame-casting. Quite the opposite, it starts with learning to look at your own thinking with a critical eye, setting aside assumptions and snap judgments so you can see all facets of a situation (including others’ points of view) with an open mind.
Effective critical thinking is the first step in pinpointing the roots of a problem and seeing options for remedying it. Key skills include:
How to Solve a Problem
Of course, understanding a situation is only the first step. More than one problem has remained unsolved because a committee of obsessive critical thinkers got stuck in an analysis loop.
One proven technique for moving from critical thinking to problem-solving action (as outlined by self-help author Dale Carnegie in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living) is to write down brief answers to four questions:
Make sure to put it in writing and answer all the questions. Usually, the best solution will make itself clear this way—then, schedule it and do it!
A few more hints for problem-solving: