Use of Critical Thinking in Education


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Many different meanings come to mind when I hear the words critical thinking. “No single definition of critical thinking is widely accepted”, is what Jane S. Halonen wrote in a scholar article. When teachers are asked what their meaning of critical thinking is they have many diferent answers. “As teachers, we often presume that we know what is meant by critical thinking.” A quote by Jane S. Halonen in the article, Demystifying Critical Thinking. Also McPeck (1981) suggested that the phrase "critical thinking" is paradoxically both "overworked and under-analyzed". I agree somewhat with these quotes, but as a teacher myself in an autistic classroom or any other classroom; we do use much thinking that often can be critical. In our classroom of autistic students, I ‘am the aide among a teacher and two other aides that teach in the same room. With our autism kids there is much analyzing, thinking skills to do the many tasks of education for their minds. We use critical thinking with documentation we do, planning activities and schedules, and forming good, work-related relationships with our students and our co-workers.
As with any students in the classroom a teacher must make sure they keep documentation on the many details of what goes on, but with our autistic students it is mandatory that we write every detail down in books. We have certain students that we have to use this documentation to protect ourselves from being accused of things that we don’t do. We have had times that a parent has accused us of causing bruises on a child’s writs by using restraint, and we have said several times we don’t use restraint and those bruises were already there. So now we document every little or big bruise we see at all diferent times of the day. It takes much critical thinking to word the details just right when the child does a simple task like going to the bathroom. Many times we have to use prompts, reinforcements, or lifting to get him to the bathroom, and we have to write all his actions down. He sometimes hits himself several times or hits us, and that must be documented, too. We do document on all of our students, but some students take much more documenting.
Planning activities and schedules requires a lot of critical thinking in a classroom.

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As an aide, I don’t have to plan a lot these activities and schedules; usually the teacher does that. I have learned many ways of doing things and not doing things the way she does it. Planning activities is done in a different way for autistic students. Many of our kids can’t do a simple math paper that you lay in front of them or an art project without some kind of help. We plan activities such as, sorting objects by colors, arranging objects by size, or pegs in number boards. We do have a couple of students that can do mainstreaming and some academic work. While working with one student on a math paper adding two digits that require carrying, I use critical thinking to plan how to make him understand this concept. This is beneficial for both the student and I, because it takes much patience to teach certain concepts.
Schedules in an autistic classroom have to be thoroughly planned or we can have major tantrums on our hands. I have helped our teacher make schedules for our classroom, and it requires much critical thinking. It is hard to make sure everyone in the classroom knows where they are supposed to be and what time their supposed to be doing the many tasks. We have to make sure every student gets a chance to be on the computer and has their work time and sensory times. When the schedule is changed or things don’t go as planned, our students really have fits; some can be pretty bad. If we think ahead and tell one of our students in particular that something is going to be different today, then many times it will avoid any tantrums that he may do.
Working in education requires being a team, and it takes critical thinking to keep good, work-related relationships with our students and our co-workers. In our classroom where there are three aides and a teacher, there can be confrontations at times. We don’t always see eye to eye. We have to think about what we say or do before we actually act on it. Keeping a good relationship with the students is healthy for any education. The teachers don’t have to be friends with the students to give them a good education, but they do need to earn their respect and they should get it. This is beneficial for both students and staff, because getting along is all part of having a good educational system.
In conclusion, teachers do use critical thinking in the performing of getting education across to our kids of the future. It is essential that I continue to use critical thinking when documenting the many details that go on in our classroom. Many words are used to describe the meaning of critical thinking from Michael Scriven & Richard Paul for the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking Instruction like, “intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, and synthesizing.” Teachers will always need to use critical thinking to thoroughly plan their activities and schedules for it to benefit the students of the school. A school system is not run well, if the teachers do not form dependable relationships with their students and co-workers. We need to continue to be well critical thinkers to make the education better in this world.


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