Creating a Collaborative Context for Critical Thinking in Composition.Report as inadecuate

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This paper describes the efforts of the director of a composition program who is also a teacher of composition at an open admissions college to teach critical thinking by showing students how to use content rather than just acquire it. Applying Jean Piaget's learning theory to classroom teaching, the director attempts to create an active learning environment that stimulates the imagination and causes the students (many of whom are nontraditional students or first generation college students) to formulate their own questions, problems, and hypotheses instead of remaining passive receivers. Teachers in the program use collaborative activities and informal debate in first-year composition classes to help students understand issues in a particular work such as the novel "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. Students volunteer to oppose or defend positions during a class hour and are free to use whatever logical argument or emotional appeal they choose. The effect of this debate can be electrifying for the students. During the next class period, students reflect on the issues and begin freewriting. In subsequent class sessions, students share ideas in small groups, searching for a focus and an organizing frame for their ideas. Through successive drafts, teachers answer questions and guide learners in brief conferences. These kinds of classroom activities allow students to identify and challenge their assumptions by addressing their own beliefs, values, ideas, and actions. The presence of a teacher is still very much needed but in a different way--a more supportive, coaching role. (RS)

Descriptors: Class Activities, Classroom Environment, Cooperative Learning, Critical Thinking, Debate, Freshman Composition, Higher Education, Open Universities, Teacher Role

Author: Hess, Marlene A.



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