Critical thinking or memorization? This is the education that comes


It is fully accepted that we are in an information society (they also say that of knowledge , a doubtful statement if it refers to the entire population). We receive news of all kinds from very different media, more or less traditional: press, radio, television, internet or social networks. This results in the possibility of accessing any type of knowledge in a few minutes or even seconds. We all have that experience.

It is obvious that any important circumstance that modifies the social reality should have a direct and immediate impact on the approaches of the educational system and, to speak more specifically, on the daily work in the classroom.

Is education stagnant?

Institutional, systemic education seems to have stagnated in classical principles, already outdated, which at the time justified its appearance. Certainly, when all the knowledge of Humanity was summarized in the Trivium and the Quadrivium (as a simplistic example, of course), the person could aspire to master it. Not so today. As the researcher Beatriz Pizarro affirms , “the volume of news and information handled by a 16th century man in his entire life was less than what any modern man can read in an edition of The New York Times on Sunday.”

That is, with a simple click it is possible to have three million answers to our question in twenty seconds. More information, perhaps. The problem is presented below: what do we do with so much response? Is all that information reliable? Which one responds to my interests? Many more questions that the internet search engine will not answer us.

It is necessary to consider, then, what is the training that young generations really need to manage autonomously in this society to access the different areas in which their lives will unfold with equal opportunities, to be able to participate as a citizen without prejudice to your freedoms.

Obviously, it will not be correct to continue with a system that allows obtaining titles based on memorizing information that is not understood and that does not qualify for this current life. It is necessary to transform the model and balance the role that the different essential competencies must play in the integral formation of the person and, consequently, organize the curricular design around the methodological strategies and evaluation procedures that are coherent to achieve that domain of the competences and objectives that favor personal autonomy and the ability to continue learning throughout life.

Critical thinking is cited in the title because it is the opposite of mindless memorization. The possibility of questioning / se the usefulness of certain knowledge arises from the ability to think autonomously.

Do not just repeat without understanding. This results in an immediate forgetfulness as soon as it fulfills the task for which it was memorized: to reflect it on an exam and obtain a grade. It is a useless process, which represents an irrecoverable loss of time and life that, of course, does not guarantee adequate training or positive attitudes towards lifelong learning.

Cultivating critical , divergent and creative thinking is the basis for progress in creating mental structures that make us grow as people. It is to have the security that we will be able to discern between the multiple information (or infoxications) received from different media and not to allow ourselves to be manipulated (as far as possible) by them.

And this is not difficult to work in the classroom (many teachers know and practice it). We have at our disposal both the press and the internet or television channels, tools that offer us the same news with even opposite approaches.

Children and adolescents perfectly distinguish these varieties of nuances and confrontations, in their case. And they can argue for or against, debate the views received. Conclusion: promoting critical thinking is an affordable task, from now on, to take it to the daily life of educational work.

The student body as the protagonist

Of course, you have to park the literal repetition of what the book or the teacher says. We must undertake a renovating task in which the students are more protagonists, for which we have strategies already known and implemented, more and more, in our centers: project method, learning based on problems , challenges or tasks, assemblies, game-based learning, debates, mental or conceptual maps, cooperative work , simultaneous dialogues and a long etcetera that stimulates the implementation of new ways of doing that, while mastering certain necessary and excellent knowledge, favor autonomous learning and, therefore, therefore, the development of one’s own thinking and the competence to defend it.

All this, accompanied by an evaluation that assesses the learning obtained since, in this case, it is not possible to do it through a traditional exam. Cooperating, debating, respecting your partner, arguing, giving your opinion or seeking information are not tasks that can be assessed in two hours every three months. They must be evaluated day by day, while the actions proposed and carried out in the classroom are carried out.

It is necessary to go from a specific and written procedure to other varied ones that offer information about how to learn, what is learned or how to collaborate: observation, interview, sociometry, photovoice, etc., capturing the data obtained in anecdotes, checklists , valuation scales and photographs. This is neither difficult nor requires new legislation. Everything is contemplated in the pedagogical autonomy that the centers have, so it can be applied now .

If methodology and evaluation are consistent and, furthermore, they seek to achieve that autonomy of thought that we demand, we will achieve it. In these times, it is not an occurrence, but an imperative need to train upright, autonomous people, with their own thinking and the ability to defend it, thus avoiding the obvious manipulation that is revealed every day in our vital context.

Waiting for a new curriculum design

The news that is reaching us from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training seems to respond to these social and curricular demands.

Hopefully a curriculum more focused on skills necessary to live in society (finally, in applied knowledge, not purely memory), that favors interdisciplinary and cooperative work, active collaboration between the teaching staff of the center and the promotion of approaches that promote , really, the educational transformation that is expected from many professional sectors.

If the legal norm helps new approaches, there is no doubt that the impulse required by today’s education could be a fact that will transform life and allow us to move forward with some confidence in an uncertain context like the one we have in these times.

Author Bio: Maria Antonia Casanova is Professor and Director of the Higher Institute for Educational Promotion (Madrid) at Camilo José Cela University