University of Queensland senior lecturer in philosophy Peter Ellerton said schools were operating like factories, focusing on transferring content rather than developing the essential critical thinking skills of their students.
He said teachers had become subject to a compliance-based curriculum and need more autonomy in the classroom.
“While critical thinking is written in the general capabilities of the curriculum as an imperative, there’s very little information on how it should be implemented in the classroom,” Ellerton said.
“We’ve got to give up the idea of the classroom as simply a place where knowledge is transmitted and move to one to where students are trained in the skills of inquiry,” he said.
Ellerton is the curriculum director of UQ’s Critical Thinking Project, which provides training for teachers and schools to develop critical thinking in education.
Throughout the project, which has engaged with hundreds of Queensland schools and national and international educators, Ellerton said embedding critical thinking in learning led to improved student outcomes in subject performance and participation at school and university.
Part of the review
It comes as the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is reviewing the Foundation —Year 10 curriculum, set to be completed by 2022.
In a statement, an ACARA spokesperson said the Australian Curriculum already explicitly included critical thinking.
“On the Australian Curriculum website materials are provided to help teachers understand the nature, scope and sequence of the general capabilities and to plan for their development across learning areas,” the spokesperson said.
“Advanced thinking is part of the review of the Australian Curriculum and the general capabilities (including critical and creative thinking) are being reviewed and updated to reflect current research and feedback.
“ACARA is fortunate to have some of the country’s top experts in critical and creative thinking advising us as part of the consultation process for the Review.”
Deborah Brown, a professor at UQ and director of the Critical Thinking Project, echoed the call for a revamp on critical thinking in education.
She said for critical thinking to work, there must be time and space within the curriculum and classroom for teachers and students to develop those skills.
Brown added that critical thinking was foundational to the “21st-century skills” students needed in future employment.
“Given the need to build robust knowledge economies, this is actually an educational imperative, otherwise we’re just going to fall behind . It’s absolutely crucial that we change direction,” she said.
Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority chief executive Chris Rider said there were many opportunities for teachers to develop students’ critical thinking skills.
“These opportunities are clear in the general capabilities of ‘Critical & creating thinking’ embedded in the Australian Curriculum that’s used in Queensland primary and junior secondary schools,” he said.
“And the QCAA’s new syllabuses for Years 11-12 are underpinned by 21st century skills such as critical and creative thinking, communication, teamwork and ICT.”
Rider said the syllabuses encouraged teachers to make connections between 21st century skills and the subject they were teaching, and provide learning activities that supported students to develop these skills.
“We continue to support teachers across P-12 with online resources and professional development activities that encourage the development of 21st century skills in schools,” he said.
– ABC / Antonia O’FlahertyJump to next article