Encouraging Critical Thinking in the Classroom.

Encouraging Critical Thinking in the Classroom.

Two weeks ago I did my first Psychology of Education blog post on Creativity in the Classroom. In that blog post I talked about how encouraging creativity at a young age increases the ability to think outside the box; a trait known as ‘divergent thinking’. Critical thinking on the other hand encourages reason, analyzing and evaluation when decision making. This week I’ll be discussing Critical Thinking in educational institutes.

While most people have an understanding of what critical thinking is, there are two different popular definitions from Robert Ennis and Richard Paul respectively. Ennis defined critical thinking as “reasonable and reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do” (Ennis, 2011), while Paul has defined critical thinking as “the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it… Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-­corrective thinking” (Elder & Paul, 2006). Out of these two, the more widely used is the Paulian approach, in which will be used in this blog post, as it was deemed to be the best definition used by Forawi.

A 2016 study by Sufian A. Forawi states that “the teaching of critical thinking is important for all students in all subjects. Different disciplines are characterized by particular approaches to critical thinking, and a large part of studying those disciplines means learning to think like an expert of that discipline” (Forawi, 2016). In which, disciplines centered around evidence based science (like this class) are particularly prone to supporting and encouraging critical thinking skill development. Forawi goes on to further state that critical thinking is advantageous at all grades and all teaching, however its apparent that teachers simply “do not know how to teach critical thinking skills” and that the best way to teach these skills is to build on prior knowledge the students already have while tailoring the learning experience on an individual basis (Forawi, 2016).

Forawi’s study was based on understanding what the perceptions of critical thinking was to pre-service teachers, where two questions were answered:

  1. How do science teachers perceive the way science education standards are linked to critical thinking?
  2. What critical thinking attributes are associated with science education standards objectives and benchmarks?

The results concluded that objectives and benchmarks themselves as an educational framework do not work, and that new proven methods have to be implemented for the beneficial effects of critical thinking to work. It was also found that critical thinking skills are developed best in societal-oriented standards where learning is “open-ended and guided”. The open-endedness allows students to discuss and communicate their own critical thinking processes, where another study goes to support Forawi’s evidence by stating that “critical thinking enables students to become independent lifelong learners who most likely can develop and progress to become better citizens” (Abrami et al., 2008). The emphasis of the study is on the contribution peer interactions have on developing critical thinking skills, where traditional teaching methods of preserving an organized classroom and delivering a content based curriculum pales in comparison in promoting critical thinking skills and student individuality.

In conclusion; instating and encouraging critical thinking skills into students is best achieved through recognizing student individuality without a content based curriculum. Peer interactions are also well recognized as encouraging students to think critically as well.

Thanks for reading this (rushed) blog post! 🙂

References:

Abrami, P. C., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Surkes, M. A., Tamim, R., & Zhang, D. (2008). Instructional interventions affecting critical thinking skills and dispositions: A stage 1 meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 1102-1134.

Ennis, R. H. (2011). The nature of critical thinking: An outline of critical thinking dispositions and abilities. Robert H. Ennis’ Academic Web Site. Recuperado el20.

Forawi, S. A. (2016). Standard-based science education and critical thinking. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 20, 52-62.

Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2006). The miniature guide to critical thinking: Concepts & tools. Foundation Critical Thinking.

 

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How Effective is Harm Reduction; a Critical Look at Drug Prevention Programs Implemented in Schools.

How Effective is Harm Reduction; a Critical Look at Drug Prevention Programs Implemented in Schools.

Most middle/high schools have some sort of drug prevention program, where an assembly, field-trip, or day long event is put in place to encourage youth to make smart choices and prevent substance abuse. For me, this meant a field trip to the P.A.R.T.Y. (Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth) Program in Calgary. The day itself was full of interesting information, talks from survivors and the chance to experience a simulated injury incurred from substance abuse during lunch break. I’m sure all of my grade ten classmates had a different ‘take home message’ from that experience, however as we all grew up and graduated together, I truly wonder how effective that program was (if you’re also from a small red-neck town, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean).

So what is harm reduction? “Harm Reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs without necessarily reducing drug consumption. Harm reduction benefits people who use drugs, their families and the community”. There are multiple obvious reasons why these programs are tailored towards youth/students, and the P.A.R.T.Y. program’s stance is based “on the understanding that 90% of all injuries are both predictable and preventable” and “is about experiencing what happens when young people make a decision that changes their life forever”.

For these programs, there are a few different ways to get their point across to youth. In a 2016 article commentary by Theodore Caputi and Kevin Sabet, they mention Scare Tactics (a method sometimes including graphic images and videos, as well as ‘horror’ stories told by survivors or families), Mainstream Prevention Programs (such as ‘Keepin’ it REAL) and Harm Reduction Programs (such as D.A.R.E. and SHAHRP).

It’s mentioned by Caputi and Sabet that the most effective of these three options is Mainstream Prevention Programs, in which a 2008 systematic review by Faggiano and colleagues found that there was a “55% reduction of hard drug use” when the methods of prevention were “drug knowledge, decision making, self esteem and peer pressure resistance” (Faggiano et al., 2008). It is also worth mentioning the least effective of the three were Scare Tactics. This method was most popular in the 1990’s and are mistakenly still used today, but research proves that scare tactics are simply unsuccessful, and can actually have damaging effects (National Institute of Health Science panel, 2004).

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources affirms why Scare Tactics don’t work in 5 very simple points;

  1. Often youth dismiss these messages, as a defense to the feeling of fear.
  2.  Youth have a different filter than adults.
  3. High risk groups can be MORE attracted to the behaviour
  4. Strong warnings can send unintended messages
  5. Trauma: Showing graphic images could bring up past traumas

In conclusion; prevention is complicated, and regardless of method used (although preferably not Scare Tactics), these programs should use tested methods to increase the overall effectiveness of “prevention science”, and educational institutes should be the ones making smart choices that have proven science and work best for encouraging the health of their students.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

 

References:

Caputi, T. L., & Sabet, K. A. (2016). Commentary on “New Perspectives on Drug Education/Prevention”. Journal of psychoactive drugs48(3), 227-229.

Faggiano, F., Vigna-Taglianti, F. D., Versino, E., Zambon, A., Borraccino, A., & Lemma, P. (2008). School-based prevention for illicit drugs use: A systematic review. Preventive medicine46(5), 385-396.

McBride, N., Farringdon, F., Midford, R., Meuleners, L., & Phillips, M. (2004). Harm minimization in school drug education: final results of the School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project (SHAHRP). Addiction99(3), 278-291.

Singh, R. D., Jimerson, S. R., Renshaw, T., Saeki, E., Hart, S. R., Earhart, J., & Stewart, K. (2011). A summary and synthesis of contemporary empirical evidence regarding the effects of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (DARE). Contemporary School Psychology: Formerly” The California School Psychologist”15(1), 93-102.

http://www.dhhr.wv.gov/bhhf/ibhc/Documents/Presentations1115/Scare%20Tactics%20BH%20conference%20%2082115.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, NIH Consensus Development Program, NIH News, October 15, 2004

 

Creativity in the Classroom: Fostering Innovation

Creativity in the Classroom: Fostering Innovation

Everyone would agree that children are more imaginative and outgoing than adults, however research suggests that this imaginative approach to problem solving can become a powerful asset further in life. Unfortunately, most children experience a significant decline in creative thinking between kindergarten and grade 3. The purpose of my first Psychology of Education blog post is to examine the importance of creativity in the classroom, and how to maintain/encourage creative thinking.

How you problem solve can determine how creative you are, and whether you’re a divergent, or a convergent thinker. Those with higher levels of creativity are classified as divergent thinkers and are able to propose more unique ideas from different thought categories. Creative thinking is further divided into two levels, those with “little-c” creativity are fast thinking and excel at cultivating novel ideas in their everyday lives. Those who are “big-C” creative display the highest form of creativity, and can be identified through their “breakthrough kind of thinking”. Some individuals that are “big-C” divergent thinkers include Darwin, Van Gogh and other revolutionaries in history.

Convergent thinking is encouraged in education as it’s thought to “foster conventional thinking skills that focus on one linear idea or correct solution”. While pushing this method of thinking is great in theory, squandering natural creativity greatly reduces the ability to problem solve, and explore new ideas comfortable and confidently. This can greatly hinder an individual as they grow into adults and are expected to become independent functioning members of society.

In a 2013 review by Dan Davies, it is stated that instructors do make an active effort to enhance creativity in the classroom by assigning a “critical event” or project to foster creative freedom. Through these events, it was found that there are several important factors in maintaining a creative environment. The first is the physical environment itself, in which the classroom should have an emphasis in the flexibility in space usage, where it’s not too crowded. It is also mentioned that the room should include “sensory qualities”, such as different usages of light, color and sound greatly impact the amount of creativity the students display. The second is the availability of classroom resources/materials. In children, this could mean “formless materials…such as clay, modelling foam, wire, cellophane, tissue paper, etc”, while in older students it’s recommended that there is an emphasis on the access to new media technology. The third most important factor that I’m going to mention in this post is the use of outside environment. In younger students, outdoor walks are suggested; while a review of several schools found that the schools with the highest scores of creativity included “a use of local woodland, regular contact with that setting, providing freedom to use multiple senses, time for individual learning styles to be recognises and nurtured and a low pupil to adult ratio”.

The review by Davies concludes that creativity was increased through the “presence of a professional learning culture… which provided opportunities to take risks in a supportive environment”, more positive student involvement, cultivating student individuality, and “allowing more room for individual pupil responses”.

In summary; the more emphasis on creativity placed in educational settings, the more the students were able to perform independently, and the better they were at problem solving.

Thats it! Thanks for reading! 🙂

References:

Davies, D., Jindal-Snape, D., Collier, C., Digby, R., Hay, P., & Howe, A. (2013). Creative learning environments in education—A systematic literature review. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 8, 80-91.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/turning-straw-gold/201302/what-type-thinker-are-you

Bergese, R. (2013). In the spaces between–sustaining creativity in child psychotherapy. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 39(3), 319-333.

http://www.innovationmanagement.se/imtool-articles/the-difference-between-big-c-and-small-c-creativity/

http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/HealthAZ/FamilyandPeerRelations/life-skills/Pages/Creativity-raise-creative-thinker.aspx

Psych 3330; Final Reflective Post.

Psych 3330; Final Reflective Post.

Psych 3330, Social Cognition was a very interesting experience, and one of my favorite classes I have taken so far in my academic career. This class allowed students to choose a social cognition related topic that was interesting to them, while also allowing flexibility for the students to write and comment before the deadline whenever their schedules allowed.

Students pursuing a post-secondary career will potentially be expected to have adequate literacy and people skills, while also being able to present themselves and their knowledge in a coherent and reasonable manner. This class required weekly blog posts and bi-weekly in class presentations, promoting students to choose a topic they’d want to present on, and encouraging this intellectual development these individuals need in their future.

Many students were put off by how often they had to present, and I was also concerned during the first class, however after my first presentation, I was relieved to know how casual it was. Many students presented in a lecture/speech style, where they had cue cards to read off, but I found that preparing an actual Powerpoint/Google-Slides was beneficial to the topics I chose, where I’d need pictures and diagrams to better describe the topic. From my experience, the effort I put into my blogs and presentations was reflected in the grade I received.

From this class I believe I’ve enhanced my planning ability, and my confidence in presenting, as well as I’ve learned to chose topics that are interesting to me, as I performed significantly better on  blogs and presentations I had a prior interest in, than ones I didn’t.

I sincerely recommend if anybody takes this class, they ensure they have the responsibility to write a short assignment every week, and the motivation to comment on their classmates blog. There have been nights where I was not able to get the required four comments done because I put it off until last minute, and was too tired to continue writing.

All in all, I had a great semester with Professor Martin, and I sincerely enjoyed his teaching methods. I will gladly take more classes with him in the future.

Thank you for the semester, I hope you have a great summer! 🙂

Topic Blog 4: Synthesis of Cult Cognition.

Topic Blog 4: Synthesis of Cult Cognition.

My last three blogs have had the topic of cults, specifically, how we perceive cults and what methods cult leaders may use to change how the public perceives them.

The first topic blog I wrote featured Jim Jones, the notorious cult leader of the Peoples Temple which ended in the tragic Jonestown Massacre. Jim Jones used manipulative and horrendous methods to gain followers, retain followers, and put up a facade to the public that seemed innocent and progressive. As his legacy spiralled out of control, his manipulative methods became less convincing, and more coercive, changing from encouraging his followers to leave their families and donate all their belongings to the church, to just flat out forcing them to submit, by making them strip during congregation, and humiliating them, purposefully psychologically beating his followers down until they were helpless against his tyranny.

My second topic blog features Anton LaVey, another infamous leader, and his cult; The Church of Satan. LaVey uses the public’s preconception of paganism and the occult by using its symbols and imagery (images such as the pentagram, the Leviathan Cross, Lucifer’s Sigil and Baphomet) to make his religion seem more unfavorable than it really was. The Church of Satan promotes individualism and questioning reality, and has several rules and regulation in place that are actually quite agreeable, such as policies on drug use, illegal activities and politics. Those who follow LaVeyan Satanism are perceived as being socially deviant because of the advocacy for non-herd conformity, sex, wisdom, responsibility and independence. Due to these distinct differences, majority religions have a strong opposition to the Church of Satan, although if one looks deeper into the beliefs the church follows, they’ll find that they truly can not base their understanding of the religion on its name.

My third topic blog was focused on Wiccan cults. The Wicca (sometimes referred to as Pagan Witchcraft) also follows a neo-pagan belief, which is disrespected by majority-religions and the public, causing the religion to favor the name ‘Wicca’ over ‘Witchcraft’, which it was originally termed by Gerald Gardner. The Wiccan tradition is most commonly one that promotes peace and pacifism, believing that any harm or good a Wicca causes will be returned to them ‘threefold’. As of recent, counselors have become particularly concerned with the mental state of minority religion members, as those in the Wiccan cult tradition are particularly susceptible to being marginalized and can develop stress, anxiety and depression just based on the dissonance they receive from the public, and the internal conflicts they may face.

In summary: Cults are very diverse and unique, in which not all of them end up in tragedy at the hands of a narcissistic and manipulative leader, like the People Temple. Some minority religions and cults need a second and more appreciative look to fully understand the belief system, such as LaVeyan Satanism. In the case of the Wiccans, these minority-religion members should be treated with more sympathy and care as the harsh judgement the public gives them are very detrimental to their psychological health.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

References & further readings:

http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/

http://www.churchofsatan.com/

https://wicca.com/celtic/wicca/wicca.htm

Topic Blog 3: A Sympathetic Approach to Cult Comprehension; Wiccan Cults.

Topic Blog 3: A Sympathetic Approach to Cult Comprehension; Wiccan Cults.

In my two previous subject blogs I discussed the ever-changing and subjective definition of cults, and how the perception of cults can represent an ideology different from what the religion actually practice.

Wicca (also occasionally known as Pagan Witchcraft) is a neo-pagan religious movement, first publicly introduced in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, the founder of the Gardnerian Wiccan-cult tradition. Interest in the tradition rose in the 1960’s and 1970’s, possibly influenced by the feminist movements during those times, coinciding with the goddess-worship this religion provided (Coleman, 2005). With the development of the internet, the Wiccan tradition experienced another influx of members, and began to diversify under devotion to different deities. The diversification of these traditions could also be attributed to the fact that many Wiccan and Neo-Pagan cults draw from other cultures, such as Scandinavian and Egyptian traditions, and Celtic mythology (Pike, 2004).

Wiccan traditions mostly represent non-harming, practicing the Three-Fold Law, in which any positive or negatives a Wiccan or Neo-Pagan might do, it will “come back to them threefold” and should generally try not to cause harm to others, so they will not cause harm unto themselves (Harwood, 2007). While this is a general rule, there are some Wiccan traditions that have other beliefs. This WordPress blog encourages current and ex-members of the Alexandrian Witchcraft Cult to speak out about their psychologically scarring experiences and find confidence and help among others.

It has recently been brought up by counselors that marginalized minority religions can be especially subject to stigma and judgment, simply for being the “Black Sheep” among majority organized religions. Wiccan and Neo-Pagan cult traditions are no different, as the idea of a Pagan religion seems to raise a harmful bias in people, believed to be associated with Satan-worship and black magic, which are absolutely unrelated to the Wiccan tradition.

Moe and Colleagues paper is particularly concerned with the assumptions that counselors might impose upon their Wiccan clients (Moe et all., 2013). “Wiccan and Neo-Pagans may come to counselling due to stress, anxiety and depressive feelings related to the cognitive dissonance that members of marginalized groups cope with on a daily basis” (Moe et all., 2013). These members might also feel the stress of dealing with internal conflicts, such as new initiates coming to terms with their new identities and accepting the new terms of their religion (Salazar & Abrams, 2005). It has been by suggested by Moe and Colleagues that counselors with Wiccan or Neo-Pagan clients keep an open mind and their biases to the clients beliefs in check, and to better foster these individuals practices by including ” referrals to local Wiccan and Neo-Pagan groups” (Moe et all., 2013).

In conclusion, the preconceived notions and judgment passed onto passive neo-cults from civilian non-members and counselors alike could psychologically harm cult members, and it’s always better to further investigate before passing a judgment onto these people.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

References:

Coleman, K. (2005). Why” God” as” She” Provokes us: Semiotically Speaking: The Significance of the Divine Feminine. Pomegranate, 7(2).

Harwood, B. J. (2007). Beyond Poetry and Magick: The Core Elements of Wiccan Morality 1. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 22(3), 375-390.

Moe, J. L., Cates, K., & Sepulveda, V. (2013). Wicca and Neo-Paganism: A Primer for Counselors. Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, 40(1), 38.

Pike, S. M. (2004). New age and neopagan religions in America. Columbia University Press.

Salazar, C. F., & Abrams, L. P. (2005). Conceptualizing identity development in members of marginalized groups. Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, 33(1), 47.

Topic Blog 2: Challenging Cult Perception; LaVeyan Satanism.

Topic Blog 2: Challenging Cult Perception; LaVeyan Satanism.

Satanism has its preconceptions, such as blood sacrifices, seances, and summoning circles. In this blog post, I’ll be talking about LaVeyan Satanism exclusively, and how the symbolism, practices and beliefs used have a much different reality than we might initially believe.

(For the remainder of this blog I will be referring to LaVeyan Satanism as just simply Satanism, and Laveyan Satanists as Satanists. This is not discrediting the existence of other Satanist groups, but for the sake of my word count will be simplifying the religion)

Anton Szandor LaVey, also known as his birth name; Howard Stanton Levey was born in 1930, and became the father to the modern day ‘Church of Satan’ after publishing the Satanic Bible in 1969. The Church of Satan had its beginnings in the notorious Black House, which was bought and painted black in 1950, becoming the headquarters for the Church for several years, oddly nestled between two stark white apartment complexes in suburban San Francisco, California.

The Church of Satan started out as a small organization named the Order of The Trapezoid. LeVay then renamed the organization to the official Church of Satan in 1966, declaring this the first Year of Satan, or Anno Satanas. Satan became the centre figure of the Church of Satan, but LaVeyan Satanists do not worship Satan, rather, they believe Satan represents ideals that should not be repressed. Satan fosters the idea of pride, enlightenment, materialism, individualism, egoism, carnality, and the pursuit of indulgence, the underlying message behind this lifestyle being; life is too short to restrict yourself, so it’s okay to occasionally indulge.

The Church of Satan has three main practices and beliefs, such as the Nine Satanic Statements, The 11 Satanic Rules of The Earth, and The Nine Satanic Sins. Upon reading these Satanic requirements, you’ll find your preconceptions of Satanism shattered, as many of these are agreeable. In the 11 Satanic Rules of The Earth, it addresses issues such as rape, pedophilia, animal activism and home invasion. the Church of Satan also has policies on drug use, illegal activities, and politics, which is hard to find in other religions. It’s very apparent that LaVey disagreed with other organized religions, especially Christianity, as he believing they were repressive and deceitful. This distaste towards Christianity led to the Satanic imagery we all know, such as the Pentagram, the Leviathan Cross (which is really just the Alchemical symbol for Sulfur), Lucifer’s Sigil, and the use of Baphomet.

In conclusion: Anton LaVey believed in questioning reality, messianic figures, and deviating from herd conformity, promoting individuality, but also utterly freaking out those that were unwilling to do so. Because of his use of Satanic symbolism he gained a following of individuals that were perceived as socially deviant due to the independence and non-conforming nature that the Church of Satan encourages, while also setting a distinct difference from other majority religions, questioning their following and beliefs. Due the advocation of sex, wisdom, and responsibility, perhaps we’re all a little Satanic in that regard.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

Sources:

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-invention-of-satanism-9780195181104?cc=us&lang=en&

http://www.churchofsatan.com/index.php

http://symboldictionary.net/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Anton-LaVey