UNESCO’s Report on education for the 21st century titled ‘Learning – The Treasure Within’ says that education throughout life is based upon four pillars – ‘ Learning to Know’, ‘Learning to Do’, ‘Learning to Live Together’ and ‘Learning to Be’.
(UNESCO Report http://www.unesco.org/delors/)
I am of the opinion ‘Learning to Think’ is a very important constituent of ‘Learning to Know’. There are two schools of thought on learning how to think. One school believes that ‘thinking’ by itself cannot be taught and it has to be embedded into a curriculum. Say improving thinking skills through the study of science, history or literature. The other school of thought believes that thinking skills can be taught directly.
I subscribe to the latter school of thought. I think learning interventions can be adopted to improve thinking skills. A deeper understanding of how thinking works helps improve thinking skills.
For example, Edward de Bono explains that perception and not logic is at the root of faulty solutions. I.e. how we interpret a problem is based on our inherent assumptions and mostly this starting point of interpretation itself is wrong. The logic that follows may be absolutely sound but since the initial understanding or interpretation of the situation or problem is wrong the final solution is often flawed. Hence, Edward de Bono suggests many tools like PMI (Plus, Minus, Interesting) and C&S (Consequences & Sequels) that direct attention and help us validate our assumptions or perception.
No doubt learners need a context to help them improve their thinking skills but that context need not only be subjects taught in the curriculum, the context can be anything that is relevant and interesting for learners. It could be a business problem, a social problem or simply how can a kid convince his parents to increase his pocket allowance.
Thinking skills are especially important in today’s world where there is a deluge of information because only through deep thinking can we derive insights from information.
Improving thinking skills has also become imperative because our problems today have become complex. Complicated problems are difficult to solve but have a unique solution, like a jigsaw puzzle. But complex problems are not only difficult to solve, they don’t have a unique solution. As influencing factors change the solution needs to be adapted. Like, the game of Chess, or global warming, poverty, financial crisis, terrorism, or a new business idea.
I would divide thinking skills into two broad categories – Creative Thinking and Critical Thinking and in my next post I will share my musings on these two aspects of thinking.