Thinking Standards – Framework and Examples

What Are Thinking Standards?

Thinking standards are operational statements of engagement concerned with how to think and not what to think. For example: How to recall subject matter; how to arrange subject matter logically; how to think critically when engaging subject matter, and how to think creatively when engaging subject matter.

Cogeracy: A Framework for Writing Thinking Standards

Table 1
THE CONSCIOUS MIND’S FOUR CATEGORIES OF THINKING

I. Recall Thinking: To store and recall information
II. Logical (Serial) Thinking: To list persons, places, things, or ideas in some orderly sequence where the concern is the internal serial logic of the list itself and not the meaning, function, or purpose served by the subject matter of the list.
III. Critical Thinking: To employ reasoning processes for: (1) understanding, comprehending, and explaining subject matter; (2) argumentation; and (3) situational resolution.
IV. Creative Thinking: To discover something new; to be imaginative

Because it is most central to subject matter instruction in most school and college classrooms, the following discussion will concentrate on Category III – Critical Thinking thinking and its three modes.

 

Table 2
THE THREE MODES OF CRITICAL THINKING

The three modes of critical thinking are for (1) understanding, comprehending, and explaining subject matter; (2) argumentation; and (3) situational resolution.

1. Mode I critical thinking addresses the use of reasoning processes to understand, comprehend, and explain new and revisited subject matter.Specific Critical Thinking Processes for Use by Anyone to Understand and Comprehend of Subject Matter

  • MG1 mind grammar: the use of critical reasoning pattern <objective-process> for subject matter understanding and critical reading and writing
  • MG2 mind grammar: the use of critical reasoning pattern <objective-process-consequences> for subject matter comprehension and critical reading and writing

Specific Critical Thinking Processes for Use by Faculty to Explain New and Revisited Subject Matter
Again, there are two basic reasoning processes that  may be used to explain course content critically in class, in textbooks, on the web, in research, and in homework.

The use of MG1 <objective-process>, and MG2 <objective-process-consequences> mind grammar to explain subject matter while concurrently developing critical thinking, reading, and writing abilities in all students.

2. Mode 2 critical thinking addresses Argumentation processes for identifying and discussing positions and viewpoints on issues, themes, propositions, hypotheses

3. Mode 3 critical thinking addresses situational resolution (e.g., Problem-solving processes) 

When teaching and/or learning new and revisited subject matter, the most important of the three modes of critical thinking is Mode 1. This is because one cannot engage effectively in argumentation (Mode 2) or situational resolution (Mode 3), unless one comprehends, or at least understands, the topic or issue at hand.

 

Thinking Standards for Teacher-Educators, Teacher-Candidates, Teachers, and Students

Table 2 above provides the basis for organizing, classifying, and developing thinking standards. It can serve as an outline for a thinking taxonomy. Such standards need to be developed and applied to all learners.

Teacher Candidates, Teacher-Candidates, and Teachers

Category III – Critical Think­ing, Mode 1: Explanation of Subject Matter
Engage in instruction for critical understanding that explicitly shows teacher candidates how to connect and integrate the universal elements within any subject-matter topic to reveal its objective and associated processes.

Engage in instruction for critical comprehension that explicitly shows teacher candidates how to connect and integrate the universal elements within any subject-matter topic to reveal its objective, associated processes, and consequences.

Students

Category III – Critical Think­ing, Mode 1: Understanding and Comprehension of Subject Matter

For critical understanding, demonstrate explicitly how to connect and integrate the facts and ideas within a given subject-matter topic to reveal its objective and associated processes.

For critical comprehension, demonstrate explicitly how to connect and integrate the universal elements within a given subject-matter topic to reveal its objective, associated processes, and consequences.

 

Integrate Thinking Operations Into Existing  Student Standards

Here are example standards for grade school students. They address uniting Mode 1 of thinking fo r understanding and comprehension with the Common Core ELA and Content Literacy standards; and for states and localities that follow their own standards.

ELA and Content Literacy Standards Aimed at Critical Understanding

Here is an example of an anchor standard for achieving critical understand­ing: For critical understanding of textual material, apply ends-means or effect-cause strategy to text material covering paragraphs, sections, and larger portions of the text.

Here is a corresponding grade-specific standard for Grade 5 students: For critical understanding of text, apply intent-process strategy and assemble a view that includes the end-in-view (or effect, function, purpose, meaning, importance) of a specific subject-matter topic and the processes by which that end-in-view is achieved.

ELA and Content Literacy Standards Aimed at Critical Comprehension

Here is an example of an anchor standard for achieving critical comprehen­sion: For critical comprehension of textual material, apply ends-means-consequences or effect-cause-consequences strategy to text material covering paragraphs, sections, and larger portions of the text.   

Here is a corresponding grade-specific standard for Grade 6 students: For critical comprehension of text material, apply intent-process-consequences strategy and assemble a view that includes the end in view (or effect, func­tion, purpose, meaning, importance) for a specific subject-matter topic, the processes by which to achieve that end in view, and the consequences that result.

Mathematics Standards

Here is an example standard for math language literacy for Grade 9 stu­dents: Describe the origin and meaning of the word algebra.Here is another: Describe the origin and meaning of the words expression, term, factor, and coefficient.

Here is a corresponding grade-specific math standard: Explain the purpose of an expression and show how it is assembled using terms, factors, and coefficients.

 

Developing a complete set of thinking standards for the instructional com­munity and students will of course require much discussion, writing, review, support, and time on the part of the teaching profession.

The framework and example standards given above provide a foundation for such an effort.

Notes
1. For a much expanded version of Table 1, see Page 35 in, Preparation for Critical Instruction – How to Explain Subject Matter While Teaching All Learners to Think, Read, and Write Critically(2016)]
2. MG1 and MG2 provide thinking processes on which to base the writing of standards for critical reading/listening and writing/speaking. In this way all learners have the means to assess the degree to which they can take intellectual control of subject mater material in whatever form it is encountered.
3. The Key to understanding thinking standards is that teacher and student share the same reasoning patterns formally and explicitly. Students are given instruction on the use of the patterns. Teacher and student then move forward and reason together. This means that there is an intended similarity of standards for all learners including: teacher-educators, teacher-candidates, teachers, students, and authors of instructional materials.
4. The examples of thinking standards for teacher-educators, teacher-candidates, teachers, and students replace those shown on  pages 130-132 in Fixing Instruction – Resolving Major Issues With a Core Body of Knowledge for Critical Instruction (2015).