I get into a lot of classes, mostly one shots. But Critical Thinking is a class that is a puzzle. There is a lot of room for me to work closely with instructors, but at this point only a few instructors allow me into their classrooms. The fail rate is high and I believe it could be made better with more collaboration.
First or second quarter students...these are art students who often don't care for the idea of general education at all. They want to be taking program classes. Critical Thinking seems like a waste of time to them. Usually about 20 or 25 students per section, with 3 to 5 sections per quarter. They meet once a week for four hours. I get to spend 45 minutes with them to advance their research skills.
The goal for the class, as outlined by the curriculum, is to identify and develop critical thinking skills, processes and techniques. This is fairly loosely arranged, but is designed to start students on the college path. I introduce the library in general in a different class. In the Critical Thinking class I am trying to introduce the first frame "Authority is constructed and contextual".
Nature of the Subect
This is a theoretical class with implications for program classes. The class is a catchall for other curriculum needs, including a general orientation to the degree programs and an introduction to research skills. This is a good spot for the discussion of authority as they do it in a larger context.
Characteristics of the Learners
Students are all very creative, but not all driven to succeed. There is a good mix between older students and new high school grads. Many of the students never expected to attend college and many are the first college students in their families. Some have learned research skills in the past, but for many, this is a brave new world. They are hands-on-learners.
Characteristics of the Teacher
The instructors of the class itself are all over the map. One is a chef instructor. One is close to retirement. One has a background in journalism. One has a degree in communications. Some are energetic. Some are not. they have not all been convinced of the importance of having the librarian visit class. My own strengths include being able to think on my feet and formulate search problems quickly depending on the interests of the students.
A year or more after the course is over I want and hope students will know the difference between information sources.
I hope they remember to think of their own information need before searching. The idea of authority being contextual is very important in knowing WHERE and HOW to search. Need dictates authority. This is both information and idea.
Students must think critically so that they other thinking styles fall into place.
Specifically I want them to understand the difference between source types and when each is useful. This is not complex, but it's important. Students unwilling to examine their own goals, or afraid to, will not be successful researchers.
Students will ideally see how this is relevant to their larger lives as well as their school programs.
Students invariably want authority to be invested in academic literature without question. They are willing to assign that power to an unreachable authority. Learning that they are in control of determining who holds authority can be enlightening.