To Inspire Critical Thinking

To Inspire Critical Thinking


This week my friend and I had the opportunity to present our semester’s research in front of two different Supply Chain Management classes. As I stood there at the front of the room and observed my peers, who had a wide range of involvement with the content -interested in the presentation, more interested in texting, more interested in staring into space (one of my two signature expressions) -my interest was turned to investigating what it takes to teach.

As my own disconnected thoughts fell through my mind all week, the finally constructed themselves on Wednesday night in a conversation I had with my friend, a senior English major. The question we focused our discussion on was whether an English major would be a better high school English teacher (better in terms of being able to inspire critical thinking and apply it to the material) than an English Education major. The question being: will a deeper knowledge of the discipline (the English Major approach) be more valuable in inspiring students than a deeper knowledge of how students respond to different stimuli (the English Ed Major approach).

My friend and I agreed that a deeper knowledge of the discipline would yield more freedom in one’s ability to critically reflect on the material, and further, be able to communicate those reflections more easily to students.* However, when I asked another English major what his thoughts were, he believed that the English Education major would certainly be a better fit for a high school teacher because he believed that most high school student required an introduction into English rather than the full immersion which may more likely be the style of the English Major.

This led me to this question: should we be enrolling the teenagers of this country in rigid, standardized, formatted literature and writing courses, or would in-depth, more creative and challenging courses turn more students into critical thinkers? I believe that the answer is “yes, it would.” And I think that it would be insightful to examine the grade distribution between Penn State freshmen taking English 15, and English 30 (the Honors option); from what I have heard from my peers, we might find that students in the more challenging course are earning better grades than those in the standard course.** However, I have not yet found out who to ask for these grade distributions.

The point: critical thinkers are developed through challenge and freedom to pursue their own thoughts and creativity.


*Note: this argument may only apply to the question of English vs. English Ed. because the discipline itself is a study of communication, so we assume that one who is well versed in the discipline will also have an ability to communicate the discipline as well.

** Note: my comparison is specific to grades received in the Engl 15 and Engl 30 courses, not overall GPAs


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