Tips for Teaching Critical Thinking to Faculty

How to Teach Critical Thinking to Faculty who Teach Adult Learners

Good morning colleagues!

The goal of this writing is to offer the first 5 steps in how to teach critical thinking to faculty who teach adult learners at the college or university level.

  1.  CREDIBILITY:  To teach adult learners, you have to have credibility.  Adult learners are often skeptical.  You must establish first and foremost, how you have earned the right to teach them.  I typically post my introductory video that offers my credentials (undergrad, master’s, and Doctoral degrees).  I then ensure I high light my writing awards, my international best seller, my academic conference awards—external validation that I have earned the right to teach them.
  2. TRUST: Before adult learners will follow you and be willing to learn from you, they need to trust you.  How does one establish trust? Very carefully I’m afraid.  When you move through the following steps, understand that you must always do what you said you would; you must be fair and consistent.  You must treat everyone equally, to ensure equity, and to ensure that few if any exceptions to policy are made to avoid ‘some are more equal than others’.  Follow up and Follow through.
  3. RELEVANCY & CURRENCY: Adult learners, according to Knowles (1954), need to what’s in it for them.  Why do they need what you are offering them?  How is the topic relevant to their professional development and their promotional track in their career?  One cannot offer old or outdated information.  Students want to apply what you are teaching them immediately to their jobs, professional worlds, or perhaps volunteer and community worlds.
  4. INNOVATIVE: Teach with emerging technologies.  The 2014 student will not settle for old technology.  No overhead projectors, no chalk boards.  Instead, students are expecting to be taught using emerging technologies.  Do you use videos? Blogs? Vlogs? Animation?  Social Media?  Twitter? Facebook? Linked IN?  In other words, are you using what’s new, what’s hot, what’s happening in the world of technology?
  5. FUN: Adult learners are often fearful.  They have been around the block a time or two; they have been embarrassed and humiliated publicly by bosses, supervisors, executives, trainers, teachers, mentors and many have shut down.  They will follow, but they will not lead.  They will not risk failing in front of their peers or in front of you as they remember what they felt like.  They want you to tell them what to do, and they will follow.  Instead, we have to teach them self-confidence, belief in themselves, we teach to bring back curiosity.  The path to this goal is through fun.  I start many of my classes with brain teasers, funny games, and auditory stories to solve.  My goals are three fold.  (1) I first get their attention of how much they lack in problem and critical thinking skills; (2) I help them connect with their inner child as they giggle and play through the problems, and (3) I show them how having fun can lessen their fear, release their aversion to risk, and learn to take chances to be curious about finding the right answer.

Thank you for sharing your time with me.  Please post your comments regarding your top teaching tips for engaging critical thinking your classrooms.  I look forward to your best practices.

My best,

Dr. Cheryl
The Academic EntrepreneurTM
Critical Thinking Tips



February 14th, 2014 by admin

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