Given the resource I shared about writing outside earlier, I wondered if students might find writing outside more meaningful. Also, given how easy AI makes it to generate text, I can see how this Jacobson quote below might resonate strongly with educators and others who think, “Ya, para que?” which is the equivalent of “Why bother now?”

“Now that students no longer find it meaningful to write, how do we build the skills that writing used to train? Structured critical thinking, argumentation, logic, and - yes - even knowledge stored in human brains still seem like fundamentals for the 21st century.” -Jon Ask Jacobson

Defining Terms

What does Jon mean when he uses these terms below?

  • Structured Critical Thinking
  • Argumentation
  • Logic

It’s a question that vexes me, probably because no matter how much I learn about critical thinking processes, acronyms, and steps, doing critical thinking is difficult. It’s not natural. It’s not easy. Writing, which allows me to think through a question, gets me closer to acting like a critical thinker. If you take writing away, I’m left trying to imagine blocks of thought floating in the air, a visualization that fails.

It’s not until I put ideas down on paper or a screen that I start to be able to move them around, put them in a different sequence.

Understanding Structured Critical Thinking

ChatGPT Plus' Interpretation

Here’s one take on “structured critical thinking” via ChatGPT Plus:


Definition:: Structured critical thinking is a process that helps us make decisions and solve problems by carefully examining information, questioning assumptions, and evaluating evidence. It involves a series of steps that guide us in analyzing information objectively and making reasoned judgments. This process can be particularly helpful for young learners as it encourages curiosity, enhances problem-solving skills, and promotes a deeper understanding of various topics.

Three Step Process

Below is a three-step process tailored for young minds. This process is designed to be easy to remember and apply in various scenarios, from classroom projects to everyday decisions.

Step What to Do Key Questions to Ask Example
1. Observe and Question Start by observing the situation or information presented to you. Ask questions about what you see, hear, or read. What do I notice? What do I wonder? You’re learning about the importance of bees in ecosystems. You notice that bees pollinate plants and wonder why bees are essential for plant pollination.
2. Gather and Evaluate Collect information from reliable sources to answer your questions. Evaluate the credibility of your sources and the evidence they provide. Where is the information from? Is it trustworthy? How does this evidence support or contradict what I know? You gather information from science textbooks, educational websites, and a documentary about bees. You evaluate the reliability of these sources and how they explain the role of bees in pollination and ecosystem health.
3. Reflect and Decide Reflect on the information you’ve gathered and use it to form your own reasoned conclusions. Consider how this new understanding might influence your thoughts or actions. What have I learned? How does this change what I thought before? What will I do with this information? You conclude that bees are crucial for pollinating many plants, including those that produce fruits and vegetables we eat. This changes your view on the importance of protecting bee habitats, and you decide to start a small garden to help local bee populations.

ChatGPT’s Conclusion

This structured critical thinking process encourages young learners to be curious and analytical, developing skills that will benefit them throughout their education and beyond. By observing and questioning, gathering and evaluating, and finally reflecting and deciding, students learn to approach problems systematically and make informed decisions.

My Takeaways

At this point, I’m not sure my takeaways are all that valuable. I like the process identified above. It’s certainly a lot more straightforward than others I’ve encountered. Like FLOATER, CRITIC, and other critical thinking processes, it appears you are always checking the quality of the information and where it came from. You start out observing and asking questions about what you’re seeing. Then, you make a decision.

In the example shown above, there’s a big jump from step 2 to 3 in the example. I wonder what specific strategies might be offered for each step.

ChatGPT’s Concrete Actions for Each Step

1. Observe and Question

  • Concrete Actions:
    • Create a Wonder Wall: Set up a space in the classroom where students can post notes about things they observe and wonder about. This can be related to any subject or topic being studied.
    • Keep a Question Journal: Encourage students to maintain a journal where they write down observations and questions they have about their daily lessons or the world around them.
    • Use Think-Pair-Share: Have students think about a topic or observation, pair up to discuss their thoughts and questions, and then share with the class or group. This promotes active engagement and curiosity.

2. Gather and Evaluate

  • Concrete Actions:
    • Research Projects: Assign small research projects where students must gather information from specified reliable sources (books, educational websites, etc.). They should also practice citing these sources.
    • Critical Evaluation Lessons: Teach lessons on evaluating the credibility of sources, looking for bias, and understanding the difference between opinion and fact. Use real-life examples that are age-appropriate.
    • Evidence Sorting Activity: Provide students with various pieces of information on a topic, and have them sort the information into “reliable” and “questionable” categories, explaining their reasoning.

3. Reflect and Decide

  • Concrete Actions:
    • Reflection Writing: After completing a lesson or project, have students write a brief reflection on what they learned, how their understanding changed, and how they might apply this knowledge.
    • Role-Playing Scenarios: Use role-playing to help students apply their new knowledge to hypothetical or real-life scenarios. This can help them understand the implications of their decisions.
    • Debate and Discussion: Organize debates or discussions where students use the information they’ve gathered and evaluated to support their viewpoints. This encourages them to articulate their thoughts clearly and listen to others' perspectives.