07/17/2012 10:17 am ET | Updated Sep 16, 2012

To Think or Not to Think ...That Is the Question!

A driving goal for educators is to cultivate a natural level of inquiry. Max Beerholm, the British essayist, said that more than 50 years ago. It couldn't be more relevant today.

How can we expect students to flourish in college if they aren't excellent critical thinkers? How are students to learn this skill from watching television and playing video games? Are we going to expect critical thinking to be measured by growth on standardized tests?

According to Roger Lewin, another British writer, "Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve." To prepare students to be college and career ready, we need to support students to think for themselves -- to be self-learners.

Our schools need to shift their focus dramatically to prepare students to compete and respond successfully to the complex issues they will face in their careers. Today's business leaders complain that the majority of job applicants are not able to solve complex problems, work in teams or communicate effectively. We see evidence of this all around us -- local businesses clamoring for a better trained workforce to fill the type of jobs available today.

Tim Magner of Partnership for 21st Century Skills captures this well when he writes that "we want our students to not just survive in the new millennium, but to truly thrive."

Students tell me that they believe to succeed in college they will need to think critically and work collaboratively. One student I met with summed it up best: "Deeper learners engage with content to such an extent that they develop high level analytical and critical thinking skills that they can apply to other things, rather than just memorizing facts or ways of thinking, and then just using these facts in very specific situations."

Many high school graduates don't acquire the skills necessary for success in the post-secondary world. Quality student work cannot be measured by today's multiple-choice tests. Students may earn high grades and get excellent test scores, but what does that mean? Does it mean these students are good at memorizing facts and figures they won't be able to use in the "real world"?

A Deeper Learning experience means students acquire the skills and knowledge they will need to obtain jobs. The benefits are clear at every level. According to a new survey called "Learn Now, Lecture Later" from CDW-G, high school students want to listen to fewer lectures and incorporate more hands-on projects, independent study and virtual learning. Students want school to be relevant and Deeper Learning can deliver this.

Deeper Learning prepares students to:

  • Master core academic content
  • Think critically and solve complex problems
  • Work collaboratively
  • Communicate effectively
  • Learn how to learn

As a student or a teacher, have you experienced Deeper Learning that you can share? I am very interested in finding out what teachers have done to prepare students to think critically. I'd also like to hear from students -- what learning experiences helped develop your critical thinking skills?