Category: Critical Thinking Skills

Using clips from 60 Minutes in your class

I attended a faculty workshop at Jackson where one of the librarians from Belhaven’s Library shared how to access their database of clips from 60 Minutes to use in class.  This is a great way to start a discussion and present different perspectives.  Here is the process:

  1. From the Belhaven homepage, click on Library under Academics
  2. Scroll down and click on Databases (in the gold box)
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the list of databases and click on 60 Minutes: 1997-2014.  It’s the last database listed.
  4. You will have to enter your Belhaven credentials to access the material

Here are some of the searchable categories:

Subjects

Ignition Moments

by Dr. Paul T. Criss, Dean – Memphis/DeSoto

Students are coming to your classroom each night internally asking a lot of questions. Questions like: What is important for me? What are my immediate needs? What will be my future needs? Which call do I answer (passion)? How do I do good (purpose)? How do I engage in personal development? What is the right trajectory for me? What are my personal goals?

One of the ways we can begin to address their questions is to develop a strong culture on our campuses. A Harvard Study discovered that building a strong culture increases success by 765 percent over a ten year period. Daniel Coyle in The Culture Code stated, “Real power of the interaction is located in two-way emotional signaling. It creates an atmosphere of connections that surrounds the conversations.” Dr. Rick Upchurch sums this idea up in stating “all of life boils down to relationships.” To accomplish these connections and conversations, we have to be intentional. We have to allow students to become emotionally invested to spark a personal desire to change habits.

Dr. Mark Kay Park illustrated this with an account of what became the Community Led Total Sanitation Program in Bangladesh. The leaders had provided villages with new stainless latrines, but the inhabitants were not using them. CLTS realized that they need to spark a desire in the culture to change habits. The needed what they called an “ignition moment” to allow the community to take responsibility. To accomplish this they needed every member of the community to become emotionally invested in the goal. The send sent facilitators into each of the villages who had members of the community draw a map on the dirt ground. They then had them use yellow chalk dust to mark on the map the communal defecation area. They asked them where they defecated when it was inconvenient to go to the communal area, when they could not make it to the area, or when they were simply ill. Eventually the entire map was covered with yellow dust. They asked the villagers if they had ever seen flies in the communal area and if flies had ever landed on their food. They helped them to make the connection between flies spreading disease and members of the community contracting disease. The villagers emotional response to being the ones responsible for the spreading of disease in the community motivated them to follow sanitary procedures and utilized the latrines. It was their “ignition moment” to work for change. No new information was presented, yet it changed their behavior because it connected to their emotions.

The same idea can help our students persevere to the end. What will their “ignition moment” be? How will you introduce it to them? We need to think about problems that no one want to discuss and to help others see the truth. That “ignition moment” may not only the change the trajectory of their life and career, it may also change their family’s legacy. The most powerful change happens when our students discover the truth for themselves. Magical moments like these can change a student’s personal perspective.

To provide these “peak” – “ignition” – “magical moments,” we will need to cultivate a strong culture in our classrooms. Three basic actions that we can take to cultivate this kind of culture are to build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose. A safe community allows academic freedom to discuss these hard issues balanced by the Christian Worldview and this will generate bonds of belonging. Those who share vulnerability bump up performance by 24% and this explains how the habits of mutual risk together drive trusting cooperation. Finally, establishing purpose within the classroom drives everyone to go in the same direction together. This can be engendered in the classroom by encapsulating purpose into stories that drive shared values and shared goals. It is appropriate to be motivational in the classroom and to share inspirational stories. Be encouraging.

Dr. Park closed the 2018 CAHEA Conference with two insightful Illustrations. The first was about Dr. Alfred Tomatis who developed the Tomatis Method. He was an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor whose theory stated that many vocal problems were really hearing problems. An opera singer came to him who had lost their voice. He did not believe that it was a vocal cord issue. He performed a different kind of check-up and discovered that inside the opera singer’s skull, the ears were experiencing 140 decibel sound – louder than a military fighter jet – and that the singer was being deafened by his own voice. He theorized on the reason for selective deafness and selective muteness – the voice can only produce what the ear can hear.

The second illustration was about Krakatoa – a volcano that erupted in the Indonesian Island Arc. In 1883, rancher in Australia heard the boom some 2800 miles away. The volcanic island erupted at 310 decibels and caused 120 feet tall tidal waves. It was felt around the world, even in the opposite point of the world, Colombia, South America.

From these two illustrations, we can derive a few points of reflection for those of us teaching in the adult studies classroom. First, do we experience a spiritual Tomatis Effect – are we deafened by our own voice? Or is God’s voice the loudest in our life? Are we passing on what we hear from Him? I have always been fascinated by the account of Elijah after his personal “pity” party. The account states, The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 12:11-12, New International Version) The ambient sound at your local Starbucks is 70 decibels (ambient sound makes your creative juices flow), but a whisper is 15 decibels. I think the reason God whispers is because it causes us to lean in and be close to Him. We need this proximity to hear and understand the word He would have us share with our students. The second from Krakatoa is to be sensitive to what God is igniting in the hearts of your students that may one day be felt around the world. What does God want to share through you that will spark that “ignition moment?”

Context: A Required Fundamental for Hermeneutics and Analysis

by Jon Pirtle, Full-Time Instructor, Atlanta

Recently I was invited to speak at a local church gathering on the biblical worldview with regard to some hot button issues in our culture. That’s a pretty common request, so I did not expect anything unusual to come of it. Boy, was I going to be surprised. About forty adults, forty to eighty-year-olds, assembled monthly to discuss current events. I knew several people in the class on a casual level. We shared a passion for history, so I was excited about being with them in their current events class. The evening arrived. I entered the church, greeted folks, engaged in small talk, and then the class leader introduced me and asked me to pray. After that, we distributed printed agendas so the class would have a road map of topics for the evening’s discussion.

We were in a political season in GA. The primary elections for governor and other state offices had been held just days before. Arguably, like much of our nation, the class divided when it came to social issues and politics. The atmosphere had been cordial, respectful, and dignified when I entered. But when the topics of politicians’ stances with regard to illegal immigration, special “rights” for the LGBTQ demographic, liberation theology, and “social justice” engagement came up, the atmosphere changed. Some of the men’s voices grew louder. I watched three of the women’s faces grimace. Several wives squeezed their husbands’ hands as if to say, “Patience.” I was hearing Solomon’s admonition in my mind (ESV): “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29). In short, I sensed things were going south … quickly, and I had not even spoken yet. What was I going to do?

Then something happened that made me realize I had an opportunity to hopefully bring calm to the room and draw the focus to the biblical worldview. One man cleared his throat and said loudly enough we were all sure to hear, “You know, it’s not our place to judge! Jesus told us to ‘Judge not, that you be not judged.’” He then sat back in his chair as if he’d settled every issue for the night.

What shocked me was this: the class as a whole seemed knocked off their positions due to one man’s quotation from part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Suddenly I felt like Esther. Was I here for such a time as this? I believe I was, so I raised my hand. The class leader looked at me and said, “Jon, you have something?” “Yes, I do. May I ask a few questions and then just make a comment or two?” I asked. “Sure,” he said.

“I heard someone say that we are not to judge. Is that right?” I asked.

“Yes,” came a wave of affirmations from the class.

“Do you know what the Lord says in the following verses?”

Silence filled the room.

“Jesus tells his followers to not throw pearls before pigs. Isn’t he judging? Isn’t he making distinctions? He called some people pigs—foul animals to his first-century Jewish audience.”

Again, silence.

“Furthermore, Jesus tells us in that same sermon to not condemn sanctimoniously but to remove the logs from our own eyes. Does that not require us to judge, to discern, our own shortcomings? Isn’t judgment involved there?” I pressed.

I knew I might make some enemies by drawing them to the text, but the text of Scripture must be interpreted correctly. Otherwise, all sorts of misapplications can occur with supposedly biblical grounds. Proper context is key.

This is the way I ended, and for the remainder of class I just listened.

“Folks, may I suggest something to you? You are in a current events class. You spent half an hour excoriating politicians with whom you disagreed. Some of you condemned the president for wanting American sovereignty and laboring to build a wall to protect legal American citizens; others of you recognized that social justice is encroaching, and even overtaking, some mainline Protestant denominations. You condemned your political and theological enemies, and you lauded those with whom you agree. How can you misapply Jesus’ words about judging? Your whole class is designed to have you think biblically—to judge, to discern, what God would have you think and do. Does that make sense?”

I share this story from my own life only to reiterate what we need to do with our own writing and when we teach writing to Belhaven students. When we quote Scripture, context is key. Explaining and understanding the whole and proper context of a verse/passage/book, etc. of Scripture is essential in our vocation as educators and Christians. When Paul neared the end of his life, and was about to be executed for his Christian witness, he wrote to Timothy crucial words for all of us, too, to heed: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Webinars to Inform and Improve

Greetings,

We are working on a re-design for the Faculty Resources tab of our site and in the process the webinars, which have been listed there, have all been moved to YouTube for easier access.  As I was compiling these links I reviewed some of the webinars and was reminded of the wealth of information these contain.  I’m posting that information below and encourage you to look over the list and review a couple yourself – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Don’t forget to register for the upcoming Webinar of the Faculty’s Role in Student Retention – see the calendar link on this page to register.

APA and Grading Writing Across the Curriculum. Presenter: Dr. Everett Wade https://youtu.be/HFeLIpg2lUk

Bring Life to Your Classroom. Presenter: Dr. Ed Garrett https://youtu.be/urKi7DGVGQM

Christian Worldview: Practical Applications for the Classroom. Presenter: Dr. Paul Criss https://youtu.be/jFm9nNoFoXc

Effective Use of Library Resources. Presenter: Dr. Kim Priesmeyer https://youtu.be/CxpBGF8AHAs

Introducing Critical Thinking into the Classroom. Presenter: Rosemary Foncree https://youtu.be/HotogEC0PEc

Plagiarism: Helping Your Students Avoid It. Presenter: Dr. Kim Priesmeyer https://youtu.be/jFmhBggVdzw

Student Engagement Strategy: Experimentation. Presenter: Dr. Thomas Randolph https://youtu.be/vvOAQl2Q_48

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Foster Critical Thinking. Presenters: Dr. Jerald Meadows & Elizabeth Juneau https://youtu.be/Qdt7Mu5sGno

Using Canvas to Facilitate Team Projects. Presenter: Dr. Rick Upchurch https://youtu.be/RWuMnPtAvZA

Millennials in the Classroom. Presenter: Emma Morris https://youtu.be/0kgNsVN3SDs

Canvas Updates 2017. Presenter: Joe Villarreal https://youtu.be/0wWkVfKNNbA

Andragogy: Adult Learning Theory Applied. Presenter: Dr. Rick Upchurch https://youtu.be/KnDc3zfpvrs

Accessing Case Studies from Belhaven Library. Presenter: Charles Gaudin https://youtu.be/3k_X6RQ5jvM

Integrating Critical Thinking in Classroom Discussions

By Dr. Everett Wade,
English Faculty, Belhaven-Memphis

Class discussions do not always come easily, especially when they focus on readings from course material. Stimulating conversation is often difficult, and students are often reluctant to engage. At other times, students are so eager to speak that the conversation is shallow and drifts off topic. Even lively discussions may lack the underlying critical thinking that is necessary for a profitable evaluation of the reading. In order to motivate discussion while avoiding these pitfalls, I use a three-step procedure of summary, analysis, and assessment. This process helps students to discuss texts in a manner that encourages critical thinking.

Critical thinking is generally defined as “objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” Too often, however, class discussions reverse this process, as teachers begin by asking students what they think of the reading (their judgment) and then try to work back to objective analysis and evaluation. During my time teaching, I have certainly been tempted to begin class discussions with questions that require a student to make an overall judgment on the text. The problem with this approach is that students generally haven’t had time to digest the reading material for that day. To give the proper structure to the discussion, I begin by writing three column headings on the board: summary, analysis, and assessment.

Summary

We begin with summary. How well we are able to summarize is a good barometer for how well we have comprehended a text in the first place. Furthermore, the mere act of restating the main ideas of the text often results in insights and discovery. As we summarize the reading, I let the students do the talking while I take notes on the board. It can be helpful to ask the students to provide citations for key points in the summary, e.g., “Where did the author claim that—can you give me the page number?” or “Can you read me the sentence where the author makes that claim?”

Analysis

After summary, we move on to analysis—the detailed examination of the elements and structure of the text. Although the attribution is dubious, Aristotle is often quoted as having said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Regardless of this statement’s source, its sentiment is valuable. I stress to students that when we analyze, we are holding the text and its ideas at arm’s length: we table our emotions, responses, and judgments. We ask questions regarding the reading’s context—to whom was it written, and during what time period? We also discuss the nature of the work: is it merely informative, or is it persuasive? If it is argumentative, can we find a thesis statement? How well do the author’s reasons support his or her claim? And what kind of evidence does the author provide? The answers to such questions provide a basis for the next step in our discussion: assessment.

Assessment

Having grounded our discussion in summary and analysis, we then move on to assessment—making a final judgment about the text. At this point, students may express their views more freely. What is their emotional reaction to the reading? Do they agree or disagree with the author? Discussing such observations is more profitable at this point for several reasons. For one, we have already grounded the main points of the reading, thus reducing the risk of mischaracterizing the author’s ideas. Furthermore, because we have analyzed the article, students can frame their emotional responses more critically. The process of summary and analysis enables the students not only to evaluate the reading itself, but also their reactions to it. We can judge whether certain gut reactions were warranted, or whether they break down under closer observation. Finally, students can use the summary and analysis during the first parts of the session to develop an overall judgment of the reading, thus developing their own thesis that could be used for writing a response or as a springboard for a longer research essay.

Although this three-step procedure may need to be adjusted for each course’s unique context, it provides a basic structure that ensures more substance and depth for classroom discussions. By engaging in this process, students can avoid a shallow exchange of ill-informed opinions, and instead think critically, engaging in objective analysis and evaluation of an issue before forming a judgment.