How would you like to have an argument? Turns out that learning how to have a good argument might just be the best way to learn to think critically. In this episode I discuss a neat piece of research in which 7 and 8 year olds are taught how to effectively argue. And they do a darn good job of it as it turns out. Perhaps this is the way to teach our young people critical thinking: give them some great books to read – like The Giving Tree – and have them discuss what they think about it. The key ingredient: making sure that they fully understand the point of view of the other person. This’ll be fun. I promise. Especially since I’ve got a couple funny clips from Monty Python’s Argument Clinic sketch to help move things along.
Resources on Critical Thinking
- Walker, C. M., Wartenberg T. E., & Winner E. (2012). Engagement in Philosophical Dialogue Facilitates Children’s Reasoning About Subjectivity. Developmental Psychology. Online First Publication(doi: 10.1037/a0029870)
- Author Caren Walker’s website
- Introduction to Epistemology video on YouTube
- Ten Takeaway Tips for Teaching Critical Thinking
- The program used by the researchers to encourage dialogic inquiry is called “Teaching Children Philosophy” (Wartenberg, 2009) – “…one of several Philosophy for Children (P4C) programs designed to teach elementary school children to engage in philosophical discussion about children’s literature.”
…children not only improved in their ability to provide evidence for their own perspective but also improved in their ability to generate compelling arguments for the opposing view…children who received the philosophy training demonstrated a striking shift from a general unwillingness to entertain multiple perspectives to accepting that people could in fact hold opposing perspectives. – Walker et al. (2012)
- The children’s books used in the Walker et. al study were: I Know the Moon, The Giving Tree 40th Anniversary Edition, Let’s Make Rabbits and Emily’s Art
- Pen Pal News is the site I mentioned in this episode where children from very different backgrounds learn to argue constructively. Really worth checking out if you’re into critical thinking and children’s education.
- PenPal News Helps Students With Different Opinions Learn From Each Other.
PenPal News partners middle and high school classrooms from red states and blue states to discuss current events and real-world issues. Our 6-week literacy-based exchanges run throughout the school year.
- Kuhn, D., & Crowell, A. (2011). Dialogic argumentation as a vehicle for developing young adolescents’ thinking. Psychological Science, 22, 545–552. doi:10.1177/0956797611402512
- Kuhn, D., Iordanou, K., Pease, M., & Wirkala, C. (2008). Beyond control of variables: What needs to develop to achieve skilled scientific think- ing? Cognitive Development, 23, 435– 451. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2008 .09.006
- Wartenberg, T. (2009). Big ideas for little kids: Teaching philosophy through children’s literature. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
- Kuhn, D. (1991). The skills of argument. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511571350