Teaching Critical Thinking Skills

The tasks in the package are based on “Inquiry Based Learning Tasks.” The components are:

1. Critical Thinking Skills
2. Guided Inquiry
3. Authentic Learning Tasks
4. Performance based assessments
5. Web 2.0 tools

1. Critical Thinking Skills

2. Guided Inquiry: Carefully Supervised Intervention by the instructor/lecturer.

Source: CISSL: USA

3. Authentic Learning Task
•is derived from curriculum objectives;
•is meaningful, grows out of academic principles;
•requires learners to use tools of the expert;
•provides opportunities for problem solving, decision making;
•offers learners opportunities for display, presentation, sharing of outcomes;
•has interdisciplinary connections.

4. Performance-based Assessments
-Peer Review

5. Web 2.0 tools
– tag-boards
– weblogs


The learner…
•relates new information to prior knowledge;
•applies information to new situations;
•uses divergent, critical thinking;
•is actively engaged in a variety of tasks
•has choices;
•has opportunities for revision, self and peer evaluation;
•has opportunities to work in groups.

The Design

The teacher…
•makes expectations and outcomes clear (rubrics);
•promotes self-reflection (journaling, portfolios);
•provides exemplars;
•provides opportunities for revision;
•enlists learners to participate in developing the assessment;
•invites learners to evaluate the task;
•invites learners to evaluate their own performance (performance-based assessment);
•invites learners to evaluate each other’s performance;
•participates in a post-mortem meeting to critique and revise the learning task.


Class : Introduction to Literature
Level of Proficiency : Higher Intermediate
Time : 3 Hours
Theme : Ethical Dilemma -Men do not appreciate women
Topic : Literary Analysis of Susan Glaspell’s Drama “Trifles”

Critical Thinking Skills:

• Finding Analogies and other kinds of relationship between pieces of information
• Determining the relevance and validity of information that could be used for structuring and solving problems
• Finding and evaluating solutions or alternative ways of treating problems

Language Aspect: “Wh” questions

Learning Outcomes:
At the end of the lesson, students should be able to:
a) interact with the text and have a record of their questions and ideas;
b) solve the case by answering the question “ Who murdered Mr. Wright?”;
c) participate in a post mortem meeting to critique and revise their peer’s presentation and solutions by providing at least one logical feedback.

Previous Knowledge: Students have studied the Shakespearean play “Hamlet”

Moral Values: Do not practice stereotyped thinking, Appreciate Women

Teaching Aids: Literary Text of the play “TRIFLES by Susan Glaspell”, Double Entry Journal, Reflection Sheet, Peer Performance Assessment Sheet, Sticky Notes, Computer with LCD, Video clip. Online journals/weblogs.

Time Teaching Episodes
(What am I doing/teaching?) Learners Activities (What are they doing/learning) Rational/Notes
Set Induction
(15 minutes) Lecturer shows a video clip of a detective series called CSI- Crime Scene Investigation.
(CSI Miami – Endless Caruso One Liners – 7 minute video clip showing clips of the highlights of the show) Downloaded from youtube.com) APPENDIX (i)

2. Lecturer discusses with the students about the roles of men and women in the series-

a)what kind of job description each one practices?

b) How do the men treat the women?

c) Compare to the Shakespearean play- what roles do women play?

d) What are the issues in the play? Do you think they are still relevant today?

e) What was the play mainly about?

f) What are your thoughts about the roles of women in the current world?
Students watch the video clip

Students respond to the lecturer’s questions.

Expected responds
– in Hamlet- there is investigation – ‘Who killed his father?”
– The girl friend had gone mad Asking open-ended questions that do not assume the “one right answer” – Critical thinking is often exemplified best when the problems are inherently ill-defined and do not have a “right” answer.
Open-ended questions also encourage students to think and respond creatively, without fear of giving the “wrong” answer.

-The learner relates new information to prior knowledge;
-Uses divergent critical thinking;
-Is actively engaged

(30 minutes)
Lecturer distributes the literary text of the play – “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell.

Lecturer provides prompts to discuss the play.

What has emerged
for you as potential
interests and topics?

What connections have you made?

What information
have you generated?

Students read and they are allowed to use coloured sticky notes to find the main ideas in the text.

Students begin to color code their notes.
This is a pre-writing process

Students respond to the lecturer- have discussions.
Information: sticky Notes

-Takes reading out of
the abstract realm

-Allows students to
interact with the text
and have a record of
their questions and

-Gives voice to
student questions,
concerns, confusion
and vocabulary issues

( 30 minutes)

Lecturer asks students to fill in a “Double Entry Journal”
One column has the title “The clues noticed by the women” and another column has the title “ My thoughts about the clues”


Students fill in the DOUBLE ENTRY JOURNAL

Students begin to fill in the journal with clues:
(Expected Responses)
 Ruined fruit preserves.
 Bread that has been left out of its box.
 An unfinished quilt.
 A half clean / half messy table top.
 An empty bird cage.
– This is a carefully supervised intervention of the trained lecturer.

The learner has choices;
The learner also has opportunities to work in groups.

Students may use tag-boards to post notes- if a classroom time is not available.
Tag-board is a weblog-based chat tool which allows users to post notes, comments and responses. It is available for free at http://www.tag-board.com

Students in this class keep an online journal
(individual weblogs) writing their reflection after each part of the readings. They are able
to read and respond to each other’s reflection online.

(45 minutes)
Lecturer provides students with roles:
i) the Court Attorney;
ii) the judge;
iii) the sheriff;
iv) Mrs Wright- Before she was married to John Wright, she was Minnie Foster. She was more cheerful in her youth. Her clothes were more colorful. She loved to sing. Those attributes diminished after her wedding day. Mrs. Hale describes Mrs. Wright’s personality;
v) Mrs Hale- She had not visited the Wright household for over a year because of its bleak, cheerless atmosphere. She believes that Mr. Wright is responsible for crushing the merriment out of Mrs. Wright. Now, Mrs. Hale feels guilty for not visiting more often. She believes she could have improved Mrs. Wright’s outlook on life;
vi) Mrs Peter- She has tagged along to bring back clothes for the imprisoned Mrs. Wright. She can relate to the suspect because they both know about “stillness.” Mrs. Peters reveals that her first child died at the age of two. Because of this tragic experience, Mrs. Peters understands what it is like to lose a loved one (in Mrs. Wright’s case it was her songbird).

Students begin to investigate to answer the question-
“ Who murdered Mr Wright?” in their groups

Students act out their roles in a

The learners must find analogies and other kinds of relationships between pieces of information

The judge in the group will show the group’s answer- after the case has been solved. Students will be performing to show the ideas as below:
Farmer John Wright has been murdered. While he lay asleep in the middle of the night, someone strung a rope around his neck. And that someone might have been his wife, the quiet and forlorn Minnie Wright.
The attorney and sheriff decide that there is nothing important in the room: “Nothing here but kitchen things.” (Feminist Criticism Hint: This line is the first of many disparaging comments said to minimize the importance of women in society.) The men criticize Mrs. Wright’s housekeeping skills, irking Mrs. Hale and the sheriff’s wife, Mrs. Peters.
In small groups, students must identify the different viewpoints of each participant in the dialogue. Must look for biases, presence or exclusion of important evidence, alternative interpretations, misstatement of facts, and errors in reasoning. Each group must decide which view is the most reasonable. After coming to a conclusion, each group acts out its dialogue and explains its analysis.

Closure -Assessmnet
(30 minutes)
Lecturer provides a Performance Base Assessment Peer Review Sheet
(APPENDIX (iii)- Performance Based Assessment Peer Review Sheet)

Lecturer enlists the learners to participate in developing the assessment.
Lecturer guides learners if the performance highlighted the theme of the play.
Discusses the main issues- Theme:
Men Do Not Appreciate Women
The men within this play betray a sense of self-importance. They present themselves as tough, serious-minded detectives, when in truth they are not nearly as observant as the female characters. Their pompous attitude causes the women to feel defensive and form ranks. Not only do Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters bond, but they choose to hide evidence as an act of compassion for Mrs. Wright. Stealing the box with the dead bird is an act of loyalty to their gender and an act of defiance against a callous patriarchal society.

Students fill in the review sheet.

Students present their reviews
This Design invites the learners to evaluate the task;
It invites the learners to evaluate their own performance;
It invites learners to evaluate each other’s performance;
Learners become their own and each other’s best critic.

Cooper (1995) states that putting students in group learning situations is the best way to foster critical thinking. “In properly structured cooperative learning environments, students perform more of the active, critical thinking with continuous support and feedback from other students and the teacher”
Extended Activity
( 30 minutes) Lecturer distributes a reflection sheet.
Lecturer ensures the students have discussed the main issues or points in the play through discussions with the students- Unlike the men who are looking for forensic evidence to solve the crime, the women observe clues that reveal the bleakness of Mrs. Wright’s emotional life. They theorize that Mr. Wright’s cold, oppressive nature must have been dreary to live with. Mrs. Hale comments about Mrs. Wright being childless: “Not having children makes less work – but it makes a quiet house.” To the women, they are simply trying to pass the awkward moments with civil conversation. But to the audience, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters unveil a psychological profile of a desperate housewife.
What Happened to the Bird?
When gathering up the quilting material, they discover a fancy little box. Inside, wrapped in silk is a dead canary. Its neck has been wrung. The implication is that Minnie’s husband did not like the canary’s beautiful song (a symbol of his wife’s desire for freedom and happiness). So, Mr. Wright busted the cage door and strangled the bird.
Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters do not tell the men about their discovery. Instead, Mrs. Hale puts the box with the deceased bird into her coat pocket – resolving not to tell the men about this little “trifle” they have uncovered.
The play ends with the characters exiting the kitchen and the women announcing that they have determined Mrs. Wright’s quilt making style. (She “knots it” instead of “quilts it” – a play with words denoting the way in which she killed her husband.)
Students participate in a post mortem meeting to critique and revise the learning task Provides opportunities for revision
Offers learners opportunities for display, presentation and sharing of outcomes

Another activity to be carried out alongside the activities in the class is using –
An E-Learning strategy
Students keep an online journal (reflection journals), as they read literature, perform an investigation, etc.
Being able to respond to each other’s reflection adds depth.

The lecturer may evaluate the use of emerging technologies by using the evaluation template as prepared in

Brooke, N. S. & Parker, R. (2001). Critical Thinking. London: Mayfield Publishing Company
Cooper, J. L. (1995). Cooperative learning and critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 7-8

Hornby, A. S.(2005). Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lee, Steven.P. (2002) What is the Argument Boston: McGraw Hill

Moore, B.N. & Parker, R. (2009) Critical Thinking Boston: Mc.Graw Hill

Rajendran, N. S. (2008). Teaching and Acquiring Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Theory and Practice. Malaysia: Penerbit UPSI.

Steven, P. L.(2002). What is the Argument: Critical Thinking in the Real World. USA: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc


SET INDUCTION – Lecturer shows a video clip of a detective series called CSI MIAMI (www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sarYH0z948)



The Clues Noticed by the Women My thoughts about the clues



Discuss the MOCK TRIAL

PRAISE: (What are the strengths of the mock trial? Be specific: refer to the presentation of the mock trial)

QUESTION: (What helpful questions would you like to ask about the mock trial?
What problems did you see in the presentation?)

POLISH: (What suggestions do you have to solve the case or improve the

REVIEWED FOR:………………………………………………………….

REVIEWED BY:……………………………………………………………


Presentation: Reflection Sheet

What do you collectively know about Women’s Liberation?
Evidence from contemporary plays or movies- CSI; The Goodwife; NCIS LA; etc
You may prepare a portfolio of the events to show the issue discussed;
“Men do not appreciate women” or “It is all fair and square”
Share your ideas / insights.
What have you learned?

Adapting Technologies for Education



Emerging Technology

IDENTIFY: What does this new technology allow a user to do?

• Keep a journal
• Publish one’s ideas
• Respond to other’s ideas

ISOLATE: What are the most important features/functions?

• Publish one’s ideas
• Respond to other’s ideas

ANALYZE: Where do these features/functions show up in education?

Students keep reflection journals as they are read literature,
perform an investigation, etc.
Being able to respond each other’s reflections add depth.

APPLY: Could this new technology be applied to improve/enhance that task?

Students in this class keep individual weblogs writing their reflection
after each part of the readings.
They are able to read and respond to each other’s reflection online.