Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making

Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources. Students:
  • identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
  • plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
  • collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.
  • use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions

Scenarios

Select Edit This Page to comment on which of the following scenarios best represents the standard that refers to Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making. How would you modify the scenario to better represent this standard?

Scenario A: Submitted by Mike King
When it comes to implementing new technology, Mike King, director of technology for the Enid Public School District, in Enid, OK, believes in covering all the bases. Last year, in anticipation of the district-wide imple-mentation of interactive whiteboards, King went beyond offering classes to his media specialists and nearly 500 teachers on how to integrate technology in the classroom and design interactive lessons. He also called on at-risk students, enrolled in the district’s alternative high school, to help teachers make the most of their new whiteboards, especially by incorporating various forms of digital media when using them. King knew teachers would be more eager to use Discovery Education United Streaming—which the district had already been using—if they had ready-to-use, interactive lessons they could easily plug into their curriculum. Guided by King and Melissa Dennis, Enid’s Alternative Academy director, 30 juniors and seniors began the 2005-06 school year developing “media kits.” Each media kit is built around an objective and features an activity and a wrap-up assessment. Because the kits use PowerPoint to deliver information, teachers can easily tailor each lesson to meet their students’ individual needs. King stored the kits on CDs and distributed 30 of them to teachers at the start of the 2006-07 school year. He plans to make the kits available on individual media servers located at each school. “This was our first experience working with united streaming this extensively, so it really gave us a sense of the depth of knowledge and materials the technology could provide,” King says. In addition, he says, teachers in the district loved the ease of use of the media kits. Working on the media kits also was a great benefit for the students. Not only did they feel good about being able to contribute to the district’s educational program in a meaningful way, they also learned about the teaching profession and mastered a new set of technological skills that may help them secure better careers. “This is a group of students that isn’t normally excited about education,” says King. “By the time the class was over, they became so engaged by the technology they wanted to learn more.” —Denise Willi Educator featured in this article Mike King Director of Technology Enid Public Schools, Enid, OK www.enidpublicschools.org mdking@enidk12.org, I think this is the best way to get teachers that are intimidated by technology to start using it in their classrooms.Teachers need"media kits" based on curriculum standards. Teachers in this school district are fortunate to have this technology instruction to help them use computers and interactive whiteboards effectively.


Scenario B: Submitted by Debbie Kritikos
My Algebra students do a car sales flyer project. They use the Internet to find invoice price and MSRP on a vehicle of their choice (must be a new vehicle). Students applied a discount to the invoice price as well as tax and special financing (an auto calculator was used from the Internet). Then they applied the current finance rate to the MSRP and add tax. They used percent of change to calculate the savings between the two prices. Finally, they created an auto sales flyer using a Word Template. The students were very motivated completing the project since they were able to "pick out a vehicle that interests them." My Geometry students (who did this project last year) was thrilled to see the projects displayed and wanted to do the project again. Anytime they are doing percent problems, I remind them about the car sales flyer project, and that seems to make it "click" in their mind on what to do. Some of the comments the students made that made me laugh was things like: "I didn't know you had to pay to borrow money!" and "I'm going to need a good job to be able to afford those monthly payments!"
When a teacher takes a lesson and use a scenario where students are able to identify with a real life situation; the students are able to learn more from the lesson. School districts across America are turning to incorporating critical thinking and problem solving as part of their daily routines. Many districts have implemented math assessments as early as third grade to allow students to become identified with the correct steps in thinking through problems.
I think when a teachers creates a math lesson with the knowledge all students will be using higher order of thinking through the use of computers it spells not only success for the teacher but success for the students. This lesson incorporates not only classroom technology but each level of Blooms higher order of thinking skills to make students to think outside of the box. This lesson allowed the students to learn a lesson they will not forget and remember when it comes time for them to buy a car.
The scenario presented by Debbie Kritikos allows the students to:
  • Identify and define authentic problem with significant question for investigation. The students were allow to find a car of their choice and develop and sales flyer to lure customers to buy the car.
  • Plan/manage activities to develop a solution/ complete a project. The students were to find ways once potential buyers became available ways they could finance the customer where they could afford the cars through discounts from invoices, tax brakes and special financing.
  • Collect and analyze data to identify solutions to make informed decisions. The students calculated between invoice/tax with special financing to regular finance rate, MSRP with tax added to see what would be the best rate. This would allow students to decide which way would benefit the possible customer best.
I would add “use multiple process and diverse perspectives too explore alternative solutions” by adding the price of insurance to the sale of the car. Insurance many times can be the final breaking in deciding to decline or accept when buying certain types of cars. This would allow students to see financing does not allows decide if someone wants a car, insurance plays as a key part too. Submitted by: Thomas D. Wright (APSU)


The car sales flier is an excellent way to utilize technology that is interesting to the students. My fifth graders did something kind of like that this year. The Special Education teacher and I were designing a lesson on reducing fractions to use during math inclusion. We took trail mix recipes that we found on-line and modified that amounts of ingredients so that the students would have to reduce the fractional amount. The students were in groups by mixed abilities and actually had to work together to make the trail mix. If I try that lesson again, I'm going to let the students work in smaller groups, maybe pairs and find their own recipes on-line (on web sites that I choose). I am going to let the pairs figure out how much they would need if the amount of guests was increased. I will have them type the ingredients and directions and take a picture of their completed dish and themselves to put in a classroom cookbook. The car sales flier triggered the fact that technology could be added to this assignment. Thanks Ms. Kritikos!
Scenario C: Submitted by Ben Smith
We are trying to create a digital classroom where students receive and transmit information electronically. Our goal is for students to be able to use technology as a tool for problem solving, selecting and implementing the appropriate tool. Below is an example of a project accomplishing this. Students participate in a web video project. During the project, students use a camcorder to record some type of motion (shooting a basketball, driving a car, a cat jumping onto the refrigerator), analyze the motion and present their results via a webpage. During the taping of the motion, students use a still digital camera to take background photos for later use in the website. Students create a short video for analyzing and a longer video of their motion using iMovie. After exporting the video, it is analyzed using software called VideoPoint. This software allows students to create graphs describing the. Next, students use Inspiration to create a concept map explaining what they did and what they found. The Inspiration file creates a website of their ideas. Students edit the individual files using Word. They are able to insert graphics from the camera and VideoPoint to supplement their video. At this point students are done and upload the files to the internet to share. Students then critique and comment on each other’s work in a discussion board. The technology facilitates students in working through a complex multi-step problem while interacting with their peers.

Scenario D: Meg Griffin
I use technology as a gateway tool to science inquiry learning. Our energy unit shows an example of the meaningful blend of science skills and content with technology. Students use electronic temperature sensors as they explore and make meaning about heat energy. Using the temperature sensor students begin their exploration as they collect data on the temperatures of their hands. The students discuss ways they could increase the temperatures of their hands. Students rub their hands together (friction), breathe on them, and put their hands in pockets and then collect temperatures. They use the results to explain how temperature moves. From hand temperatures we move to water temperature. Students use the probes to collect temperature data from jars of water ranging from cold to hot. Students begin to categorize temperatures along the gradient. This activity allows students to construct concrete temperature knowledge from an abstract concept. Students work collaboratively to develop an investigation to explore the effects of insulation on temperature change. The students use the probe to collect data, which is displayed in real-time on the computer monitor. Then they chart, graph, and compare the data. The results are analyzed and students judge the effects of insulation on temperature change. Students are then presented with a real-world problem of keeping a hot beverage hot. In teams students design and create a heat saver. After collecting each team’s data, the students calculate heat lost versus heat saved. Together they excitedly evaluate which design was most effective in stopping heat loss.

I think Scenario D is an excellent example of critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making. The students are able to go beyond given facts and are able to test those facts along with their own assumptions through the use of technology (the temperature sensors). They are then able to apply their findings to a real-world scenario that is something students would be interested in. With this type of presentation and use of technology, I can definitely see the students applying the skills in this unit to future lessons in and outside of the classroom. -Kim R. (APSU)

How do you facilitate a learning environment where students can address and investigate authentic problems?


Students need to have access to information resources, guest speakers. They need time to work collaboratively and a safe space to do it (for online collaboration). The school needs to make technology resources available to students in a flexible manner.

During a recent student teaching experience in a fifth-grade classroom, I developed a thematic unit that was based around the concepts that were part of that specific grade curriculum. My thematic unit was a Social Studies based unit about "The Three Branches of Government". When planning this unit, I implemented a variety of teaching strategies that would provide the students with a constructive learning environment. During this learning experience, students were able to conduct research to obtain information about a given topic. As part of their research, students identified each branch and defined the individual duties and responsibilities that were contained within each branch (students identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation).

When the information was obtained, they collected their data and provided logical responses to critical-thinking questions and strategies. While applying their knowledge about the federal government system, the students used multiple processes to form new ideas and solutions to existing issues in our government system today (students use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions). Once research was conducted, students were assigned to a group with a particular branch to report on. The groups of students began to implement the new information into a group project. This group project required students to analyze their researched data to form a diagram that represented their assigned branch of government (students collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions). The students were given the authority to plan the design of their project and manage how the project evolved amongst their group members (plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project). Once the group projects were complete, the students presented their project to their fellow classmates. The school offered a computer lab with enough Internet-connected computers for the class of twenty students to participate in a Internet-based Scavenger Hunt pertaining "The Three Branches of Government". The scavenger hunt was an individual activity that required each student to complete an order of given tasks. The students really enjoyed having access to technology to conduct their research about the topic we were studying. - K. Bland