New course in critical thinking to be developed at IGS

Several classes in Years 9 and 10 in 2020 will study Critical Thinking in the 21st Century with eminent historian and educator Dr Bruce Dennett.

The new course will explore concepts such as trust, knowledge and belief and will develop skills in our students highly relevant to a changing world, anchored in principles currently under discussion in national and NSW curriculum reviews.

“Critical and creative thinking is the diamond hard bit of the drill,” Dr Dennett said.

“It’s as old as Socrates and Plato” and more relevant than ever in the digital age.

“I have known Dr Dennett for over 30 years,” said IGS Principal Shauna Colnan.

“He is one of the most renowned history teachers in NSW and has shaped the way history is taught in this State for generations.

“Our students will learn so much from him and I’m thrilled that they will have this opportunity in 2020.”

Dr Dennett explained why critical thinking skills are more important than ever.

“The Internet, video games, social media, Wikipedia, news bulletins and summaries offer immediate answers and gratification but don’t encourage deep thought, analysis and reflection.

“Real knowledge is, and always has been, derived from learning to ask the right questions.

“This course is designed to teach students how to frame those questions, test hypotheses, assess sources, to think critically and emerge as independent learners.

“This will be done in a practical way; lessons will be drawn from history, the social sciences and the daily news.”

At a time when many middle years students become disengaged, IGS students will be debating issues of the day deeply relevant to their lives.

“We will relate the theory of logical and critical thought to the students’ experiences, confirming the relevance of the course to their lives.

“We will be studying real world situations, interrogating the media, and the issues raised by the students using examples from the recent, middle and distant past, the entire human experience.

“They will be using the equivalent of a scientific method and basic logic to develop, interpersonal skills and empathetic understanding; all of the things indispensable to the democratic process.

“These kids are growing up as digital natives and they are exposed to information from everybody.

“The most important skills are not knowing what happened, but knowing who to trust.”

Dr Dennett has been working with IGS staff and Year 12 students studying Extension History for several years. In his latest editions of the Oxford University Press text Inside History, for Years 7 to 10, Dr Dennett is bringing critical thinking skills, the Historian’s Toolkit from the rear of the texts to the front.

The new IGS course will include historiography, ontology, epistemology and ways of knowing “what you trust from the past and what you don’t”.

“While a lot of research shows that students can disengage in Years 9 and 10, at IGS we will be engaging them in relevant, socially controversial debates on subjects such as genetic modification and bioethics.

“We cannot know the world of 2050. Education for 2020 is not the key to success in 30 years’ time – learning to think critically and creatively is.

“Critical thinking skills are likely to benefit these students during their HSC, when they get to uni and when they enter the workplace.”

The new venture will be supported by a longitudinal research study and will enable the School to share fresh resources and fresh, student-centred teaching techniques with other teachers and schools.