Teaching Strategy Resource Sheets

Welcome to the TH!NK Faculty Resource page. This is aimed to give you helpful teaching strategies and exercises for implementing more critical and creative thinking into your curriculum and classroom.

Many of the resources included here align with multiple stages of the critical and creative process, and we are sure that most teachers will find new and exciting implementation for these strategies. Please share your successes (and learning) with us as you use these resources in the classroom by email at: sdcarson@ncsu.edu.

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Visual Thinking Seeing
Students don’t always realize the previous knowledge that they have about a subject, or their own ability to be critical thinkers. Asking students to observe their surroundings, or images that you provide, can be an empowering way for them to recognize the prior knowledge that they bring to a situation or lesson. This is a particularly successful strategy for introducing new topics, and helping students connect prior knowledge to new concepts, projects, or assignments.

VISUAL THINKING ACTIVITIES

Using Images to Raise Questions
Select a series of pictures of a relevant topic area with which students may or may not be familiar. Pass them out and have students freewrite* their responses to the following questions:

  • How would you precisely describe this image?
  • What conclusions can you draw about it?
  • What about the image led you to reach this conclusion?
  • What questions does it raise for you? What do you want to know more about?
  • What do you think is the significance of this image (social, political, scientific, environmental, or otherwise)?

When time is up, select two or three students to share their work. Tell them the context of the image and ask them to discuss how that changes their understanding of it.
*Freewriting is a strategy by which students write for a given period of time (1- 20 minutes) without stopping.*

Using Visualizations to Challenge Assumptions
Find a map, diagram, or data visualization and have students study it. (One favorite is a chart that shows the correlation—as opposed to causation—between autism diagnoses and organic food sales.)
Using Think. Pair. Share or another group-work technique, prompt them with the following questions:

  • What does the author lead you to infer? Is this a fair inference?
  • Give an alternative explanation of the data shown.
  • What further data is needed to reach a conclusion?

Through guided small- or large-group conversations, ask the students to consider how the data might be incomplete, skewed, or misrepresented. Ask them to consider other explanations for the data. Consider using the intellectual standards to guide your discussions of clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, significance, etc.

Using Visualizations to Test Knowledge
Five Card Flickr is a game devised by web developer Alan Levine. It is based on the game Five Card Nancy by Scott McLoud, the author of Understanding Comics. The translation inherent in storytelling is a great way to test students’ understanding of a topic currently being studied.

Using Flickr or another image database, students choose 5 images that tell a story about a topic. These images should relate to one another in some way. As a longer assignment, students can write about the images to create a linear essay. As a shorter in-class exercise, they can use the images in a presentation or in small-group discussions. Prompt them with questions to help uncover more nuanced or hidden components of the content, or to encourage debates. For example:

  • Use 5 images to tell the story of the decision to drop the atomic bomb in WWII from the perspective of the U.S. President, an
    American citizen, and a Japanese politician.

Readings and Resources

  • McKim, Robert. Experiences in Visual Thinking. Cengage Learning, 1980.
  • Grandin, Temple. Thinking in Pictures. Vintage Books, 1995.
  • Arnheim, Rudolf. Visual Thinking. University of California Press, 2004.
  • See also: Visual Thinking: Mapping and Diagramming

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Visual Thinking: Mapping
Concept mapping can be an effective way to help students gather, organize, and test their knowledge. Similar to mind mapping, which is primarily a brainstorming tool, concept mapping has a specific drive to map connections and interdependencies. Concept mapping requires the inclusion of linking words that indicate relationships (correlational, causal or otherwise) as a key component to the process. Concept mapping can also identify gaps in student knowledge.

MAPPING AND DIAGRAMMING ACTIVITIES

Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is an open-ended and simple way to help students make visible their existing knowledge or preliminary research connected to an idea or problem. It encourages visualizing a “train of thought.” The main components of a mind map are nodes and lines. The general organization of a mind map can focus on broad themes or specific components (who, what, why, where, and how), or it can be chronological. Mind maps are effective in broadening the understanding of concepts and encouraging brainstorming. They can also be used in the peer-review process. For example, students may trade paper drafts and map their fellow student’s main claim, supporting arguments, and evidence to see how effective the paper is in communicating the main parts of the argument.

Concept Mapping
Similar to mind mapping, concept mapping is a strategy for diagramming concepts and ideas. The main difference between the two is that concept mapping also includes linking verbs along the lines that demonstrate a specific relationship between the two ideas. Concept mapping is particularly effective in testing students’ knowledge and understanding of course content, and organizing and demonstrating more advanced research into complex issues.
The steps of creating a concept map are:

    The steps of creating a concept map are:

  1. Create a list of words/ideas related to the idea you are exploring.
  2. Edit that list for relevance.
  3. Organize the lists around common terms and ideas. Give those hierarchy.
  4. Connect the terms with linking verbs.

Procedural concept maps can start with the first step of the process.
Mind Map

Readings and Resources

  • Dubberly, Hugh. Creating Concept Maps.
  • Ritchhart, Ron, Church, Mark, Morrison, Karen. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. Jossey-Bass, 2011.
  • See also:Collaborative Learning Techniques Resource Sheet

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Critical Reading
The beginning of all critical and creative thinking starts with assessing and questioning existing information. Challenging students to be independent, critical, and thoughtful readers is a fundamental stepping stone in life-long learning. Critical reading encourages students to synthesize complex arguments, back up claims with evidence, question the authority of the text and author, and suggest alternative explanations. Most importantly, it encourages them to be active participants in the learning process.

CRITICAL READING ACTIVITIES

The main components of the critical reading worksheet ask students to synthesize, support, evaluate, and argue. Below is an example of the questions that you might use to guide how students engage in critical reading. These questions can be answered individually or in groups, using one of the collaborative learning techniques outlined on that resource sheet.

Critical reading worksheets can also be used in conjunction with synthesis matrices or can be the structure students use for their entries into that format. The main components of the critical reading worksheet follow.

  1. Assess the background and context for the reading. Who is the author? What is his/her background? What makes the author qualified to write this piece? How old is the article/book? Is it timely? Who is publishing and/or paying for this article or book? Why is that relevant and what impact might that have on the content?
  2. Synthesize the main idea of a text. Ask students to explain the main point of the text in a few sentences. This is not just a summary (i.e. first the author said this and then they said that) but should explain the argument that the author is making.
  3. Identify two or more things that the author does to support the main point. Make sure to explain how the author is supporting the the main point (i.e. by analyzing X piece of information, defining Y, or comparing A to B).
  4. Provide a a 1- or 2-sentence quotation that the author uses as evidence to support his/her main point. Be sure to include a reference to the page where it appears in the source.
  5. What is the aim of the author in addressing this topic? What is the author’s stance? How does the author’s background qualify him/her to write on this topic, and how might it affect the position that the author has taken? Who is the target audience? How can you tell?
  6. What are the strongest and weakest parts of his/her argument? Refer to specific passages. Explain why you thought they were strong or weak. Give page numbers.
  7. What is your overall assessment of the author’s work and treatment of the subject? Based on the analysis and reflection above, write a single statement articulating your overall critical perspective on how effectively the author treats the topic in attempting to achieve his/her overall purpose.

Readings and Resources

  • Bean, John. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. Jossey-Bass, 2011.
  • Doyle, Terry. Learner-Centered Teaching: Putting the Research on Learning into Practice. Stylus, 2011.
  • See also: Writing to Think and Synthesis Matrix worksheets.

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Writing to Think
Students can be apprehensive about putting words on paper because of the seemingly “final” nature of the written word. Encouraging them to see writing as a process can be accomplished through lower-stakes iterative exercises. Writing to think encourages students to interpret abstract concepts and associations and make them more concrete. It can be a reflective tool, as well as a means by which to support the thinking process, helping students gain more clarity.

WRITING TO THINK ACTIVITIES

SEE-I (State, Elaborate, Exemplify, Illustrate) (30 minutes)
Used either individually or with small groups, SEE-I is a great activity to get students to explain their understanding of concepts and terminology. It can also be a great structure for setting up a peer-review process and as a format for the boards that you might use in the Gallery Walk (see the Peer Review resource sheet.)

  • State the concept or term as briefly, clearly, and precisely as possible by constructing a good definition or a single, well-formulated sentence.
  • Elaborate to explain it in your own words.
  • Exemplify what you mean by using at least one well-chosen, original example.
  • Illustrate by using a metaphor, illustration, or diagram. Make sure that the students create the image themselves.

Have students share results and evaluate the effectiveness of the activity.

3-2-1 Reflection on Learning (15-30 min)
This exercise provides some structure for students that encourages reflection while also encouraging them to extract what is particularly meaningful from a text or reading.

In this exercise, students should write down:

  • 3 WORDS that they think are important/essential to the meaning of the text
  • 2 PHRASES that are important to the argument of the text.
  • 1 SENTENCE, whether the “thesis” or a sentence they found particularly well-written, thought-provoking, or amusing.

Reflective prompts:

  • Why do you think those were the most relevant aspects of the lesson and how might they help you in the future?
  • How will you apply these ideas to the next project, or how might you have applied them differently to the last one?

Interpretation with Justification (5-10 min)
Students don’t always recognize the previous knowledge that they bring to a class, assignment, or research topic. This technique can help them recognize that previous knowledge, while also encouraging them to justify it.

Pick an image, chart, or diagram and have students examine it individually or in groups. Ask them the following questions.

  1. What’s going on? (Interpretation)
  2. What do you see that makes you say that? (Justification)

Prompt students to make some judgements about their examinations, using the following structure:

  1. Make a claim about the image or topic. Claim: An explanation or interpretation of some aspect of the image or topic.
  2. Identify support for your claim. Support: Things you see, feel, and know that support your claim.
  3. Ask a question related to your claim. Question: What’s left hanging? What isn’t explained? What new questions does your claim raise?

Readings and Resources

  • Bean, John. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. Jossey-Bass, 2011.
    Doyle, Terry. Learner-Centered Teaching: Putting the Research on Learning into Practice. Stylus, 2011.

  • See also: Reflecting at Every Stage of the Process and Synthesis Matrix

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Reflection
Oftentimes in the research process, students can become overwhelmed with the diversity of information they have found. Strategies to organize information and research can help students start to see patterns in their work, as well as where there might be gaps. It also opens up opportunities for critical discussion in the classroom about how content is being
gathered, interpreted, and ultimately used in support of an argument.

SYNTHESIS MATRIX ACTIVITIES

Using a Synthesis Matrix for a Literature Review
Students can use the matrix to summarize and align their sources with the appropriate main ideas. Sources might fit in multiple categories, in which case the main idea might change. Encourage them to include specific quotes or paraphrasing to support that main idea.
Possible discussion questions:

  • Are all of these sources relevant?
  • What basic assumptions is this research building upon?
  • What alternative viewpoints are missing from this research?

Synthesis Matrix
Using a Synthesis Matrix to Write Research Questions and Formulate Problems
Students can also use the matrix format to break apart a research topic they are starting to study. Replace “Main Idea” in the matrix with “Topics” and then student research can focus on what existing research is out there. This use of the matrix can illuminate where existing research has focused as well as where there are gaps.
Possible discussion questions:

  • Where are there gaps in the existing research on this topic?
  • Are there consistencies/inconsistencies across authors on certain topics?

Synthesis Matrices and Divergent Thinking
Matrices can also be used in the brainstorming or idea-generating phase of a project by using the critical and creative thinking process to force or form new associations. For example, in trying to brainstorm a short fiction writing assignment, “main idea” could be replaced with “genre” and the sources could be replaced with scenarios or scenes. Then the intersection of those two things could be the beginning of that story.

Readings and Resources

  • Barkley, Elizabeth F., Major, Claire Howell, and Cross, K. Patricia. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. Jossey-Bass, 2014.
  • Bean, John. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. Jossey-Bass, 2011.
  • See Also: Writing to Think and Lotus Blossom

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Lotus Blossom
Students can be apprehensive to take risks, or to consider ideas and connections that are outside of their immediate and current knowledge-base. The Lotus Blossom can be an effective tool to help stretch students’ minds to look for additional supporting evidence for their arguments, or to encourage free association during a brainstorming process. Developed by Yasuo Matsumura, a Japanese business consultant, the Lotus Blossom is easy to create and use in a variety of ways.

LOTUS BLOSSOM ACTIVITIES

Lotus Blossom for Organizing Ideas
To use this technique to support students in expanding and organizing ideas, it’s helpful to give or have students develop a main idea or theme before starting this exercise. For example, students doing research on NAFTA would start this exercise with a preliminary idea about exploring the connection between NAFTA and its effects on the U.S. Economy.

Steps of the process:

  1. At the center of a piece of paper, prompt students to create a 3 x 3 matrix.
  2. At the center of that first matrix, students write a main idea or concept. For example, students might simply write “NAFTA’s effect on the U.S. Economy.”
  3. In the surrounding boxes prompt students to write related concepts, such as “trade, employment, product pricing, environment.”
  4. Each one of these related concepts then becomes a center point for 8 additional 3 x 3 matrices that surround it. Each of these matrices have additional supporting concepts.

Lotus Blossom to Encourage Free Association
This technique is also good as a generative tool to encourage free association. While the structure is the same, the prompt for this use of the lotus blossom is slightly different. For example, students who are exploring different ways that a classroom might be designed to support different learning styles might use this technique to explore a variety of components related to classroom environments and learning styles.
Steps of the Process:

  1. At the center of a piece of paper, prompt students to create a 3 x 3 matrix.
  2. At the center of that first matrix, prompt students to write their main concept—in this case, “Learning Styles”
  3. In the surrounding boxes, prompt students to write different learning styles.
  4. Each of these learning styles then becomes the center of the surrounding matrices. Those boxes are filled in with different ways that the learning style could be addressed, such as classroom design, configuration, or lesson plan.
  5. Encouraging the students to think expansively helps them explore a myriad of ways to address an assignment problem.

    Lotus Blossom

    Readings and Resources

    • Barkley, Elizabeth F., Major, Claire Howell, and Cross, K. Patricia. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. Jossey-Bass, 2014.
    • Bean, John. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. Jossey-Bass, 2011.
    • See Also: Writing to Think and Lotus Blossom

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Reflection
Being able to think divergently is particularly important when trying to help students consider a problem or concept in a new way. For instance, maybe making inroads into new forms of waste management isn’t about teaching people how to recycle, but getting people to buy less. Using analogies can be effective ways to challenge biases and assumptions. They can be used to help students think of new solutions to existing problems, to try out a new process, or to understand a new concept in terms of existing ones.

MAKING ASSOCIATIONS ACTIVITIES

Random Association
Random association encourages students to think about a problem by associating it with another idea that is not immediately connected. This exercise is particularly useful when asking students to create a new strategy or contribute to solving a problem that exists in the world. It also helps stretch students’ brains in sometimes uncomfortable ways.

  1. Choose a concept or problem that needs to be rethought in a radical way. Some examples might be: strategies for encouraging vaccinations among those resistant to the principle; rethinking K-12 classroom learning; engaging citizen scientists in monitoring and reporting bee population levels.
  2. Choose a list of words (nouns, verbs, or some combination) and have students randomly choose one (i.e.: draw from a hat, or use a random word generator tool online).
  3. Have students write a list of qualities that describe those words. It’s important to avoid describing the physical characteristic of the word. For instance, if the chosen word is “bee,” then encourage them to write words like “collective” or “self-sufficient” rather than “black and yellow” or “striped.”
  4. Next, ask students to write a series of propositional questions that use a format such as: “How could (users of my bike-walk path) be more “self-sufficient.” This format could also be used as a self-reflective technique by asking questions such as: “How could I think about my bike-walk path in a way that draws on more ‘collective’ knowledge?”
  5. Students then answer the question through additional brainstorming, concept mapping, or simply writing answers.

Possible discussion questions:

  • How did this exercise help you see something new in the problem?
  • What from the exercise seems most relevant to the problem you are trying to solve?
  • Do you think your solution to the problem is novel? Why or why not?
  • Direct Analogy
    Sometimes, getting students to understand or articulate a new idea is most effective through the use of a direct analogy. For example, when the designers of the first Graphical User Interface for computers were devising a system for iconography, they used the direct analogy of the physical desktop (folders, files, trashcan) to inform visual attributes, thereby helping users understand the principles by using a system already familiar to them.

    When introducing a new concept, ask students to think of an everyday activity that concept reminds them of. It can be just one part of the concept, or the entire concept. For instance: What is an example of the theme of good and evil explored in To Kill a Mockingbird that you have encountered in your everyday life?

    Readings and Resources

    • De Bono, Edward. Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step. Harper and Row, 1970.
    • Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. HarperCollins, 1997.
    • Robinson, Ken. Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative. Capstone, 2001.
    • See also: Divergent Thinking: Morphologies and Visual Thinking: Mapping and Diagramming

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Reflection
Morphological thinking was first introduced by Fritz Zwicky, an astrophysicist, as a way to categorize and consider “all possible alternatives” within a particular system or problem. Morphologies can help students in the brainstorming phase through forcing associations that they would not normally make, and to take risks in their thinking through short, iterative exercises. Alternatively, they are also good for pulling apart a problem and looking at each element of it in isolation as well as combination.

MAKING ASSOCIATIONS ACTIVITIES

Morphologies for Forcing Associations
The purpose of this type of morphology is to force associations between two aspects of a given problem. It is particularly helpful when encouraging students to generate new ideas or concepts related to an existing problem. For example, if students are creating a public service campaign for the state with the lowest vaccination rates, a morphology could help brainstorm the themes for the campaign.
Create a 3 x 3 matrix. Along the vertical axis prompt students to list 3 components of the problem. In the example below, this axis lists 3 of the most common misperceptions about vaccinations. Along the horizontal axis, identify an alternative component to the problem, argument, or potential solutions—in this example, the most important arguments FOR encouraging vaccinations. At the intersection of those two points, students can then brainstorm titles for their campaign that addresses these two issues. You can prompt them to create really diverse ideas or to compare more nuanced differences in language (as shown in this example). Students can then take the most relevant ideas and combine them into a more complex solution or argument. Morphologies can be used again and again to brainstorm on more and more specific pieces of the topic or assignment.

Morphology

Morphologies for Breaking Down Ideas
Morphologies can also be good to test knowledge of the various stages or steps of a topic, as well as to pull apart different qualities to look at them in isolation and/or combination. For example, a leaf morphology might identify separately the unique qualities of a leaf—venation, edges, and general shape—and place one along a horizontal axis, one along a vertical axis, and even one along a secondary horizontal or vertical axis. Students can then configure and combine those qualities as they relate to a specific context—whether it’s a tree type, an environment or region, or something else.

Readings and Resources

  • Zwicky, Fritz. Discovery, Invention, Research through the Morphological Approach. Macmillan, 1969.
  • Watts, Linda and Blessinger, Paul. Creative Learning in Higher Education: International Perspectives and Approaches. Routledge, 2016.
  • See also: Lateral Thinking: Analogies and Associations

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Reflection
Prompting students to reflect on their thinking and learning helps both teachers and students better understand how they are processing information, what is resonating, what is clear/unclear, and how they are using both critical and creative thinking in their process. Oftentimes these thinking processes are so embedded in the assignment or project output that they can be difficult to isolate and evaluate. Reflection is a critical method through which you “see” what students are thinking.

REFLECTION ACTIVITIES

Reflecting on Performance (Immediate)
Reflective prompts can be incorporated into every assignment or discussion as a way to get students to consider how their thinking affected the work and output of the assignment.

Reflective prompts:

  • Is your argument clear? How could it be made more clear?
  • How did this exercise broaden your understanding of this idea or concept?
  • What information or counter-perspectives might still be missing from your examination?
  • Is your argument logical? Why or why not?
  • What contribution does your argument make to the larger world or field? What might others gain from this examination?
  • How might you incorporate ideas from this assignment/project/procedure into other assignments, work or classes?

Metacognitive Reflection
Metacognitive reflection asks students to consider the way that the think, make judgements, draw conclusions and acknowledge their assumptions and biases throughout the learning process. It asks them to explicitly consider their own higher-order thinking skills and evaluate how that helps or hinders their learning.
Reflective prompts:

  • How much did you draw on previous knowledge for this [assignment, class, project]? Why?
  • How did you assumptions and biases affect your approach to this [assignment]? Do you think that kept you from evaluating ideas fairly? Why or why not?
  • Which stage of this assignment made you the most uncomfortable? Why? How might you overcome that discomfort in the future?
  • In what ways has your ability to explain this [idea, concept, process] changed?

Journaling
Often, assignments and projects are demonstrations of students knowledge. Writing to think—and getting students to include writing in their process early on can help them think through problems and solutions. It can also be a low-stakes way for students to get comfortable with risk taking. Have students keep a journal (digital or physical) throughout the semester. Give prompts that connects what they are learning in the classroom with experiences that might have had in their everyday life. It’ advantageous to include smaller prompts as well as regular reflections with every project and/or test.
Reflective prompts:

  • Write about the process that you went through to get to the final solution.
  • Log when you ran into a roadblock and what your did to overcome it.
  • Write about your assumptions and how new perspectives changed your viewpoint.

Readings and Resources

  • Kaplan, Matthew and Silver, Naomi. Using Reflection and Metacognition to Improve Student Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy. Stylus Publishing, 2013.
  • Ritchhart, Ron, Church, Mark, Morrison, Karen. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. Jossey-Bass, 2011.
  • See Also: Writing to Think at www.think.dasa.ncsu.edu

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Reflection
Encouraging discussion and interaction among students in the classroom is one of the most effective teaching strategies for learner-centered teaching. Terry Doyle, author of Learner-Centered Teaching argues that “discussion elicits higher levels of reflective thinking and creative problem solving…”(90). Yet simply making time for discussion is often not enough. Giving students structure through which to start conversations can be a critical part of an effective discussion process.

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING ACTIVITIES

Think. Pair. Share. (10-15 minutes)
Especially with larger groups, Think. Pair. Share. can be an effective way to encourage students to talk with each other and takes the burden off one student to come up with the right answer. There are a number of ways that this strategy can be modified, but the basic structure is:

  1. Think.Provide a concept, passage, question, image or problem. You can give students all the same starting point, or very different starting points depending on what you want to achieve. Ask them to reflect individually about their interpretation or perspective.
  2. Pair. Then put students into groups of 2 and have them discuss what they wrote or were thinking about. You may give them guiding questions to help facilitate their conversation, or have them answer a question together.
  3. Share.Prompt students to share out what they discussed, how they answered the question, and what they interpreted. This can be done as a whole class.
  4. Gallery Walk (30-45 minutes)
    The gallery walk encourages discussion and peer review of work. In the gallery walk, students must produce something for display and then others in the class use those displays as starting points for discussion. The gallery walk is a good way to compare students interpretation of a similar concept or to consider how a specific concept could be applied in a variety of ways. Start by deciding as a group how the work will be evaluated.

    Round Robin (30-45 minutes)
    Choose 5-10 concepts or questions for discussion and write them on large pieces of paper. Break students up into groups of 2-3 to answer one of the questions. After 5-10 minutes, have students move onto the next question and add to the initial answer. Keep going until students have visited every station. You can stop for discussion after each move or at the end of the entire exercise. You may discuss how completely questions were answered, and how students’ understanding of the content changed through the exercise.

    Group Mind Mapping (20-30 minutes)
    This strategy is a great way to activate students and use the wisdom of the crowd to spark conversation and debate. As an active learning tool, it encourages negotiation, deliberation and creative association as the exercise progresses. This strategy works best with groups of 3-5 students.

    Start off by giving the students an open-ended question or prompt that does not have any ‘right’ answer such as “What are the most significant films of the last 50 years?” Students can then write on post-it notes answers to that question, and post on the wall in no particular order. Prompt them to start to group like pieces of information or answers together. Ask questions to guide their consideration of what commonalities are driving these groupings. You can further associate groups together by measures such as time, cause and outcome, or other relevant themes.

    Readings and Resources

    • Bruffee, Kenneth. Collaborative Learning: Higher Education, Interdependence, and the Authority of Knowledge. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
    • Barkley, Elizabeth F., Claire Howell Major, and K. Patricia Cross. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. Jossey-Bass, 2014.
    • See also: Peer Reviews at www.think.dasa.ncsu.edu

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Reflection
Peer reviews are an important opportunity for students to provide critical, constructive, and coherent evaluation of the work of others. Peer reviews can be constructed as ways for students to share knowledge, to learn about other’s experiences, and processes and to develop ideas more fully. Students might be uncomfortable giving an evaluation that they perceive as “negative,” so setting the stage for what is expected in the evaluation is critical.

PEER REVIEW ACTIVITIES

Gallery Walk
Have students create a concept map, poster, or giant Post-it that can be hung on the wall. Students can work in pairs or individually to create these “boards.” Depending on the project, you can structure the content or leave it more open to see what students come up with. Be clear with students about the criteria for evaluation. Individually or in groups, students can then review the “gallery” and ask questions, provide comments, or add relevant information. Prompt students to engage in active listening by dissecting the main message and how it’s communicated.

Some questions to prompt students:

  • What is the main message the author is trying to communicate?
  • Does the author support his/her main idea with relevant and effective evidence?
  • If you weren’t doing this for a class right now, how likely would you be to spend time engaging with this? Why?
  • s the information in the poster accurate? Compelling? Provocative?

Peer Review Prompts
Creating peer review sheets can help students spend less time figuring out how what they are supposed to be evaluating. It can also help prompt them to write critically and constructively. If you have very specific learning objectives, you can include those on the review sheet.

More open-ended questions could be:

  • What is effective about the way the author constructed this project/paper/assignment?
  • What did you struggle with as you were reading/evaluating it?
  • Are there better ways to communicate or reinforce the main ideas?
  • Is there information that you think is missing? Where might they find that information?

Follow up self-review questions:

  • How might you revise your own work based on this feedback?
  • What did you learn about how you communicate and the assumptions that drove what you communicated?

Co-Creating a Peer Review Rubric
Actively engaging students in the creation of a peer review rubric has a number of benefits:

  • Reminding students of the main learning objectives of the assignment.
  • Encouraging ownership of the learning objectives and purpose of the assignment.
  • Developing a foundation and language for the criteria for evaluation.
  • As a large group, review the assignment sheet with students. Prompt them with the following questions.

  • What are the objectives of this assignment?
  • What evidence would demonstrate a students’ accomplishment of these objectives?
  • What measurement should we use to evaluate each of these criteria?
  • Finally, create a common rubric and review sheet based on these criteria.

    Readings and Resources

    • Fink, L. Dee. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. Jossey-Bass, 2013.
    • Straub, R. “Responding—Really Respondning—to Other Students’ Writing.” The Subject Is Writing. Wendy Bishop, ed. Boynton/Cook, 1999.
    • See also: Collaborative Learning Techniques

Download a PDF of this Resource Sheet Reflection
Active listening embedded in classroom discussions can help both students and teachers practice reflecting on what is being communicated and trying to interpret and better understand others’ ideas. For students, it can help them stay engaged in discussions and connect the relevance of other students’ work to their own. Active listening can prompt students to ask provocative questions, and help students evaluate how
their own experience colors their reaction to others’ ideas.

ACTIVE LISTENING ACTIVITIES

General Prompts for Active Listening
Active listening has behavioral components that, when practiced, engage the students both as audience members and as presenters. It also sets the tone for collaboration and mutual learning, which are critical for student success. Setting the stage for active listening includes prompting students to:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Acknowledge engagement through gestures (nodding head) and facial expressions.
  • Restate what the person just said in your own mind, and with your own interpretation.
  • Ask clarification questions once in a while.
  • Be aware of your own feelings and strong opinions.

Additionally, having students engage in partnered note-taking helps bridge gaps between audience and presenter, and provides practical support for students who are presenting. Pair students up, and have each student take notes for the other during presentations.
Prompting Students with Questions
As students are presenting work, have students in the audience reflect through writing. The reflections can focus on the presentation content and delivery. These notes then become the starting point for post-presentation discussion. You can use the following questions to guide the students’ reflection and subsequent discussion.

Reflecting on Content

  • What was the clearest point in the presentation? What was the muddiest?
  • Did the presenter give enough breadth to his/her subject by studying it from multiple angles? Was there enough depth? What suggestions do you have for additional content?
  • Did the presenter seem biased to the subject? Did he/she include additional perspectives or counter-arguments?
  • What would you change about the content to make it stronger?
  • Are the ideas novel? What might make them more unique?

Reflecting on Delivery

  • How effective was the presenter in engaging you as an audience member?
  • Did he/she speak clearly? Did you fully understand the argument or idea? What could he/she do to improve?
  • Was the presentation organized and did it lead you through the presenter’s ideas and thinking in a logical way?

Connecting Audience and Presenter
Additional questions to guide active listening can help students in the audience connect the presenter’s work to their own.

  • What did the presentation make you think about related to your own work?
  • How would you continue the work that the presenter has given?
  • What could you “use” in your own argument or project?
  • What would you need to change to relate it to your own argument or project?

Readings and Resources

  • Kaplan, Matthew and Silver, Naomi. Using Reflection and Metacognition to Improve Student Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy. Stylus Publishing, 2013.
  • Ritchhart, Ron, Church, Mark, Morrison, Karen. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. Jossey-Bass, 2011.

Below are suggestions for strategy sheets that are particularly well-suiting to specific stages of the critical and creative process.

Raising Questions, Formulating Problems

Students need to have the fundamental ability to raise relevant and important questions, but they also need opportunities to connect previous knowledge to what they are learning in the classroom. Opportunities that help them do that are critical to creating lifelong learners and more critical and creative thinkers. Teaching strategy worksheets that address this stage of the process are:

  • Visual Thinking: Seeing and Analyzing
  • Critical Reading
  • Collaborative Learning
  • Peer Review
  • Reflecting at Every Stage of the Process

Gathering and Assessing Relevant Information

Students often need additional support in assembling research, but also in making meaning out of it, especially when it comes to balancing both breadth and depth. Worksheets and strategies for this section can help students organize information to find themes and connections as well as to identify biases and assumptions, evaluate sources, and address contradictions. Teaching strategy worksheets that address this stage of the process are:

  • Visual Thinking: Seeing and Analyzing
  • Visual Thinking: Mapping and Diagramming
  • Critical Reading
  • Writing To Think
  • Synthesis Matrix
  • Lotus Blossom
  • Peer Review
  • Active Listening
  • Reflecting at Every Stage of the Process

Synthesizing and Generating Ideas

Giving students tools and strategies to help connect their ideas and research into a clear, precise and novel argument can not only help with their ability to craft articulate messages, but also give them confidence in taking risks with new ideas. Teaching strategy worksheets that address this stage of the process are:

  • Visual Thinking: Seeing and Analyzing
  • Visual Thinking: Mapping and Diagramming
  • Collaborative Learning
  • Critical Reading
  • Writing to Think
  • Synthesis Matrix
  • Lateral Thinking: Analogies and Associations
  • Divergent Thinking: Morphologies
  • Peer Review
  • Reflecting at Every Stage of the Process
  • Lotus Blossom

Considering Alternatives

Students can become overwhelmed with the amount of information that they have gathered through the critical and creative thinking process, and connected to projects and assignments that ask them to come up with new and innovative solutions to existing problems. Strategies that help them organize and visualize the multiplicity of perspectives and ideas can help manage thinking and connections throughout this process. Teaching strategy worksheets that address this stage of the process are:

  • Visual Thinking: Mapping and Diagramming
  • Collaborative Learning
  • Critical Reading
  • Synthesis Matrix
  • Lateral Thinking: Analogies and Associations
  • Divergent Thinking: Morphologies
  • Peer Review
  • Reflecting at Every Stage of the Process
  • Lotus Blossom

Reaching Reasoned Conclusions

Considering whether conclusions are logical, coherent, well-formulated and deep can be challenging for students throughout the critical and creative thinking process. Strategies that help students challenge their own assumptions and recognize how their research and biases have informed the conclusions that they do draw strengthen their final conclusions and arguments. Teaching strategy worksheets that address this stage of the process are:

  • Visual Thinking: Mapping and Diagramming
  • Collaborative Learning
  • Critical Reading
  • Writing to Think
  • Peer Review
  • Reflecting at Every Stage of the Process

Effectively Communicating

The ability to articulate and communicate ideas is paramount to the critical and creative process for students to make contributions to the domain in which they’re entering and working. Teaching strategy worksheets that address this stage of the process are:

  • Collaborative Learning
  • Writing to Think
  • Peer Review
  • Reflecting at Every Stage of the Process

Integrated Strategies

Many of the teaching strategies are not unique to only one stage of the process and particularly useful when integrated throughout the entire cycle. Teaching strategy worksheets that are particularly instrumental in this way are:

  • Collaborative Learning
  • Peer Review
  • Reflecting at Every Stage of the Process
  • Active Listening (to come)