Sierra College takes applied approach to teaching critical thinking
In response to the growing demand for
graduates with critical thinking skills,
the Sierra College STEM Collaborative,
Rocklin, Calif., has established a profes-
sional development program: Applied
Critical Thinking for Advanced Tech-
nological Education (ACTivATE).
In June faculty from Northwestern
Searle Center for Advancing Learning
and Teaching trained 12 Sierra Col-
lege and high school faculty to develop
curriculum that incorporates applied
critical thinking. Through a National
Science Foundation (NSF) grant—
Enhancing Critical Thinking in STEM
Disciplines: A Faculty Development
Model—the Searle Center designed, pi-
loted, and studied a science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM)
faculty development program focused
on improving higher-order learning out-
comes of STEM students.
“The strong ties that Sierra College
has with employers will lead to the incorporation of current workplace applications into critical thinking lessons.
Faculty will be able to use real examples
from local businesses,” said Carol Pep-per-Kittredge, director of the Center
for Applied Competitive Technologies
(CACT) and manager of the Sierra College STEM Collaborative.
Through April 2014 the ACTivATE
project will support participants as
they develop new approaches to teach
applied critical thinking in their classrooms. Instructors also will develop and
test hands-on demonstrations to assess
students’ understanding and align with
the new common core state standards.
The ACTivATE project includes a
mix of math, English, and career technical education (such as welding and
pre-engineering) instructors at the high
school and college levels, sharing ideas
to create lessons that stimulate deeper
“Those who teach technical education courses seem more in-tune with
critical thinking because so much troubleshooting is already part of what they
teach,” said Denise Drane, associate
director of Searle Center for Advancing
Learning and Teaching, Northwestern
University. “During training, the instructors demonstrated an eagerness to
share ideas, challenges, and feedback
across their disciplines and institutions.”
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