A few months ago, I had a conversation with a former student who had taken my FYI course, Matters of Opinion. She said,
“I finally learned those terms you taught us in class. You know– the ones like breadth, depth, and fairness. I think I knew them fairly well in school because I had memorized them and I aced all my quizzes and exams. Not until I began using them as a paralegal did they finally kick in.”
The terms she was referring to are a few of the Universal Intellectual Standards from Linda Elder and Richard Paul’s book, “Critical Thinking – Concepts and Tools” (Elder and Paul, 2009). Her encouraging words are ones all teachers like to hear. I have to admit, though, that I sometimes wonder if what I’m teaching is getting through and, if so, at what point does it “finally kick in”?
I’m thinking one of these days I will develop a bumper sticker:
How Do You Know When?
Until I do, here’s a revision of a poem, originally entitled “Learnspotting” (Kenney, 2016), that offers a possible explanation to the question:
Learning: Near Sightings and Speakings
It’s an adjustment
That cannot be hurried
Or double-blinked into view.
It’s the blurred lens
In need of fine-tune focus,
Perhaps the deft turn
Of safecracking fingertips.
You can eavesdrop on learning…
It’s the muffled call,
The half-heard cry across the field
That whisks your ear
And tilts your head
You can pinpoint learning…
It takes touch, attention,
And unflinching poise
But mostly insight
You may never see
Or hear it.
Elder, L., & Paul, R. (2009). Critical Thinking – Concepts & Tools. Tomales, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking Press.
Kenney, R. (2016). Learnspotting. In J. Ferrari (Ed.), Third Wednesday (p. 78). Ann Arbor, MI: Gravity Presses.