November 4, 2011

Science on Tap session to explore research teaching kids critical thinking skills

To find the best information about a subject, you’ve got to know your facts from opinions, and data from assumption. It’s a skill that you may possess as an adult. But how do children learn to test arguments, or to ferret out the truth of a claim?

Janis Bulgren, associate research professor at the KU Center for Research on Learning, will lead a conversation about recent research on teaching children these skills at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, at the Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St. The free event is part of the KU Natural History Museum’s Science on Tap series of informal “science café” events.

Bulgren has been a part of research teams at KU has focused on developing ways of helping children learn the nuances between different kinds of information. Acquiring higher-order reasoning skills can help them in fields such as science, technology, engineering and math, but the skills also apply to other subjects such social studies and history, as well as articles from television, newspapers and even infomercials.

One way to develop these cognitive skills is through support for teachers and students as they incorporate argumentation into ongoing instruction. Another is to engage students in play, possible through an online game aimed at helping children ask: How do you know what you know? Bulgren and other team members have developed and tested the instructional procedures and are in the process of developing a game as part of their investigations into ways of learning argumentation.