When Nature Trumps Imagination

by Patricia Day, pday@planaids.com

A group of high school students were recently asked what message the picture above conveyed. The honesty of their responses revealed the wisdom they’ve acquired as observers in our “politically correct” society. In their terms, they saw “followers hating on the leader” and “you can’t be with small thinkers — small people keep you smaller”. Without the “IoT” and being connected to smart devices, nature has again rendered a lesson that we can’t question. The student perceptions provided unexpected data clarity without the need for further analysis.

Leaders can be found in high schools, homes and in society. The examples we provide for students, positive or negative, can be used to formulate opinions about unrelated things. Without volunteering to be role models we are all providing everyday standards that can be perceived as right, wrong, good or bad. I would like to change the student perceptions so they are more positive, cooperative and politically correct, but we are all responsible and connected to student perception and learning. When nature trumps imagination, the references that we provide become living examples of how students categorize our behavior. Wrong, good or bad, their perceptions should be used as indicators for leadership growth and development. Positive, cooperative behavior or politically incorrect, are reflections that leadership should change. The STEAM Ps can be used to solve the image problems that we have created for our students. Patterns, People, and opportunities to Practice will provide more evidence for students to reference when critical thinking is necessary.

According to the Glossary of Terms for LCME Accreditation Standards and Elements (June 2016), “critical judgement/critical thinking is the consideration, evaluation, and organization of evidence derived from appropriate sources and related rationales during the process of decision-making. The demonstration of critical thinking requires the following steps: 1) the collection of relevant evidence, 2) the evaluation of that evidence, 3) the organization of that evidence, 4) the presentation of appropriate evidence to support any conclusions, and 5) the coherent, logical, and organized presentation of any response. (Elements 7.4 and 9.4)” Using the LCME steps for demonstrating critical thinking, can lead students to better results if the evidence used to evaluate is obtained from reliable sources. Personal experiences contributing to student perceptions make teaching critical thinking skills a learning process that must include informal opportunities. Students learn to identify reliable versus unreliable sources when evaluating our reactions or responses to the source. When inappropriate behavior is not deemed acceptable, students form perceptions of what is considered unacceptable behavior. Repeating patterns of behavior, good or bad, form the criteria used for critical thinking evidence.

Students shown a picture of mushrooms consistently responded with similar references, while studies show that we are not in agreement about what critical thinking is. We can’t effectively teach what we don’t fully understand but our lives are sources of relevant evidence for students. While we work to increase our understanding of what critical thinking is students are applying relevant thinking skills to bring meaning and understanding to unrelated things. Mushrooms have provided informal learning opportunities and practice in applying critical thinking. These lessons allow everyone to see nature differently but it’s up to all of us to help students see us differently. Process, Patterns, People and Practice will allow leaders to provide meaningful evidence for students to use when critical thinking is necessary. We may be overthinking the need to teach critical thinking skills to students since we are providing the flawed perceptions used as evidence by students when evaluating. When nature trumps imagination, honest reflection allows us to see what students see in all of us.

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