CCT: Why Does It Matter?

Teaching at NSCS is one of the greatest joys of my life. I can’t begin to explain to you the joy I’ve experienced over the last few years as I’ve seen so many students discover something new about themselves or the world around them. These “aha moments”, if you will, are always precious to me as a teacher because I know they can have lasting effects on a child. So many of these “aha moments” have occurred in my classroom during our Collaborative Critical Thinking times, and that is why I value teaching thinking skills so much.

One of the most exciting things I get to teach everyday at NSCS is Collaborative Critical Thinking, or CCT. These are frameworks that were developed by Dr. Donna Robinson and Julie Lenocker of Gordon College and first put into practice in NSCS classrooms. It’s been a great pleasure and a privilege to work so closely with Dr. Robinson and Mrs. Lenocker over the past several years flushing out the hows and whys of these CCT frameworks. I’ve learned so much from them as an educator and in turn I’ve been able to share that newfound knowledge with my students!

CCT frameworks are tools that help students develop their thinking skills. They practice decision-making, make moral judgments, and learn how to have a healthy, academic, and cooperative discussion amongst their peers. During CCT lessons, students have made greater discoveries about themselves, about God, and about the relationship between their faith and the world around them. I’ve seen students gain an abundance of self-confidence and self-awareness through the use of these tools and it seems that every time we do a CCT activity, my students can hardly wait to do another one. The benefits of teaching students thinking skills go beyond just what is seen in the classroom, and allow students to develop and grow an essential life skill.

A favorite CCT activity of my students and me is a Paideia Seminar. A Paideia Seminar is an active learning activity, which focuses on collaborative and intellectual dialogue. A Paideia Seminar consists of open-ended questions about a topic or text, core questions that dig      deeper into themes or ideas about topic or text, and closing questions that connect a topic or text directly to the student’s life. I’ve mostly used Paideia Seminars as a way to wrap up a novel study, and I’ve found it to be beneficial every time. Students are excited to engage in a text in such a way that allows them to speak their mind, share personal experiences, and hear from their peers, while providing solid textual evidence for their answers. Students receive the “entry ticket” with questions in advance and are required to complete the questions prior to the Seminar. Students must provide textual evidence for their answers, including page numbers, direct quotes, or summarized points right from the book. During the Paideia Seminar, students sit at their desks in a circle so that they can hear and see everyone, and everyone is encouraged to participate. Participation is easy because students have prepared their entry tickets! The teacher’s role is to facilitate the Seminar and keep it moving along and on track, but mainly serve as an observer who takes notes on who says what and what kind of language is used. This activity serves as an opportunity for students to discuss together a topic or text they’ve just studied. It’s been fun for me to hear what students have learned and how they respond to each other during the Seminar.

My class is constantly begging me to do more Paideia Seminars! They love them because they are allowed and encouraged to engage with a topic or text in a different way. They love having the opportunity to speak their mind and about their experiences, and they equally love hearing and learning from each other. As a teacher, this activity serves as a great way to gauge student understanding and reading comprehension upon completion of a book. I’ve found that lessons from books that we’ve done Paideia Seminars on have stuck with students longer than books for which we haven’t done this. That being said, part of my New Year’s Resolution is to be more intentional to engage students in meaningful ways such as Paideia Seminars and other activities in CCT that teach students how to think, but not what to think. I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Paideia Seminars and the benefits in the academic, social, and emotional lives of the students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching are without a doubt long-lasting.

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Ms. MacDavitt’s students preparing for their Paideia Seminar on The Cricket in Times Square.

Liz MacDavitt has been part of the faculty on our Beverly Campus for over 5 years, currently teaching the 3rd & 4th grade class.