Articles

Areas of Competence

The four directors and twenty associates of Critical Thinking International, Inc, are seasoned teacher trainers, researchers, project managers, school administrators, classroom teachers, college professors and textbook authors. CTI's directors include founders and managers of the Open Society Institute’s Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking project. As well as being able to lead workshops for teachers from primary school through university, CTI’s staff design, implement, and evaluate training programs and write instructional materials.

Like the Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking project, CTI relies on a large pool of working professionals to offer our services. Their areas of expertise include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Literacy: (including emergent literacy and beginning reading; reading for understanding; reading to interpret narrative text and reading to learn from informational text; writing as an aid to learning and as means of expression; reading in the second language)
  • Teacher education
  • Staff development in higher education
  • Staff development for teachers of second languages
  • Science education
  • Child and adolescent development
  • School leaving (drop-out) prevention
  • Educational assessment
  • Special education, inclusive education
  • Civics education
  • Ant-bias education
  • Writing educational materials, including children’s literature and informational text
  • Technology in education
  • Education and the arts
  • Writing literature for children and young people
  • Service learning and community-based education
  • Program evaluation and research design
  • Development of educational standards and benchmarks

Workshops with the emphases listed below are readily available; other workshops can be developed in response to requests. The workshops are adapted to the local context, in consultation with local educators. Most of our training is supported by elaborate guidebooks, and accompanied by standards and rubrics that can be used to guide and assess the participants’ effectiveness in applying the strategies in the classroom (Standards and rubrics for trainers are available, too). With the use of the guidebooks, and the standards and rubrics, it is possible to share the contents of the trainings widely through cascades that maintain consistent quality.

  1. Teaching for engagement and understanding
    For more than a decade, CTI and RWCT has trained tens of thousands of teachers on five continents in active learning and critical thinking. A generous repertoire of teaching methods is available for the primary and secondary levels. The methods are drawn from “best practices” in teaching, assembled from all parts of the world. The teaching strategies are imbedded in a clear, research-based conception of teaching and learning.
  2. Teaching for Engagement in Higher Education
    A separate program is available for faculty of higher education. Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum presents a rich and thoughtfully arranged selection of methods for the daily conduct of engaging classes that stress understanding, interpretation, and application of ideas. The program also guides instructors in planning semester or year-long courses that invite students to entertain the essential questions of the discipline, provide them with ways of knowing and tools of inquiry, support them with guided practice in learning and investigation, and lead them to undertake extended inquiry (including conducting research projects and service-learning)--all with the aim of making students practitioners of the discipline, able to address their learning toward solving problems and toward further learning.
  3. Addressing cross-cutting issues through classroom instruction
    Cross-cutting issues are usually addressed three ways:
    1. The classroom environment and teaching practices themselves can teach gender equity, peace-building, and how to make responsible and healthy choices.
    2. Teachers are prepared to seize opportunities to teach about real community-based issues during daily instruction.
    3. Special techniques (e.g., conflict resolution; perspective-taking; critical discourse analysis; community problem-finding and problem-solving) and materials (multicultural literature, oral histories, information packets) are used.
    These emphases are included in the other training emphases listed here.
  4. Teaching literacy at all levels
    Teaching literacy is the most important function of the primary school. Literacy is understood to mean not just decoding, but also comprehending what they read, applying, studying, interpreting, and thinking critically about ideas encountered in text--as well as using writing to learn and to communicate more and more sophisticated ideas on a variety of topics to many audiences and in many formats. Viewed in this comprehensive way, literacy is not simply the domain of language teachers in the first grade, but of all teachers at all levels.

    Each year the world’s 800 million illiterate adults are joined by children who were not able to attend school. But half the children who go to school fail to learn to read adequately in many countries. The reasons are many: teaching methods for beginning reading are rote and confusing; students are not taught to make meaning from what they read; students are not helped to learn from text or apply ideas from reading to real life concerns; and, in many cases, parents and homes do not support literacy well. Teacher training rarely devotes adequate attention to teaching literacy. In many curricula, there are no courses devoted to this topic, even though it is the most important function of the primary school.

    CTI offers training programs on literacy. It has assessment instruments to help teachers teach struggling students with greater understanding and accuracy. We offer curricula for teacher-training courses on literacy complete with textbooks, and also written materials to support our training Workshops.
  5. Training people to write, edit, and publish effective textbooks (age appropriate and comprehensible, engaging, structured around pedagogy that is proven to be effective)

    What should go into textbook? How should the contents be arranged? What kinds of questions and aids to learning should be included? How can it be verified that students can learn from the books before they are published? How do we know that the level of vocabulary and grammatical complexity is appropriate for the age and educational level of the readers? How can teachers’ ideas be enlisted as the books are prepared? How can teachers be shown how to teach with the books? How can a feedback system be established so that future editions of the books can be improved, based on students’ and teachers’ experiences with previous editions?

    CTI’s staff have written textbooks for use at all levels in North America and Latin America. We have a team of specialists available that includes a textbook publisher and a textbook editor, as well as experienced writers and educational experts.
  6. Preparing non-textbook materials that support learning
    In order for children to become readers, they need many engaging and accessible books. CTI/RWCT offers workshops for writers and publishers to help them create such books on many levels, from very young readers up. Some of these books contain multicultural content, so that they promote understanding among ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups.

    Schools need materials that will support discussions--authentic exchanges of ideas among students about cross-cutting issues such as gender, inter-group relations, the environment, sexual health, and peace. It is true that schools need informative materials about these issues--but topics like gender equity and peace are not only matters of fact: students must have their opinions and attitudes engaged. CTI/RWCT can help local people write such materials for use in the classroom, in authors’ workshops.
  7. Sharing strategies for language-minority students
    Language minority populations are present in almost all countries in the world. They have special difficulty learning the national language and subsequently learning in the national language--for instance, in learning to read. CTI staff have delivered programs to help teachers of language minority children and adults in Latvia, Georgia, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Two guidebooks are available to accompany and support the training.
  8. Designs and staff development for teacher training in higher education
    Pre-service teacher education in many countries can be out of step with reforms that are being tried in the classroom. Contemporary teacher education is closely tied to classrooms, and shares a sound basis of educational theory along with best practices. It takes into account urgent community issues such as peace-building, gender equity, and environmental conservation. It seeks to make reflective practitioners of teachers: people who are capable of reflecting on practice, learning from experience, and developing new approaches as needs arise.
  9. Creating classrooms that give psychological and emotional support to vulnerable and at-risk students
    Students who have experienced failure in school or have been marginalized because of factors outside their control frequently experience negative emotional responses to school. Feelings of alienation can lead to extremes in student behavior including both behavioral problems and withdrawal from the normal classroom discourse to the point of school leaving.

    The strategies and techniques embodied within CTI/RWCT’s frameworks for educational reform include research-based means to engage even the most disenchanted and disenfranchised students. By focusing on cooperative and active learning and valuing a wide variety of perspectives, these approaches create classrooms that are inviting and safe for students to be active participants while maintaining high academic standards.
  10. Assisting with program evaluation and research design
    Ministries of education, donor organizations, and schools themselves have increasingly become focused on empirical verification of the effectiveness of educational programs. This has come about because of the increased need for support of educational innovation and the increased demand on a limited amount of donor resources. Further, students, teachers, and school leaders tend to make more effective educational decisions about instructional strategies and materials when they have authentic and relevant data upon which to base those decisions.

    CTI/RWCT has been involved in evaluation and research at the national, regional, and international levels. In addition, our staff has delivered workshops aimed at developing local capacity to conduct the research and evaluation projects so important to educational improvement. With a variety of methods at our disposal, CTI/RWCT can provide expertise in both quantitative and qualitative methods including formative and summative evaluations and applied research into topics ranging from literacy to school leaving.
  11. Developing educational standards and benchmarks
    As educational initiatives cross national boundaries and as students participate in the increasing number of exchange programs whether at the secondary or university level, standards for educational programs are becoming increasingly important to ensure that comparable quality in programs exists. In addition, as educators themselves become more mobile in their profession, international certification will become keys to professional growth.

    CTI/RWCT staff has been part of development of internationally sanctioned standards and rubrics for evaluation of those standards. These standards have been accepted by ministries of education as vehicles for program certification and licensing of staff development initiatives.
  12. Surveying progressive educational developments for policy-makers
    “Student-centered learning,” “creative thinking,” “critical thinking,” “client-centered instruction,” “collaboration in the classroom,” “teaching for gender equity:” What do these terms actually mean? What do the practices they name look like? It can help for policy makers to share common experiences--to observe and participate in the same educational practices--so that the terms they use to debate and construct policy will have the same referents--and eventually be understood in the same way by those who are to be guided by the policy. Also, policy makers often need to know what educational breakthroughs are available.

    A popular workshop offered by CTI engages a group of participants in a cross-section of educational activities that demonstrate critical thinking, active discussions, student-centered learning, cooperative learning, and other important categories of teaching methods. Following such a workshop, policy makers can have better informed conversations.