As Oak Bay High principal, Dave Thomson contributes to the planning process for the new high school, he faces the challenge of a fundamental shift occurring in education.
“Teachers are no longer a ‘cauldron of knowledge’ being doled out from the front of the room,” said Thomson. “That method is is an anachronism. Now it’s about thinking critically and learning together.”
And critical thinking is exactly what’s being taught at Oak Bay High and in most every other school out there, said Thomson.
“Education is undergoing a fundamental change”.
Today’s teachers, said Thomson, try to get out the message that there may be multiple answers to a question and a myriad of methods to arrive at those answers. “Thats all part of thinking in a critical manner,” he said.
The topic of critical thinking was raised earlier this month when the B.C. Teachers’ Federation produced a poster and associated lesson plans that were seemingly in opposition to proposed pipeline projects and an increase in oil tanker traffic.
The material prompted Premier Christie Clark to state that it “sounded like indoctrination” and that it was the job of schools to present a “balanced view of the world”.
“We want them to form their own opinions – that’s what school is all about,” said Clark.”
Although, not commenting on that controversy, Thomson is confident of his students’ ability to critically assess information and form their own opinions.
“It’s all out there at the touch of a button,” Thomson said. “The trick is learning to sort out what’s not valid and make decisions based on the rest.”
He acknowledged, though, that gleaning knowledge from that volume of information can be like drinking from a fire hose. “That’s why critical thought processes are critical.”
Adam Walton, a Grade 11 student at Oak Bay High agrees that making informed decisions in today’s world can be difficult.
“There’s a lot of information out there. You keep an open mind, but don’t always believe something the moment someone tells you,” he said. “You have to make decisions based on all the information.”
He said that his teachers respect the arguments of students and are prepared to keep an open mind on issues.
Walton said that students are taught to consider all sides of an issue and check information through multiple, credible sources. “And when we’re done, we reconfirm again before we make a decision (on what to believe).”
“This guy (Walton) can think for himself,” said Thomson. He says that “a quantum shift” has occurred in schools today.
“Access to knowledge is universal and immediate. It’s not about having knowledge; it’s about having skills to distill that information and make informed choices.”
In order to accomplish that, the old model of a series of rooms housing 30 students with a teacher at the front of the room may have to change, said Thomson.
“The construction of a new high school is an opportunity to consider and reflect some different approaches.
“We won’t even recognize our schools in 15 years.”