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Critical Thinking: King of the Classroom and the Nonprofit Realm

July 30, 2014

Kevin Baird, a national leader in educational publishing and professional development, spoke at Sarasota County Technical Institute last night, energizing educators, nonprofit staff and funders who are innovating through EdExplore SRQ, an online platform connecting teachers to local community arts, cultural, historical, and science field-based organizations that provide opportunities to enrich the school curriculum.

Thanks to the generosity of The Patterson Foundation and Sue Meckler, Angela Hartvigsen and Brian Hersh of Sarasota County Schools, we tapped into creative approaches to bring Florida Standards to life in our public school system.

We explored ways to encourage students to make intelligent inferences instead of memorization, ways for teachers to expand their own perspectives and openness to new teaching methods, and ways organizations can deliver a newfound excitement and spark for subject matter to both teachers and students.

Making more connections to the “real world” in reading, writing, math and science are more important than ever before–not just because it constitutes life readiness (vs. college and career readiness alone) but because it is far more likely to engage students in relevant, lasting skill development.

What are the top four skills we’re trying to master?

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Complex problem solving
  3. Judgment and decision-making
  4. Active listening

I can’t imagine what skills could be more important to prepare young people for nonprofit careers.

Can you imagine how agile our social sector organizations could be if we appointed board members and hired staff based on their skill or promise in these four areas?  The complex issues we face on a daily basis require flexibility and decisiveness, thinking and action, and the ability to quiet ourselves as we absorb others’ experiences and points of view.

If you view your organization as a learning laboratory for solving a social or environmental issue, consider how well are you doing on these core questions:

  • Is your organization investing in developing critical thinking, complex problem solving, judgment, and active listening skills for individuals at every level?
  • Are board members given the space to practice critical thinking and complex problem solving to move your organization forward during board meetings?
  • Do your leaders model active listening with staff, donors and clients?
  • When interviewing new potential staff and board members, do you ask behavioral questions that help you understand an individual’s critical thinking skills?

Kevin challenged us to think about how we can “help the science lesson become the science lab.” In other words, how can we build interactive (and sometimes fun) solutions to our most persistent challenges to achieve more? Whether that occurs in the classroom, in the field, or behind our desks at local organizations, novel approaches are needed to move us out of status quo.

Thanks, as always, to The Patterson Foundation for stimulating more thought about new possibilities.

 

Kevin Baird serves in a variety of education related posts through EdLead, his education fund and support organization. He is a founder of the Center for College & Career Readiness and a regular speaker and consultant working with schools and districts to create effective school management systems and processes.

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One Response to “Critical Thinking: King of the Classroom and the Nonprofit Realm”

  1. Catherine Olteanu Says:

    Couldn’t agree more…it is why I choose University of London – its their mantra and what they educate for 🙂

    Catherine Olteanu Manager of Communications & Development Lemur Conservation Foundation http://www.lemurreserve.org Direct: 412-341-1454 LCF: 941-322-8494 Skype: lemurreserve

    On Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 4:32 PM, The Giving Partner wrote:

    > thegivingpartner posted: “Kevin Baird, a national leader in > educational publishing and professional development, spoke at Sarasota > County Technical Institute last night, energizing educators, nonprofit > staff and funders who are innovating through EdExplore SRQ, an online > platform “


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