On Course Principles To Teach Outlining

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking.  There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions.  Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

We’ve all experienced it – students that want us to just give them the answer.  In addition, most of us thrive and relish in sharing our knowledge through our lectures.  However, we also realize that this doesn’t always equate in learning.

One area that my speech students often lose unnecessary points is on their speech outlines.   Despite explaining the expectations, showing examples and conducting peer reviews, I continue to get outlines that don’t meet all of the criteria.  To address this, I integrated some On Course principals into my lesson on outlining.  These same techniques could be integrated into just about any lesson plan in any subject.

Rather than just explain to the students how to construct an outline, I put them in groups and provided them with an example, a template, and a grading rubric. I then directed them to develop an outline for a 2-3 minute speech on effective study habits.  When time was up, I “graded” the first one on the overhead, walking the class through what I was looking for.  I then involved them with the grading of the other outlines.

First, I was impressed by the discussions I heard regarding effective study habits.  Many discussed their challenges as students and shared their tips for success.  This was a side bonus.  Second, despite the fact that I didn’t “teach” outlining, the quality of the outlines were good; the lowest “grade” was a solid C (I often give F’s on the first outline).  This illustrated to me that they understood the criteria of the assignment.  I also used this as an opportunity to challenge them all to do better on the actual assignment.  Finally, they had fun doing the activity.

2 thoughts on “On Course Principles To Teach Outlining

  1. I love Martin Luther’s quotation.

    Yes, those lethal lectures – we drone on like Narcissus who was captivated by his reflection in the pool.

    Gee, would it not be great if all students at NWTC were required to take Thinking Critically and Creatively — when I was in my formative schooling years – the teacher would say–“Just think!” OK – I would scrunch up my face, look upwards, and place my finger by my mouth – now I was thinking.

    In my thinking critically and creatively classes, we focus on chapter 2 – what is critical thinking? along with discussing the meaning and implications of the following – well it is a start—

    Exercise 2: review this critical thinking quotation – informative or not?

    “Critical thinking is skeptical without being cynical. It is open-minded without being wishy-washy. It is analytical without being nitpicky. Critical thinking can be decisive without being stubborn, evaluative without being judgmental, and forceful without being opinionated.” Facione, Think Critically, 2013

    Why Critical Thinking? Discuss the following—agree/disagree – explain. Aside from taking this course, have you ever given serious thought to your thinking processes, and what is critical thinking?

    The Problem: Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced. Yet, the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated.

    A definition: critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with the idea of improving it.

    The Result: A well cultivated thinker:
    1. Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
    2. Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
    3. Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards
    4. Thinks open -mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
    5. Communicates effectively within others in figuring out solutions to complex problems
    Conclusion: critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It requires rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities, and a commitment to overcoming our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

    Exercise 3: Stages of Critical (moral) Thinking Development – what stage(s) best represent you at this point in your life? Explain.

    1. Unreflective Thinker – we are unaware of significant problems in our thinking.
    2. Challenged Thinker – we are faced with significant problems in our thinking.
    3. Beginning Thinker – we try to improve but without regular practice.
    4. Practicing Thinker – we recognize the need for regular practice.
    5. Advanced Thinker – we advance in keeping with our practice.
    6. Master Thinker – good habits of thought are becoming second nature.

    Maybe I will pen an essay for SPARK.

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