“Learning to think critically is not enough…”

An Interview with Frank de Jong | by Toske Andreoli

Read the original interview here: https://www.scienceguide.nl/2019/11/kritisch-leren-denken-is-niet-genoeg/

November 13, 2019 | If it is up to learning psychologist Frank de Jong (Aeres University of Applied Sciences / Open University), everyone in education would learn ‘ecological thinking’. Currently, education does not prepare students to meet current challenges. “Critical thinking is not enough.”

Professor and professor Frank de Jong argues for ecological thinking. “I take a much broader ecological view than just nature,” De Jong explains. “Ecology is of course also our multicultural society. It is about the diversity that we are dealing with. Ecology is the total living environment. ” But the ecological crisis – in the narrow sense of the word – does show what the problem is, De Jong believes: a crisis in our education.

“When the student strikes started this spring, Ministers Slob and Wiebes responded with: ‘They should do that in their free time, ‘ and ‘the best climate contribution is just going to school.’ Social commitment is not separate from school, and at school the children do not learn the thinking skills needed to solve the climate crisis.”

The connection between the climate crisis and education is clear to De Jong. “Education has a dire impact on the development of our thinking. And mostly single facts are taught. You learn to think in “if-then” reasoning. “As a result, people lose sight of cohesion and the whole. It is important to learn to think in relationships, that things are interrelated. If you do something on the left, something happens on the right, and maybe upstairs too. This requires more multidisciplinary thinking. You learn in education no further than your nose is long to look. This is a solution for this, but what does that mean for well-being, prosperity, and is it in the interest of nature? ”

What does the nitrogen crisis mean for education?

In the meantime, politics has been shaken awake, De Jong sees. “The nitrogen crisis and the Remkes report have caused a lot of social upheaval.” But he doubts whether this will also lead to a change in education. “If you look at Italy, sustainability starts to come into the curriculum there. It is also in our new curriculum, but it does not say what it means. Does it mean that high school students have to memorize UN climate goals 2030? ”

That is precisely according to the old didactics, De Jong believes. “Responsive learning” is needed, and that requires “knowledge-constructing didactics”. Two concepts that he will address in his inaugural lecture, and which he has already applied to the Masters in Learning and Innovation at Aeres Hogeschool Wageningen. “Responsive learning is based on the challenges that arise in practice. The goal is not only that it makes you wiser, but also your environment. That means that you are dealing with real things that matter, but also that students are working on their own ideas and theories.”

But that doesn’t immediately mean laissez faire: “Of course you go to a course to become a baker or teacher, for example. But within that context, as a student or teacher, you do have your own motives and interests that you want to develop because they matter to you. Then you get a completely different education than when it is centered solely on content. Nowadays, pupils and students mainly pound knowledge and facts in their heads and reproduce that on a test.”

For years, there has been a debate on whether education should focus more on knowledge or on skills, with educational psychologist Paul Kirschner as the best-known representative of sound against the rise of 21st century skills. De Jong is clearly on the skills side. His knowledge-constructing didactics, he says, goes against the old cognitive and learning psychological science that says that information must be cut into pieces and that knowledge is created in your head. Knowledge arises in the interaction with the world and others around you. “That’s why you don’t have to simplify everything into bite-sized chunks. You can just keep the complexity intact. It is important that you give people the thinking tools to deal with complexity. That way they learn to make good analyzes, make good observations and make connections between things. ”

Design-oriented thinking

You often hear a plea for critical thinking. “But what is that? If you say it very flatly, it comes down to an evaluation of whether something is true or not, whether something is crooked or straight.” If you want to train a generation that can work on complex issues, that is not enough, De Jong thinks. “You only learn to be constructive with critical thinking. Being able to think critically becomes more valuable if you can also think design-oriented, because then you come to a solution, an answer to the question you had. It is even better if you can also argue why your solution or product is better for the future, nature, society. ”

An important part of this is learning how to conduct a dialogue. “There are many debate groups, but just make sure that people can have a conversation with each other. A discussion is a form of struggle. But having a conversation in which you help each other to progress is more constructive. How often are meetings good conversations? We are not well trained in that, but it is really a skill that you can teach people. ”De Jong uses tools to teach students how to hold conversations. “Then I turn a conversation into a WordCloud for example. You have that within a second, and you immediately see: oh, are we talking about this?”

The appointment as special professor at the Open University is for one day a week. “I hope that with my chair I can generate more attention for responsive learning. It is not only useful for education, but in all situations where co-creation takes place, where it is necessary for people to cross borders to work together on problems or new products. I want to publish as much as possible about this in the years that I am at the Open University. “

Frank de Jong delivered his inaugural lecture at the Open University in Heerlen on Friday 15 November at 4 pm.