"All humans are members of the same body Created from one essence"

"Human beings are members of a whole in creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain."

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Authentic Task

Middle and High school students need to develop their critical thinking skills with the help of critical literacy. Critical literacy helps teachers and students “analyze bias, perspective, audience, and the underlying assumptions and purpose of a piece of writing.” Critical literacy will develop their thinking skills and they will become active thinkers. They will learn to look and look again, think about thinking and how to “apprehend subjectivity and objectivity in their dialectical relationships” (Freire, 1985).
Teachers can develop numerous strategies for delivering academic content within a framework of critical thinking skills.  

Firstly, teachers should help students develop a critical consciousness by focusing on authentic literacy tasks. Through authentic tasks, adolescents will develop a critical consciousness and they will learn to interrogate assumptions. For instance, in science, they can research the relationship between life expectancy and access to safe drinking water. In Cotonou (Rep of Benin), people have to walk sometimes 5 km to search for potable water. 

Secondly, in maths, they can use graphical representation of data and data analysis to accompany their science research. Then, they can develop inferences, predictions, and arguments in their literacy class based on the math data. 

Therefore, unauthentic tasks will only disconnect students from real life experiences. Adolescents need to engage in important and real topics in order to be motivated (Cassidy, 2006). So, they need authentic tasks.
Furthermore, in order to expand students’ critical thinking skills, there must be a dialogue in the classroom, a dialectical exchange in which their ideas will take shape.  

Paulo Freire argued that it is only through thinking and feeling, along with action that students can make sense of the world

They need to read the word and the world

Teachers must use texts which will initiate student-centered discussions so these texts must highlight controversial issues. Then, teachers will ask a series of open-ended questions in order to make students find points of “intersection between their lives and the text” (Beck, 2005). 

 Examples of generative questions can be
·         What if…?
·         How could it be if…?
·         I hear what you are saying and it seems to be this…
·         Why are things the way they are?
·         Who benefits from the status quo?

As Giroux (1993) described it so well, teachers will have “messy, vibrant and noisy” classrooms. But “messy and noisy” should not be seen as negative terms to describe debates. On the contrary, if the dialogue is well organized by teachers, students will learn to listen to each other and respect each other opinion!  

An effective dialogue has a beginning, middle and an end that are all controlled by the agenda. A healthy dialogue will help students to work actively with the ideas and the concepts that are being pursued. Students will reflect on their own experiences and they will adopt a questioning stance toward texts. 

Teachers can ask students to ask questions and continue the dialogue through diary entries. If we want to develop students’ critical thinking skills, we should look beyond the school and let students deal with issues of equity and issues such as gender, class, and prejudice. Teachers must use books were voices seem credible. 

For example, teachers can use the book called The Other Side of Truth by Beverly Naidoo. This book helps students evaluate their own critical writing about texts. It will encourage adolescents comment on the authorial perspectives offered in texts on individuals, community and society from different cultures. They will analyse ways in which different cultural contexts and tradition have influenced language and style. Then, the debate can be about leaving home, country, refugees. 

Critical literacy will help students and teachers “expand their reasoning, seek out multiple perspectives, read from a critical stance, question rather than passively accept information and become active thinkers” (McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2004).

 Students and teachers must be able to “read the world” and not be manipulated by it. 

School leaders and teachers should understand that school work cannot be monolithic and traditional one size fits all. This approach will lead to a lack of critical literacy instruction and to the use of unauthentic tasks. Teachers must use authentic Literacy tasks in order engage adolescents in active learning and in meaningful real world activities.  

Critical literacy and authentic literacy tasks will create active, effective citizens for democracy. I believe that the central purpose of education is to prepare our children to maintain and improve democracy. Here, in our African continent, we have so many dictators who do not think about their countries. They just want to secure a bank account in Europe and corruption is part of the landscape now! 

In school, it is my role and it must be the role of every teacher to use critical literacy and to use authentic tasks (inquiries that reflect societal concerns) to help adolescents develop a critical consciousness. 

Critical thinking skills are imperative for creating life-long learning. We want to stimulate their motivation and engagement, right? We need encouraging critical literacy which will help students to analyze bias, perspective, audience, and the underlying assumptions and purpose of a piece of writing (Irvin, 2007). 

I also think that the literature should help students conduct inquiries for reasons other than it being an assignment or an exercise. In Africa, teachers need to choose good African Literature in order to develop critical literacy in the mind of the future African or international leaders. 

Pugh recommends the use of literature by non-native English authors in the teaching of English which is used to carry out a myriad of social, cultural and personal, as well as bureaucratic and commercial functions (as cited in the Journal of Language and Communications, 2007).

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