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Middle Years mini-lessons

Our Middle Years ACT mini-lessons enable any teacher to run thought-provoking learning activities, link their subject to contemporary issues and events, and encourage students to challenge their assumptions about the world.

The mini-lessons are based on stories featured in the middle-years newsletter, so you can access them by subject area below, or by date here. To see our definition of each subject area, visit this page.

Access the middle years mini-lessons

The Middle Years ACT mini-lessons are available to Faculty members of the site. Click on the relevant button below to access the mini-lesson for your subject. We’ve also provided links below to find out more about authentic critical thinking (ACT), and to take you to the membership sign up page.

The 8 comparative concepts

We’ve selected 8 ‘comparative concepts’ that are of particular significance to us as authentic critical thinkers, and identified them with a red font in the mini-lessons. Use the comparative concepts as as a cognitive framework to understand the world, a tool to compare and contrast different subject knowledge, and as focus points to generate research tasks and debates. Here are some of the questions they can prompt – can you think of others?

In which subject area are we able to make the most certain claims about knowledge and understanding? Why does this variance exist? Does language allow us to be more certain about knowledge? Can certainty bring disadvantages in terms of our understanding of the world?

How does the nature of the subject areas differ in different cultures? Do mathematics and science transcend cultural differences? Do the arts deal with culturally universal concepts? Does the way we understand the world depend on the language we speak?

What role does evidence play in the different subject areas? How has technology changed the way we gather and use evidence? How does the selection of evidence shape our understanding? Does evidence support or challenge our assumptions about the world?

Which subject deals with the most and least objective knowledge? Is mathematical knowledge completely objective? Can we be objective about art? Does technology increase objectivity? Do our political affiliations undermine our objectivity?

Which subject is most and least affected by different perspectives? How do our religious and political perspectives shape our worldview? Do our perspectives determine our language use? What forms our perspectives, and should we seek to escape them?

How does power affect the way knowledge is produced within the subject areas? In what ways can language be used to consolidate power as ideas are communicated? How does political and religious power influence the way we understand the world?

In which of the subject areas is it easiest to access the truth? Is mathematics the only subject area that deals with truth? Has the development of technology allowed us to access the truth more easily? Does language help or hinder us from accessing the truth about the world?

What is the relationship between the development of our values and the subject areas? Which of the subject areas deals most intimately with values? Does the way we use language have ethical implications? Does the possession of knowledge bring with it certain responsibilities?

Are you a GCSE school? Use the MY newsletter to kick-start your HPQ!

If your school offers the GCSE, and your students do the Project Qualification, you can use the newsletter as a ‘kickstarter’ to help them find a topic, and get it off the ground. 

Any newsletter story could form the basis of a great project, and our questions and suggested activities will help students approach it in an analytical way. So, if it’s an exploration of how we make public health decisions, whether we should follow a relativist or absolutist approach to morality, how global disparities contribute to the climate crisis, or how to tackle the problem of online disinformation – you’ll find help here!

Turn all your teachers into critical thinking teachers!

Our workshops demonstrate to all teachers – whatever their level, programme, or specialisation – how they can develop real-world critical thinking.

They’re engaging, jargon-free, and authentic, and give teachers practical takeaways that they can apply in the classroom, and help their students become nuanced, discerning knowers. Find out more here, and read our workshop brochure here.