Critical thinking — defined by Dictionary.com as “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence” — is an important life skill. It is also at the heart of the legal profession. And while lawyers are sometimes maligned in our society, they have played an integral role in our country’s leadership throughout history. As Torsh client thinkLaw points out, 25 past presidents and 35 of our Founding Fathers had some form of legal training. The same can be said of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandi. Not to mention that our founder and CEO, Courtney Williams, also holds a law degree.
Critical thinking or “thinking like a lawyer” is arguably the bedrock upon which leadership is built. But it is tough to teach, and there are not an abundance of resources available to empower educators to teach it. In fact research indicates that only one in ten educators teach critical thinking. Furthermore, these teachers are usually at elite schools, or are only inclined to teach these skills to high-achieving students.
This “critical thinking gap” is especially problematic for minority and disadvantaged students who, according to our client thinkLaw, come equipped with tons of critical thinking potential. However, they often attend schools that focus more on basic content instead of rigorous learning activities designed to unleash their inherent critical thinking capabilities. That’s where thinkLaw can help. When a client (most often a school, district or charter network) signs up for thinkLaw’s services, they receive a comprehensive curriculum specifically designed to teach critical thinking skills. Built on a foundation of real legal cases, thinkLaw’s standards-aligned programs include teacher coaching and support, student lesson plans with various activities that appeal to a range of learning styles, over 40 real-life legal cases, PowerPoint presentations for all lessons, and various assessments to measure actual critical thinking growth in students. Teacher prep time required for each lesson is under 20 minutes.
A fortuitous meeting at a charter school conference about a year ago brought Torsh and thinkLaw together, and the company soon became a Torsh client. Included in thinkLaw’s array of services are individual and group coaching sessions, so the company needed a means to deliver high-quality, virtual coaching across geographies. Torsh TALENT, our platform for teacher professional development, is well suited to that purpose. With TALENT, educators in the field can record their classroom instruction, upload the video, share it with their thinkLaw coach or their colleagues, and receive time-stamped feedback to review at their convenience. TALENT’s exemplar library also allows best practice and instructional videos and other resources to be stored, organized, reviewed and shared.
Founded in 2015 by CEO Colin Seale (himself a trained lawyer), thinkLaw is already utilized by schools in Texas, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Arizona, California and five other states. Their clients include the New York City Department of Education, fellow Torsh client Dallas Independent School District, and many high-achieving, Title 1 charter schools like IDEA San Benito in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas. As well, juvenile detention education centers in Las Vegas and Tucson, AZ are among thinkLaw’s customers. Mr. Seale asserts that, “It would be logistically impossible to impact teachers and students in eleven states without our partnership with Torsh. Their TALENT platform is vital to our mission.”
The ability to ask “‘why’ and ‘what if’ rather than ‘what’ and ‘how to’” has broad implications for a person’s life, which led to the founding of thinkLaw. These skills are an important component of career and college readiness, and also a requirement for “effective participation in society as a responsible citizen.” Not to mention, understanding and mastery of critical thinking often leads to more positive life outcomes in general.
Improving student outcomes is an integral part of our DNA here at Torsh. We are proud that we are empowering thinkLaw to deliver their hugely beneficial services to teachers, and their students, around the country.