Last week I rewatched one of my favorite movies, 12 Angry Men. This black and white courtroom drama revolves around 12 jurors who must decide whether or not to convict a young boy of a brutal murder. At first the case seems fairly clear, with all the evidence pointing to the boy’s guilt. However, one juror isn’t convinced. Ultimately, his objection sparks a deeper investigation into the evidence, as well as the character of our 12 jurors.

Viewers follow along as the jurors set about using an inquiry-science process to solve problems — forming a hypothesis based on information, introducing new data, and adapting their hypothesis to the results. It’s essential part of learning to think like a scientist, and one vital to our students’ growth.

Soldier or Scout?

Perhaps the best thing we can do for our students is teach them how to be critical thinkers while also fostering a willingness to investigate different perspectives. This all begins by instilling the proper mindset. In 12 Angry Men, the character of Juror #8 is driven by a desire to find the truth. He strongly considers the opinions of his fellow jurors and is willing to admit when he’s been wrong. This is what is referred to as a “Scout Mindset”.

In contrast to Juror #8 is Juror #3. Unlike his partner, Juror #3 refuses to be moved regardless of whatever evidence is presented. He picks fights, throws around accusations, and never concedes a good point when it’s made by the other side. This is what psychologists refer to as a “Soldier Mindset”.

Naturally, we want our students to become experienced in practicing the Scout Mindset while avoiding the Soldier one. By cultivating a Scout Mindset, we teach our students to accurately process information, even when it’s unpleasant or inconvenient. This not only leads them toward becoming critical thinkers, but it also shows them that changing their mind when confronted with new data is a good thing. There’s no shame in admitting you were wrong, especially when it gives you an opportunity to learn!

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Looking for a way to practice the Scout Mindset as a class? Here are just a few exercises to try with your students:

  • Choose Your Mindset: Teach your students to navigate respectful dialogue with these free Timely Topic Make a copy of the Choose Your Mindset slide and show students how to disagree and debate respectfully with one another while performing accurate research. Do one or do them all, the choice is yours! (Note: you will need a Gmail account to copy the slides.)
  • Agree to Disagree: Share the Agree to Disagree slideshow from the Blue Apple project, Take a Stand. Introduce your students to the infamous Blue Dress/White Dress controversy or look over some ambiguous images that test their perspectives. Working together, see if your students can determine why some students see things differently and what they can do to expand their point of view.
  • Source Swap: Have each student find a website or a video in support of the topic(s) under study. Once they have reviewed their source they trade with another student and review the new source. The pairs then discuss the two sources and decide how to use the information is reasoning to support their claim.

In order to think and act like scientists, our students need to see the world as clearly as they possibly can. This means being intrigued by the addition of new information rather than threatened. It means accepting when they’ve been wrong instead of trying to save face. But most of all, it means embracing a flexible mindset that is always open to discovery. This fall let’s take advantage of the many resources at our disposal and build our students’ curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking!

For more free educational resources visit BlueAppleTeacher.org. We hope you have a great summer!

*Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.