Briefly, Consensus is a cooperative process in which group members can productively resolve issues, make choices or develop strategies. This leads a group to a mutual understanding, agreement to support a decision and takes actions to implement it despite different perspectives or disagreements on particular details (anonymous, n.d.). A consensus is not a vote or some sort of appeal to popularity, but rather it is the skill required in a group to see the facts, let the evidence shape our understanding, create an environment that allows others to understand various points of view, and create an action plan that is most logically sound.
A consensus is the sum of multiple critical thinking skills and is in itself a crucial component of critical thinking because it takes the skills of reasoning, planning, self-correction, cognitive flexibility, attentiveness and communication, which leads it to a decision for a set of actions (Papathanasiou et al., 2014). These critical thinking skills, one of them being consensus, need to be developed through discussions among peers, and the peers in the group have to able to search for answers rather than being given the answers. The typical lecture in a school is not compatible with helping students develop the skill of consensus.
Consensus should be a priority in higher education because there are many learning benefits apart from developing critical thinking skills. In a group discussion, reaching consensus requires inquiry, openness, dialog, research, and critical reflection. This allows the group to integrate recently acquired external information with existing knowledge, and exploit it for commercial benefit (Lord, 2015). The evidence shows there are many benefits to students who often practice using consensus in group discussions to develop the skill. Reaching consensus is rather rare these days, and it will do well for students to have this skill for future employment along with other endeavors.
Lectures do not help with developing the consensus skill, and the current education system is not doing much to work towards helping students develop critical thinking skills such as consensus. The Alberta education system has agreed that students need more than just lectures and have suggested talking circles to allow students to share their views, but there are no discussion-based methods to allow reasoning or to reach a consensus. As a matter of fact, reaching a consensus is discouraged (Alberta Education, n.d.). It is apparent that the education system is still missing the mark because learning takes more than just sharing unchallenged views that require no reasoning, no research, or do not contribute towards a plan to meet some goal. If talking circles is the most that the education system can do, reaching consensus is not practiced or developed among students and it is apparent that it does not exist in the current education system.
The good news is that there is a way to help students develop their consensus skills, and a plan will be shared for what can be done at a university. University classes need to be discussion-based instead of lecture-based. Discussions allow a student to come to class prepared through research that they have done on their own to share evidence, discuss it, and come to a consensus. The research that the students do should be geared toward a plan of action, perhaps working on solving current day problems within the subject area of the class, but not being too strict as to not allow other fields of research to influence the group discussions. This will allow students to use evidence to create a plan, and they will have to learn to reason, self-correct, communicate, and reach a consensus in order to succeed. It will be more than remembering facts because it will allow students to better themselves through obtaining skills that allow them to learn effectively.
The bad news is that the plan presented is unlikely to happen anytime soon in the current education system. However, Socelor is an alternative where we do all we can to help people learn skills such as consensus by using some of the methods mentioned and more that are all based on the science of learning.
Anonymous, (n.d.). Benefits to consensus decision-making. University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved from: http://www.extension.umn.edu
Papathanasiou, I., Kleisiaris, C., Fradelos, E., Kakou, K., and Kourkouta, L., (August 2014). Critical thinking: the development of an essential skill for nursing students. Acta Informatica Medica, 22, 4, pp. 283-286. doi: 10.5455/aim.2014.22.283-286
Lord, M., (February 27 2015). Group learning capacity: the roles of open-mindedness and shared vision. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/psyg.2015.00150
Anonymous, (n.d.). Instructional strategies. Alberta Education. Retrieved from: https://education.alberta.ca