the two approaches to critical thinking in Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking by Browne and Keeley.Which do you use, the ‘panning for gold’ or the ‘sponge’ approach...

the two approaches to critical thinking

 in Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking by Browne and Keeley.
Which do you use, the ‘panning for gold’ or the ‘sponge’ approach to data? How do you know which you use?

9 Answers

megan-bright's profile pic

megan-bright | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

You will know which technique to use depending on what your goals are; however, I do not believe that the techniques exist in complete isolation. I believe that they both are needed at different times and under different circumstances in order to be an effective and progressive critical thinker.

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In my approach to learning and teaching, at first I use the sponge method. I try to read as broadly as possible on a topic to know what is out there. I also want to get a handle on all the major scholarly opinions. It is only after this, do I come to analyze and come to my own conclusions. During this process, I "pan for gold." I look for the most important pieces of evidence to construct an argument that is cogent.

stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

So, the direct answer to your question is that both approaches to data-collection are valid - under different circumstances. If you are trying to gain a general base of knowledge about a topic, "the sponge method" allows you to sort through a great deal of information. When you have specific questions about a subject, "panning for gold" allows you to search for the specific content needed.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think in reality we all use both methods depending on the situation and what is called for. In the process of writing a report or an essay, for example, we all use the panning for gold method, as we have to decide what information is useful and what is not. However, when I am reading a book for interest and pleasure, the sponge method is clearly used.

lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I "pan for gold" by scanning information until I find sources that I know will be useful, them I am a sponge, taking in all of the information the source has to offer. If I don't approach research this way I tend to get bogged down in interesting but not useful information and sometimes lose my focus.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This really depends on what I am doing.  When I am first trying to learn about a topic, I use the sponge.  However, once I have a basic grip on the topic, I will often "pan for gold."  A good example of this is when I look for specific facts to use in teaching a particular issue in class.  However, I try to remain open to noticing new ideas even then -- you never know what might end up being useful.

vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I, too, like the "sponge" approach: sometimes you don't know what nugget of gold you will find unless you soak up a lot of apparently "useless" information and then sort through it. Some of my favorite projects have begun with this kind of comprehensive approach.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I am also a sponge, at first anyway. When I begin a project I gather everything I can on the topic. I try to get as much as I can find. Then I pan for gold, looking through my research for something very specific after I have developed my basic concepts and have a better idea of what I specifically need.
literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I would say that I use the sponge approach to learning. I do not think that anything is irrelevant as a whole. While some information may not be relevant at the time, there could be a time where the information will be relevant. Therefore, it is better to absorb than to discard.