Eight Utah school districts and Utah State University's department of elementary education are participating in a consortium to explore critical thinking.

Jay Monson, head of the USU department, said the Utah units are the first groups in the country to join a cooperative venture with the Center for Creative Learning in Honeoye, N.Y.Participating Utah districts are Emery, Granite, Jordan, Murray, Nebo, Ogden, Salt Lake and Weber. USU's experimental lab school also is participating.

The consortium's initial task is to gather instructional programs from around the country that teach thinking skills, to standardize them for comparison purposes and then to evaluate them, Monson said.

"School districts all over the country as well as commercial developers produce dozens of models and programs every year for use in teaching children how to think critically and creatively," he said. "Some model programs are offered free for replication while others cost schools hundreds of dollars. Not all of the models are worth replicating."

Whether a model actually does what its authors maintain is a problem that hasn't been addressed.

Within the next two years, the consortium expects to be able to offer standardized evaluation of packages that deal with teaching thinking skills. The program analysis will be done by Donald J. Treffinger, director of the New York-based training and research center. USU serves as the focal point for Utah and as a dissemination site for the comprehensive study once it is available.

The New York-Utah connection is an outgrowth of two ongoing proj-ects at USU.

The first is a regional conference on gifted and talented students directed each summer by Monson, and the second is a companion workshop held for the past two summers at USU on frameworks for teaching thinking to children.

The Utah consortium will hold two summer workshops, one each in 1989 and 1990, to establish a base for work in the thinking skills area.

Teachers will be trained in methods that stimulate children to think.

Effective thinking is important for all people," Monson said.

"Everyone must be able to generate ideas, organize and analyze information, make inferences and deductions and solve problems on a day-to-day basis."