Weekly Teaching Note
Aug 29 2012
A Primer on Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities (Paul & Elder, 2002, p. 15).

A well-cultivated critical thinker:
a.     raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
b.     gathers and assesses relevant information, and effectively interprets it;
c.     comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
d.     thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
e.     communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.
Critical Thinking and the Learning Environment:
a.     Formulate discussions and questions to improve adult learners’ critical thinking skills:
Clarity                      Could you elaborate further?
                                  Could you give me an example?
Accuracy                 How could we find out if that is true?
                                  How could we verify or test that?             
Precision                 Could you give me more details?
                                  Could you be more exact?
Relevance              How does that relate to the problem?
                                  How does that help us with the issue? 
Depth                       What factors make this a difficult problem?
                                  What are some of the complexities of this question?
Breadth                    Do we need to look at this from another perspective?
                                  Do we need to consider another point of view?                 
Logic                        Does all this make sense together?
                                  Does what you say follow from the evidence?  
Significance            Is this the central idea to focus on?
                                  Which of these facts are most important?
Fairness                  Do I have any vested interest in this issue?
    Am I sympathetically representing the viewpoints of others?
  (Paul & Elder, 2006).
b.     Plan authentic tasks which address important issues or problems.
c.     Replicate real life situations within the discipline.
d.     Restructure learning to promote higher-level thinking (See “Bloom’s taxonomy”).
e.     Promote active learning by incorporating inductive teaching and learning methods such as:
-      Guided Inquiry;
-      Problem-based;
-      Project-based; and
-      Case-base learning.
  • Huba, M. E. & Freed, J. E. (2000). Learner-centered assessment on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Paul, R.W. & Elder, L. (2002). Critical thinking: Tools for taking charge of your professional and personal life. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education/FT Press.
  • Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2006). Critical thinking: The nature of critical and creative thought. Journal
  • of developmental education, 23, 34-35.
  • Prince, M., and R.M. Felder. 2006. Inductive teaching and learning methods: Definitions, comparisons, and research bases. Journal of Engineering Education 95 (2): 123–38.
  • Svinicki, M. & McKeachie, W. J. (2011). McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, 13th ed. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth.
To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.
Valerie Lopes, PhD

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