Critical Thinking Web Page

The Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique conducts advanced research and disseminates information on critical thinking. 

Each year it sponsors an annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Educational Reform. It has worked with the College Board, the National Education Association, the U.S. Department of Education, as well as numerous colleges, universities, and school districts to facilitate the implementation of critical thinking instruction focused on intellectual standards. The following studies demonstrate:

  1. the fact that, as a rule, critical thinking is not presently being effectively taught at the high school, college and university level, and yet
  2. it is possible to do so.

To assess students' understanding of critical thinking, we recommend use of the International Critical Thinking Test as well as the Critical Thinking Interview Profile for College Students . To assess faculty understanding of critical thinking and its importance to instruction, we recommend the Critical Thinking Interview Profile For Teachers and Faculty . By registering as a member of the community, you will have access to streaming video, which includes a sample student interview with Dr. Richard Paul and Rush Cosgrove. 


Research:




Effect of a Model for Critical Thinking on Student Achievement in Primary Source Document Analysis and Interpretation, Argumentative Reasoning, Critical Thinking Dispositions and History Content in a Community College History Course
Abstract of the Study, conducted by Jenny Reed, in partial fulfillment for her dissertation (October 26, 1998)

View Abstract   -  View Full Dissertation (Adobe Acrobat PDF) 




The Effect of Richard Paul's Universal Elements and Standards of Reasoning on Twelfth Grade Composition A Research Proposal Presented to the Faculty Of the School of Education Alliant International University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Education: Teaching Study conducted by J. Stephen Scanlan, San Diego (2006) View Abstract   -   View Full Dissertation (Adobe Acrobat PDF) Study of 38 Public Universities and 28 Private Universities To Determine Faculty Emphasis on Critical Thinking In Instruction Principal Researchers: Dr. Richard Paul, Dr. Linda Elder, and Dr. Ted Bartell View Abstract    -   View the full study A Research Proposal Presented to the Faculty Of the School of Education Alliant International University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Education: Teaching
Study conducted by J. Stephen Scanlan, San Diego (2006)

View Abstract   -   View Full Dissertation (Adobe Acrobat PDF) 




Study of 38 Public Universities and 28 Private Universities
To Determine Faculty Emphasis on Critical Thinking In Instruction

Principal Researchers: Dr. Richard Paul, Dr. Linda Elder, and Dr. Ted Bartell

View Abstract    -   View the full study

Executive Summary

(Complete Study is available for purchase.)  On September 29, 1994 Governor Wilson signed legislation authored by Senator Leroy Greene (SB1849) directing the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to conduct a study of teacher preparation programs to assess the extent to which these programs prepare candidates for teaching credentials to teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills in elementary and secondary schools.

During the spring of 1995, Commission staff began to conceptualize a study design that would yield descriptive information on course content and teaching practices being employed by postsecondary faculty to train teacher candidates. With assistance from the Center for Critical Thinking at Sonoma State University, an interview protocol was designed for use in telephone interviews with a cross-section of education and subject matter faculty in both public and private colleges and universities in California.

During the study planning process, a decision was made to design respondent selection procedures in such a way as to assure that information collected would be generalizable to all faculty preparing teachers across the state. To accomplish this objective, two statewide probability samples were designed: a sample of teacher education faculty, and a separate sample of Arts and Sciences faculty teaching courses in Commission-approved subject matter programs.

There were three major objectives in this study. The first was to assess current teaching practices and knowledge of critical thinking among faculty teaching in teacher preparation programs in California. The second was to identify exemplary teaching practices that enhance critical thinking. The third was to develop policy recommendations based on the results of the study. The study included 38 public colleges and universities and 28 private ones.

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The Concept of Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Used in the Study


The concept of critical thinking and problem solving used in this study is "minimalist," that is, one which captures the essential dimensions of the concept reflected in the following: its etymology and dictionary definition, major definitions and explanations in the literature, a brief history of the idea, major tests of critical thinking, and the basic values it presupposes.

This minimalist concept of critical thinking is embedded not only in a core body of research over the last 30 to 50 years but is also derived from roots in ancient Greek. The word ’’critical’’ derives etymologically from two Greek roots: "kriticos" (meaning discerning judgment) and "kriterion" (meaning standards). Etymologically, then, the word implies the development of "discerning judgment based on standards." In Webster's New World Dictionary, the relevant entry reads "characterized by careful analysis and judgment" and is followed by the gloss: "critical, in its strictest sense, implies an attempt at objective judgment so as to determine both merits and faults." Applied to thinking, then, we might provisionally define critical thinking as thinking that explicitly aims at well-founded judgment and hence utilizes appropriate evaluative standards in the attempt to determine the true worth, merit, or value of something.

The tradition of research into critical thinking reflects the common perception that human thinking left to itself often gravitates toward prejudice, over-generalization, common fallacies, self-deception, rigidity, and narrowness. The critical thinking tradition seeks ways of understanding the mind and then training the intellect so that such "errors", "blunders", and "distortions" of thought are minimized. It assumes that the capacity of humans for good reasoning can be nurtured and developed by an educational process aimed directly at that end. It assumes that sound critical thinking maximizes our ability to solve problems of importance to us by helping us both to avoid common mistakes and to proceed in the most rational and logical fashion.

For example, those who think critically typically engage in intellectual practices of the following sort, monitoring, reviewing, and assessing: goals and purposes; the way issues and problems are formulated; the information, data, or evidence presented for acceptance, interpretations of such information, data, or evidence; the quality of reasoning presented or developed, basic concepts or ideas inherent in thinking, assumptions made, implications and consequences that may or may not follow; points of view and frames of reference. In monitoring, reviewing and assessing these intellectual constructs, those who think critically characteristically strive, for such intellectual ends as clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, and logicalness. Each of these modes of thinking help us to accomplish the ends for which we are thinking and hence to solve the problems inherent in pursuing those ends.

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Current Teaching Practices and Knowledge of Critical Thinking

In-depth interviews were utilized to provide information on how faculty tend to think about critical thinking and the manner in which that thinking influences the design of their classes. Questions were designed to shed light on the extent to which students in teacher preparation programs in California are being taught in ways that facilitate skill in critical thinking and the ability to teach it to others.

There were three goals of this component of the study. The first was to ensure that any faculty who had a developed notion of critical thinking (of any kind) would have a full opportunity and much encouragement to spell out that notion. We wanted to make sure that everyone interviewed was encouraged to express their actual views and to express them in detail.

The second goal was to examine the views expressed to see: a) how many faculty actually had a developed view and b) how much internal coherence there was in any given faculty view. In other words, we sought to determine how many faculty had seriously thought through the concept of critical thinking--irrespective of how they defined it, and then, once we had a full expression of any given person's views, we examined what was said, not only for clarity but also for coherence.

The third goal was to determine the extent to which the views expressed demonstrated an internalization of traditional "minimalist" elements of critical thinking. We sought to determine, in other words, how much of the common core of meaning now attached to the traditional concept by those working in the field of critical thinking research (and reflected in its semantics and history) has been internalized by faculty teaching in teacher preparation programs.

Data collection included both closed-ended and open-ended questions. In addition, the coders of responses made judgments about some important global features of the responses made (using minimalist components of critical thinking as criteria). The open-ended questions, and the follow-up questions, were designed, as indicated above, to provide maximum opportunity for individuals to articulate virtually any concept of critical thinking that they favored. The follow-up questions’’ main function was that of ensuring that the most specific and precise views that could be obtained were obtained. Since the interviews lasted 45 minutes on average, the interviewees had ample opportunity to express their views.

The same interview protocol was utilized for both education faculty and subject matter faculty. A total of 140 interviews were completed, representing a 78% response rate among those contacted for an interview. Since the samples were constructed so as to be representative in a statistical sense of all faculty involved in teacher preparation in California, the results can in fact be generalized to teacher preparation faculty in the state as a whole. The results of the analysis were as follows:

1) Though the overwhelming majority (89%) claimed critical thinking to be a primary objective of their instruction, only a small minority (19%) could give a clear explanation of what critical thinking is. Furthermore, according to their answers, only 9% of the respondents were clearly teaching for critical thinking on a typical day in class.

2) Though the overwhelming majority (78%) claimed that their students lacked appropriate intellectual standards (to use in assessing their thinking), and 73% considered that students learning to assess their own work was of primary importance, only a very small minority (8%) could enumerate any intellectual criteria or standards they required of students or could give an intelligible explanation of what those criteria and standards were.

3) While 50% of those interviewed said that they explicitly distinguish critical thinking skills from traits, only 8% were able to provide a clear conception of the critical thinking skills they thought were most important for their students to develop. Furthermore the overwhelming majority (75%) provided either minimal or vague allusion (33%) or no allusion at all (42%) to intellectual traits of mind.

4) When asked how they conceptualized truth, a surprising 41% of those who responded to the question said that knowledge, truth and sound judgment are fundamentally a matter of personal preference or subjective taste.

5) Although the majority (67%) said that their concept of critical thinking is largely explicit in their thinking, only 19% could elaborate on their concept of thinking.

6) Although the vast majority (89%) stated that critical thinking was of primary importance to their instruction, 77% of the respondents had little, limited or no conception of how to reconcile content coverage with the fostering of critical thinking.

7) Although the overwhelming majority (81%) felt that their department’s graduates develop a good or high level of critical thinking ability while in their program, only 20% said that their departments had a shared approach to critical thinking, and only 9% were able to clearly articulate how they would assess the extent to which a faculty member was or was not fostering critical thinking. The remaining respondents had a limited conception or no conception at all of how to do this.

8) Although the vast majority (89%) stated that critical thinking was of primary importance to their instruction, only `a very small minority could clearly explain the meanings of basic terms in critical thinking. For example, only 8% could clearly differentiate between an assumption and an inference, and only 4% could differentiate between an inference and an implication.

9) Only a very small minority (9%) mentioned the special and/or growing need for critical thinking today in virtue of the pace of change and the complexities inherent in human life. Not a single respondent elaborated on the issue.

10) In explaining their views of critical thinking, the overwhelming majority (69%) made either no allusion at all, or a minimal allusion, to the need for greater emphasis on peer and student self-assessment in instruction.

11) From either the quantitative data directly, or from minimal inference from those data, it is clear that a significant percentage of faculty interviewed (and, if representative, most faculty):

  • do not understand the connection of critical thinking to intellectual standards.
  • are not able to clarify major intellectual criteria and standards.
  • inadvertently confuse the active involvement of students in classroom activities with critical thinking in those activities. 
  • are unable to give an elaborated articulation of their concept of critical thinking. 
  • cannot provide plausible examples of how they foster critical thinking in the classroom.
  • are not able to name specific critical thinking skills they think are important for students to learn.
  • are not able to plausibly explain how to reconcile covering content with fostering critical thinking.
  • do not consider reasoning as a significant focus of critical thinking.
  • do not think of reasoning within disciplines as a major focus of instruction.
  • cannot specify basic structures essential to the analysis of reasoning.
  • cannot give an intelligible explanation of basic abilities either in critical thinking or in reasoning .
  • do not distinguish the psychological dimension of thought from the intellectual dimension.
  • have had no involvement in research into critical thinking and have not attended any conferences on the subject.
  • are unable to name a particular theory or theorist that has shaped their concept of critical thinking.

Some differences were also observed between Education and Arts and Sciences faculty. These differences do not alter the overall findings but do suggest relative strengths and weaknesses for each group. The comparative results were as follows:

1) Education faculty was slightly more likely ( 91%) to state that critical thinking is of primary importance to their instructional objectives than Arts and Sciences faculty ( 82%).

2) Education faculty was somewhat more likely (55%) to include in their concept of critical thinking a distinction between critical thinking skills and traits than Arts and Sciences faculty (39%), though neither group effectively articulated that difference.

3) Education faculty was somewhat better in articulating how they bring critical thinking into the curriculum on a typical class day (33% of the Arts and Sciences faculty had little or no conception of how to do this while only 15% of the Education faculty had the same lack of conception).

4) Education faculty also was better able to reconcile covering content with fostering critical thinking (31% of Arts and Sciences faculty had little or no conception of how to reconcile the two, while only 11% of education faculty had little or no conception). What is more, education faculty were more likely to elaborate on how they would reconcile content coverage with fostering critical thinking (25% were able to elaborate on reconciliation of these, while only 8% of the Arts and Sciences faculty were able to elaborate on the same point).

5) The Arts and Sciences faculty better articulated the basic skills of thought that students need to effectively address issues and concerns in their lives such as clarifying questions, gathering relevant data or information, formulating or reasoning to logical or valid conclusions, interpretations or solutions, etc. Of the Education faculty, 40% failed to mention any of these basic skills while only 5% of the non-education faculty failed to mention any.

6) The Education faculty were somewhat less likely to ignore the importance of emphasizing problem solving in the classroom than the Arts and Sciences group. Only 10% of this group failed to mention its importance while 26% of the Arts and Sciences faculty failed to mention it.

7) The Education faculty were somewhat less likely to ignore the special need for critical thinking today in virtue of such phenomena as accelerating change, intensifying complexity, and increasing interdependence (64% of the Arts and Sciences faculty failed to mention its importance, while 51% of the education group failed to mention it).

8) The Education faculty were less likely to ignore the need for emphasis on peer and student self-assessment (33% percent of this group failed to mention it, while 55% of the Arts and Sciences group failed to mention it).

Analysis of open-ended responses provided not only confirmation of the quantitative data, but also powerful support for significant qualitative generalizations. What is more, a close look at individual cases reveals that there is significant contrast between those faculty members who have a developed concept of critical thinking and those who do not. Profiles of individual faculty responses are presented in the full report to illustrate clearly the kind of differences which existed between those who were articulate in explaining how they approach critical thinking and those who were not.

Most faculty answered open-ended questions with vague answers, rather than clear and precise answers. In many of their answers there were internal "tensions" and, in some cases, outright contradictions. The magic talisman were phrases like "constructivism", "Bloom's Taxonomy", "process-based", "inquiry-based", "beyond recall", "active learning", "meaning-centered" and similar phrases that under probing questions the majority of interviewees were unable to intelligibly explain in terms of critical thinking. The most common confusion, perhaps, was confusion between what is necessary (for critical thinking) and what is sufficient (for it). For example, active engagement is necessary to critical thinking, but one can be actively engaged and not think critically.

Virtually all of those interviewed identified critical thinking and the learning of intellectual standards as primary objectives in instruction, yet few could give a clear explanation of what their concept of either was. Virtually all said that students lacked intellectual standards when they entered their classes, yet implied, at the same time, that they left with those intellectual standards in place. They also overwhelmingly stated or implied that their students left them with a good level of critical thinking as well as a good level of ability to foster critical thinking in their future students.

By direct statement or by implication, most claimed that they permeated their instruction with an emphasis on critical thinking and that the students internalized the concepts in their courses as a result. Yet, only the rare interviewee mentioned the importance of students thinking clearly, accurately, precisely, relevantly, or logically. Very few mentioned any of the basic skills of thought such as the ability to clarify questions; gather relevant data; reason to logical or valid conclusions; identify key assumptions; trace significant implications; or enter without distortion into alternative points of view. Intellectual traits of mind, such as intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, and intellectual responsibility, are virtually unheard of by the interviewees.

Careful analysis of the interviews indicates that, irrespective of the diversity of language used, the central problem is that most faculty have not carefully thought through any concept of critical thinking, have no sense of intellectual standards they can put into words, and are, therefore, by any reasonable interpretation, in no position to foster critical thinking in their own students or to help them to foster it in their future students-except to inculcate into their students the same vague views that they have.

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We wanted to make sure that everyone interviewed was encouraged to express their actual views and to express them in detail. <br /> <br /> The second goal was to examine the views expressed to see: a) how many faculty actually had a developed view and b) how much internal coherence there was in any given faculty view. In other words, we sought to determine how many faculty had seriously thought through the concept of critical thinking--irrespective of how they defined it, and then, once we had a full expression of any given person's views, we examined what was said, not only for clarity but also for coherence.<br /> <br /> The third goal was to determine the extent to which the views expressed demonstrated an internalization of traditional \"minimalist\" elements of critical thinking. We sought to determine, in other words, how much of the common core of meaning now attached to the traditional concept by those working in the field of critical thinking research (and reflected in its semantics and history) has been internalized by faculty teaching in teacher preparation programs. <br /> <br /> Data collection included both closed-ended and open-ended questions. In addition, the coders of responses made judgments about some important global features of the responses made (using minimalist components of critical thinking as criteria). The open-ended questions, and the follow-up questions, were designed, as indicated above, to provide maximum opportunity for individuals to articulate virtually any concept of critical thinking that they favored. The follow-up questions&rsquo;&rsquo; main function was that of ensuring that the most specific and precise views that could be obtained were obtained. Since the interviews lasted 45 minutes on average, the interviewees had ample opportunity to express their views.<br /> <br /> The same interview protocol was utilized for both education faculty and subject matter faculty. A total of 140 interviews were completed, representing a 78% response rate among those contacted for an interview. Since the samples were constructed so as to be representative in a statistical sense of all faculty involved in teacher preparation in California, the results can in fact be generalized to teacher preparation faculty in the state as a whole. The results of the analysis were as follows:<br /> <br /> 1) Though the overwhelming majority (89%) claimed critical thinking to be a primary objective of their instruction, only a small minority (19%) could give a clear explanation of what critical thinking is. Furthermore, according to their answers, only 9% of the respondents were clearly teaching for critical thinking on a typical day in class.<br /> <br /> 2) Though the overwhelming majority (78%) claimed that their students lacked appropriate intellectual standards (to use in assessing their thinking), and 73% considered that students learning to assess their own work was of primary importance, only a very small minority (8%) could enumerate any intellectual criteria or standards they required of students or could give an intelligible explanation of what those criteria and standards were.<br /> <br /> 3) While 50% of those interviewed said that they explicitly distinguish critical thinking skills from traits, only 8% were able to provide a clear conception of the critical thinking skills they thought were most important for their students to develop. Furthermore the overwhelming majority (75%) provided either minimal or vague allusion (33%) or no allusion at all (42%) to intellectual traits of mind.<br /> <br /> 4) When asked how they conceptualized truth, a surprising 41% of those who responded to the question said that knowledge, truth and sound judgment are fundamentally a matter of personal preference or subjective taste.<br /> <br /> 5) Although the majority (67%) said that their concept of critical thinking is largely explicit in their thinking, only 19% could elaborate on their concept of thinking. <br /> <br /> 6) Although the vast majority (89%) stated that critical thinking was of primary importance to their instruction, 77% of the respondents had little, limited or no conception of how to reconcile content coverage with the fostering of critical thinking. <br /> <br /> 7) Although the overwhelming majority (81%) felt that their department&rsquo;s graduates develop a good or high level of critical thinking ability while in their program, only 20% said that their departments had a shared approach to critical thinking, and only 9% were able to clearly articulate how they would assess the extent to which a faculty member was or was not fostering critical thinking. The remaining respondents had a limited conception or no conception at all of how to do this.<br /> <br /> 8) Although the vast majority (89%) stated that critical thinking was of primary importance to their instruction, only `a very small minority could clearly explain the meanings of basic terms in critical thinking. For example, only 8% could clearly differentiate between an assumption and an inference, and only 4% could differentiate between an inference and an implication.<br /> <br /> 9) Only a very small minority (9%) mentioned the special and/or growing need for critical thinking today in virtue of the pace of change and the complexities inherent in human life. Not a single respondent elaborated on the issue.<br /> <br /> 10) In explaining their views of critical thinking, the overwhelming majority (69%) made either no allusion at all, or a minimal allusion, to the need for greater emphasis on peer and student self-assessment in instruction.<br /> <br /> 11) From either the quantitative data directly, or from minimal inference from those data, it is clear that a significant percentage of faculty interviewed (and, if representative, most faculty):<br /> <br />\r\n<ul>\r\n<li>do not understand the connection of critical thinking to intellectual standards.</li>\r\n<li>are not able to clarify major intellectual criteria and standards.</li>\r\n<li>inadvertently confuse the active involvement of students in classroom activities with critical thinking in those activities.&nbsp;</li>\r\n<li>are unable to give an elaborated articulation of their concept of critical thinking.&nbsp;</li>\r\n<li>cannot provide plausible examples of how they foster critical thinking in the classroom.</li>\r\n<li>are not able to name specific critical thinking skills they think are important for students to learn.</li>\r\n<li>are not able to plausibly explain how to reconcile covering content with fostering critical thinking.</li>\r\n<li>do not consider reasoning as a significant focus of critical thinking.</li>\r\n<li>do not think of reasoning within disciplines as a major focus of instruction.</li>\r\n<li>cannot specify basic structures essential to the analysis of reasoning.</li>\r\n<li>cannot give an intelligible explanation of basic abilities either in critical thinking or in reasoning .</li>\r\n<li>do not distinguish the psychological dimension of thought from the intellectual dimension.</li>\r\n<li>have had no involvement in research into critical thinking and have not attended any conferences on the subject.</li>\r\n<li>are unable to name a particular theory or theorist that has shaped their concept of critical thinking.</li>\r\n</ul>\r\n<br /> Some differences were also observed between Education and Arts and Sciences faculty. These differences do not alter the overall findings but do suggest relative strengths and weaknesses for each group. The comparative results were as follows:<br /> <br /> 1) Education faculty was slightly more likely ( 91%) to state that critical thinking is of primary importance to their instructional objectives than Arts and Sciences faculty ( 82%).<br /> <br /> 2) Education faculty was somewhat more likely (55%) to include in their concept of critical thinking a distinction between critical thinking skills and traits than Arts and Sciences faculty (39%), though neither group effectively articulated that difference.<br /> <br /> 3) Education faculty was somewhat better in articulating how they bring critical thinking into the curriculum on a typical class day (33% of the Arts and Sciences faculty had little or no conception of how to do this while only 15% of the Education faculty had the same lack of conception).<br /> <br /> 4) Education faculty also was better able to reconcile covering content with fostering critical thinking (31% of Arts and Sciences faculty had little or no conception of how to reconcile the two, while only 11% of education faculty had little or no conception). What is more, education faculty were more likely to elaborate on how they would reconcile content coverage with fostering critical thinking (25% were able to elaborate on reconciliation of these, while only 8% of the Arts and Sciences faculty were able to elaborate on the same point).<br /> <br /> 5) The Arts and Sciences faculty better articulated the basic skills of thought that students need to effectively address issues and concerns in their lives such as clarifying questions, gathering relevant data or information, formulating or reasoning to logical or valid conclusions, interpretations or solutions, etc. Of the Education faculty, 40% failed to mention any of these basic skills while only 5% of the non-education faculty failed to mention any. <br /> <br /> 6) The Education faculty were somewhat less likely to ignore the importance of emphasizing problem solving in the classroom than the Arts and Sciences group. Only 10% of this group failed to mention its importance while 26% of the Arts and Sciences faculty failed to mention it. <br /> <br /> 7) The Education faculty were somewhat less likely to ignore the special need for critical thinking today in virtue of such phenomena as accelerating change, intensifying complexity, and increasing interdependence (64% of the Arts and Sciences faculty failed to mention its importance, while 51% of the education group failed to mention it). <br /> <br /> 8) The Education faculty were less likely to ignore the need for emphasis on peer and student self-assessment (33% percent of this group failed to mention it, while 55% of the Arts and Sciences group failed to mention it).<br /> <br /> Analysis of open-ended responses provided not only confirmation of the quantitative data, but also powerful support for significant qualitative generalizations. What is more, a close look at individual cases reveals that there is significant contrast between those faculty members who have a developed concept of critical thinking and those who do not. Profiles of individual faculty responses are presented in the full report to illustrate clearly the kind of differences which existed between those who were articulate in explaining how they approach critical thinking and those who were not. <br /> <br /> Most faculty answered open-ended questions with vague answers, rather than clear and precise answers. In many of their answers there were internal \"tensions\" and, in some cases, outright contradictions. The magic talisman were phrases like \"constructivism\", \"Bloom's Taxonomy\", \"process-based\", \"inquiry-based\", \"beyond recall\", \"active learning\", \"meaning-centered\" and similar phrases that under probing questions the majority of interviewees were unable to intelligibly explain in terms of critical thinking. The most common confusion, perhaps, was confusion between what is necessary (for critical thinking) and what is sufficient (for it). For example, active engagement is necessary to critical thinking, but one can be actively engaged and not think critically.<br /> <br /> Virtually all of those interviewed identified critical thinking and the learning of intellectual standards as primary objectives in instruction, yet few could give a clear explanation of what their concept of either was. Virtually all said that students lacked intellectual standards when they entered their classes, yet implied, at the same time, that they left with those intellectual standards in place. They also overwhelmingly stated or implied that their students left them with a good level of critical thinking as well as a good level of ability to foster critical thinking in their future students. <br /> <br /> By direct statement or by implication, most claimed that they permeated their instruction with an emphasis on critical thinking and that the students internalized the concepts in their courses as a result. Yet, only the rare interviewee mentioned the importance of students thinking clearly, accurately, precisely, relevantly, or logically. Very few mentioned any of the basic skills of thought such as the ability to clarify questions; gather relevant data; reason to logical or valid conclusions; identify key assumptions; trace significant implications; or enter without distortion into alternative points of view. Intellectual traits of mind, such as intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, and intellectual responsibility, are virtually unheard of by the interviewees. <br /> <br /> Careful analysis of the interviews indicates that, irrespective of the diversity of language used, the central problem is that most faculty have not carefully thought through any concept of critical thinking, have no sense of intellectual standards they can put into words, and are, therefore, by any reasonable interpretation, in no position to foster critical thinking in their own students or to help them to foster it in their future students-except to inculcate into their students the same vague views that they have.</span></span></p>\r\n<p><br style=\"clear: both;\" /></p>","public_access":"1","public_downloads":"1","sku":"","files":[],"images":[]}


Some Policy Recommendations

If it is essential for teachers to foster critical thinking, then it is essential for those who teach the teachers to have at least baseline knowledge of the concept of critical thinking. Those who teach prospective teachers must be sufficiently well-informed about critical thinking not only to be able to explain it in a general way to their students, they must also regularly model instruction for critical thinking in their own classroom procedures and policies. The design of their classes must reflect an explicit critical thinking orientation, so that students not only systematically think through the content of their courses, but also come to see how the design of a course can require and cultivate critical thinking and thoughtfulness — or fail to do so.

On our view, four interventions are requisite for substantive change to occur. First, we must disseminate the information faculty need to change their perceptions. Second, we must provide for faculty skill-building through appropriate professional development. Third, we must establish a mandate to systematically teach critical thinking (and how to teach for it) in all programs of teacher education. And fourth, we must develop an exit examination in critical thinking for all prospective teachers. Let us look at each of these proposed interventions in turn.

1) Information Dissemination: Sufficient awareness, grounded in intellectual humility, must be generated in those communities of faculty teaching in teacher preparation programs leading to the recognition a) that there is a general lack of knowledge on the part of the teaching faculty of the baseline concept of critical thinking, and b) that most students in teacher preparation programs are now graduating without knowledge of critical thinking or how to teach for it. There are seven forms of information that need wide dissemination. At present none of these categories of information are widely disseminated in the teaching community. The categories are as follows:

  • We need to disseminate information that documents the problem at the k-12 teaching level. 
  • We need to disseminate information on teaching for critical thinking within particular disciplines (such as math). 
  • We need to disseminate information about the process that faculty go through as they initially develop their ability to bring critical thinking successfully into the classroom (especially regarding those who display intellectual humility). 
  • We need to disseminate information about exemplary teaching practices of individuals, as they reach high levels of success.

2) Skill Building: Minimal inservicing in critical thinking must be provided for faculty in teacher preparation programs. If faculty is not provided with convenient ways to upgrade their knowledge of critical thinking and how to teach for it, very few will go out of their way to pursue it.

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following :

  • understand the logical connections between ideas
  • identify, construct and evaluate arguments
  • detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
  • solve problems systematically
  • identify the relevance and importance of ideas
  • reflect on the justification of one's own beliefs and values

Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself.

Critical thinking should not be confused with being argumentative or being critical of other people. Although critical thinking skills can be used in exposing fallacies and bad reasoning, critical thinking can also play an important role in cooperative reasoning and constructive tasks. Critical thinking can help us acquire knowledge, improve our theories, and strengthen arguments. We can use critical thinking to enhance work processes and improve social institutions.

Some people believe that critical thinking hinders creativity because it requires following the rules of logic and rationality, but creativity might require breaking rules. This is a misconception. Critical thinking is quite compatible with thinking "out-of-the-box", challenging consensus and pursuing less popular approaches. If anything, critical thinking is an essential part of creativity because we need critical thinking to evaluate and improve our creative ideas.


§1. The importance of critical thinking

Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. The ability to think clearly and rationally is important whatever we choose to do. If you work in education, research, finance, management or the legal profession, then critical thinking is obviously important. But critical thinking skills are not restricted to a particular subject area. Being able to think well and solve problems systematically is an asset for any career.

Critical thinking is very important in the new knowledge economy. The global knowledge economy is driven by information and technology. One has to be able to deal with changes quickly and effectively. The new economy places increasing demands on flexible intellectual skills, and the ability to analyse information and integrate diverse sources of knowledge in solving problems. Good critical thinking promotes such thinking skills, and is very important in the fast-changing workplace.

Critical thinking enhances language and presentation skills. Thinking clearly and systematically can improve the way we express our ideas. In learning how to analyse the logical structure of texts, critical thinking also improves comprehension abilities.

Critical thinking promotes creativity. To come up with a creative solution to a problem involves not just having new ideas. It must also be the case that the new ideas being generated are useful and relevant to the task at hand. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in evaluating new ideas, selecting the best ones and modifying them if necessary

Critical thinking is crucial for self-reflection. In order to live a meaningful life and to structure our lives accordingly, we need to justify and reflect on our values and decisions. Critical thinking provides the tools for this process of self-evaluation.

Good critical thinking is the foundation of science and democracy. Science requires the critical use of reason in experimentation and theory confirmation. The proper functioning of a liberal democracy requires citizens who can think critically about social issues to inform their judgments about proper governance and to overcome biases and prejudice.

§2. The future of critical thinking

In January 2016, the World Economic Forum issued a report "The Future of Jobs". It says:

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets over the next five years, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape.

The top three skills that supposed to be most relevant are thinking skills related to critical thinking, creativity, and their practical application. These are the cognitive skills that our website focuses on.

§3. For teachers

  • The ideas on this page were discussed in a blog post on edutopia. The author uses the critical thinking framework here to apply to K-12 education. Very relevant to school teachers!

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