Post contents:

  • Introduction: Critical thinking defined
  • Suggested resource: Handbook for higher education
  • Worthwhile PDFs on the subject (short, informative, relevant)
  • Article collection: Critical thinking in higher education instruction
  • A sample assignment from handbook

NOTE: This post has barely gotten started… I posted it anyway. I hope to return to it eventually.

Introduction: Critical thinking defined

Chart: critical thinking, critical thoughtAccording to studies, critical thinking is not typically picked up by most students on their own; furthermore, critical thinking skills may be just as much of an acquired or learned skill than an innate ability (which is often assumed). If true, it follows that critical thinking skills ought to be included in the standard curricula of basic schooling, higher education, or both.

Unfortunately, the modern trend toward standardized testing undermines instructors’ ability to address critical thinking in the classroom. (See Barriers to Critical Thinking section, PDF 3)

Suggested resource: $20 handbook

critical thinking, critical thoughtCritical Thinking Handbook: Basic Theory and Instructional Structures – This handbook provides an outline of the most fundamental theory of critical thinking. In addition, it provides ideas for incorporating the theory into the structure of the curriculum. Included are theories concerning elements of reasoning, intellectual standards, intellectual traits, content as a mode of thinking, the affective dimension of thinking, and more — along with practical structures for student self-assessment, grading policies, and general tactical/ structural recommendations. We consider the handbook essential for understanding the basic theory, as well as for developing a curriculum with critical thinking at its very foundation. (Source: Critical Thinking: Basic Theory and Instructional Structures Handbook)

Sample assignment from the Critical Thinking Handbook (above)

Directions: This assignment is designed to assess your critical thinking problem solving, and communication skills. Your answer will be judged for its clarity, relevance, coherence, logic, depth, consistency, and fairness. More specifically, the reader will be asking the following questions:

  1. Is the question at issue well stated? Is it clear and unbiased? Does the expression of the question do justice to the complexity of the matter at issue?
  2. Does the writer cite relevant evidence, experiences, and/or information essential to the issue?
  3. Does the writer clarify key concepts when necessary?
  4. Does the writer show a sensitivity to what he or she is assuming or taking for granted? (Insofar as those assumptions might reasonably questioned)?
  5. Does the writer develop a definite line of reasoning, explaining well how he or she is arriving at his or her conclusions?
  6. Is the writer¹s reasoning well- supported?
  7. Does the writer show a sensitivity to alternative points of view or lines of reasoning? Does he or she consider and respond to objections framed from other points of view?
  8. Does the writer show a sensitivity to the implications and consequences of the position he or she has taken?

Example question in the area of politics

There is a growing number of Americans who do not vote in national and local elections. Many of them explain their non-participation by saying that their vote would not make a difference.

Critical thought & religion: Thinking critically about religious belief systems — Are you really willing to devote demanding critical thought to your religious beliefs and political opinions? Search for Truth

Some go on to argue that this is true because ³money plays such a large role in elections that the candidate with the highest paid, and the highest quality, media campaign wins.² Most people agree that money sometimes plays an inappropriate role in determining the outcome of elections.

Develop a proposed solution to this problem that takes into account the view that people and organizations with money have a right to use that money to advance political causes they believe in. If you like, you may decide to develop a position to the effect that there is no solution to the problem and that we have no choice but to accept the status quo.

Teaching critical thinking: The kinds of questions to ask and assign

The best and most practical advice for teaching critical thought in higher education is this:

In their research, Haynes and Bailey emphasized the importance of asking the right questions to stimulate students’ critical thinking skills. Other researchers also focused on integrating questioning techniques into class discussions to support an educational environment where students can demonstrate and practice critical thinking skills. Brown and Kelley’s book, Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking, documented the premise that students’ critical thinking is best supported when instructors use critical questioning techniques to engage students actively in the learning process.

Sample questions from all these studies

  1. What do you think about this?
  2. Why do you think that?
  3. What is your knowledge based upon?
  4. What does it imply and presuppose?
  5. What explains it, connects to it, and/or leads from it?
  6. How are you viewing it?
  7. Should it be viewed differently?

These questions require students to evaluate the clarity and accuracy of their thinking as well as the depth and breadth of their thinking. Have they considered all the alternatives? Do they know why they think the way they do? Students need to determine whether the content they are using is relevant and if their thinking process is logical. By questioning their thought process, students can begin thinking about their thinking.

Critical thinking exercises for accounting and related areas

You could create an assignment similar to the one above, but in the area of accounting, finance, financial reporting, auditing, etc.

I imagine auditing would be a rich area for critical thinking exercises.

Definitions of critical thinking

Critical thinking has been described as:

  1. Reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do
  2. Thinking about thinking
  3. The intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
  4. The process of purposeful, self-regulatory judgment, which uses reasoned consideration to evidence, context, conceptualizations, methods, and criteria.
  5. Within the critical social theory philosophical frame, critical thinking is commonly understood to involve:
    • commitment to the social and political practice of participatory democracy,
    • willingness to imagine or remain open to considering alternative perspectives,
    • willingness to integrate new or revised perspectives into our ways of thinking and acting,
    • willingness to foster criticality in others

(Source: Wikipedia on critical thinking)

Resources: Teaching students to think critically

PDFs about critical thinking in higher education

Post started on Tuesday, July 12, 2011