Module: Critical thinking
Quote of the page
I don’t know what I may seem to the world, but as to myself, I seem only to have been like a boy playing on the sea-shore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
- Isaac Newton
In a survey conducted by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, 99.6% of university teachers agreed that critical thinking is an "very important" or "essential" goal for undergraduate education. (HERI (2009) The American College Teacher: National Norms for 2007–2008. Higher Education Research Institute, University of California.)
But how should critical thinking be taught? There are lots of different issues to be investigated, such as:
Research from education psychology and cognitive science are very much relevant when designing an effective pedagogy for teaching critical thinking. Here is a research article on this topic commissioned by our website:
Tim van Gelder (2004) "Teaching Critical thinking: Lessons from cognitive science"
A later version is published as van Gelder, T. J. (2005). Teaching critical thinking: some lessons from cognitive science. College Teaching, 53, 41-6.
Abstract: This article draws six key lessons from cognitive science for teachers of critical thinking. The lessons are: acquiring expertise in critical thinking is hard; practice in critical thinking skills themselves enhances skills; the transfer of skills must be practiced; some theoretical knowledge is required; diagramming arguments ("argument mapping") promotes skill; and students are prone to belief preservation. The article provides some guidelines for teaching practice in light of these lessons.
Some researchers have suggested that studying argument mapping is a good way to improve critical thinking, and sometimes more effective than traditional lectures. You can find some of the research articles from google scholars here: https://scholar.google.com.hk/scholar?q=argument+mapping+critical+thinking.
Also, see our next tutoral on the importance of metacognition.
If you are interested in issues related to critical thinking in higher education, the following volume might be useful:
Martin Davies and Ronald Barnett (2015) The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education Palgrave.