A Questionable Breach in our Learning Systems

  “The key to seeing the significance of critical thinking in academics is in understanding the significance of critical thinking in learning.”

From Wikipedia:

Critical Thinking [CT], in general, refers to higher-order thinking that questions assumptions and generalities. CT is “thinking about thinking.” It is a way of deciding whether a claim is true, false, or sometimes true and sometimes false, or partly true and partly false. The concept is somewhat challenged within the field of education due to the multiple possible meanings.

Definitions

[1] In one sense, CT has been described as “the correct assessing of statements.”[2] It has also been described popularly as “thinking about thinking.”[3] It has been described in a much more comprehensive sense as “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] More recently, critical thinking has been described as “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, CT 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, and willingness to foster criticality in others.

Meaning

[6] CT clarifies goals, examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, accomplishes actions, and assesses conclusions.

CT can occur whenever one judges, decides, or solves a problem; in general, whenever one must figure out what to believe or what to do, and do so in a reasonable and reflective way. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening can all be done critically or uncritically. CT is vital to becoming a close reader and a substantive writer. Expressed in most general terms, critical thinking is “a way of taking up the problems of life.”

Procedure

[9] CT calls for the ability to:

Recognize problems, to find workable means for meeting those problems

Understand the importance of prioritization and order of precedence in problem solving

Gather and marshal pertinent (relevant) information

Recognize unstated assumptions and values

Comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity, and discernment

Interpret data, to appraise evidence and evaluate arguments

Recognize the existence (or non-existence) of logical relationships between propositions

Draw warranted conclusions and generalizations

Put to test the conclusions and generalizations at which one arrives

Reconstruct one’s patterns of beliefs on the basis of wider experience

Render accurate judgments about specific things and qualities in everyday life

Critical Teaching

A recently published study has found that many college and university students aren’t taught critical thinking skills while enrolled in their course of study. The study “followed 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009 and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, from the highly selective to the less selective.”

What they found was that about 45% of those students showed no significant improvement in their critical thinking skills during the first two years of enrollment.  After 4 years, 35% showed no significant improvement.

The study is unique in that it is the first time a group of students was followed through their college careers to determine if they learned specific skills.  As might be expected, academia is not at all pleased with the results.

“These findings are extremely valuable for those of us deeply concerned about the state of undergraduate learning and student intellectual engagement,” said Brian D. Casey, the president of DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. “They will surely shape discussions about curriculum and campus life for years to come.”

References and credits:

http://www.qando.net/?p=10174

Importance

CT is an important element of all professional fields and academic disciplines (by referencing their respective sets of permissible questions, evidence sources, criteria, etc.). Within the framework of scientific skepticism, the process of CT involves the careful acquisition and interpretation of information and use of it to reach a well-justified conclusion. The concepts and principles of CT can be applied to any context or case but only by reflecting upon the nature of that application. CT forms, therefore, a system of related, and overlapping, modes of thought such as anthropological thinking, sociological thinking, historical thinking, political thinking, psychological thinking, philosophical thinking, mathematical thinking, chemical thinking, biological thinking, ecological thinking, legal thinking, ethical thinking, musical thinking, thinking like a painter, sculptor, engineer, business person, etc.

In other words, though CT principles are universal, their application to disciplines requires a process of reflective contextualization.

CT is considered important in the academic fields because it enables one to analyze, evaluate, explain, and restructure their thinking, thereby decreasing the risk of adopting, acting on, or thinking with, a false belief. However, even with knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, mistakes can happen due to a thinker’s inability to apply the methods or because of character traits such as egocentrism. CT includes identification of prejudice, bias, propaganda, self-deception, distortion, misinformation, etc. Given research in cognitive psychology, some educators believe that schools should focus on teaching their students critical thinking skills and cultivation of intellectual traits.

ZDT Author’s Comments:

All this said, the vital subject of CT is either being neglected by accident or on purpose (to promote herd thinking) within our learning and educational systems. Why is that? As we search the net, we can find no concrete thread that binds the answer. We will welcome your research, feedback or comments. This is critical…thinking.

 “Critical Thinking is integral to Zillion Dollar Thinking”

Full References and Credits:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking 

Critical Thinking Search: 37,500,000 Google Results; Yahoo 135,000,000 Results