What is Critical Thinking, and How to Teach It?


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On the importance of critical thinking skills and how to teach them - presented at the eLearning Consortium of Colorado (eLCC) Conference, April 18, 2014 - Breckenridge, CO

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What is Critical Thinking, and How to Teach It?

  1. 1. What is Critical Thinking, and How to Teach It? Peter Jeschofnig, Ph.D. Institute for Excellence in Distance Science Education
  2. 2. Expected Outcomes • Critical Thinking Research Results • What is and what is NOT Critical Thinking • Scientific Method and Critical Thinking Processes • Teaching Strategies & Examples • Resources & References
  3. 3. Notable Quotes • Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few engage in it. (Henry Ford) • At a certain age some people’s minds close up. They live on their intellectual fat (William Lyon Phelps) • He who asks a question may be a fool for five minutes, but he who never asks a question remains a fool forever. (Tom Connelly)
  4. 4. Evidence from Critical Thinking Research Research Findings by Richard Paul, 1996: • 140 interviews of college faculty • 89% indicate critical thinking is a primary objective of their instruction • 19% could give a clear explanation of critical thinking • 77% had difficulty describing how to balance content coverage with fostering critical thinking • 8-9% could articulate how to assess critical thinking
  5. 5. More Evidence from Critical Thinking Research Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (2009) Richard Arum & Josipsa Rocksa followed 2,300+ college students. 45 percent of students "did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning" during the first two years of college. 36 percent of students "did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning" over four years of college. Those students who do show improvements tend to show only modest improvements.
  6. 6. Non-Scientific Beliefs Among Undergraduate Students Astronomy Education Review; 2012, http://www.uwo.ca/sci/pdf/NonScientificBeliefsAmongUndergradStudents.pdf A 22 year survey of 11,000 undergraduates’ knowledge and attitudes related to science and technology found: • Nonscientific ways of thinking are resistant to formal instruction • Change surprisingly little over the course of a college career that typically includes three science courses.
  7. 7. Multiple Choice Exams: Obstacle for Higher Level Thinking http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3433302/
  8. 8. Wanted: More US College Grads with Critical Thinking Skills
  9. 9. College Students Lack Critical Thinking Skills, But Who’s to Blame?
  10. 10. College Students Lack Critical Thinking Skills, Study Finds
  11. 11. The Death of Critical Thinking: Scary NYU Study https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCBB0AQqTF8
  12. 12. Famous Names in Pseudo-Science • Dr. Mehmed Oz – Dr. Oz Show • Dr. Andrew Wakefield – anti-vaccine • Oprah Winfrey • Jenny McCarthy - anti-vaccine • Chuck Norris – teach biblical alternatives in school • Various political commentators (incl. Rush Limbaugh)
  13. 13. Critical Thinking Cartoon Cartoon by www.CartonStock.com
  14. 14. What is Critical Thinking? Critical Thinking is the ability to: • Develop a healthy skepticism toward any information presented as fact • Apply reasoning and logic to new or unfamiliar ideas, opinions, and situations. • See things in an open-minded way and examine an idea or concept from as many angles as possible. • Look past one’s own views of the world and better understand the opinions of others.
  15. 15. What Critical Thinking is NOT? • Blindly accepting at face value all statements and arguments made by others • Blindly trusting political commercials • Blindly believing TV commercials • Blindly accepting newspaper stories as fact • Blindly accepting articles in professional journals • Blindly accepting all information in textbooks • Blindly holding on to old beliefs
  16. 16. Critical Thinkers • Distinguish between fact and opinion • Ask questions; make detailed observations; uncover assumptions and define their terms; and • Make assertions based on sound logic and solid evidence. Ellis, D. Becoming an Master Student, 1997)
  17. 17. Benefits of Critical Thinking Why is critical thinking important to students? In Personal and Public Life: • Avoid falling for scams and making foolish decisions from ignorance • Make better decision from verified information • Free one from unexamined assumptions, dogmas, and prejudices • Be a better informed citizen and voter
  18. 18. Benefits of Critical Thinking Why is critical thinking important to students? In the workplace: • Be a better problem-solver • Better analyze information and draw appropriate conclusions • Communicate a position logically • Make good decisions (based on data, not feelings)
  19. 19. Barriers to Critical Thinking Lack of relevant background information Poor reading skills Biases Prejudice Superstition Peer Pressure Resistance to change Rationalization Stereotyping Wishful thinking Unwarranted assumptions
  20. 20. Generic List of Thinking Skills that Would Be Applicable in Many Situations: • Recognizing that a problem exists • Developing an orderly approach so that tasks are prioritized and problems are recognized as differing with regard to how serious and urgent they are • Understanding how cause is determined • Recognizing and criticizing assumptions • Analyzing means-goals relationships • Giving reasons to support a conclusion • Assessing degrees of likelihood and uncertainty • Incorporating isolated data into a wider framework • Using analogies to solve problems
  21. 21. What Are the Steps of the Modified Scientific Method? 1. Make Observations - Ask a Question 2. Propose a Hypothesis 3. Design Experiments to Test the Hypothesis 4. Collect and Analyze Data 5. Accept or Reject the Hypotheses 6. Revise the Hypothesis (Rejected) or Draw Conclusions (Accepted)
  22. 22. Problem Solving Procedure • Define the problem • Remove thinking barriers (biases) • Gather all relevant facts • Generate solutions (brainstorming, creative thinking) • Select a solution (pro’s and con’s) and have a back up plan • Implement and evaluate
  23. 23. Becoming a Critical Thinker: IDEALS – 6 Steps to Effective Thinking 1. Identify the problem: What is the real question we are facing here? 2. Define the context: What are the facts and circumstances for this problem? 3. Enumerate choices: What are the most plausible options? 4. Analyze options: What is our best course of action, all things considered? 5. List reasons explicitly: Why are we making this particular choice 6. Self-correct: Let’s look at it again. What did we miss?
  24. 24. RED Model
  25. 25. Teaching Strategies that Promote Critical Thinking • Open ended assignments • Case studies • Reflections • Discussions • C.T. Question of the week
  26. 26. Developing Discussion Questions to Promote Critical Thinking Higher-Level Thinking Questions Include: By Walker, S.E. Active Learning Promotes Critical Thinking • Open-ended questions that aim at provoking divergent thinking • Questions that go beyond knowledge-level recall • Questions that promote evaluation and synthesis of facts and concepts • Questions that start or end with words or phrases such as “explain,” “compare,” “why”
  27. 27. Questions to Ask • What do you mean by …? • How did you come to that conclusions? • What is the source of your information? • What assumptions led you to that conclusion? • What are the implications if you are wrong? • Why did you make that inference? Is another one more consistent with the data? • Why is this issue significant? • What is an alternate explanation for this phenomenon?
  28. 28. Responding to Students’ Discussions • Ask questions directly related to the student’s response • Ask for clarifications, deeper explanations, and justification • Solicit opposing views; encourage students to make a justified argument for or against a topic • Posting questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no answer or one-liners
  29. 29. Science Case Studies • National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/ • Case studies in science education http://www.learner.org/resources/series21.html • Cases online http://www.cse.emory.edu/cases/othercases.cfm • Case Studies in the Life Sciences http://www.dcc.ac.uk/projects/life-science-case-studies • Case Studies in Inclusive Teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics http://www.cirtl.net/files/CaseStudiesinInclusiveTeaching.pdf • Science Case Studies http://www.npl.co.uk/science- technology/science-case-studies/
  30. 30. Evaluating Information Sources (CRAAP)
  31. 31. Integrate Critical Thinking into Your Teaching
  32. 32. Critical Thinking and The Scientific Method • Designed for my Integrated Science class (SCI 155) • https://softchalkcloud.com/lesson/serve/GFh2Te zCkcwdXB/html
  33. 33. Sample Exam (SUS 311) EXAM 2: You are a research intern to a Congressman who holds a seat on an environmental committee charged with providing environmental remediation grants to foreign countries. The committee is to soon consider making a large financial grant to Madagascar; it was specifically requested to help that country combat its claimed problems of: • Deforestation, • Biodiversity, and • Soil erosion. You’ve been tasked with investigating if these problems genuinely exist and if they do, to determine: • How serious are the problems, • What are their implications for the future of Madagascar, • What if any international/global implications exist beyond Madagascar, and • What actions might be taken to mitigate, and possibly reverse, these problems. Attached is an environmental report on Madagascar with which to begin your research. Additionally, you must find and review at least two or more other sources of information regarding Madagascar’s current environmental issues. From this information you will prepare a briefing report for the Congressman that is five or more pages long, word processed with 12 point, double-spaced type, and is appropriately referenced to your research sources. The report will conclude with a few paragraphs containing your opinion regarding the merit of considering a grant application from Madagascar. • Deforestation in Madagascar Consequences.pdf
  34. 34. COURSERA: Critical Thinking in Global Challenges The University of Edinburgh • Week 1: Essential Concepts in Critical thinking • Week 2: Assessing Evidence: Credibility and Relevance • Week 3: Assessing Arguments (Part A) • Week 4: Assessing Arguments (Part B) • Week 5: Developing your own arguments
  35. 35. Critical Thinking in Global Challenges- The University of Edinburgh • Obesity • Climate Change • Infectious Diseases • Population
  36. 36. Bart College Citizen Science • A potential course for all students • https://vimeo.com/91558485 • Citizen Science is an innovative program for all first-year students at Bard College. Through three weeks of intensive study during January intersession, students develop a core understanding of both the conduct and the content of science. This foundation allows them as citizens to grapple with the ever-increasing number of national and global issues influenced by science.
  37. 37. Perception We often see and hear what we want to see and hear, based upon our past experiences, interests, motives, etc.
  38. 38. Young Girl or Old Woman
  39. 39. Man Playing Horn or Woman’s Silhouette?
  40. 40. Eskimo’s Back or Native American?
  41. 41. Parrot or Woman?
  42. 42. References • Critical Thinking: A Necessary Skill in the Age of Spin http://www.edutopia.org/blog/critical-thinking-necessary-skill-g-randy-kasten • The State of Critical Thinking Today: The Need for a Substantive Concept of Critical Thinking – Paul Hurd http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic265890.files/Critical_Thinking_File/10_State_of_ Critical_Thinking.pdf • WHAT IS CRITICAL THINKING? Jennifer Duncan http://ctl.utsc.utoronto.ca/twc/sites/default/files/CriticalThinking.pdf • Strategies for Helping Students Develop Critical Thinking Skills – Cornell U. CTE http://www.azwestern.edu/academic_services/instruction/center_teaching_effect/resourc es/downloads/Helping%20Students%20Develop%20Critical%20Thinking%20Skills%20CTE% 20Cornell%20University.pdf
  43. 43. References - Continued • Critical Thinking on Climate Change: separating skepticism from denial. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh9kDCuPuU8 • Time to Bring Pseudoscience into Science Class! http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/04/its_time_to_teach_pseud oscience_in_science_class.html • Non-Scientific Beliefs Among Undergraduate Students http://www.uwo.ca/sci/pdf/NonScientificBeliefsAmongUndergradStudents.pdf
  44. 44. References - Continued • The Critical Thinking Community http://www.criticalthinking.org • Association for Informal Logic & Critical Thinking http://ailact.wordpress.com/ • Critical Thinking Web http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/ • An Introduction to Critical Thinking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oefmPtsV_w4
  45. 45. What To Do?
  46. 46. What To Do! • Talk about critical thinking skills (in syllabus & throughout course) • Promote critical thinking via techniques discussed • Use examples from current global issues • Using Bloom’s Taxonomy based-testing is not enough
  47. 47. IDEA – 12 Course Objectives Faculty select 3 – 5 objectives on the Faculty Information Form (FIF) which best describe the purpose and content of a particular course. When responding to the evaluation, students ask themselves: How well am I developing/progressing on these objectives? 3. Learning to apply course material to improve thinking, problem solving, and decisions
  48. 48. Go as far as you can see. When you get there, you can see farther. Thomas Carlyle 49
  49. 49. Peter Jeschofnig pjeschofnig@gmail.com Peter.Jeschofnig@IEDSE.org