Creating Critical Thinkers Samantha Emswiler M.A. Philosophy, University of Miami
“A pupil from whom nothing is ever demanded which he cannot do, never does all he can.” J.S. Mill
Step One: Recognizing the extent of the problem with lack of critical thinking skills How do students across the U.S. do on the standard critical thinking test given to high school students and students in the first two years of college? • U.S. 2-year Institutions Average on TER • Proficient Marginally Not Proficient • 2013 4 % 14% 82%
Being a good critical thinker prepares one for being a better citizen, a better student and a better future employee.‘93% of employers agree that “candidates’ demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.”’ StepTwo: Recognizing the importance of creating good critical thinkers
Employers want someone who can: “ Come ready to work the first day Communicate and think critically Work in teams Use technology Speak multiple languages Think and communicate globally”
Becoming a critical thinker is valuable because it means joining the worldwide, multicultural quest for truth. Inquiry is being carried out right now by students, scholars, researchers, and teachers all over the world ... their inquiry extends from what was in the past, through what is going on right now to what is likely in the future.
Teaching critical thinking gives students the skills they will need to engage in good academic inquiry, to become part of the global community and to participate well in democratic institutions and processes.
Step Three: Begin by teaching what critical thinking is and how a good critical thinker behaves
What is Critical Thinking?It is a set of intellectual skills and psychological habits that make it easier toa) solve problems wellb) discover truths and c) communicate clearly.
What are good critical thinkers like? 1) Good critical thinkers are rational, curious persons who seek the truth: they value truth as the ultimate goal of inquiry. They seek out information, including contrary evidence, to test (verify or falsify) their own beliefs and reasoning. Their goal is to find the truth not confirm their own opinion. They recognize that they could be wrong. They are open to revising their reasoning.
2)Good critical thinkersare open-minded, fair and empathetic: They value other people and can imagine another person’s point of view, assumptions, values and reasoning. They practice intellectual humility and recognize what they do not know.
3) Good critical thinkers are intellectually autonomous, strong and courageous: They think for themselves in spite of adversity; they persevere in their inquiry and reasoning through obstacles such as social pressure.
Step Four: Teach what critical thinkers AVOID such as common bad habits of mind and common forms of bad reasoning
Critical Thinkers Avoid Egocentric and Sociocentric Bias: 1) Critical thinkers DO NOT use egocentric bias in place of good reason. Examples of egocentric bias: “It is true because.... I believe it.” “It is true because I want to believe it/it is in my interest to believe it.” “It is true because I have always believed it”
2) Critical thinkers DO NOT use sociocentric bias in place of a universal, cross-cultural, fair-minded perspective.Sociocentric bias occurs when people uncritically accept certain beliefs and prejudices because that is the authoritative or dominant view of their social group (religion, nation, etc..).
Step Five: Teach analytic skills and standards of good reasoning as well
* From pamphlets from The Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
Two exercises to use to enhance analytic skills and standards of reasoning from The Foundation for Critical Thinking:
Exercise One: teach how to test thought for intellectual rigor: 1. Is what is being claimed clear, precise, relevant and accurate? 2. Is it logical and comprehensive? 3. Does it convey enough depth and breadth for the issue at hand? 4. Is it fair-minded and significant?
Exercise Two: Teach how to analyze elements of reasoning including point of view, assumptions, information it presents, problems it tries to resolve, inferences, purpose, concepts, implications and consequences
More Exercises to Increase Critical Thinking:1) Use Socratic Questioning about Concepts to Continually Engage the Students in Thinking about Course Material
2)Encourage and Reward Intellectual Virtuesa) Curiosityb) Fair-mindednessc) Logical Skillsd) Empathye) Subtlety in Reasoningf) Clevernessg) Perseveranceh) Good Judgmenti) Objectivity
4) Teach them basic logic:a) How to identify an argumentb) what logical terms imply about claimsi. categorical terms (all, no, some…)ii. sentential logic terms (if-then, not, and, or, if and only if)c) teach them the difference between induction and deduction and standards for good arguments
Weblinks for additional resources for critical thinking: 1) Common fallacies on fallacyfiles.org http://www.fallacyfiles.org/introtof.html 2) teachingphilosophy's channel on youtube: a) on fallacies http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY7g6a1A4KM&list=PLFGHE1xQFhhxVI2LmT2yhT_huBZQqsXUA&index=2 b) on what critical thinking is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oAf3g5_138 3) The Foundation for Critical Thinking offers free sources for the student and educators to explore http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/college-and-university-students/799 http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/college-and-university-faculty/798 4) Hong Kong University's opencourseware on critical thinking http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/