Development Module on
By Vicky Lara, El Paso Community College
purpose of this module is to provide a series of annotated web sites for
educators interested in exploring critical thinking in order to incorporate
it to a greater extent into their teaching. To that effect, the selections
in this module are of a more practical than theoretical basis. However,
some theory has been included in the section on definition and basic concepts
to ensure that the module provides a sound theoretical foundation for
Section l: Critical Thinking History and Definition
Thus Peter Facione begins his clever exploration of the
definition of critical thinking by guiding the reader's own use of the
process in the essay, "Critical Thinking: What Is It and Why It Counts”
The article "A Brief History of the Idea of Critical Thinking" by Richard Paul and Linda Elder of the Critical Thinking Consortium (http://www.criticalthinking.org/University/cthistory.html) explains how the philosophical traditions of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle gave rise to the critical thinking processes we teach today:
Their website http://www.criticalthinking.org/ncect.html offers a wealth of information including “A Draft Statement of Principles” which briefly delineates the history of critical thinking from Socrates to the present; the goals of the Council, which are applicable to all interested in implementing critical thinking; and its founding principles, excellent general guidelines for any CT program.
There are as many definitions of critical thinking as
there are writers about it. Therefore, it is helpful to look at a variety
of definitions to fully understand the breadth and relevance of the term.
Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum, a project developed by Longview
Community College in Lee's Summit, MO provides a wide selection of definitions
from educators, educational associations, and other websites that range
from pithy to descriptive statements of attributes and characteristics.
"The purpose of critical thinking is, therefore,
to achieve understanding, evaluate view points, and solve problems. Since
all three areas involve the asking of questions, we can say that critical
thinking is the questioning or inquiry we engage in when we seek to understand,
evaluate, or resolve."
Critical Thinking is “the art of thinking about
your thinking while you are thinking in order to make your thinking better:
more clear, more accurate, and more defensible.”
“Critical thinking is ‘reasonably and reflectively
deciding what to believe or do.’”
Critical Thinking Core Concepts
Section 2: Web Use Criteria for Critical Thinking
It is often
difficult to provide students with an in-depth guide to evaluate web resources.
presents very down to earth, clear suggestions and practice exercises
for using critical thinking while on the web. It incorporates actual sources
to be read and analyzed from the point of view of “accuracy, authorship,
purpose, detail and design, and overall value.” The multiplicity
of exercises available will make it appealing to most students. The exercises
require brief, but pointed responses. It is appropriate for individual
Thinking in an Online World” addresses the difficulty of refining
research skills and selecting valid materials from the librarians’
point of view. It states, “The librarian would serve the student
best if we taught the process of defining the information query, of designing
the entire research strategy, and then moved on to selection and evaluation
of research tools.” Instead, many times the librarian thinks for
the students and presents them with the search engines and terms they
will need to carry out their research.
Section 3: A Critical Thinking Process
discusses the basic elements of CT and relates them to Bloom’s Taxonomy.
In addition, it stresses the need for instruction and student activity
to progress from lower to higher levels of critical analysis. It makes
clear that without a careful progression, students will be unable to complete
the required tasks successfully. A psychology course is used as an example
of an appropriate progression throughout a semester and of the support
built into the CT developmental stages.
In a related
vein, Richards J. Heuer’s Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, though
written for the CIA, offers an excellent book-length, online text on intelligence.
“ Part II – Tools” and “Part III – Cognitive
Biases” are of particular interest to CT scholars.
several sites that could fill just about any need because of the breadth
of their offerings. These are wonderful sites for beginners or for those
with limited search time.
School Library Media Center is one of these sites. Although some of its
links are to commercial sites, the wealth of materials available here
cancels out this drawback. This site offers general information, lesson
plans, and bibliographies. For example, it offers 13 sites under general
sites, eleven sites for lesson plans – many from AskEric, links
for K – 12 as well as for colleges and universities, and annotated
bibliographies on a variety of topics – a media specialist’s
introductory guide, a bibliography for TalentEd (gifted education). By
itself, it is almost a mini-clearinghouse.
from San Jose State has less depth, but equal breadth. For online perusal,
click on the icon for 1996-1998. Although it is the original site, it
offers in-depth information about all aspects of the critical thinking
process, i. e., statements, induction/deduction, vagueness and ambiguity,
and fallacies, to name just a few. It has an extensive section for graphic
organizers, and exercises and quizzes with explanations of the answers.
This last feature makes it a perfect choice for students who need to work
Handbooks and Guides
Critical Thinking Handbook is available online. Each
chapter in the handbook offers both theory and applications. Sample chapter
headings are “Critical Thinking and Argument,” Analyzing Argument,”
and “The Fallacies.” Particularly helpful for beginners is
“Chapter Two: Characterizing Critical Thinking.” This chapter
defines CT and explains thinking skills; its exposition of “Goal
Pursuit Skills,” “Criteria Recognition Skills,” and
“Option Evaluation Skills” is exceptional and enlightening.
on the web, many students still prefer and request a written version.
Section 5: Implementation Strategies and Recommendations
heading “Tactical and Structural Recommendations,” this site
offers 13 practical suggestions for incorporating critical thinking into
the regular classroom activities. All are easy to carry out. For example,
it recommends “Speak[ing] less so that they think more” and
questioning students “Socratically: probing various dimensions of
their thinking: their purpose, their evidence, reasons, data, their claims,
beliefs, interpretations, deductions, conclusions, the implications and
consequences of their thought, their response to alternative thinking
from contrasting points of view, and so on.”
The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory,
under Critical Thinking Skills, offers “35 dimensions of critical
thought.” It classifies the strategies in the list into Affective
Strategies (exercising fairmindedness, developing intellectual courage),
Cognitive Strategies (refining generalizations and avoiding oversimplifications,
questioning deeply: raising and pursuing root or significant questions),
and Cognitive Strategies – Micro-Skills (comparing and contrasting
ideals with actual practice, exploring implications and consequences).
Any student capable of putting most of the 35 dimensions into effect would
be an accomplished critical thinker; any educator capable of incorporating
most of the 35 dimensions into a course’s work would be a consummate
advocate of critical thinking.
in “Strategies for Teaching Critical Thinking,” an Eric Digest,
presents the basics of critical thinking instruction concisely and simply.
She also provides practical suggestions for classroom implementation.
In particular, she focuses on “three specific strategies.”
The first, Building Categories, “is an inductive reasoning tool
that helps students categorize information by discovering the rules rather
than merely memorizing them.” The second, Finding Problems, encourages
the educator to attempt “to present more ‘real-life’
problems” instead of the classic, but unrealistic, problems encountered
in most textbooks. The third, Enhancing the Environment, discusses classroom
adaptations to encourage critical thinking.
Section 6: Activities and Lesson Plans
has unending possibilities for activities and lesson plans. Through its
alphabetized site search, an educator can discover a plethora of appropriate
materials for almost any discipline or topic. Each classification offers
site provides lessons and activities on a wide variety of topics and areas
of study, i.e., arts and literature, math, science, etc. It offers detailed
lesson plans based on PBS programming. It is well thought out. It includes
video excerpts; primary sources, i.e., “Letter from Camp to Coldwell,
1818”; explicit instructions and examples; and resources and a teaching
guide for each activity.
Critical Mind is a Questioning Mind: Learning How to Ask Powerful, Probing
Section 7: Reworking Existing Activities and Lesson Plans
presents an idea for taking an existing lesson plan and “remodeling”
it to incorporate critical thinking skills based on the 35 dimensions
of critical thought (See
offers short and long versions of how he integrated critical thinking
into his developmental biology class by ‘explicitly discussing the
logic and thought processes that inform experimental methods.’”
Although focusing on science, the processes followed here are applicable,
with some modification, to all disciplines.
Section 8: Assessing Critical Thinking
For a comprehensive
and insightful tool for assessing student work, refer to this site. It
offers “The Critical Thinking Rubric,” an instrument which
“articulates seven dimensions of CT….acts as a diagnostic
measure for student progress….[and] demystifies the expectations
of instructors for students.” Whether used as a whole or in part,
as is or modified, this rubric clearly delineates for the student the
bases of evaluation of his/her
Intellectual Standards to Assess Student Reasoning” also presents
guidelines for assessment. It posits two “dimensions of reasoning”:
1) Elements of Reasoning, i.e., purpose, inferences, evidence, etc., and
2) Standards of Reasoning, i.e., clarity, logic, consistency, flexibility
and fairness, significance of purpose, and precision and depth.
"The Role of Questions in Thinking, Teaching and Learning" from the Center for Critical Thinking http://www.criticalthinking.org/University/univclass/roleofquest.html
Study of 38 Public Universities and 28 Private Universities
To Determine Faculty Emphasis on Critical Thinking In Instruction