Two weeks ago I did my first Psychology of Education blog post on Creativity in the Classroom. In that blog post I talked about how encouraging creativity at a young age increases the ability to think outside the box; a trait known as ‘divergent thinking’. Critical thinking on the other hand encourages reason, analyzing and evaluation when decision making. This week I’ll be discussing Critical Thinking in educational institutes.
While most people have an understanding of what critical thinking is, there are two different popular definitions from Robert Ennis and Richard Paul respectively. Ennis defined critical thinking as “reasonable and reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do” (Ennis, 2011), while Paul has defined critical thinking as “the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it… Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking” (Elder & Paul, 2006). Out of these two, the more widely used is the Paulian approach, in which will be used in this blog post, as it was deemed to be the best definition used by Forawi.
A 2016 study by Sufian A. Forawi states that “the teaching of critical thinking is important for all students in all subjects. Different disciplines are characterized by particular approaches to critical thinking, and a large part of studying those disciplines means learning to think like an expert of that discipline” (Forawi, 2016). In which, disciplines centered around evidence based science (like this class) are particularly prone to supporting and encouraging critical thinking skill development. Forawi goes on to further state that critical thinking is advantageous at all grades and all teaching, however its apparent that teachers simply “do not know how to teach critical thinking skills” and that the best way to teach these skills is to build on prior knowledge the students already have while tailoring the learning experience on an individual basis (Forawi, 2016).
Forawi’s study was based on understanding what the perceptions of critical thinking was to pre-service teachers, where two questions were answered:
- How do science teachers perceive the way science education standards are linked to critical thinking?
- What critical thinking attributes are associated with science education standards objectives and benchmarks?
The results concluded that objectives and benchmarks themselves as an educational framework do not work, and that new proven methods have to be implemented for the beneficial effects of critical thinking to work. It was also found that critical thinking skills are developed best in societal-oriented standards where learning is “open-ended and guided”. The open-endedness allows students to discuss and communicate their own critical thinking processes, where another study goes to support Forawi’s evidence by stating that “critical thinking enables students to become independent lifelong learners who most likely can develop and progress to become better citizens” (Abrami et al., 2008). The emphasis of the study is on the contribution peer interactions have on developing critical thinking skills, where traditional teaching methods of preserving an organized classroom and delivering a content based curriculum pales in comparison in promoting critical thinking skills and student individuality.
In conclusion; instating and encouraging critical thinking skills into students is best achieved through recognizing student individuality without a content based curriculum. Peer interactions are also well recognized as encouraging students to think critically as well.
Thanks for reading this (rushed) blog post! 🙂
Abrami, P. C., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Surkes, M. A., Tamim, R., & Zhang, D. (2008). Instructional interventions affecting critical thinking skills and dispositions: A stage 1 meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 1102-1134.
Ennis, R. H. (2011). The nature of critical thinking: An outline of critical thinking dispositions and abilities. Robert H. Ennis’ Academic Web Site. Recuperado el, 20.
Forawi, S. A. (2016). Standard-based science education and critical thinking. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 20, 52-62.
Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2006). The miniature guide to critical thinking: Concepts & tools. Foundation Critical Thinking.