Blog Post: Theme of the 12th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking (Part 5 of 5)

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Nov 30, 2021 • 2y ago
Theme of the 12th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking (Part 5 of 5)

{"ops":[{"insert":"The following article appeared in the program for the 12"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking (1992) and discussed the theme of the event. It contained five sections:\n\n1. Introduction"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2. Three Essential Insights"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"3. Knowledge Is Embedded in Thinking"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"4. The Ability to Reason: A Defining Feature of Humans"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"5. Teaching and Assessing the Dimensions of Critical Thinking"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nThe fifth of these appears below.\n \nBreaking the concept of critical thinking into dimensions, into a number of "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"manageable parts, will make clearer the aspects of critical thinking that we want students to master. It is also intended to make clearer the ways we can teach for that mastery."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"The dimensions of critical thinking can be usefully divided into five categories: Elements of Reasoning, Reasoning Abilities, Modes of Reasoning, Traits of Mind, and Intellectual Standards."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"Elements of Reasoning"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"The elements of reasoning are the building blocks, the nuts and bolts out of"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" which all reasoning is constructed. As a teacher committed to advancing critical thinking, then, I will be redesigning my classes around the elements, at least in the sense that I want my students to become familiar with the terms for the elements and handy in using them. In a class that is well-versed in critical thinking, the various abilities to use the elements, consciously and explicitly, will come to seem natural, even second-nature. There are several such abilities:"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"1) "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"On the most basic level, students need to be able to "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"identify "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"and "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"recognize "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"elements of reasoning in their own and in others’ thinking. I will want to redesign my teaching so that students get better at picking out their assumptions, at pinpointing several relevant points of view on a multilogical problem, at spelling out clearly and precisely the question at issue."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"2 ) "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Students need "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"comprehension abilities "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"with respect to the elements of reasoning. They need to be able to compare various formulations of an assumption, say, in order to decide which is the more accurate. They need to be able to clarify their purpose, the conceptual dimension of their reasoning, or other elements."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"3) Application abilities "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"here include being able to use each of the elements insightfully in various contexts. Students can learn, for example, to take their evidence or their point of view on one issue and try them out on a different issue. They can apply the elements to a new topic, extrapolating from a familiarity with them in one area to an area they have not yet considered deeply."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"4) "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"The ability to "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"analyze "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"thinking in terms of the elements of reasoning cuts deeper than the ability to merely identify the elements. Students will become familiar with asking and answering questions like, “What other points of view is that assumption operative in?”, “What evidence supports this assumption, and what other implications would that assumption have?”, and “Why would that assumption be made?”"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"5) Synthesis abilities "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"center around students’ being able to integrate the elements within the reasoning process. Developed critical thinkers learn not just to take things apart in a reasonable fashion, but to put them back together, too. In the last analysis, I cannot fully reason about someone’s conclusions on an issue without taking account of her assumptions, her point of view, her purpose and the purposes of those around her, etc. Elements of thought do not exist as fragments apart from one another; rather, working together they constitute a logic of the thing being investigated. The ability to grasp the way the elements work together as a whole in a piece of reading, say, or in a unit of subject matter, is to begin to acquire a crucial synthesis ability."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"6) "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Students need to be able to "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"evaluate "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"the accuracy, the plausibility, the depth and breadth of the elements of thought in their own reasoning as well as in the reasoning of others. They need to be able to tell, and tell reasonably, whether an assumption is well-evidenced, whether a formulation of a particular question at issue is clear and precise enough, whether a person’s reasons merit drawing his conclusions. Assessment is at the heart of critical thinking, and assessment of the use of the elements of thought is at the heart of mastering the nuts and bolts of reasoning."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"7) "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Students need not just to be able to think critically about arguments and theories that are givens, finished. They also need to be able to "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"create "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"or "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"generate "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"rational arguments and reasonable theories themselves, and to do so by using the elements of thought. Students need to develop, in other words, a command over the elements of their own reasoning so that they can use them actively to write better-organized papers, to construct sound solutions to problems, to invent plausible explanations."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"Reasoning Abilities"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Critical thinking is sometimes called “higher order thinking skills.” Though this is not adequate as a full description of critical thinking (acquiring affective traits, for example, is an essential part of becoming a critical thinker), it does point up the centrality of abilities, skills – moves – [sic] in the development of critical thinking."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"In redesigning instruction, then, these abilities will often function as the direct goal of my teaching. How can I get my students better able to make interdisciplinary connections? To analyze and evaluate actions and policies? To clarify values and standards? That is, I will reason out my redesign as follows: These are critical thinking abilities that are crucial for my students to have both in school and outside of school. How can I better get them to acquire and develop these abilities?' How can I construct or modify lessons in my class so as to teach for these abilities?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"The abilities will also function in our redesigns as something more than goals. They function, in addition, as essential means toward the end of getting students to reason their way through the subject matter. Thus, to understand much of American history, students must acquire and develop an ability to compare and contrast American ideals with American practice. Without such an ability, it is impossible to think clearly and accurately about American history. Development of the ability, then, is an essential tool on the way toward thinking historically. In a class that deals with literature, students will similarly need the tool – the ability – of questioning deeply; raising and pursuing significant questions is an essential tool for reasoning through the insights contained in stories, poems, and plays. In both these cases, I will ask myself: Which critical thinking abilities are most central to reasoning through the subject matter, and how can I redesign my teaching of that subject matter so that students begin to develop and improve those abilities?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"Modes of Reasoning"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Much of what has been said about abilities applies to the modes of reasoning "},{"insert":"as well. The modes are in fact orchestrated groups of abilities, and each of them functions in redesigning classes both as ends and as means toward ends. To read, write, speak, and listen – and to do each of these critically – to question ourselves or others Socratically, are all clearly worthwhile – indeed, essential – ends in themselves. That is, they clearly embody the integration of critical thinking abilities and the probing of elements of thought, and they are a major part of what every "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"reasoning person needs to be able to do well. The same is true of the ability to work and learn in groups, collaboratively, using our peers as resources in our learning. Finally, this is also true of role playing. To enter empathetically into other"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"people’s points of view, to follow the reasoning of others, whether we agree with them or not, to see things from different cultural perspectives, from different historical frameworks — all these examples of role playing are essential parts of living in a pluralistic society. Thus role playing, like the other modes, is fruitfully seen as a direct goal of our teaching."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"But each of the modes is a means as well as an end in itself. Indeed, it would be hard to underestimate their importance as the pervasive means by which classes run. My students will not be able to reason about social studies without well-developed abilities to read critically and to write critically. They will not be able to reason deeply about social studies without well-developed abilities to question themselves about the elements of their thought and to enter empathetically into other social perspectives. Therefore, when I redesign my social studies classes, I will constantly be asking myself: How can I best use the mode of critical reading to help students gain insight into this subject matter? What critical writing assignments could I give students to augment the understanding they have gained so far? Which of the concepts we are studying would be most usefully taught by means of Socratic questioning? How can role playing be used in the most advantageous way?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"Traits of Mind"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Critical thinking, in the last analysis, is not equivalent to a set of abilities or skills or actions. In a deeper sense, each of these is rooted not in what a person does but in what a person is. Thinking critically is rooted in being a critical thinker."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"The group of traits is intended to capture the central aspects of what a critical thinker is. Traits like intellectual perseverance, fairmindedness, and intellectual independence are not peripheral dimensions of critical thinking. They are what make exercise of the critical thinking abilities and modes possible. That is, if you willing to persevere in your attempts at reasoning, if you are not fairminded in giving equal weight to evidence whether it supports your preconceptions or opposes them, if you are not independent enough to draw your own conclusions rather than simply accepting the conclusions of others, then you will not be able to read or write critically, you will not be able to reason dialogically, you will not be able to evaluate people’s arguments or their beliefs. Development of the abilities and modes requires the concomitant development of the intellectual traits that make the abilities and modes possible."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"A major part of teaching for critical thinking, then, is redesigning our instruction so that we promote development of traits of mind. Sometimes this will occur almost automatically in a classroom that is geared toward teaching for critical thinking. Thus in all classes where students voice conflicting views, especially about controversial issues, a general climate of intellectual civility and intellectual integrity has to be standard operating procedure. Otherwise, strong-sense critical thinking will be squelched at the outset. But in addition to setting a general climate where the free interchange of ideas can take place, teachers can redesign lessons so that a particular cluster of traits is actively and explicitly fostered. Students can be assigned, for example, to discuss Socratically the concept of intellectual civility; they can write group papers on its importance; they can spell out how you tell if a person is being intellectually civil or intellectually rude."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"Intellectual Standards"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Intellectual standards are a pervasive, constant part of teaching for critical thinking. Thinking that qualifies as critical thinking is thinking that is clear, accurate, relevant to the question at issue, fair, etc. Standards like these and the others on the list are implicit in all the ways we talk about critical thinking: where standards are not explicitly stated, they are presupposed. We sometimes say, for instance, that students need to learn to identify their assumptions, or to generate solutions; what we mean, of course, is that students need to learn to identify assumptions accurately, to generate solutions that are relevant."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Though standards are implicit in all considerations of critical thinking, they are much more effectively taught if they are made explicit. Part of the redesign of any instruction will appropriately include the standards we will use in assessing the reasoning in that lesson. As a teacher, I will want my students to become clear about the standards relevant to critical thinking at their level, and I will try to design classes and assignments that help students to understand these standards and to internalize them."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"Assessing Student Reasoning"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"To assess student reasoning requires that we focus our attention as teachers on two inter-related dimensions of reasoning. The first dimension consists of the "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"elements"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"of reasoning; "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"the second dimension consists of the "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"universal intellectual standards "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"by which we measure student ability to use, in a skillful way, each of those elements of reasoning."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"Elements of Reasoning. "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Once we progress from thought which is purely associational and undisciplined, to thinking which is conceptual and inferential, thinking which attempts in some intelligible way to figure something out, in short, to reasoning, then it is helpful to concentrate on what can be called “the elements of reasoning.” The elements of reasoning are those essential dimensions of reasoning whenever and wherever it occurs. Working together, they shape reasoning and provide a general logic to the use of reason. We can articulate these elements by paying close attention to what is implicit in the act of figuring anything out by the use of reason. These elements, then – purpose, question at issue, assumptions, inferences, implications, point of view, concepts and evidence – constitute a central focus in the assessment of student thinking."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"Standards of Reasoning. "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"When we assess student reasoning, we want to evaluate, in a reasonable, defensible, objective way, not just "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"that "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"students are reasoning, but "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"how well "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"they are reasoning. We will be assessing not just that they are using the elements of reasoning, but the degree to which they are using them well, critically, in accord with appropriate intellectual standards."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"To assess a student response, whether written or oral, in structured discussion of content or in critical response to reading assignments, by how "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"clearly "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"or "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"completely "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"it states a position, is to assess it on the basis of a standard of reasoning. Similarly, assessing student work by how "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"logically "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"and "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"consistently "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"it defends its position, by how "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"flexible and fair "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"the student is in articulating other points of view, by how "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"significant "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"and "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"realistic "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"the student’s purpose is, by how "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"precisely "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"and "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"deeply "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"the student articulates the question at issue — each of these is an evaluation based on standards of reasoning."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Distinct from such reasoning standards are other standards that teachers sometimes use to assess student work. To evaluate a student response on the basis of how concisely or elegantly it states a position is to use standards that are inappropriate to assessing student reasoning. Similarly unrelated to the assessment of reasoning is evaluating student work by how humorous, glib, personal or sincere it is, by how much it agrees with the teacher’s views, by how “well-written” it is, by how exactly it repeats the teacher’s words, by the mere quantity of information it contains. The danger is that such standards are often conflated with reasoning standards, often unconsciously, and students are assessed on grounds other than the degree to which they are reasoning well."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"The conference theme focuses, as we hope you can see, on a much neglected but essential dimension, indeed the "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":"fundamental "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"dimension, of education: the cultivation of reasoning minds through a process of discipline that deeply involves the internalization of intellectual standards."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"}]}

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