Blog Post: "Critical Thinking and the State of Education Today" [Part 1 of 8 - "Understanding Substantive Critical Thinking / Avoiding the Growing List of Counterfeits”]

Richard Paul Archives
Feb 02, 2021 • 72d ago
"Critical Thinking and the State of Education Today" [Part 1 of 8 - "Understanding Substantive Critical Thinking / Avoiding the Growing List of Counterfeits”]

{"ops":[{"insert":"This article was published in the Winter 1996 issue of Sonoma State University’s "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines "},{"insert":"(vol. 16, no. 2) and was titled, “Critical Thinking and the State of Education Today.” The piece was divided into eight sections:\n\n“Understanding Substantive Critical Thinking / Avoiding the Growing List of Counterfeits”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“No One Definition But A Common Core of Meaning”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“A Brief History of the Idea of Critical Thinking”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The State of the Field Today: Three Waves of Research, With Little Sense of History”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The First Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1970-1996 / Formal & Informal Logic Courses"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The Second Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1980-1996 / Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum Across the Grades”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The Third Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1985- / Depth & Comprehensiveness in Theory & Practice”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" “Conclusion”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nThe first of these sections appears below.\n \n\nIt is now generally recognized that the art of thinking critically is a"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" major missing link in education today, and that effective communication and problem-solving skills, as well as mastery of content require critical thinking. It is now generally conceded that the ability to think critically becomes more and more important to success in life as the pace of change continues to accelerate and as complexity and interdependence continue to intensify. It is also generally understood that some major changes in instruction will have to take place to shift the overarching emphasis of student learning from rote memorization to effective critical thinking (as the primary tool of learning)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"It is not so clear to most educators how to bring this important shift"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" about, nor what instruction should look like afterwards. All too often the phrase \"critical thinking\" is nothing more than a vague place-holder for any of a miscellany of changes and/or conceptions of change. All too often, the phrase is used so imprecisely that no one knows exactly what is being said nor how to assess its unclarified effect. For example, results of recent large-scale research into faculty knowledge of critical thinking conducted by the Center For Critical Thinking For the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and encompassing 75 colleges and universities included the following general conclusions about the involvement of randomly chosen faculty in fostering critical thinking in their instruction:"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"1) Though the overwhelming majority claimed critical thinking to be a"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" primary objective of their instruction (89%), only a small minority could give a clear explanation of what critical thinking is (19%). Furthermore, according to their answers, only 9% of the respondents were clearly teaching for critical thinking on a typical day in class."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2) Though the overwhelming majority (78%) claimed that their students lacked appropriate intellectual standards (to use in assessing their thinking), and 73 % considered that students learning to assess their own work was"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" of primary importance, only a very small minority (8%) could enumerate any intellectual criteria or standards they required of students or could give an intelligible explanation of what those criteria and standards were."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"3) While 50% of those interviewed said that they explicitly distinguish"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" critical thinking skills from traits, only 8% were able to provide a clear conception of the critical thinking skills they thought were most important for their students to develop. Furthermore the overwhelming majority (75%) provided either minimal or vague allusion (33%) or no illusion at all (42%) to intellectual traits of mind."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"4) When asked how they conceptualized truth, a surprising 41% of"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" those who responded to the question said that knowledge, truth and sound judgment are fundamentally a matter of personal preference or subjective taste."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"5) Although the majority (67%) said that their concept of critical"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" thinking is largely explicit in their thinking, only 19% could elaborate on their concept of thinking."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"6) Although the vast majority (89%) stated that critical thinking was of"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" primary importance to their instruction, 77% of the respondents had little, limited or no conception of how to reconcile content coverage with the fostering of critical thinking."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"7) Although the overwhelming majority (81%) feIt that their department's graduates develop a good or high level of critical thinking ability while"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" in their program, only 20% said that their departments had a shared approach to critical thinking, and only 9% were able to clearly articulate how they would assess the extent to which a faculty member was or was not fostering critical thinking. The remaining respondents had a limited conception or no conception at all of how to do this."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"8) Although the vast majority (89%) stated that critical thinking was of"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" primary importance to their instruction, only a very small minority could clearly explain the meanings of basic terms in critical thinking. For example, only 8% could clearly differentiate between an assumption and an inference, and only 4% could differentiate between an inference and an implication."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"9) Only a very small minority (9%) mentioned the special and/or"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" growing need for critical thinking today in virtue of the complexities inherent in human life. Not a single respondent elaborated on the issue."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"10) In explaining their views of critical thinking, the overwhelming"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" majority (69%) made either no allusion at all, or a minimal allusion, to the need for greater emphasis on peer and student self-assessment in instruction."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"11) From either hard data directly, or from minimal inference from"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" those data, it is clear that a significant percentage of faculty interviewed (and, if representative, most faculty):"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • do not understand the connection of critical thinking to intellectual standards."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • are not able to clarify major intellectual criteria and standards."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • inadvertently confuse the active involvement of students in classroom activities with critical thinking in those activities."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • are unable to give an elaborated articulation of their concept of critical thinking."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • cannot provide plausible examples of how they foster critical thinking in the classroom."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • are not able to name specific critical thinking skills they think are important for students to learn."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • are not able to plausibly explain how to reconcile covering content with fostering critical thinking."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • do not consider reasoning as a significant focus of critical thinking."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • do not think of reasoning within disciplines as a major focus of instruction."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • cannot specify basic structures essential to the analysis of reasoning."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • cannot give an intelligible explanation of basic abilities either in critical thinking or in reasoning."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • do not distinguish the psychological dimension of thought from the intellectual dimension."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • have had no involvement in research into critical thinking and have not attended any conferences on the subject."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" • are unable to name a particular theory or theorist that has shaped their concept of critical thinking."},{"attributes":{"indent":3},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Critical thinking is too important, the reforms it makes possible too"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" essential, to leave the concept to the vagaries of faculty \"intuition.\" We can not legitimately assume that knowledge of how to teach for critical thinking is an automatic by-product of the acquisition of a PhD. Of course, some might defend faculty against the charge of faculty chaos in teaching for critical thinking by arguing that since the \"experts\" do not agree on a \"definition\" of critical thinking, faculty should themselves be free to adopt any view – or by implication no view – of critical thinking."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"This will not do, for though there is no one common definition of critical"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" thinking accepted by all those who have seriously studied critical thinking, there is a common core of meaning reflected both in the multiplicity of definitions and in the history of the concept. Let us look briefly, then, into why the absence of a universally shared definition of critical thinking on the part of scholars is not a significant problem, both conceptually and historically. I shall argue presently that the problem is not that of common definition, but a general lack of knowledge of the history of the concept and a lack of discipline-based coordination of research."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"}]}

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