Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking: Breakout Session Notes, Ppt, and Summary, Oct. 14, 2011 (Jim Garson)Posted: October 20, 2011 | |
Break Out Session: Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking
Richard Armstrong, Associate Professor, Modern and Classical Languages, and Fellow in the Honors Program
Rebecca Forrest, Instructional Assistant Professor, Physics
Lonny Hoffman, George Butler Research Professor of Law, UH Law Center
Maria Solino, Associate Professor of Spanish Literature and Film
Department of Hispanic Studies
Moderator: James Garson, Full Professor, Department of Philosophy
The panel began with an exercise asking all the participants to write out answers two questions (exercise and other ppt visual materials can be found here):
1. Give an example of an intellectual skill that qualifies as an example of critical thinking.
2. How do you help students master that intellectual skill?
Three or four answers to the first question were briefly discussed, and as expected, they illustrated very different intellectual abilities, among them, artistic creativity, seeing the value in another’s point of view, problem solving, and the ability to distinguish cause from mere correlation.
Then the panelists introduced themselves and explained how their own interests are connected to critical thinking.
At that point a brief, and then a very wordy, definition of critical thinking was offered as a way to try to focus on exactly what we are seeking when we hope to promote critical thinking. Almost every cognitive skill other than rote memorization has been classified as critical thinking by someone, and even memorization drills are classified as critical thinking in some websites. So the puzzle over what critical thinking is remains.
However, a discussion of specific critical thinking skills and how they can be promoted brought out some interesting themes related to aims in the classroom:
* to welcome asking and answering questions of the form: “What if?”, “How do we know?” and “Who cares?”
* to have the flexibility to suspend ones own beliefs, and to see the world from another’s point of view
* to be creative and voracious readers, with nuanced appreciation for ambiguity and novel context
* to be endlessly curious
* to welcome and to profit from being wrong
* to be able to evaluate the accuracy of sources of information, for example information found online
* to slow down, to see the wider view, to be circumspect and thoughtful
A common thread in many of these ideas is metacognition, or executive functioning, the ability to consciously evaluate one’s own learning process. Organizing classroom goals around opportunities to practice such talents is a great way to improve teaching effectiveness, and to promote valuable higher level thinking skills.