Critical thinking is one of COD's General Education Outcomes.
As a faculty, we must design learning activities that provide opportunities for our students to gain the skills and abilities necessary to "effectively identify and challenge assumptions, develop and assess the viability of solutions, and provide a logically structured argument." Our expectation is that our graduating students "can make connections between subject areas and use interdisciplinary thinking to evaluate contemporary social issues."
Facione (2020) identifies six core skills and ten dispositions associated with critical thinking:
The following strategies and resources can assist you in teaching, reinforcing, and assessing critical thinking.
From Engaging Ideas
Comparing and contrasting and deducing assumptions and implications are higher-level cognitive operations. In order to encourage students to engage with their own assumptions and consider new and different ways of thinking, Bean suggests undermining "students' confidence in their own settled beliefs or assumptions" (29).
Asking students to critique or otherwise challenge an "older mistaken or inadequate" understanding of a concept helps students build new knowledge on top of existing understandings. Bean provides the following assignment as an example:
William G. Perry's stages of undergraduate cognitive development provide us with a model for understanding how students develop critical thinking skills. The first stage in Perry's scheme is "dualism" where students believe that there is a correct answer - things are black or they are white; they are right or they are wrong. At this stage, students expect knowledge to be deposited into their heads so that it can later be regurgitated wholesale. In order to help students develop into the later stages of cognitive development where opposing views exist simultaneously and multiple interpretations are embraced, create assignments that encourage students to engage in intellectual arguments that support, reject, or modify statements of knowledge.
If the University of Manchester's Academic Phrasebank is any indication, there are hundreds of academic writing "moves" that are common across disciplines. While these phrases might come across as overused or even stiff and awkward, they do demonstrate how writers engage in conversations with other texts.
One such example is a structure for writing argumentative and analytical essays called “They Say, I Say, My Critics Say, I Respond" from Simon Fraser University Library's "Templates for Structuring Argumentative Essays."
Bean provides similarly structured prototype templates:
Bean stresses that "writing assignments" can be anything from an essay to a minute-paper. The key here is that students are engaging with a problem.
Most problem solving methods are based on John Dewey's five step model of reflective thinking wherein students:
Reflective thinking helps learners develop higher-order thinking skills by prompting learners to a) relate new knowledge to prior understanding, b) think in both abstract and conceptual terms, c) apply specific strategies in novel tasks, and d) understand their own thinking and learning strategies. Students have the opportunity to question values and beliefs, challenge assumptions, recognize biases, acknowledge fears, and find areas of improvement.
Bean, John C., and Maryelellen Weimer. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. [ebook]
Brookfield, Stephen. Teaching for Critical Thinking: Tools and Techniques to Help Students Question Their Assumptions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012. [ebook]
hooks, bell. Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom. New York: Routledge, 2009. [ebook]
Lynch, Cindy L.. and Susan L. Wolcott. "Helping Your Students Develop Critical Thinking Skills" The Idea Center, Kansas State University, 2001. [PDF]
Nilson, Linda B. "Unlocking the Mystery of Critical Thinking." Faculty Focus. December 1, 2014.
Willingham, Daniel T. "Critical thinking: Why it is so hard to teach?" American Federation of Teachers. Summer 2007, p. 8-19 (2007).