Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More on Critcial Thinking

I've run across some interesting (at least to me) articles related to Critical Thinking in the last couple weeks.  I'd like to share some of them with you because, A) they might be instructive as we continue work on the curriculum reform, and B) they might help us better understand and deal with some of our internal communication problems.  I have tagged everything under "elpcrithnk", so all of this is in the helpicu Google Reader, as well as in Delicious, but I know that many of you never look at what is being tagged, so here are the links:

1. Ideas from
Ryan Bretag  and Stephen Downes on the nature of Critical Thinking.  In the case of Bretag, he has compiled an amazing list of all the attributes of Critical Thinking that he has found so far from various sources.  Downes takes off from that with his own view of what makes up critical thinking.

2. An article by Barbara Fister,
"In the Teeth of the Evidence", which comments on some of the difficulties in teaching CT to university students, "Maybe instead of teaching rigorous analysis that tests ideas to see if they break, we need to put a little more emphasis on understanding them better first. A little more empathy and lot more respect for evidence could go a long way."

3. A draft paper by Peter Elbow, (referenced in Fister's article) about
The Believing Game,   In this paper he posits that in addition to "The Doubting Game", which is what he calls the kind of critical thinking that is the academic norm, we also need to develop the contrasting skills of looking for what is possibly good in ideas we aren't intuitively drawn to,
 "....critical thinking often helps us fend off criticisms of our ideas or ways of seeing. We see this problem in much academic and intellectual interchange. When smart people are trained only in the tradition of the doubting game, they get better and better at criticizing the ideas of others that they don’t like. They use this skill particularly well when they feel a threat to their ideas or unexamined assumptions. Yet they feel justified in fending-off what they don’t like because they feel they are engaged in "critical thinking." They take refuge in the feeling that they would be "unintellectual" if they said to an opponent what in fact they ought to say: "Your idea sounds really wrong to me. It must be alien to how I think. Let me try to enter into it and get a better perspective on my thinking--and see if there's something important that you can see that I can’t see.” In short, if we want to be good at finding flaws in our own thinking (a goal that doubters constantlytrumpet), we need the believing game."

4. Finally, a very interesting effort to create a (more or less) standardized test of critical thinking, which is being used by a number of US. liberal arts colleges and universities.    It is called the CLA Test, which stands for Collegiate Learning Assessment.  This 27 page pdf file explains the design of the test, gives examples of the question prompts, the evaluation rubrics, and samples of student responses.