Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person

22 Jan

There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the state of education in America. A lot of that dissatisfaction comes from the belief that the education system fails to actually educate children and to teach them critical thinking skills. The University of Maine at Augusta defines an educated person:

An educated person exhibits knowledge and wisdom; recognizes and respects the diversity of nature and society; demonstrates problem solving skills; engages in planning and managing practices; navigates the on-line world; writes and speaks well; acts with integrity; and appreciates the traditions of art, culture, and ideas. Developing these abilities is a life-long process. http://www.uma.edu/educatedperson.html

Essential to this definition is the development of critical thinking skills.

Melinda Burns writes in the Miller-McCune article, No Debate: Kids Can Learn By Arguing about Columbia professor Deanna Kuhn’s assertion that developing debate skills in children helps to develop critical thinking skills.

But how do kids become deep thinkers? To find out, Kuhn, who’s the author of a book titled Education for Thinking, and Amanda Crowell, a doctoral candidate at Columbia’s Teachers College, set up an experiment at a public middle school in Harlem. Forty-eight students, mostly Latinos and blacks, took philosophy classes twice a week for three years, from sixth through eighth grades, and every year debated four new subjects. The kids became experts on, for example, home schooling, animal rights, the sale of human organs, and China’s one-child policy. Under a coach’s supervision, they chose one side or another on an issue and tried to anticipate their opponents’ arguments. They often debated in pairs — not face to face, but online, in a sort of Socratic inquiry via Google Chat. By debating electronically, the students were able to consult each other and reflect before firing off comebacks.

At first, as each new topic was introduced, the researchers were startled: the youngsters were clueless about complexity. (“Prisoners, not animals, should be used in medical research because prisoners are guilty and animals are innocent!”) And early in the experiment, the kids showed no interest in the written questions and answers offered by their coaches. By the end of year two, though, they had developed a thirst for evidence.

As each quarter drew to an end, students held a “showdown,” a verbal debate where every three minutes, two new students — one from each side — would rotate into the hot seat. During the post-showdown debriefing, coaches awarded points for good moves (counterarguments and rebuttals), took away points for bad moves (unwarranted assumptions and unconnected responses), and declared the winning side.

All the while, a separate group of 23 students at the school studied philosophy in a more traditional way, using a textbook. Their teacher led discussions; the students rarely broke into sides, or held formal debates. They never argued online, but they wrote a lot in class — 14 essays apiece per year, compared to four in the experimental group.

At the end of every year, as a test of their progress, the students wrote essays on a subject neither group had ever discussed: seniority-based pay versus equal pay for teachers. At the end of the third year, everyone wrote an essay on whether family members and doctors should assist in euthanasia.

Hands down, the winners were the students in the experimental group — even though they’d had much less practice writing. By the end of year one, researchers found, two-thirds of the students in that group were considering and addressing opposing arguments in their written essays—a skill demonstrated by only 38 percent of the students in the comparison group. By the end of the third year, nearly 80 percent of the students in the experimental group were writing essays that identified and weighed opposing views in an argument. Less than 30 percent of the students in the comparison group were doing so.

http://www.miller-mccune.com/education/no-debate-kids-can-learn-by-arguing-38932/

The key is developing the idea that facts should be used to support an opinion.

The Critical Thinking Community has several great articles about critical thinking at their site. In the section, Defining Critical Thinking:

A Definition
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.

The Result

A well cultivated critical thinker:

  • raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and
    precisely;
  • gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to
    interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought,
    recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.  (Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008). http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766

The question is how to teach critical thinking skills.

David Carnes wrote the excellent Livestrong article, How to Build Critical Thinking Skills in Children.

Critical thinking skills are typically developed over a long period of time through educational exercises designed to develop them. Because critical thinking is a lifelong habit, critical thinking skills are best developed during childhood.

Step 1

Having your child read passages of some length in which the author argues a point and then reaches a conclusion that others may dispute. Although political commentary is ideal for this purpose, it is best to choose a passage that does not require background knowledge that your child is unfamiliar with.

Step 2

Quiz your child after each passage to make sure that she understands the facts upon which the argument is based. Although the memorization of facts does not constitute critical thinking, it is the starting point from which critical thinking may proceed.

Step 3

Make your child think analytically. Analytical thinking involves the ability to recognize patterns and separate ideas into components, according to Elizabeth Shaunessy, assistant professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of South Florida. Ask your child questions about the passages he reads that are designed to test these abilities. For example, you might have your child rank several passages according to their degree of relevance to a particular topic touched upon by all of them.

Step 4

Encourage your child to think synthetically. Shaunessy describes synthetic thinking as the ability to generalize, reach conclusions and use information in a new way. Have your child read several passages about related topics, and then ask her a question that is not directly answered by any of the passages. Your child will then have to use the information in the passage to answer the question without parroting the author’s thinking.

Step 5

Test your child’s ability to make judgments. Evaluative thinking is the ability to choose the best among several options that each have advantages and disadvantages, and to examine opinions for bias. Have your child read “for” and “against” passages on the same subject, and ask him to choose which one he agrees with and say why. Then ask him to take the opposite point of view and give arguments that an opponent could use against his opinion.

Step 6

Engage your child in an activity that is interesting and that regularly employs critical thinking skills. This activity need not be verbal–it may be mathematical or even musical. Dave Rusin, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Northern Illinois University, notes that music always has an underlying mathematical structure. If your child has an interest in music, you could encourage her to compose her own music using either musical notation or computer software that graphically represents musical structure.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/167563-how-to-build-critical-thinking-skills-in-children/#ixzz1kB28AgFS

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

Aristotle

The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Derek Bok

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

 

9 Responses to “Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person”

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  1. Report from Center for American Progress report: Kids say school is too easy « drwilda - July 10, 2012

    […] Melinda Burns writes in the Miller-McCune article, No Debate: Kids Can Learn By Arguing about Columbia professor Deanna Kuhn’s assertion that developing debate skills in children helps to develop critical thinking skills. http://www.miller-mccune.com/education/no-debate-kids-can-learn-by-arguing-38932/ The key is developing the idea that facts should be used to support an opinion. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-perso… […]

  2. Personal learning networks (PLNs) and education « drwilda - July 15, 2012

    […] Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-perso… […]

  3. Is ‘texting’ destroying literacy skills « drwilda - July 30, 2012

    […] Essential to this definition is the development of critical thinking skills. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-perso… […]

  4. Affirmative action, critical mass, critical thinking, and groupthink « Comments From An Old Fart - October 7, 2012

    […] communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems. Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.  (Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008). http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766 https://drwilda.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-person/ […]

  5. According to SAT report many kids aren’t ready for college | drwilda - September 26, 2013

    […] In Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person, moi said: There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the state of education in America. A lot of that dissatisfaction comes from the belief that the education system fails to actually educate children and to teach them critical thinking skills. K-12 education must not only prepare students by teaching basic skills, but they must prepare students for training after high school, either college or vocational. There should not only be a solid education foundation established in K-12, but there must be more accurate evaluation of whether individual students are “college ready.” https://drwilda.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-person/ […]

  6. Transitional courses: Trying to prepare poorly educated high schoolers for college | drwilda - February 20, 2014

    […] In Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person, moi said: There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the state of education in America. A lot of that dissatisfaction comes from the belief that the education system fails to actually educate children and to teach them critical thinking skills. K-12 education must not only prepare students by teaching basic skills, but they must prepare students for training after high school, either college or vocational. There should not only be a solid education foundation established in K-12, but there must be more accurate evaluation of whether individual students are “college ready.” https://drwilda.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-person/ […]

  7. Yale study: Internet makes folks feel smarter than they are | drwilda - June 7, 2015

    […] Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. (Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008). http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766 https://drwilda.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-person/ […]

  8. Comments from an OLD BLACK FART: Pressitutes not journalists | Comments From An Old Fart - October 31, 2015

    […] Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. (Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008). http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766 https://drwilda.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-person/ […]

  9. Comments from an OLD BLACK FART: Pressitutes not journalists | drwilda - October 31, 2015

    […] Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. (Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008). http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766 https://drwilda.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-person/ […]

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