Encouraging Critical Thinking

As Unlocking the Mystery of Critical Thinking details, “most faculty don’t know what critical thinking is or how to teach it.” While we assume that critical thinking is an inevitable product of teaching any complex and demanding topic, that is not necessarily so. As the author argues, instructors must “explicitly and intentionally design their courses” to develop students’ critical thinking skills.

As the author explains, research affirms that for a course to promote critical thinking skills, it must incorporate interpretation or analysis, as well as evaluation or judgment, of content that students have had time and opportunity to master. The author provides suggestions for how to ensure that students meet the “eight standards for critical thinking,” which include clarity, precision, and logic.

One way to explicitly and intentionally design a course to promote critical thinking is to provide students with the opportunity to tackle open-ended questions and problems via a variety of assignments and activities, such as simulations, debates, and roleplaying. In addition, students’ development of critical thinking is also promoted when they receive feedback, such as through peer review. Finally, the author suggests that instructors strive to model critical thinking skills for students.