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Critical Thinking Application

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Critical Thinking Application

Timothy A. McNulty

University of Phoenix

Livonia Campus

MGT 350

Joel G. Bussell

June 26, 2007

Teaching higher order thinking skills is not a recent need. It is apparent that students, at all levels of education, are lagging in problem-solving and thinking skills. Fragmentation of thinking skills, however, may be the result of critical thinking courses and texts. Every course, especially in content subjects, students should be taught to think logically, analyze and compare, question and evaluate.

Implications for Teaching

Thinking must be practiced in each content field at each educational level. For the teacher, this means hard work. To teach students to memorize facts and then assess them with multiple-choice tests is a much easier choice to make. In a course that emphasizes thinking, objectives must include application and analysis, different thinking, and opportunities to organize ideas and support judgments. (Carr, 1990)

Critical thinking across the disciplines share common features.

1. Critical thinking is a learnable skill with teachers and peers serving as resources.

2. Problems, questions, and issues serve as the source of motivation for the learner.

3. Courses are assignment centered rather than text or lecture oriented.

4. Goals, methods, and evaluation emphasize using content rather than simply acquiring it.

5. Students need to formulate and justify their ideas in writing.

6. Students collaborate to learn and enhance their thinking. (Jones, 1996)

These ideas are easily relevant to the online setting. Teachers must refocus their thinking away from individual mastery of the resources. The focus should be instead on teaching the process of information unearthing within the learner's own related meaning. There has been developed a self-paced "laboratory" course for practicing critical thinking skills. The objective is for the student to explore the information resources of the Internet, using the attributes of a critical thinker. The criteria for critical thinking are:

1. Distinguish between fact and opinion.

2. Examine the assumptions, including ones own.

3. Be flexible and when looking for explanations, causes, and solutions to problems.

4. Be aware of erroneous arguments, vagueness, and controlling reasoning.

5. Stay focused on the whole picture, while examining the specifics.

6. Look for reputable sources.

The instructional design parameters for self-paced instruction included these factors:

1. Instructional objectives stated initially to the learner.

2. The learner selects his or her own path of inquiry.

3. Small steps, with the necessary tools introduced only as they are needed.

4. Frequent student interaction, requiring high level cognitive involvement.

5. Alternative paths available for variable levels of involvement or usefulness.

In research, there is no right or wrong process; although there are many heuristics that can be passed on. Appropriate use of information requires that we see knowledge acquirement as fluid and varying. (Jones, 1996)

Critical Reading

Teaching students to think while reading--critical reading--should be central to any discussion of thinking skills. This is in part because the reading of textbooks has such an important role in the content fields. Critical reading is defined as learning to assess, draw inferences and arrive at conclusions based on the evidence.

Critical Arguments

Following are basic steps in critically analyzing arguments:

a. Break down the argument into premise/conclusion form. Is there an argument?

b. If an argument is present - what sort of argument? Is it deductive or inductive? If the argument is deductive: does it follow valid structure? If the argument is inductive, does it avoid the fallacies of inductive arguments? If the argument is an analogical argument - does it avoid becoming an analogy?

c. Consider the explicit, stated premises of the argument: are they obviously true? Are these premises generally acknowledged to be true - or accepted only by people who subscribe to a given worldview?

d. Consider the conclusion the argument attempts to establish. If someone stands to gain something of importance from acceptance of the argument



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