CRITICAL THINKING DRAFT 12/15/04
Critical Thinking includes such skills as identification of arguments, identification of assumptions, distinguishing between premises and conclusions, identifying fallacies, distinguishing between inductive and deductive arguments, distinguishing between explanations and descriptions, and application of forms of reasoning to various disciplines and to critical analysis of everyday arguments in terms of structure and shape. These skills are fundamental to higher education, and are the desired outcomes of a university education. At the same time, they are habits of mind which need development.
These skills are developed gradually, over the course of the individualís learning. It is possible to identify several distinct stages in the development of critical thinking skills.
The first of these levels is that of simple comprehension: the ability to understand what is being presented, as evidenced by the ability to paraphrase the information accurately. This ability to comprehend and paraphrase is dependent on the individualís prior understanding of the matter at hand; courses on a higher level generally presuppose a more developed understanding of the material than do introductory courses.
The second level is that of identifying the problem being discussed, and sorting out the information relevant to that problem, as well as identifying the uncertainties surrounding that information. Again, these operations are more sophisticated in higher-level courses than in the introductory ones.
The third level of critical thinking is that of exploring interpretations and connections that are involved in the discussion of the problem. This level calls for the thinker to recognize the biases that may be present in the information presented, to articulate the assumptions and reasoning behind alternative solutions, and qualitatively interpreting evidence from a variety of points of view.
The fourth level of critical thinking is that of prioritizing among possible alternative factors, choosing and giving reasons for choosing among the several possible alternatives, and effectively implementing conclusions, involving others as needed.
The fifth level of critical thinking involves acknowledging, monitoring and explaining the limitations of the solution chosen, and integrating these skills into an ongoing process of strategic innovation. As in all of the other stages, this level of critical thinking is far more highly developed and more essential to course outcomes at the higher levels of study than at the introductory ones.
A course identified as a ďcritical thinkingĒ course will attend to the studentís development through these stages, and will include assignments and exercises which increase the studentís development of these skills. The course objectives for such a course will identify ways in which this skills development occurs, and will spell out in some detail the kind of work which corresponds to these levels of development.
1. Students will be able to paraphrase information.
2. Students will be able to identify a problem or an argument, and the information and uncertainties relevant to that problem as well as the reasons for uncertainty.
3. Students will be able to explore (multiple) interpretations by
a. Recognizing and controlling for biases (including their own)
b. Articulating assumptions and reasonings associated with alternative views.
4. Students will be able to prioritize alternative factors to consider and make conclusions by choosing, based on the prioritized factors, among solutions.
5. Students will be able to explain and monitor the limitations of an endorsed solution.