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Professor, entreprenueur, author, life alchemist

Unfortunately, even though

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Unfortunately, even though many if not most colleges place critical thinking high on the mission statement list, too many employers still complain that students are missing this critical skill, if I may. In order to teach it and make sure students learn it, we must use critical thinking itself to problem solve. First, education cannot be forced. The student must be motivated or choose to learn, and by learn I am referring to the stickiness of knowledge. All to often A's are obtained, even 4.0's with little learning. Personally, I ignore these biased indicators. In addition, I don't check to see if students have learned. I do check, however, to see if they are paying attention and enthralled with the priceless, all encompassing, purifying, freeing, empowering nature of critical thinking, even critical, creative, intuitive thinking (all that I teach and coach are in these three words). Yet I do see its acquisition in the focus and attention paid, the statements made, the enlivening seen, and the greatest of being, be-ing.

We MUST create awareness and free the student to learn critical thinking, anything, for that matter. WE must have a passion for critical thinking. But more than that we must CARE. Care about the students, first and foremost. Once this equation is satisfied, success follows. Academia often fails for many inherent reasons. Even the former president of Harvard, Derek Bok, tells us that we do well by our students; however, we still fall far short of passing on the critical skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed by all of today's citizens. And that's the key. All must have access to CT and be able to not only obtain it but master it to greatest intellectual, emotional, physical, even spiritual effect. And that will only be solved by freeing the teaching of it from academic bureaucracy and state corruption, only by placing it where all have access to it free of these corruptions will the gaining of this critical knowledge begin to reach the heights of acquisition and application it so justly deserves.

Educator and political activist designing learning opportunities for the ge

A Critical Response

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I'm inwhole-hearted agreement with you here Randy, but would spin you further along by countering that Critical Spinning is Necessary in an Age of Thoughtlessness. Standing in the forum arguing "truth" against doxa gets you killed (Socrates) or, in the best case, a 20 point trouncing in the polls (been ther, done that!) Yes, students need to think critically, but not by wielding Occam's Razor to hack out the truth through a jungle of spin. The 21st century 24-7 spin machine moves too fast for that ancient approach. Once they have found their truths, students need to learn to produce "realities" that "fight fire with fire," or they will just be engaged in academic fiddling while Rome burns (been there, and done that, too!)

Books on teaching critical thinking, staff development trainer

Teaching Criical Thinking Skills

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These are fine comments about the need to teach students critical thinking skills. I would want to extend these comments to specifically flag helping students learn how to make discriminating judgments about the reliability of sources of information, the likelihood of predictions, the likelihood of causal explanations, and about the best options and best solutions in decision-making and problem solving -- and doing these with an open mind. Add to these skill at identifying, analyzing, and evaluating arguments, as well as constructing good arguments themselves, and writing good reflective prose -- and we have a core of contexts that call for effective instruction in our schools and colleges on critical thinking.

But we need to be discriminating ourselves in how we do this. Many teachers think that it is enough to give students critical thinking challenges: What is the best energy source for our country to rely on as its dominant energy source? Why did Huck Finn's father abduct him? What caused the Titanic to hit that iceberg? Which internet sources about the moon landing are reliable? These are challenging questions, but unless students have a sense of how to answer these questions, they are usually invitations for hasty non-critical responses. In order for these challenges to be effective invitations to careful critical thinking we need to teach students so that they use effective thinking strategies in answering them with an open mind, e.g. they know what kind of evidence is needed to support their judgments, and they don't rush to judgment until they have all the evidence on both sides of an issue.

I have found many many teachers wanting to do this who are not sure how to. That has been the focus of my work over the past 25 years -- infusing instruction in critical and creative thinking into their content instruction -- and most teachers I have worked with have had dramatic results -- great lessons that not only improve their students critical thinking abilities but significantly elevate their level of real content understanding. This is not too hard for a teacher to master. My experience has convinced me that while infusing such instruction into all classrooms is achievable, it will take many alerts like we find in Randy Kasten's article to wake the world of education up to the need to do this. I urge you all to make spreading this word a priority! Our future may depend on it.

Writer; MA-Forensic Psychology

Thanks, Sue

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I appreciated the link to your blog. As one of your posts mentioned the importance of "focused, individual feedback," I thought I'd take the opportunity to give you some and say thanks very much for that point, especially in the context of teaching critical thinking. It can be too tempting (as you mentioned) to get frustrated when they take the superficial route, and scold them for laziness (which could just end up silencing them from sharing any further attempts at critical thinking). On the other hand, a little coaching can go a long way toward making the skill one they enjoy using.

Writer; MA-Forensic Psychology

Teaching Critical Thinking Skills

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Very important points, Randy, thanks! One of the best ways to teach critical thinking skills without antagonizing parents (a concern expressed by one comment here) is to show kids through specific exercises how vulnerable they are to cognitive biases and distortions. These exercises can be very simple and non-threatening, while also helping open each child's mind to the need for paying attention to "how" they think rather than simply "what" they think. I would HIGHLY recommend that every educator read Daniel Kahneman's recent book /Thinking, Fast and Slow/. He includes some simple and very concrete examples from his and others' research that make many common cognitive biases very clear. There's no need to attack any child's (or parent's) personal beliefs in doing so, and I would imagine that even educators will be surprised at their own capacity for cognitive distortion after reading this book. I've written a bit more about this on my blog, Family Matters (http://familymatters.vision.org/FamilyMatters/bid/73671/Parenting-Issues...) but I really would recommend picking up the book if you get the chance.

I am a parent of a 2nd grader in London,UK

Encouraging children to develop higher order thinking

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Teaching children to think is a fundamental concept that most early educators strive to introduce to their young learners. Creative and stimulating strategies that cajole them into analyzing objectively any given challenge, topic or a task are critical to this process. For educators the entire process of inculcating this basic skill evolves from being an engaging activity to the most satisfying, when their young wards perfect the rudimentary skills of this vital aspect of learning. With each higher grade of learning it becomes increasingly important for educators to build the necessary skills in their wards to think beyond the face value of vetexts or topics. Viewing a topic or theme from various perspectives, is the KEY to stimulate learners to think BEYOND and reach a ‘Higher Order of Thinking’ (HOT).
HOT lays the foundations of critical thinking and with each passing academic year becomes the vital key to achieving academic competence. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a much appreciated and adopted thumb of rule to structure and develop gradual levels of thinking higher. The six levels are Remembering, Understanding, Application, Analysis, Evaluation and Creation. These six levels of higher thinking provide the much required framework for acquiring strong critiquing and analysis skills for all age groups of learners. Encouraging learners to move from lowest to the highest levels of thinking will help in developing higher order thinking.

Early Childhood Educator from NY

Developing Critical Thinking skills early!

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As the article suggests every educator is in a position to teach critical thinking skills, including parents and those who work with younger students. For example, during read alouds with picture storybooks adults can model certain strategies and use scaffolding to teach a child to infer, ask "why?", understand characters, etc. On the playground a teacher can help a child "think through" why a particular spot is not okay to play in.

Third grade teacher

Critical thinking is the

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Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

We have to teach our students how to think critically, simply by asking them the types of questions in the various subject areas that we teach.To a great extent critical thinking is experienced during Science experiments during the process of observing,collecting data etc...also in literature when text analysis is done.e.g by questioning the author.

A good question to ask a

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A good question to ask a class: "True or False, something is true (or false) merely and solely because someone says so."

However, is it ever prudent to refrain from posing this question to a student in the presence of a parent, politician, religious zealot, or corporate Master of the Universe? I dare say that, truth be known, not a few adults outside of the academy are not all that keen on critical thinking and skepticism.

Seventh Grade science teacher from Orinda, California

How-to's for critical thinking

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I so agree, with the information overload, students really do not know how to evaluate a 'reliable' source. I get the first link that comes up on a google search term for pretty much any research. How do we inspire them to push past that? To see the bias and spin? I often include critical thinking in science class, so, in response to Harry Keller's comment, here's a smorgesbord of stuff that's worked for me (or not, but with ideas for better next time) filed under critical thinking category in my blog: http://takeactionscience.wordpress.com/category/inquiry-and-critical-thi... I really hope some of these might be useful to others.

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