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Activity : Ask pupils to order the lessons in an order importance? Alternatively, ask for examples of when it is acceptable to break the rule, or disobey the command. Or experiment with negating the rules in different ways. If you could jump into a painting, what would it look like? What makes a landscape beautiful? Can humans make things as wondrous as nature? What would you have in your bottomless-bag? You can, as a fun warm-up, have pairs taking it in turns to pull imaginary objects from an imaginary bag, naming them as they go — Golf club!

What makes an object useful? If you could invent a word, what would it be? Dewey, for example, took critical thinking to be the ultimate intellectual goal of education, but distinguished it from the development of social cooperation among school children, which he took to be the central moral goal. Schools participating in the Eight-Year Study took development of the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems as a means to leading young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States Aikin 17—18, Harvey Siegel 55—61 has offered four considerations in support of adopting critical thinking as an educational ideal.

To supplement these considerations, Siegel 62—90 responds to two objections: the ideology objection that adoption of any educational ideal requires a prior ideological commitment and the indoctrination objection that cultivation of critical thinking cannot escape being a form of indoctrination. Despite the diversity of our 11 examples, one can recognize a common pattern.

Dewey analyzed it as consisting of five phases:. The process of reflective thinking consisting of these phases would be preceded by a perplexed, troubled or confused situation and followed by a cleared-up, unified, resolved situation Dewey Variants of the above analysis appeared in Dewey and Dewey — The variant formulations indicate the difficulty of giving a single logical analysis of such a varied process. The process of critical thinking may have a spiral pattern, with the problem being redefined in the light of obstacles to solving it as originally formulated.

For example, the person in Transit might have concluded that getting to the appointment at the scheduled time was impossible and have reformulated the problem as that of rescheduling the appointment for a mutually convenient time. Further, defining a problem does not always follow after or lead immediately to an idea of a suggested solution.

Nor should it do so, as Dewey himself recognized in describing the physician in Typhoid as avoiding any strong preference for this or that conclusion before getting further information Dewey 85; Detectives, intelligence agencies, and investigators of airplane accidents are well advised to gather relevant evidence systematically and to postpone even tentative adoption of an explanatory hypothesis until the collected evidence rules out with the appropriate degree of certainty all but one explanation.

Further, given the great variety of kinds of problems for which reflection is appropriate, there is likely to be variation in its component events. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the critical thinking process is as a checklist whose component events can occur in a variety of orders, selectively, and more than once. These component events might include 1 noticing a difficulty, 2 defining the problem, 3 dividing the problem into manageable sub-problems, 4 formulating a variety of possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, 5 determining what evidence is relevant to deciding among possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, 6 devising a plan of systematic observation or experiment that will uncover the relevant evidence, 7 carrying out the plan of systematic observation or experimentation, 8 noting the results of the systematic observation or experiment, 9 gathering relevant testimony and information from others, 10 judging the credibility of testimony and information gathered from others, 11 drawing conclusions from gathered evidence and accepted testimony, and 12 accepting a solution that the evidence adequately supports cf.

Hitchcock Checklist conceptions of the process of critical thinking are open to the objection that they are too mechanical and procedural to fit the multi-dimensional and emotionally charged issues for which critical thinking is urgently needed Paul For such issues, a more dialectical process is advocated, in which competing relevant world views are identified, their implications explored, and some sort of creative synthesis attempted. If one considers the critical thinking process illustrated by the 11 examples, one can identify distinct kinds of mental acts and mental states that form part of it.

To distinguish, label and briefly characterize these components is a useful preliminary to identifying abilities, skills, dispositions, attitudes, habits and the like that contribute causally to thinking critically. Identifying such abilities and habits is in turn a useful preliminary to setting educational goals.

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Setting the goals is in its turn a useful preliminary to designing strategies for helping learners to achieve the goals and to designing ways of measuring the extent to which learners have done so. Such measures provide both feedback to learners on their achievement and a basis for experimental research on the effectiveness of various strategies for educating people to think critically. Let us begin, then, by distinguishing the kinds of mental acts and mental events that can occur in a critical thinking process.

By definition, a person who does something voluntarily is both willing and able to do that thing at that time. The same analysis applies to a voluntary mental process of thinking critically. It requires both willingness and ability to think critically, including willingness and ability to perform each of the mental acts that compose the process and to coordinate those acts in a sequence that is directed at resolving the initiating perplexity.

Consider willingness first.

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We can identify causal contributors to willingness to think critically by considering factors that would cause a person who was able to think critically about an issue nevertheless not to do so Hamby For each factor, the opposite condition thus contributes causally to willingness to think critically on a particular occasion.

For example, people who habitually jump to conclusions without considering alternatives will not think critically about issues that arise, even if they have the required abilities. The contrary condition of willingness to suspend judgment is thus a causal contributor to thinking critically. Now consider ability.

We can identify the ability to think well directly, in terms of the norms and standards for good thinking.

In general, to be able do well the thinking activities that can be components of a critical thinking process, one needs to know the concepts and principles that characterize their good performance, to recognize in particular cases that the concepts and principles apply, and to apply them. The knowledge, recognition and application may be procedural rather than declarative. It may be domain-specific rather than widely applicable, and in either case may need subject-matter knowledge, sometimes of a deep kind. We turn now to these three types of causal contributors to thinking critically.

Some writers e. They are not moral virtues but intellectual virtues, of the sort articulated by Zagzebski and discussed by Turri, Alfano, and Greco On a realistic conception, thinking dispositions or intellectual virtues are real properties of thinkers. They are general tendencies, propensities, or inclinations to think in particular ways in particular circumstances, and can be genuinely explanatory Siegel Sceptics argue that there is no evidence for a specific mental basis for the habits of mind that contribute to thinking critically, and that it is pedagogically misleading to posit such a basis Bailin et al.

Whatever their status, critical thinking dispositions need motivation for their initial formation in a child—motivation that may be external or internal. Mere force of habit, however, is unlikely to sustain critical thinking dispositions. Critical thinkers must value and enjoy using their knowledge and abilities to think things through for themselves.

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They must be committed to, and lovers of, inquiry. A person may have a critical thinking disposition with respect to only some kinds of issues. For example, one could be open-minded about scientific issues but not about religious issues. Critical thinking dispositions can usefully be divided into initiating dispositions those that contribute causally to starting to think critically about an issue and internal dispositions those that contribute causally to doing a good job of thinking critically once one has started Facione a: The two categories are not mutually exclusive.

We consider briefly what each of these dispositions amounts to, in each case citing sources that acknowledge them. Some of the initiating dispositions, such as open-mindedness and willingness to suspend judgment, are also internal critical thinking dispositions, in the sense of mental habits or attitudes that contribute causally to doing a good job of critical thinking once one starts the process.

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But there are many other internal critical thinking dispositions. For example, it is constitutive of good thinking about an issue to formulate the issue clearly and to maintain focus on it. For this purpose, one needs not only the corresponding ability but also the corresponding disposition. Other internal dispositions are motivators to continue or adjust the critical thinking process, such as willingness to persist in a complex task and willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to self-correct Halpern For a list of identified internal critical thinking dispositions, see the Supplement on Internal Critical Thinking Dispositions.

Some theorists postulate skills, i. It is not obvious, however, that a good mental act is the exercise of a generic acquired skill. Inferring an expected time of arrival, as in Transit , has some generic components but also uses non-generic subject-matter knowledge. Talk of skills, they concede, is unproblematic if it means merely that a person with critical thinking skills is capable of intelligent performance. Amalgamating these lists would produce a confusing and chaotic cornucopia of more than 50 possible educational objectives, with only partial overlap among them.

Two reasons for diversity among lists of critical thinking abilities are the underlying conception of critical thinking and the envisaged educational level. Appraisal-only conceptions, for example, involve a different suite of abilities than constructive-only conceptions.

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Some lists, such as those in Glaser , are put forward as educational objectives for secondary school students, whereas others are proposed as objectives for college students e. The abilities described in the remaining paragraphs of this section emerge from reflection on the general abilities needed to do well the thinking activities identified in section 6 as components of the critical thinking process described in section 5. The derivation of each collection of abilities is accompanied by citation of sources that list such abilities and of standardized tests that claim to test them.

Observational abilities : Careful and accurate observation sometimes requires specialist expertise and practice, as in the case of observing birds and observing accident scenes.


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These abilities come into play as well when one thinks about whether and with what degree of confidence to accept an observation report, for example in the study of history or in a criminal investigation or in assessing news reports. Observational abilities show up in some lists of critical thinking abilities Ennis 90; Facione a: 16; Ennis 9.

Norris and King , , a, b is a test of ability to appraise observation reports. Emotional abilities : The emotions that drive a critical thinking process are perplexity or puzzlement, a wish to resolve it, and satisfaction at achieving the desired resolution.


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  • Children experience these emotions at an early age, without being trained to do so. Education that takes critical thinking as a goal needs only to channel these emotions and to make sure not to stifle them. Questioning abilities : A critical thinking process needs transformation of an inchoate sense of perplexity into a clear question. Formulating a question well requires not building in questionable assumptions, not prejudging the issue, and using language that in context is unambiguous and precise enough Ennis 97; 9.

    Imaginative abilities : Thinking directed at finding the correct causal explanation of a general phenomenon or particular event requires an ability to imagine possible explanations. Thinking about what policy or plan of action to adopt requires generation of options and consideration of possible consequences of each option.

    Domain knowledge is required for such creative activity, but a general ability to imagine alternatives is helpful and can be nurtured so as to become easier, quicker, more extensive, and deeper Dewey 34—39; 40— Facione a and Halpern include the ability to imagine alternatives as a critical thinking ability.