Saturday, 29 December 2007

Critical Thinking and Deep Leaning

Paul Richard defines Critical Thinking in his preface for his Critical thinking Workshop Handbook, Winter/Spring 1996, as “the art of ensuring that you use the best thinking you are capable of , given set of circumstances and your present limited knowledge and skill”. However, to maximize the quality of your thinking, you must learn how to become a more effective "critic" of your thinking and make learning about thinking a priority. You must be willing to learn more about how thinking works and how to improve it.

“When students think poorly while learning, they learn poorly. When they think well while learning, they learn well. For example, every student comes into your classes with some habits of thinking. Without some encouragement and help in learning to think as a critic of their thinking, the students will simply process the content of your course through their typical thinking. If rote memorization is the process they have come to use to "learn" content in the past, then they will use rote memorization in your course”.

Paul Richard, with A. J. A. Binker. (1995). "Glossary: A guide to critical thinking terms and concepts;" in Critical thinking: How to prepare students for a rapidly changing world, define the qualities of a critical thinker:

INTELLECTUAL VIRTUES: They include: intellectual sense of justice, intellectual perseverance, intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual empathy, intellectual courage, (intellectual) confidence in reason, and intellectual autonomy.

INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY: A strong desire to deeply understand, to figure things out, to propose and assess useful and plausible hypotheses and explanations, to learn, to find out.

(INTELLECTUAL) CONFIDENCE OR FAITH IN REASON: Confidence that in the long run one's own higher interests and those of humankind at large will best be served by giving the freest play to reason -- by encouraging people to come to their own conclusions through a process of developing their own rational faculties; faith that (with proper encouragement and cultivation) people can learn to think for themselves, form rational viewpoints, draw reasonable conclusions, think coherently and logically, persuade each other by reason, and become reasonable, despite the deep-seated obstacles in the native character of the human mind and in society.

INTELLECTUAL EMPATHY: Understanding the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others to genuinely understand them. We must recognize our egocentric tendency to identify truth with our immediate perceptions or longstanding beliefs.

INTELLECTUAL COURAGE: The willingness to face and fairly assess ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints to which we have not given a serious hearing, regardless of our strong negative reactions to them.

INTELLECTUAL AUTONOMY: Having rational control of one’s beliefs, values and inferences. The ideal of critical thinking is to learn to think for oneself, to gain command over one's thought processes. Intellectual autonomy entails a commitment to analyzing and evaluating beliefs on the basis of reason and evidence.

INTELLECTUAL CIVILITY: A commitment to take others seriously as thinkers, to treat them as intellectual equals, to grant respect and full attention to their views

INTELLECTUAL HUMILITY: Awareness of the limits of one's knowledge, including sensitivity to circumstances in which one's native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively; sensitivity to bias and prejudice in, and limitations of one's viewpoint. Intellectual humility is based on the recognition that no one should claim more than he or she actually knows.

INTELLECTUAL INTEGRITY: Recognition of the need to be true to one's own thinking, to be consistent in the intellectual standards one applies, to hold oneself to the same rigorous standards of evidence and proof to which one holds one's antagonists, to practice what one advocates for others, and to honestly admit discrepancies and inconsistencies in one's own thought and action.

INTELLECTUAL DISCIPLINE: The trait of thinking in accordance with intellectual standards, intellectual rigor, carefulness, order, conscious control. Intellectual discipline is at the very heart of becoming a critical person. It takes discipline of mind to keep oneself focused on the intellectual task at hand, to locate and carefully assess needed evidence, to systematically analyze and address questions and problems, to hold one's thinking to sufficiently high standards of clarity, precision, completeness, consistency, etc.

INTELLECTUAL PERSEVERANCE: Willingness and consciousness of the need to pursue intellectual insights and truths despite difficulties, obstacles, and frustrations; firm adherence to rational principles despite irrational opposition of others; a sense of the need to struggle with confusion and unsettled questions over an extended period of time in order to achieve deeper understanding or insight.

INTELLECTUAL RESPONSIBILITY: The intellectually responsible person feels strongly obliged to achieve a high degree of precision and accuracy in his or her reasoning, is deeply committed to gathering complete, relevant and adequate evidence.

INTELLECTUAL SENSE OF JUSTICE: Willingness and consciousness of the need to entertain all viewpoints sympathetically and to assess them with the same intellectual standards, without reference to one's own feelings or vested interests, or the feelings or vested interests of one's friends, community, or nation.

Now we know what the outcome should be, how do we weave these through the curriculum?
Norman Pantling and his team have been offering an AS course in Critical Thinking at Taunton's College in Southampton since the OCR piloted it in 1999.
"You don't actually teach critical thinking skills, you unearth them," he says. "We start from where the students are thinking and then get them to respect each other's viewpoint. This kind of respect is the bloodstream of education."

The local education authority in Southampton has also recognised the need to promote critical thinking even earlier. As part of the city's Pathfinder programme, a government initiative that is part of raising standards in 14-19 education, Taunton's and other colleges have been offering master classes in critical thinking to year 10 pupils.
"We actually underestimated how quickly school students would grasp thinking skills," says Norman Pantling. "Not only does it give them a taste of college life, but it gives them a challenge."

After completing classes at college, students from Cantell School in Southampton decided to extend this challenge to their head teacher. They presented such a persuasive argument to him that he had no option but to allow them to enter the AS-level critical thinking exam. They all passed”.

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