Module Five Critical Thinking

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1 Module Five Critical Thinking Introduction Critical thinking is often perceived as a difficult skill separate from the thinking process as a whole. In fact, it is the essence of thinking. It is not enough to know what to think; one must also know how and why to think. Thinking consists of whatever goes on in your head. It is the extraordinary process we use every waking moment to make sense of our world and our lives. Therefore we need a system for deciding rationally what to or what not to believe. Tutors must be aware of the importance of helping students develop critical thinking skills if students are to become independent learners. Students must be taught not just content areas but effective problem solving strategies as well. Definition The American Philosophical Association defines critical thinking as:...the process of purposeful, self-regulatory judgment. This process gives reasoned consideration to evidence, contexts, conceptualizations, methods, and criteria. Another explanation defines it thusly: Critical thinking is the art of thinking about your thinking while you are thinking if order to make your thinking better more clear, more accurate, more defensible. The purpose of critical thinking is to achieve understanding, evaluate viewpoints, and solve problems. Since all three areas involve the asking of questions, we can say that critical thinking is the questioning or inquiry we engage in when we seek to understand, evaluate, or resolve. Uses of Critical Thinking Dave Ellis, author of Becoming a Master Student, lists the following uses for critical thinking: 1. Underlies reading, writing, speaking, and listening... the basic elements of communication. 2. Plays an important part in social change... institutions in any society courts, governments, schools, businesses are products of a certain way of thinking. 3. Helps uncover bias and prejudice. 4. Provides a path to freedom from half-truths and deceptions. 5. Is the willingness to change one point of view as we continue to examine and re-examine ideas that may seem obvious; such thinking takes time and the willingness to say three subversive words: I don t know. Critical thinkers distinguish between fact and opinion; ask questions; make detailed observations; uncover assumptions and define their terms; and make assertions based on sound logic and solid evidence. 1

2 Attributes of Critical Thinkers 1. Ask pertinent questions 2. Assess statements and arguments 3. Admit a lack of understanding or information 4. Have a sense of curiosity 5. Are interested in finding new solutions 6. Are able to clearly define a set of criteria for analyzing ideas 7. Are willing to examine beliefs, assumptions, and opinions and weigh them against facts 8. Listen carefully to others and give feedback 9. See that critical thinking is a lifelong process of self-assessment 10. Suspend judgments until all facts have been gathered and considered 11. Look for evidence to support assumptions and beliefs 12. Adjust opinions when new facts are found 13. Look for proof 14. Examine problems closely 15. Are able to reject information that is incorrect or irrelevant 16. Take charge of their own thinking Effective Critical Thinkers acknowledge that: 1. THINKING IS AN ACTIVE PROCESS. When we try to solve a problem, reach a goal, understand information, or make sense of someone, we are actively using our minds to figure out the situation. 2. THINKING IS DIRECTED TOWARD A PURPOSE. The purpose may be to solve a problem, reach a goal, understand information, or make sense of someone. 3. THINKING IS AN ORGANIZED PROCESS. Thinking effectively has an order or organization. There are certain steps to take to solve that problem, reach that goal, understand that information, or make sense of someone. 4. THINKING CAN BE DEVELOPED AND IMPROVED. During our lifetime we develop thinking through use, by becoming aware of the thinking process, and by practicing. Thinking can be developed and improved through guidance and practice. Ineffective Critical Thinkers Habits Tutors Can Help By 1. Impulsive, jump to conclusions. 1. Remember wait time ; give them time to think of the answer. 2. Give up quickly. 2. Encourage student to stick it out, to persist with tasks. 3. Inflexible in approaching thinking tasks. 3. Recognize each student will have his/her own concepts; try visualization. 2

3 4. Use imprecise language. 4. Speak clearly and precisely to clarify what they mean as well as showing tutees the importance of exact language and details. 5. Plunge into a thinking task 5. Use organizational tips without planning what to do. such as charts or lists. 6. Fail to check work for accuracy. 6. Give examples why there is a never-ending need for accuracy, such as the surgeon who is not sure where to cut, or the disaster of the Challenger shuttle. 7. Are reluctant to secure as much 7. Provide several examples data as possible. or make students try new ways of solving problems. 8. Skip steps; often are unable to 8. Encourage tutees to make backtrack to find mistakes. lists, to verbalize steps, to write steps out of order then put back in sequence. 9. Are unable to engage in a logical 9. Break concepts down into line of reasoning. smaller bits of information. 10. Are often incapable of launching 10.Point out the key objective a thinking task. then list main steps to get the job done; just do it! CRITICAL READING Definition Reading is the key component of much learning. It is crucial that students not only be critical thinkers, but also critical readers. Critical reading is (1) the process of making judgments in reading: evaluating relevance and adequacy of what is read, and (2) an act of reading in which a questioning attitude, logical analysis, and inference are used to judge the worth of what is read according to an established standard...among the identified skills of critical reading involved in making judgments are those having to do with the author s intent or purpose; with the accuracy, logic, reliability and authenticity of writing; and with the literary forms, components, and devices identified through literary analysis. 3

4 Critical Readers are: 1. Willing to spend time reflecting on the ideas presented in their reading assignments. 2. Able to evaluate and solve problems while reading rather than merely compile a set of facts to be memorized. 3. Logical thinkers. 4. Diligent in seeking out the truth. 5. Eager to express their thoughts on a topic. 6. Seekers of alternative views on a topic. 7. Open to new ideas that may not necessarily agree with their previous thought on a topic. 8. Able to base their judgments on ideas and evidence. 9. Able to recognize errors in thought and persuasion as well as to recognize good arguments. 10. Willing to take a critical stance on an issue. 11. Able to ask penetrating and thought-provoking questions to evaluate ideas. 12. In touch with their personal thoughts and ideas about a topic. 13. Willing to reassess their views when new or discordant evidence is introduced and evaluated. 14. Able to identify arguments and issues. 15. Able to see connections between topics and use knowledge from other disciplines to enhance their reading and learning experiences. TIPS for Tutors to Enhance Critical Thinking 1. Don t automatically answer questions the tutee has. Instead, whenever possible, turn the question back to the student. Ask questions such as: What do you think? What ideas do you have about that? What has been your experience? 2. When presenting new information, rather than simply telling the tutee, try asking questions. Develop a repertoire of generative questions, such as: What do you already know about that? What do you mean by that? Is there another way to view this? Might anyone else see it differently? 3. Encourage specific responses and reasons for students viewpoints with questions such as: Can you be more specific? Why do you think that? What exactly do you mean by that? 4. Encourage students to see the problem, situation, or concept from a different viewpoint. If working on a math problem, for example, ask the tutee if he or she can think of another way to solve the problem. What would happen if we changed the order in which we solved the problem? When working on a history issue, ask How might this issue have looked to the opposing side? 5. Help students talk through problems. Encourage them to think out loud and model this yourself by vocalizing your own thought processes, trying to implement specific reasoning skills as you do so. This fosters better thinking in students by enabling them to evaluate their own process and serves as a means to understand the student s thought process. It also enables you to discover where errors in thought occur. Some questions 4

5 to ask might include: What would you do first? What would you do next? Is there another way to do this? How would you change this? What conclusions can you draw? 6. Encourage students to begin generating questions of their own. Show them how to build simple questions from the table of contents, chapter headings, main idea statements, and summaries by using the six reportorial questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. 7. Have students analyze their own work, looking for patterns in their thinking and in their mistakes. You can ask: Did you follow all the directions? Are there steps you omitted? Are there vocabulary terms you need to clarify to avoid confusion? 8. Pay attention to where tutees are in the process. As long as they are able to respond effectively to your probing, continue asking leading, open-ended questions. If they become frustrated or seem lost, you will want to provide more guidance. If basing questions on Bloom s Taxonomy, you might need to drop back to a lower level of questioning until the tutee becomes comfortable with information at that level, then progressing to higher levels. To use an example from history, if a student has trouble answering a questions such as Can you justify the economical implications of the South s loss of slave labor? (evaluation) try to rephrase the question to Can you name three ways the loss of slave labor would impact the economy of the South? (analysis) 9. Lengthen your response time. Remember that it takes time to think. Remember, too, that tutees may become anxious, particularly if they feel they are put on the spot, are unprepared, or have low self-esteem; this sometimes causes the mind to go blank. Be sure they feel comfortable and unhurried. 10. Remember that your tutees probably know more than you or they think that they do. Your most important tutoring goal should be empowering tutees, enabling them to trust their own abilities. Remember that thinking real thinking is hard work. Be gentle with those you are tutoring and give lots of positive support, praise, encouragement, and reinforcement. An added benefit is the increase in your own skills as a critical thinker. The more you help others learn, the more you will learn. Much of this information has been taken from these sources: An Introduction to Critical Thinking, by Elaine Batenhorst, University of Nebraska at Kearney, in Tutor Training Handbook, edited by Tom Gier and Karan Hancock, CRLA, Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum Project, Longview Community College, Lee s Summit, Missouri, How Tutors Can Help Tutees Improve Their Critical Thinking, by Suzanne Forster, University of Alaska at Anchorage, in Tutor Training Handbook, edited by Tom Gier and Karan Hancock, CRLA,

6 Evaluation Module Five Critical Thinking 1. What is your definition of critical thinking? 2. List one way students may use critical thinking. 3. Name three attributes of critical thinkers. 6

7 4. Describe two habits of ineffective thinkers and the ways tutors might help with these problems. 5. What are three characteristics of critical readers? 6. Give two additional tips a tutor could use to help a tutee develop critical thinking. 7

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