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Paul: First, since critical thinking can be defined in a number of different ways consistent with each other, we should not put a lot of weight on any one definition. With this qualification in mind, here is a bit of scaffolding: critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking better.Two things are crucial: 1) critical thinking is not just thinking, but thinking which entails self-improvement 2) this improvement comes from skill in using standards by which one appropriately assesses thinking.I am hopeful that eventually, through efforts such as these, we can move from the superficial to the substantial in fostering quality student thinking.
They are often unclear about the constituents of good reasoning.
Hence, even though a student may just be asserting things, not reasoning things out at all, if she is doing so with vivacity and flamboyance, teachers are apt to take this to be equivalent to good reasoning.
The dimension of critical thinking least understood is that of "intellectual standards." Most teachers were not taught how to assess thinking through standards; indeed, often the thinking of teachers themselves is very "undisciplined" and reflects a lack of internalized intellectual standards.
If we are trying to foster quality thinking, we don't want students simply to assert things; we want them to try to reason things out on the basis of evidence and good reasons.
Often, teachers are unclear about this basic difference.
Many teachers are apt to take student writing or speech which is fluent and witty or glib and amusing as good thinking.Thinking skills programs without intellectual standards are tailor-made for mis-instruction. Only with quality long-term staff development that helps the teachers, over an extended period of time, over years not months, to work on their own thinking and come to terms with what intellectual standards are, why they are essential, and how to teach for them.For example, one of the major programs asks teachers to encourage students to make inferences and use analogies, but is silent about how to teach students to assess the inferences they make and the strengths and weaknesses of the analogies they use. The idea is not to help students to make more inferences but to make sound ones, not to help students to come up with more analogies but with more useful and insightful ones. The State Department in Hawaii has just such a long-term, quality, critical thinking program (see "mentor program"). In addition, the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking Instruction is focused precisely on the articulation of standards for thinking.The following quiz is designed to give an idea of Critical Thinking abilities.The reader is encouraged to spend as much time as possible on each problem to find the solution.Furthermore, critical thinking, because it involves our working out afresh our own thinking on a subject, and because our own thinking is always a unique product of our self-structured experience, ideas, and reasoning, is intrinsically a new "creation", a new "making", a new set of cognitive and affective structures of some kind.All thinking, in short, is a creation of the mind's work, and when it is disciplined so as to be well-integrated into our experience, it is a new creation precisely because of the inevitable novelty of that integration.Question: But there are many areas of concern in instruction, not just one, not just critical thinking, but communication skills, problem solving, creative thinking, collaborative learning, self-esteem, and so forth.How are districts to deal with the full array of needs?" I think you will first find that the person is puzzled about what you mean.And then when you explain what you mean, I think you will find that the person is not able to articulate any such standards.