Critical Thinking Skills Theories Of Education

ePooki 14/2015

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Critical Thinking: From Theory to Teaching

Metatiedot

Nimeke: Critical Thinking: From Theory to Teaching

Tekijä: Alatalo Sari

Aihe, asiasanat: koulutus, kriittinen ajattelu, oppiminen, opetus, Oulun ammattikorkeakoulu

Tiivistelmä: Thinking, including critical thinking, is indispensable to a person so that a person can base his or her decisions on solid reasoning and facts. Even so, to think critically requires more than just being critical; it requires skills and aptitude for applying the skills in practice. In addition, to become an advanced thinker, the skills need to be practiced, and for that classroom offers a natural venue.

Among numerous alternatives, Bloom’s taxonomy and Paul’s model provide two applicable frameworks for thinking. They can be consciously employed to practice critical thinking. The first one is a method for classifying the outcome of a thinking process. In turn, the second framework refers to a model of the elements of a thinking process.

The frameworks for thinking are examples of teachers’ tools to formulate instructional objectives involving critical thinking. With the help of these frameworks, well-designed questions and the ABCD model, a teacher can strive to ensure students engage themselves in critical thinking during lessons.

Julkaisija: Oulun ammattikorkeakoulu, Oamk

Aikamääre: Julkaistu 2015-06-02

Pysyvä osoite: http://urn.fi/urn:nbn:fi-fe201505279357

Kieli: englanti

Suhde: http://urn.fi/URN:ISSN:1798-2022, ePooki - Oulun ammattikorkeakoulun tutkimus- ja kehitystyön julkaisut

Oikeudet: Julkaisu on tekijänoikeussäännösten alainen. Teosta voi lukea ja tulostaa henkilökohtaista käyttöä varten. Käyttö kaupallisiin tarkoituksiin on kielletty.

Näin viittaat tähän julkaisuun

Alatalo, S. 2015. Critical Thinking: From Theory to Teaching. ePooki. Oulun ammattikorkeakoulun tutkimus- ja kehitystyön julkaisut 14. Hakupäivä 11.3.2018. http://urn.fi/urn:nbn:fi-fe201505279357.

We all think. It’s an essential part of us being human beings. But critical thinking – why should we be concerned with it? Don’t we have enough people happy to criticize just about anything and everything? And how does critical thinking relate to teaching and learning? Relevant questions which will be discussed here. 

Given the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of critical thinking (from now on referred to as CT) by the U.S. Department of State, I was happy to take on the challenge. The E-Teacher Scholarship Program provided me with an opportunity to explore the concept of CT, a couple of frameworks for thinking, and the application of them to teaching. The process took the best part of my summer but the insights I had during the stifling summer days – and some nights – next to compensated anything I missed out while contemplating the art of questioning, or the incorporation of CT to lessons.

In the course, it became evident that rather than being about criticizing, critical thinking refers to fair-minded thinking which is aimed at reasoning at the highest level of quality . This fair-mindedness entails a thinking process in which the strengths and weaknesses of different points are considered . Without this ability, our thinking would be biased or, possibly, downright flawed. Thus, the skill of critical thinking is of great importance for everyone. Effectively, there are two components to CT: skills and habit of applying the skills .

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Paul’s Model: Brief Overview

Critical thinking is about skills but the core question is which skills. To this, various scientists offer various solutions. Some of them are offered in a form of a framework for thinking. After a thorough literature research, Mosley et al.  ended up introducing 41 frameworks of this nature. For practical reasons, it’s appropriate to focus on some of them even if it were highly beneficial to acquire some knowledge of all of them. In the E-Teacher Scholarship Program, two were selected to be more closely reviewed, namely Bloom’s revised taxonomy of educational objectives , and Paul’s model of critical thinking. 

For many teachers Bloom’s revised taxonomy with its six cognitive levels from simple to more complex (see Figure 1) is somewhat well-known as it has provided them with a tool for measuring thinking. There is also an older model of the taxonomy presented in figure 1. The taxonomy is a model of classifying thinking according to six cognitive levels of complexity. This taxonomy can be helpful for a teacher attempting to move students through a learning process. After all, it has been employed in the design of lesson plans to make them effective in terms of learning.

FIGURE 1. Six major categories in Bloom’s Taxonomy: old and revised versions Forehand, M. 2014. Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved October 5, 2014. http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Bloom%27s_Taxonomy

As for Paul’s model of critical thinking, it’s possibly not as renowned as Bloom’s taxonomy but it could offer just as functional a tool as Bloom’s taxonomy (see Figure 1). These two frameworks seem to take two differing approaches to thinking. Bloom’s taxonomy is about classifying the level of thinking behavior, for example thinking can be classified as being about remembering facts or about applying these facts into practice. On the other hand, Paul’s model illustrates the process of thinking behavior. 

Bloom’s taxonomy can be portrayed as a hierarchical system whereas Paul’s model can be depicted as a wheel. In this wheel the eight elements of thought, which are present in all thinking, are placed as in Figure 2. The idea is that a thinker can move back and forth between the elements . This is a model of a process that can be consciously employed in decision making to guide one’s thinking into a direction of CT.

FIGURE 2. Elements of thought as presented by Paul & Elder Paul, R. & Elder, L. 2012. Critical Thinking. Tools for taking charge of your learning and your life. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.

Even though Bloom’s taxonomy and Paul’s model appear to represent different approaches to thinking, they have some features in common as both include cognitive and affective aspects. The cognitive aspect is related to knowledge, and the affective aspect is concerned with attitudes, emotions and feelings (see Table 1).

TABLE 1. Cognitive and affective aspects in Bloom’s Taxonomy and Paul’s Model

Aspect / FrameworkBloom's Taxonomy

Paul's Model

Cognitive

levels of thinking

 

24 cognitive strategies (e.g. evaluating the credibility of sources of information)

Affective

five categories: receiving, responding, valuing, organizing and characterizing 

nine affective strategies (e.g. developing intellectual humility and suspending judgement)

In Bloom’s taxonomy, the levels of thinking are related to the cognitive aspect. When it comes to Paul’s model, the concept of critical thinking is broken down into a list of 24 cognitive and nine affective strategies . These strategies seem to address the elements of thinking (see Figure 2) from the viewpoint of action, i.e. what is to be learned or practiced, for example strategy 16 states: evaluating the credibility of source of information.

As for Bloom’s taxonomy , there is an affective domain with pertinent levels of behavior, and these levels depict the way people relate themselves to the phenomena they encounter. The levels encompass five categories starting with the simplest (receiving) and gradually moving towards more complex (responding, valuing, organizing and characterizing) behavior. In effect, the constant effort to improve critical thinking refers to an advancement to a higher level in Bloom’s taxonomy and to a refinement of the thinking process depicted for example by Paul’s model.

Some Implications of Critical Thinking for Lessons 

Bloom’s taxonomy and Paul’s elements of thought might suggest the frameworks being rather theoretical. The challenge here is to translate these somewhat academic thoughts into instructional practice. In addition to the frameworks, there are some tools to do this, though. 

In his book Chuska claims that well-designed questions will initiate higher-level thinking. He favors, for example, the idea of teachers posing students fewer, yet higher-quality questions with more than one viable answer. The aim would be to solicit higher-level thinking in forms of students applying, reacting to, or reflecting on the content, or the topic of the lesson.

Still another applicable tool to form instructional objectives with at least some critical thinking is the ABCD model. This model can be helpful in forming well-structured objectives in classrooms. The letters in this abbreviation stand for the following elements : 

A for the intended audience, i.e. students, of this particular objective, 

B for the new behavior or capability the audience will possess after the task, 

C for the conditions under which the audience is going to carry out the task, and 

D for the degree, i.e. the criteria against which the success of the task will be assessed. 

All of the elements above should be embodied in a concise description of an instructional objective for a specific lesson.

In order for an objective to be a CT objective, all of the elements above should be included in a concise description of an instructional objective for a specific lesson.

The following example of an instructional objective relates to a lesson topic of work motivation and constitutes only a part of the 90-minute lesson. Albeit important, the cognitive objective is set aside for now and the focus is on the affective objective. Employing the ABCD model, an instructional objective could be formulated in the following way: 

Affective

Condition          Audience          Behavior          Degree

Discussing in pairs, studentswill be able to co-operate in order to determine the distinct features and viewpoints behind them fairly incorporating the relevant and justified ideas of participants into a joint analysis.

In the example of an affective objective, the audience is the students in the class. The behavior in this case refers to the capabilities the students will possess after the exercise, i.e. they will be able to co-operate with another person and incorporate differing ideas into one. This they will do in pairs which is the way they work and thus constitutes the condition. Students’ success will be assessed based on whether in their analysis they demonstrate any distinct features and viewpoints of the theories as well as both participants’ ideas to make it truly a joint analysis.

To be able to analyze an objective in this way makes it a critical thinking objective. An objective of this kind can also be analyzed in terms of Bloom’s taxonomy and Paul’s model. In this example, the objective targets some of Paul’s critical thinking strategies and some of the levels in Bloom’s taxonomy. In this case the affective strategies targeted in this objective were S-3 Exercising Fairmindedness and S-5 Developing Intellectual Humility and Suspending Judgement. In Bloom’s taxonomy, the affective levels targeted in this objective were responding to others’ thoughts and organizing ideas.

There is obviously a lot more to designing this kind of teaching.  Firstly, to relate this to the frameworks for thinking, the following factors need to be determined: levels of Bloom’s taxonomy and CT strategies the activity aims to target. And secondly, assessment of the activity is yet another dimension to be thought out prior to the lesson. 

References

Picture References

With Implications for Instruction

Linda Elder with Richard Paul

Though most teachers aspire to make critical thinking a primary objective of their instruction, most also do not realize that, to develop as thinkers, students must pass through stages of development in critical thinking. That is, most teachers are unaware of the levels of intellectual development that people go through as they improve as thinkers. We believe that significant gains in the intellectual quality of student work will not be achieved except to the degree that teachers recognize that skilled critical thinking develops, only when properly cultivated, and only through predictable stages.

In this paper we shall set out a stage theory based on the nearly twenty years of research of the Center for Critical Thinking and explain some of the theory’s implications for instruction. We shall be brief, concise, and to the point in our explanation with minimal theoretical elaboration. Furthermore, we believe that the “practicality” of the theory we explain here is best tested in the classroom and in everyday life. The reader should be expressly aware that we are approaching the human mind exclusively from an intellectual standpoint — not from a psychological standpoint. Each stage of intellectual development will be explained in terms of the following variables:

  1. Defining Feature
  2. Principal Challenge
  3. Knowledge of Thinking
  4. Skill in Thinking
  5. Relevant Intellectual Traits
  6. Some Implications for Instruction

Due to space limitations, we have made no attempt to be exhaustive with respect to any stage, nor to answer the many questions that might be raised concerning the development, reliability or validity of the stages. The basic intention is to provide a practical organizer for teachers interested in using a conceptual map to guide student thinking through developmental stages in the process of becoming critical thinkers. Once the stages are explained, and stage-specific recommendations are given, we close with some global implications for instruction.

We make the following assumptions: (1) that there are predictable stages through which every person who develops as a critical thinker passes, (2) that passage from one stage to the next is dependent upon a necessary level of commitment on the part of an individual to develop as a critical thinker, is not automatic, and is unlikely to take place “subconsciously,” (3) that success in instruction is deeply connected to the intellectual quality of student learning, and (4) that regression is possible in development.

Before moving to the stages themselves, a brief overview of what we mean by critical thinking is in order. Our working definition is as follows: We define critical thinking as:

the ability and disposition to improve one’s thinking by systematically subjecting it to intellectual self-assessment.

It is important to recognize that on this view, persons are critical thinkers, in the fullest sense of the term, only if they display this ability and disposition in all, or most, of the dimensions of their lives (e.g. as a parent, citizen, consumer, lover, friend, learner, and professional). We exclude from our concept of the critical thinker those who think critically in only one dimension of their lives. We do so because the quality of one’s life is dependent upon high quality reasoning in all domains of one’s life, not simply in one dimension.

The stages we will lay out are as follows:

Stage One: The Unreflective Thinker
Stage Two: The Challenged Thinker
Stage Three: The Beginning Thinker
Stage Four: The Practicing Thinker
Stage Five: The Advanced Thinker
Stage Six: The Accomplished Thinker

Stage One: The Unreflective Thinker

Defining Feature: Unreflective thinkers are largely unaware of the determining role that thinking is playing in their lives and of the many ways that problems in thinking are causing problems in their lives. Unreflective thinkers lack the ability to explicitly assess their thinking and improve it thereby.

Knowledge of Thinking: Unreflective thinkers lack the knowledge that high quality thinking requires regular practice in taking thinking apart, accurately assessing it, and actively improving it. In fact, unreflective thinkers are largely unaware of thinking as such, hence fail to recognize thinking as involving concepts, assumptions, inferences, implications, points of view, etc. Unreflective thinkers are largely unaware of the appropriate standards for the assessment of thinking: clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, logicalness, etc.

Skill in Thinking: Unreflective thinkers may have developed a variety of skills in thinking without being aware of them. However, these skills are inconsistently applied because of the lack of self-monitoring of thought. Prejudices and misconceptions often undermine the quality of thought of the unreflective thinker.

Some Implications for Instruction: We must recognize that in the present mode of instruction it is perfectly possible for students to graduate from high school, or even college, and still be largely unreflective thinkers. Though all students think, most students are largely unaware of how their thinking is structured or how to assess or improve it. Thus when they experience problems in thinking, they lack the skills to identify and “fix” these problems. Most teachers do not seem to be aware of how unaware most students are of their thinking. Little is being done at present to help students "discover" their thinking. This emphasis needs shifting.

Stage Two: The Challenged Thinker

Defining Features: Thinkers move to the “challenged” stage when they become initially aware of the determining role that thinking is playing in their lives, and of the fact that problems in their thinking are causing them serious and significant problems.

Principal Challenge: To become initially aware of the determining role of thinking in one’s life and of basic problems that come from poor thinking.

Knowledge of Thinking: Challenged thinkers, unlike unreflective thinkers are becoming aware of thinking as such. They are becoming aware, at some level, that high quality thinking requires deliberate reflective thinking about thinking (in order to improve thinking). They recognize that their thinking is often flawed, although they are not able to identify many of these flaws. Challenged thinkers may develop an initial awareness of thinking as involving concepts, assumptions, inferences, implications, points of view, etc., and as involving standards for the assessment of thinking: clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, logicalness, etc., though they have only an initial grasp of these standards and what it would take to internalize them. Challenged thinkers also develop some understanding of the role of self-deception in thinking, though their understanding is limited. At this stage the thinker develops some reflective awareness of how thinking operates for good or ill.

Skill in Thinking: Most challenged thinkers have very limited skills in thinking. However like unreflective thinkers, they may have developed a variety of skills in thinking without being aware of them, and these skills may (ironically) serve as barriers to development. At this stage thinkers with some implicit critical thinking abilities may more easily deceive themselves into believing that their thinking is better than it actually is, making it more difficult to recognize the problems inherent in poor thinking. To accept the challenge at this level requires that thinkers gain insight into the fact that whatever intellectual skills they have are inconsistently applied across the domains of their lives.

Relevant Intellectual Trait: The fundamental intellectual trait at this stage is intellectual humility, in order to see that problems are inherent in one’s thinking.

Some Implications for Instruction: We must recognize the importance of challenging our students — in a supportive way — to recognize both that they are thinkers and that their thinking often goes awry. We must lead class discussions about thinking. We must explicitly model thinking (e.g., thinking aloud through a problem). We must design classroom activities that explicitly require students to think about their thinking. We must have students examine both poor and sound thinking, talking about the differences. We must introduce students to the parts of thinking and the intellectual standards necessary to assess thinking. We must introduce the idea of intellectual humility to students; that is, the idea of becoming aware of our own ignorance. Perhaps children can best understand the importance of this idea through their concept of the "know-it-all," which comes closest to their recognition of the need to be intellectually humble.

Stage Three: The Beginning Thinker

Defining Feature: Those who move to the beginning thinker stage are actively taking up the challenge to begin to take explicit command of their thinking across multiple domains of their lives. Thinkers at this stage recognize that they have basic problems in their thinking and make initial attempts to better understand how they can take charge of and improve it. Based on this initial understanding, beginning thinkers begin to modify some of their thinking, but have limited insight into deeper levels of the trouble inherent in their thinking. Most importantly, they lack a systematic plan for improving their thinking, hence their efforts are hit and miss.

Principal Challenge: To begin to see the importance of developing as a thinker. To begin to seek ways to develop as a thinker and to make an intellectual commitment to that end.

Knowledge of Thinking: Beginning thinkers, unlike challenged thinkers are becoming aware not only of thinking as such, but also of the role in thinking of concepts, assumptions, inferences, implications, points of view, etc. Beginning thinkers are also at some beginning stage of recognizing not only that there are standards for the assessment of thinking: clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, logicalness, etc., but also that one needs to internalize them and thus begin using them deliberately in thinking. They have a beginning understanding of the role of egocentric thinking in human life.

Skill in Thinking: Beginning thinkers are able to appreciate a critique of their powers of thought. Beginning thinkers have enough skill in thinking to begin to monitor their own thoughts, though as “beginners” they are sporadic in that monitoring. They are beginning to recognize egocentric thinking in themselves and others.

Relevant Intellectual Traits: The key intellectual trait required at this stage is some degree of intellectual humility in beginning to recognize the problems inherent in thinking. In addition, thinkers must have some degree of intellectual confidence in reason, a trait which provides the impetus to take up the challenge and begin the process of active development as critical thinkers, despite limited understanding of what it means to do high quality reasoning. In addition, beginning thinkers have enough intellectual perseverance to struggle with serious problems in thinking while yet lacking a clear solution to those problems (in other words, at this stage thinkers are recognizing more and more problems in their thinking but have not yet discovered how to systematize their efforts to solve them).

Some Implications for Instruction: Once we have persuaded most of our students that much of their thinking — left to itself — is flawed and that they, like all of us, are capable of improving as thinkers, we must teach in such a way as to help them to see that we all need to regularly practice good thinking to become good thinkers. Here we can use sporting analogies and analogies from other skill areas. Most students already know that you can get good in a sport only if you regularly practice. We must not only look for opportunities to encourage them to think well, we must help them to begin to understand what it is to develop good HABITS of thinking. What do we need to do regularly in order to read well? What must we do regularly and habitually if we are to listen well? What must we do regularly and habitually if we are to write well. What must we do regularly and habitually if we are to learn well? We must recognize that students are not only creatures of habit, but like the rest of us, they are largely unaware of the habits they are developing. They are largely unaware of what it is to develop good habits (in general), let alone good habits of thinking. If our students are truly “beginning” thinkers, they will be receptive to the importance of developing sound habits of thought. We must emphasize the importance of beginning to take charge of the parts of thinking and applying intellectual standards to thinking. We must teach students to begin to recognize their native egocentrism when it is operating in their thinking.

Stage Four: The Practicing Thinker

Defining Feature: Thinkers at this stage have a sense of the habits they need to develop to take charge of their thinking. They not only recognize that problems exist in their thinking, but they also recognize the need to attack these problems globally and systematically. Based on their sense of the need to practice regularly, they are actively analyzing their thinking in a number of domains. However, since practicing thinkers are only beginning to approach the improvement of their thinking in a systematic way, they still have limited insight into deeper levels of thought, and thus into deeper levels of the problems embedded in thinking.

Principal Challenge: To begin to develop awareness of the need for systematic practice in thinking.

Knowledge of Thinking: Practicing thinkers, unlike beginning thinkers are becoming knowledgeable of what it would take to systematically monitor the role in their thinking of concepts, assumptions, inferences, implications, points of view, etc. Practicing thinkers are also becoming knowledgeable of what it would take to regularly assess their thinking for clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, logicalness, etc. Practicing thinkers recognize the need for systematicity of critical thinking and deep internalization into habits. They clearly recognize the natural tendency of the human mind to engage in egocentric thinking and self-deception.

Skill in Thinking: Practicing thinkers have enough skill in thinking to critique their own plan for systematic practice, and to construct a realistic critique of their powers of thought. Furthermore, practicing thinkers have enough skill to begin to regularly monitor their own thoughts. Thus they can effectively articulate the strengths and weaknesses in their thinking. Practicing thinkers can often recognize their own egocentric thinking as well as egocentric thinking on the part of others. Furthermore practicing thinkers actively monitor their thinking to eliminate egocentric thinking, although they are often unsuccessful.

Relevant Intellectual Traits: The key intellectual trait required to move to this stage is intellectual perseverance. This characteristic provides the impetus for developing a realistic plan for systematic practice (with a view to taking greater command of one’s thinking). Furthermore, thinkers at this stage have the intellectual humility required to realize that thinking in all the domains of their lives must be subject to scrutiny, as they begin to approach the improvement of their thinking in a systematic way.

Some Implications for Instruction: What are the basic features of thinking that students must command to effectively become practicing thinkers? What do they need to do to take charge of their thinking intellectually, with respect to any content? We must teach in such a way that students come to understand the power in knowing that whenever humans reason, they have no choice but to use certain predictable structures of thought: that thinking is inevitably driven by the questions, that we seek answers to questions for some purpose, that to answer questions, we need information, that to use information we must interpret it (i.e., by making inferences), and that our inferences, in turn, are based on assumptions, and have implications, all of which involves ideas or concepts within some point of view. We must teach in such a way as to require students to regularly deal explicitly with these structures (more on these structure presently).

Students should now be developing the habit — whenever they are trying to figure something out — of focusing on: purpose, question, information, inferences, assumptions, concepts, point of view, and implications. The result of this emphasis in instruction is that students begin to see connections between all the subject matter they are learning. In studying history, they learn to focus on historical purposes and questions. When studying math, they clarify and analyze mathematical goals and problems. When studying literature, they reflect upon literary purposes and questions. They notice themselves making historical, mathematical, and literary assumptions. They notice themselves tracing historical, mathematical, and literary implications. Recognizing the "moves" one makes in thinking well is an essential part of becoming a practicing thinker.

Students should be encouraged to routinely catch themselves thinking both egocentrically and sociocentrically. They should understand, for example, that most of the problems they experience in learning result from a natural desire to avoid confusion and frustration, and that their inability to understand another person’s point of view is often caused by their tendency to see the world exclusively within their own egocentric point of view.

Stage Five: The Advanced Thinker

Defining Feature: Thinkers at this stage have now established good habits of thought which are “paying off.” Based on these habits, advanced thinkers not only actively analyze their thinking in all the significant domains of their lives, but also have significant insight into problems at deeper levels of thought. While advanced thinkers are able to think well across the important dimensions of their lives, they are not yet able to think at a consistently high level across all of these dimensions. Advanced thinkers have good general command over their egocentric nature. They continually strive to be fair-minded. Of course, they sometimes lapse into egocentrism and reason in a one-sided way.

Principal Challenge: To begin to develop depth of understanding not only of the need for systematic practice in thinking, but also insight into deep levels of problems in thought: consistent recognition, for example, of egocentric and sociocentric thought in one’s thinking, ability to identify areas of significant ignorance and prejudice, and ability to actually develop new fundamental habits of thought based on deep values to which one has committed oneself.

Knowledge of Thinking: Advanced thinkers are actively and successfully engaged in systematically monitoring the role in their thinking of concepts, assumptions, inferences, implications, points of view, etc., and hence have excellent knowledge of that enterprise. Advanced thinkers are also knowledgeable of what it takes to regularly assess their thinking for clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, logicalness, etc. Advanced thinkers value the deep and systematic internalization of critical thinking into their daily habits. Advanced thinkers have keen insight into the role of egocentrism and sociocentrism in thinking, as well as the relationship between thoughts, feelings and desires.

They have a deep understanding of the powerful role that thinking plays in the quality of their lives. They understand that egocentric thinking will always play a role in their thinking, but that they can control the power that egocentrism has over their thinking and their lives.

Skill in Thinking: Advanced thinkers regularly critique their own plan for systematic practice, and improve it thereby. Practicing thinkers regularly monitor their own thoughts. They insightfully articulate the strengths and weaknesses in their thinking. They possess outstanding knowledge of the qualities of their thinking. Advanced thinkers are consistently able to identify when their thinking is driven by their native egocentrism; and they effectively use a number of strategies to reduce the power of their egocentric thoughts.

Relevant Intellectual Traits: The key intellectual trait required at this stage is a high degree of intellectual humility in recognizing egocentric and sociocentric thought in one’s life as well as areas of significant ignorance and prejudice. In addition the thinker at this level needs: a) the intellectual insight and perseverance to actually develop new fundamental habits of thought based on deep values to which one has committed oneself, b) the intellectual integrity to recognize areas of inconsistency and contradiction in one’s life, c) the intellectual empathy necessary to put oneself in the place of others in order to genuinely understand them, d) the intellectual courage to face and fairly address ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints toward which one has strong negative emotions, e) the fair-mindedness necessary to approach all viewpoints without prejudice, without reference to one’s own feelings or vested interests. In the advanced thinker these traits are emerging, but may not be manifested at the highest level or in the deepest dimensions of thought.

Some Implications for Instruction: For the foreseeable future most of our students will not become advanced thinkers — if at all — until college or beyond. Nevertheless, it is important that they learn what it would be to become an advanced thinker. It is important that they see it as an important goal. We can help students move in this direction by fostering their awareness of egocentrism and sociocentrism in their thinking, by leading discussions on intellectual perseverance, intellectual integrity, intellectual empathy, intellectual courage, and fair-mindedness. If we can graduate students who are practicing thinkers, we will have achieved a major break-through in schooling. However intelligent our graduates may be, most of them are largely unreflective as thinkers, and are unaware of the disciplined habits of thought they need to develop to grow intellectually as a thinker.

Stage Six: The Accomplished Thinker

Defining Feature: Accomplished thinkers not only have systematically taken charge of their thinking, but are also continually monitoring, revising, and re-thinking strategies for continual improvement of their thinking. They have deeply internalized the basic skills of thought, so that critical thinking is, for them, both conscious and highly intuitive. As Piaget would put it, they regularly raise their thinking to the level of conscious realization. Through extensive experience and practice in engaging in self-assessment, accomplished thinkers are not only actively analyzing their thinking in all the significant domains of their lives, but are also continually developing new insights into problems at deeper levels of thought. Accomplished thinkers are deeply committed to fair-minded thinking, and have a high level of, but not perfect, control over their egocentric nature.

Principal Challenge: To make the highest levels of critical thinking intuitive in every domain of one’s life. To internalize highly effective critical thinking in an interdisciplinary and practical way.

Knowledge of Thinking: Accomplished thinkers are not only actively and successfully engaged in systematically monitoring the role in their thinking of concepts, assumptions, inferences, implications, points of view, etc., but are also regularly improving that practice. Accomplished thinkers have not only a high degree of knowledge of thinking, but a high degree of practical insight as well. Accomplished thinkers intuitively assess their thinking for clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, logicalness, etc. Accomplished thinkers have deep insights into the systematic internalization of critical thinking into their habits. Accomplished thinkers deeply understand the role that egocentric and sociocentric thinking plays in the lives of human beings, as well as the complex relationship between thoughts, emotions, drives and behavior.

Skill in Thinking: Accomplished thinkers regularly, effectively, and insightfully critique their own use of thinking in their lives, and improve it thereby. Accomplished thinkers consistently monitor their own thoughts. They effectively and insightfully articulate the strengths and weaknesses inherent in their thinking. Their knowledge of the qualities of their thinking is outstanding. Although, as humans they know they will always be fallible (because they must always battle their egocentrism, to some extent), they consistently perform effectively in every domain of their lives. People of good sense seek out master thinkers, for they recognize and value the ability of master thinkers to think through complex issues with judgment and insight.

Relevant Intellectual Traits: Naturally inherent in master thinkers are all the essential intellectual characteristics, deeply integrated. Accomplished thinkers have a high degree of intellectual humility, intellectual integrity, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage, intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy, intellectual responsibility and fair-mindedness. Egocentric and sociocentric thought is quite uncommon in the accomplished thinker, especially with respect to matters of importance. There is a high degree of integration of basic values, beliefs, desires, emotions, and action.

Some implications for Instruction: For the foreseeable future the vast majority of our students will never become accomplished thinkers — any more than most high school basketball players will develop the skills or abilities of a professional basketball player or student writers the writing skills of a published novelist. Nevertheless, it is important that they learn what it would be to become an accomplished thinker. It is important that they see it as a real possibility, if practicing skills of thinking becomes a characteristic of how they use their minds day to day.

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