From the ERIC database
Critical Thinking in Community Colleges. ERIC Digest.
The issue of critical thinking is being addressed at all levels of education throughout the nation. "Deep-seated problems of environmental damage, human relations, overpopulation, rising expectations, diminishing resources, global competition, personal goals, and ideological conflict" will need to be addressed by individuals capable of reflective and critical thought (Paul, 1992, p. 4). Many of today's youth lack the basic skills to function effectively when they enter the workforce. A common complaint is that entry-level employees lack the reasoning and critical thinking abilities needed to process and refine information. With the modern work environment requiring more thinking and problem solving than the jobs of the past, community college teachers and administrators should emphasize critical thinking on their campuses, in their curricula, and in their teaching practices in order to prepare students to function effectively in today's workforce. This digest presents an overview of the concept of critical thinking, methods of teaching critical thinking, and examples of critical thinking programs in community colleges.
WHAT IS CRITICAL THINKING?
TEACHING CRITICAL THINKING
Glock (1986) suggests ways that teachers can reinforce verbal critical thinking skills by focusing greater attention on students' "why" questions than their "who," "where" and "how" questions. Teachers should also pay attention to their own methods of asking questions, questioning answers, and questioning questions. She suggests the following:
* When a student asks a why question, have the rest of the class discuss the kinds of questions that are most powerful and the sources of their power. Explain the structure of analytical questions. Use such questions -- especially those generated by students -- in quizzes.
* Once students become accustomed to answering analytical questions using material presented in class, ask similar questions that must be answered through their own work experience or out-of-class inquiries.
* Have students analyze the information presented in the textbook to discern which forms of inquiry were used to generate it.
* Have students read critical analyses of their text, and encourage students to develop their own criticisms based on their personal experiences.
* Compare opposing positions on a topic, and help students identify the sources of the differences of opinion. Avoid emotion-laden topics until students begin to perceive the "universality of reinterpretation and redefinition."
In her second-year oral communications course, Tripp (1990) uses the problem-solving conference. Students (1) select, define, and establish the parameters of a school-related problem; (2) analyze the problem to identify underlying causes, its scope and seriousness, and potential impact; (3) conduct a brainstorming session to generate creative solutions; (4) assess the proposed solutions in terms of viability and potential effectiveness; (5) reach consensus on the solutions; and (6) implement the decision. This process is used in the development of students' group research projects, which result in a technical report based on primary research. Questionnaires and interviews are generally used to gather data on such problems as curriculum requirements, campus parking, or dress codes. All group members should be involved throughout the process--"talking, listening, gathering data, writing, and editing" --and decisions should be reached democratically.
Sheridan (1992) believes that writing facilitates critical thinking, arguing that "the act of generating written discourse is not merely a result of critical thinking but also a stimulus to new thinking and new discoveries." In his freshman composition course, Sheridan uses the Freewrite exercise to liberate students from their stultifying fear of grammar and spelling mistakes and open them to the risk taking required for innovative thought. Subsequent writing assignments are based on real life topics generated by the students themselves in a series of brainstorming sessions. With instructor guidance the students also generate other thinking-writing strategies to apply to their assignments, including techniques such as:
- Prioritize Please
-Alternate Ways of Looking
-State Problem Specifically
-Mine for Metaphors
-Take the Next Step
-Essential to Consider Opposition
-Sequence Your Points
-Stand It on Its Head
-Write It in Pieces
- Disobey Directions Creatively
The students also generate the criteria to be used in evaluating their written work, in the belief that students will more readily internalize standards they themselves have suggested.
CRITICAL THINKING PROGRAMS AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES
At other institutions, critical thinking is implemented through curriculum change. At Alverno College, eight abilities (i.e., communication, analysis, problem solving, valuing, social interaction, responsibility toward the global environment, effective citizenship, and aesthetic responsiveness) have been embodied in the curriculum to facilitate the intellectual development of students (Cromwell, 1992).
Miami-Dade Community College District. "Recommendations on 'Learning to Learn.'" Miami, Fla.: Miami-Dade Community College, 1989. 47pp. (ED 313 077).
Nickerson, Ray; And Others. "Teaching Thinking." Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1985.
Tripp, Ellen L. "Speak, Listen, Analyze, Respond: Problem-Solving Conferences. 'Teaching English in the Two-Year College,'" 1990, 17(3), 183- 186.
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Title: Critical Thinking in Community Colleges. ERIC Digest.
Descriptors: * Classroom Techniques; * College Programs; Community Colleges; Controversial Issues [Course Content]; * Critical Thinking; Educational Change; * Instructional Improvement; Program Descriptions; * Teaching Methods; Two Year Colleges
Identifiers: ERIC Digests
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