Common misconceptions of critical thinking
SHARON BAILIN, ROLAND CASE,JERROLD R. COOMBS and LEROI B. DANIELS
In this paper, the ®rst of two, we analyse three widely-held conceptions of criticalthinking: as one or more skills, as mental processes, and as sets of procedures. Eachviewis, wecontend, wrong-headed, misleadingor, atbest, unhelpful. Somewhowriteabout critical thinkingseemtomuddle all three views inanunenlightening meÂlange.Apartfromtheerrorsorinadequaciesof theconceptionsthemselves, theypromoteorabet misconceivedpractices for teaching critical thinking. Together, theyhave ledtothe view that critical thinking is best taught by practising it. We oer alternativeproposals for the teaching of critical thinking.
Critical thinkingisasubject of considerablecurrentinterest, bothintermsof theory and pedagogy. A great deal is written about critical thinking,conferences on the subject abound, and educational initiatives aimed atfostering critical thinking proliferate.
It is our view that much of thetheoretical work and many of the pedagogical endeavours in this area aremisdirectedbecause they are basedon faulty conceptions of critical think-ing. Critical thinking is frequently conceptualized in terms of skills, pro-cesses, procedures and practice. Much of the educational literature eitherreferstocognitiveorthinkingskills orequatescriticalthinkingwithcertainmental processes or procedural moves that can be improved throughpractice. In this paper we attempt toexplain the misconceptions inherentin such ways of conceptualizing critical thinking. It is important to notethatmuchof theliteraturecontainsapervasivemiasmaof overlappingusesof such terms as skill, process, procedure, behaviour, mental operations,
j. curriculum studies
, aprofessor intheFacultyof Education, SimonFraser University, Burnaby,British Columbia, Canada V5A 1S6, is interested in philosophical inquiries into criticalthinking, creativity and aesthetic education. Her publications include
Reason and Values:NewEssaysinPhilosophy of Education
(Calgary, AB: Detselig, 1993
, anassociate professor in the Faculty of Education, SimonFraser University,conducts researchinsocial studies and legal andglobal education. His most recent bookis
The Canadian Anthology of Social Studies: Issues and Strategies
(Burnaby, BC: Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University
, co-edited with Penney Clark.
Jerrold R. Coombs
, aprofessor intheFacultyof Education, Universityof BritishColumbia,haspublishedextensivelyonethical issuesineducationandthedevelopmentof competencein practical reasoning. His publications include
Applied Ethics: A Reader
(Oxford: Black-well, 1993
, co-edited with Earl R. Winkler.
LeRoi B. Daniels
, a professor emeritus in the Faculty of Education, University of BritishColumbia, is interested inphilosophyof mind andlegal education. He is currently editing(with Roland Case
the `Critical Challenges Across the Curriculum’ series (Burnaby, BC:Faculty of Education, SimonFraser University
Journal of Curriculum Studies
ISSN 0022±0272 print/ISSN 1366±5839 online
1999 Taylor &Francis Ltdhttp://www.tandf.co.uk/JNLS/cus.htmhttp://www.taylorandfrancis.com/JNLS/cus.htm