Laying the Ground Work for Critical Thinking

Montana State University College of Business
Developed by Professor Terry Doyle Ferris State University

Students' ability and willingness to think critically are most likely to develop when knowledge acquisition and thinking about content are intertwined rather than sequential.

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Richard Paul

The Critical Thinking Community
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We all Think Differently

Add 17 +56 in your head

We don’t Think Alike
A—In columns like on paper • B—Added 10 to 56 and 7 to 66 • C—Added 20 to 56 and subtracted 3 from 76
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D—Other •
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Cognitive Readiness
• Perry’s scheme for cognitive development • Dr. William Perry (1970) articulated 9 positions of cognitive development in college students.  • Most people pass fairly predictably from position to position, although certainly development is not really as linear as the positions imply.

Perry’s scheme for cognitive development
• Development may be arrested or even reversed at any stage if the cognitive challenges presented are too great. 

• Furthermore, a person can be at different stages in different areas

The Cognitive Development Scheme
• In Stages 1 or 2 (Dualism), students may resist learning information that challenges their established beliefs.

The Cognitive Development Scheme
• In Stages 3 and 4 (Multiplicity), students may argue that their answers are just as valid as a teacher’s answers for a subjective topic.

The Cognitive Development Scheme
• In Stage 5 (Relativism and Procedural Knowledge), students begin to realize that valid disciplinary reasoning methods exist. 

The Cognitive Development Scheme
• In Stage 6, students begin to realize that they must make choices and commit to solutions and ways of life.

Model of Epistemological Reflection

Stage One

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Absolute Knowing
Knowledge is viewed as certain. Teachers are absolute authorities Learning is about reciting facts.

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Model of Epistemological Reflection
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Stage Two

Transitional Knowing
Reflects that some knowledge is uncertain. Authorities are not all-knowing Authorities provide more information regarding the

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Model of Epistemological Reflection
• Students in this stage are focused on understanding knowledge rather than simply acquiring knowledge
• • • Half of sophomores and close to eighty percent of juniors and seniors were transitional knower's.

Model of Epistemological Reflection
Stage Three Independent knowing • Recognize that knowledge is mostly uncertain.

• Instructors are expected to provide a environment for learning that rewards thinking and logic over particular views that may be different from the text or the teacher.
• Independent knowing was seen most frequently in the first year past graduation (57%).

Model of Epistemological Reflection
• Stage Four  Contextual knowing.

• “Contextual knowing involves the belief that the legitimacy of knowledge claims is determined contextually. The individual still constructs a point of view, but the perspective now

Making Thinking Visible

Our findings argue that everyday thinking may suffer more from just plain missing the opportunities to think than from poor thinking skills.

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(Perkins, Tishman, Ritchhart, Donis, & Andrade, 2000; Perkins & Tishman, 2001).

Making Thinking Visible
• Use the language of thinking (Tishman &
Perkins, 1997).

• Integrate terms like hypothesis, reason, p re m i , co n cl si n s, i d u cti , d e d u cti , a ssu m se u o n ve ve evidence, possibility, imagination, perspective

• Routine use of such words in a natural intuitive way helps

Making Thinking Visible
• Being a model of thoughtfulness for one's students.

• Teachers who do not expect instant answers, who display their own honest uncertainties, who take a moment to think about "What if" or "What if not" or "How else could this be done?" or

Making Thinking Visible
• One thinking routine that we have found to be useful in many settings involves two key questions: "What's going on here?" and "What do you see that makes you say so?"

W h a t’ s g o i g o n h e re ? n

Making Thinking Visible
• This pair of questions asks students in informal language for interpretations and supporting reasons.

• Responses can be labeled as hypotheses and support for their

Making Thinking Visible
• The circle of viewpoints.

• Students are asked to pick a point of view and speak from it (which does not, of course, mean that they agree with it).

Culture of Critical Thinking

Discuss with students directly the value of attitudes of curiosity, inquiry, and playing with ideas – important thinking dispositions.

A Thinking Classroom

n ve d A re stu d e n ts exp l i i g th i g s to o n A re nstu de r?ts o ffe ri g cre a ti i e a s? an n n e a o th e n

A re stu d e n ts d e b a ti g i te r n n

I th e re a b ra i sto rm a b o u t a l rn a ti p l n s o n th e s n te ve a n d I u si g th e lI n th e re ea op ro /i ki l st o n th e b l ckb o a rd ? , n as g u a g f th co n n g ? n i a

Critical Thinking is Hard
• A majority of people cannot, even when prompted, reliably exhibit basic skills of general reasoning and argumentation

(Deanna Kuhn, The Skills of Argumentation)

Critical Thinking is Hard
• Evolution did not waste time making things better than they needed to be— we needed to be just smart enough to survive

(Tim van Gelder, in Teaching Critical Thinking,

Critical Thinking is Hard
• Humans are pattern seeking story telling animals—we like things to make sense but most of time that means familiar patterns and narratives

(Michael Shermer, 2002)

Critical Thinking is Hard
• This is called the “make sense epistemology”

• The test of truth is that it makes intuitive sense or sounds right— no need to look closer

Critical Thinking is Hard
• Critical thinking involves skillfully exercising various lowerlevel cognitive capacities in integrated wholes

( Tim van Gelder, in Teaching Critical Thinking, College teaching , 2005)

Critical Thinking is Hard
• Think about it like learning to become fluent in a foreign language, speaking ,writing , listening and thinking in another language

Planning a Course that Integrates Critical Thinking
• What am I going to teach? • What content am I going to teach? • What questions or problems will be central to the course? • What concepts will be fundamental?

Planning a Course that Integrates Critical Thinking
• What amount of information will students need to access?

• What point of view or frame of reference do they need to learn to reason within?

Planning a Course that Integrates Critical Thinking
• All need to be on the same page

• Agree on the same vocabulary /terminology

Basic Components of a Good Assignment

Critical thinking assignments should thoroughly articulate these basic components:

1. Clear and precise explanation of the task, including the purpose of the assignment. 2. List of the cognitive skills required to complete the assignment. 3. Precise description of the grading criteria (including relevant intellectual standards)

Basic Components of a Good Assignment
• For example, on the assignment handout, faculty should explicitly identify the cognitive skills necessary for completing the assignment, allowing students to see the particular mental

Basic Components of a Good Assignment
• Faculty can also incorporate the relevant and significant intellectual standards in their grading criteria. • • The intellectual standards give faculty and students a precise, consistent way of describing and assessing good thinking in any discipline.

Critical Thinking and Assignments in Business
• Step One • The students must actively do the critical thinking themselves or they will not get better.

• The key word here is actively

Critical Thinking and Assignments in Business
Step Two • Students must be fully engaged

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• Include exercises that can improve performance

Critical Thinking and Assignments in Business

• Make it progressively more challenging

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• Give guidance and feedback on performance

Critical Thinking and Assignments in Business

Teach transference of skills and processes—don’t assume the students can make these on their own

Critical Thinking and Assignments in Business
• Ask students to explain and analyze their thinking as they work on business problems, build marketing campaigns or resolve human resource issues.

Critical Thinking and Assignments in Business
• Have them identify and analyze the information they use, the inferences they draw, the assumptions they make, the key questions they ask, etc.

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Critical Thinking and Assignments in Business
• If they write out the logic behind their work, we will be able to assess their thinking in addition to the product of that thinking

Critical Thinking and Assignments in Business
• Ask students to keep a list of mistakes they make.

• Have students explain why they made the mistakes, how they found each one, and how they corrected them.

• Ask them to write about why they made them, and how they discovered them so we will be able to assess their thinking.

Critical Thinking and Assignments in Business
• Ask students to determine the problem or create the scenario.

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• In other words, ask students to create the problem as well as devise

Critical Thinking and Assignments in Business
• Having students create their own database and queries would require them to really think through the entire process.

• They would have to determine the kinds of data they need, find that data, and create the categories

Critical Thinking and Assignments in Business
• Ask students to think through some additional questions that would help to assess the quality of their thinking.

1. How could you modify ----- to make it... ? 2.Describe some other possible applications of the program or technique. 3. Compare and contrast this technique to other techniques.

Rubric for Critical Thinking
• Exemplary thinking is skilled, marked by excellence in clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logicality, and fairness

• Satisfactory thinking is competent, effective, accurate and clear, but lacks the exemplary depth, precision, and insight of a 4

• Unsatisfactory thinking is inconsistent, ineffective; shows a lack of consistent competence: is often unclear, imprecise, inaccurate, and superficial Below Satisfactory thinking is unskilled and insufficient, marked by imprecision, lack of clarity, superficiality, illogicality, inaccuracy, and unfairness

Assignment CIS 110 Critical Thinking Exercise

Step 1 What do we mean when we say a web site is creditable? What makes a web site creditable? Write a paragraph in your own words to answer these two questions. • Using your favorite search engine, find information about how to determine the credibility of web sites. • • • •

Two good sources are: 1 . Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility at and 2. Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply and Questions to Ask • • • • •

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Step 2 Using the Internet, find three examples of articles, documentaries, or news stories that deal with the verifying of facts and data on the Internet. Analyze your findings. Write a summary of each article or media piece.

Assignment CIS 110 Critical Thinking Exercise

• • • • • • • • • • For each article, be sure you: • have a clear understanding of the issue. • identify and evaluate relevant major points of view. • accurately interpret statements, logic, data, facts, etc. • acknowledge the depth and breadth of the issue by recognizing related theories, principles, or representations. • accurately identify assumptions, make valid assumptions. • follow where evidence and reason lead in order to obtain defensible, judicious, logical conclusions. Each summary should be ½ to 1 page in length and include a works cited entry.

Step 3 • Compose a 1 ½ to 2 page paper that answers the question “What factors influence how Internet users analyze and evaluate the information they find online?”

Assignment CIS 110 Critical Thinking Exercise

• For example, do older people with less Internet experience tend to be more naïve about Internet information than younger people who have been raised on the Internet? • Why or why not? Does educational level play a role?

The Elements of Thought
Points of View frame of reference, perspective, orientation Assumptions presupposition, taking for granted Purpose of the Thinking, goal, objective Question at Issue problem, issue Concepts theories, definitions, axioms, laws, principles, models Informati on data, facts, observatio ns, experience s

Implication s & Consequence s Interpretati on and Inference conclusions , solutions

Printed with permission of Richard Paul and Linda Elder, Foundation of Critical Thinking, from The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking, Concepts & Tools

Universal Intellectual Standards

Clarit y Accurac y

Elaborate further? Give an example? Illustrate what you mean? Check on that? that true? test that? Is Verify or

Precis ion

Be more specific? Give more details? Be more exact?
Printed with permission of Richard Paul and Linda Elder, Foundation of Critical Thinking, from The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking, Concepts & Tools

Releva nce

Relate to the problem? Bear on the question? Help with the issue?


Factors that make this a difficult problem? Complexities of the question? Difficulties we need to deal with?

Breadt h

Look at this from another perspective? Consider another point of view? Look at this in other ways?

Logic Signif icance Fairne ss

Does this make sense together? Does your first paragraph fit with your last? Does what you say follow from the evidence? Most important problem to consider? Central idea to focus on? Which facts are most important?

Any vested interest in this issue? Taking into account the thinking of others? Examine my thinking for prejudice?

clarity accuracy relevance Logicalness breadth precision significance completeness fairness depth

must be applied to

as we learn to develop purposes questions points of view information inferences concepts implications assumptions

intellectual humility intellectual autonomy intellectual integrity intellectual courage intellectual perseverance confidence in reason intellectual empathy fairmindedness

Cognitive Skills that Underlie Critical Thinking

1. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the assignment’s purpose 2. Clearly define the issue or problem 3.Accurately

4. Appreciate depth and breadth of the problem 5. Demonstrate fair-mindedness toward the problem 6. Identify and evaluate relevant significant points of view

Cognitive Skills that Underlie Critical Thinking

7. Examine relevant points of view fairly, empathetically 8. Gather sufficient, credible, relevant information: observations, statements, logic, data, facts, 9. Questions, graphs, themes, assertions, descriptions, etc.

10.Include information that opposes as well as supports the argued position 11.Distinguish between information and inferences drawn from that information 12.Identify and accurately explain/use relevant key concepts 13.Acurately identify assumptions (things

Cognitive Skills that Underlie Critical Thinking

14. Make assumptions that are consistent, reasonable, and valid 15. Follow where evidence and reason lead in order to obtain defensible, thoughtful, logical conclusions or solutions 16.Make deep rather than superficial inferences

17.Make inferences that are consistent with each other 18.Identify the most significant implications and consequences of the reasoning (whether positive and/or negative) 19. Distinguish probable from improbable

Elements of Critical Thought
• Tolerance for Ambiguity

• Very difficult for younger students

• Requires flexibility in life views

• Developmental growth in managing the

Open-Minded Skepticism
• Overcoming personal bias and prejudice

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• This means suspending belief —put aside preconceived ideas especially about our

Creative Problem Solving
• Look at it from multiple perspectives

• What we fail to see can have implications for planning to prevent problems and for solving problems that occur

• Example: Hurricane Katrina  There was a failure

Attentive, Mindful and Curious
• Intellectual curiosity

• Pay attention to our thoughts and feelings

• Respect diversity

• Accepting all possibilities when

• An approach grounded in shared conversation and community

• Dynamic objectivism— recognizes the difference between our selves and others as opportunities for deeper exploration

• Consideration as to how the other

Barriers to Critical Thought
• Resistance- Immaturity —I’m not wrong

• Avoidance-hang with like minded persons

• Anger-threats to silence others

• Cliché-Don’t force your views on me— everything is relative

• Denial-ignore the truth—

Barriers to Critical Thought
• Ignorance-lack of content knowledge or willingness to learn new knowledge

• Conformity-I won’t be accepted if I disagree

• Struggling to Act-Paralysis by analysis

• Distractions-rather than think we stay distracted

• Absolutism- authority has

Barriers to Critical Thought
• Egocentrism-little regard for other’s views

• Ethnocentrism-uncritical and unjustified belief in the superiority of one’s group

• Anthropocentrism-Humans are king-resources are there for our use

• Rationalization- rush to judgment, ignoring competing claims

Barriers Broken Down
• The use of cognitive dissonance and social dissonance to confront barriers

• Introduce new ideas that directly conflict with person’s world view.

• • • • • • • • Boss, Judith. THINK Critical Thinking and Logic Skills for Everyday Life, 2010. McGraw Hill, New York, NY Grotzer, T. A. (1996). Teaching Thinking Skills: Does It Add Up for Math and Science Learning? Retrieved September 7, 2009, from Project Zero Harvard Graduate School of Education: Kennedy, M. L., & Jones, R. (2009, 6 15). Critical Thinking. Retrieved September 6, 2009, from Special Libraries Association: Lee, B. (2007, March 30). Become a Critical Thinker. Retrieved September 6, 2009, from Genius Types: OXford University Press USA. (2009, July 13). Questions That Critical Thinking Will Help You Answer. Retrieved September 6, 2009, from OUPblog: Paul, R. (1992, April). Critical Thinking: Basic Questions & Answers. Retrieved September 4, 2009, from Foundation for Critical Thinking: ReCAPP. (2009, September). Skills for Educators: Use of Critical Thinking Skills to Analyze Health Disparities. Retrieved September 7, 2009, from Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention: fuseaction=pages.EducatorSkillsDetail&PageID=98 Robbins, S. (2005, 5 30). The Path to Critical Thinking. Retrieved September 7, 2009, from Harvard Business School Working Knowledge for Business Leaders: Surrey Community College. (2005). Why Critical Thinking? Retrieved September 7, 2009, from Surry Community College:

Barratt, J. (2009, August 10). A Plea for More Critical Thinking in Design, Please . Retrieved September 5, 2009, from Fast Company:

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