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Critical Thinking is not just a “nice to have” skill in the 21st century, it is essential.We live in an age where we have more information at our fingertips than ever before and more opportunity to communicate with people across the globe.
The question remains, however, can we actually teach students that skill?
The Thinking Skills Debate The debate over whether or not general thinking skills, or GTS, actually exist is well traveled within a relatively small circle of researchers and thinkers, but virtually unknown outside of it.
A key question in the debate, therefore, is whether thinking skills can exist independently from discipline-specific content in a meaningful way such that transfer is possible.
Writing on this, Tim John Moore, a senior lecturer at the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, called this “the generalizabilty debate.” On one side are the generalists, who believe “critical thinking can be distilled down to a finite set of constitutive skills, ones that can be learned in a systematic way and have applicability across all academic disciplines.” Some notable proponents of this position are Robert Ennis, emeritus professor of philosophy of education at the University of Illinois; Peter Facione, former provost at Loyola University of Chicago; and Richard Paul, director of research and professional development at the Center for Critical Thinking.
But how to we discern what information is correct, relevant and unbiased?
How do we know when to accept what someone is saying, and when to question it?
How can schools give their students a competitive advantage in a tight job market?
Educational institutions across the country are looking for solutions –new ways to teach critical thinking, measure student learning and demonstrate efficacy.
“The university seeks to foster in all its students lifelong habits of careful observation, critical thinking, creativity, moral reflection and articulate expression.” “…
University fosters intellectual inquiry and critical thinking, preparing graduates who will serve as effective, ethical leaders and engaged citizens.” “The college provides students with the knowledge, critical-thinking skills and creative experience they need to navigate in a complex global environment.” These are but a tiny sampling of the mission statements from higher education institutions around the country where critical thinking is a central focus.