Everyone can think critically!

A Collaborative Exploration (CE) in which participants learn as much as possible about how critical thinking is presented and promoted by others.
  • In brief, CEs are an extension of Problem- or Project-Based Learning (PBL) and related approaches to education in which participants address a scenario or case in which the problems are not well defined, shaping their own directions of inquiry and developing their skills as investigators and prospective teachers (in the broadest sense of the word). (For more background, read the prospectus.)
  • If you want to know what a CE requires of you, this CE is completely asynchronous. Simply pursue inquiries based on the scenario below on your own, then make posts and read posts that participants make to a public google+ community, http://bit.ly/CCRPgplus (preferably in the period mid-October to mid-November).
  • If you are wondering how to define a meaningful and useful approach to the topic, let us hope the scenario stimulates you to participate. We will let CE participants judge for themselves whether their inquiries are relevant.
  • Intended outcomes for participants of this CE are of two kinds:
    • a) tangible: your entry to the "guidebook" envisaged in the scenario below, posted to http://bit.ly/CCRPgplus (with tag #601, which is the number of a course in which students are also undertaking this CE); and
    • b) experiential: being impressed at how much can be learned with a small commitment of time using the CE structure to motivate and connect participants.

Imagine a "guidebook" to help you appreciate the idea that everyone can think critically and to help you help others appreciate that idea. The end-product of this CE are drafts of entries to this guidebook, which might take the form of text, maps, schemas, mp3s, or something else. These entries should introduce and organize key resources, i.e., key concepts, issues and debates, references to research, quotes or paraphrases from those references, interactive activities and personal habits, people and organizations to take note of, appropriate stories. (Do not be concerned about whether your entries overlap with anyone else's.)

Some questions that might stimulate your inquiries:
  • How much have well-worn sources from the 80s and 90s been superseded by more recent research and writing; how much do old sources hold up? Is it justified to criticize a course or a handbook on critical thinking for using old references? Can we show the longer-term Critical Thinking instructors ways to update their syllabi?
  • Could the critical thinking process be thought of less as adding rule-bound practices and more as recognizing and removing obstacles that have come into place and obscured natural critical thinking? What authors have promoted the latter approach?
  • How much does the critical thinking process need to involve individuals seeking or creating supportive "context," e.g., arranging sounding boards or establishing one's surroundings as a "studio" to make a space where critical thinking comes easier? What is known about how spaces for critical thinking, communities and historical periods came together? What does critical thinking mean in different fields of work?
  • What has been studied and written about regarding what we could call indirect approaches to fostering critical thinking?
  • To the extent that the critical thinking process like the creative thinking process involves the capacity to manage, seek out, even welcome risk, struggle and failure, how can we feel more comfortable and supported in allowing "failures" to happen... of letting go of positions we once held strongly to?
  • What is there to support, or contradict, the idea that "everyone can think critically"? In guiding those who believe that they are not critical thinkers, what steps might be taken to encourage them to at least explore the possibility?
  • How is improvement in critical thinking assessed? How are different tools and activities to foster critical thinking evaluated?

The process towards the end products should involve reading and digesting as much as you can in the time available, guided by some of the questions above that interest you. The assumption (is this justified?) is that your experience undertaking the previous CE before having looked at how critical thinking is presented and promoted by others will help you to choose topics that most grab your interest and be engaged in learning about them. In any case, there is no expectation that you think like a textbook writer who has to cover every topic. Instead, you should identify a theme that can govern what your writing focuses on (see, for examples, the table of contents of Developing Minds). Entry points for readings are given by:
  • the syllabi from CCT courses in Critical Thinking (http://www.cct.umb.edu/courses.html#601);
  • The abdundant resources of http://www.criticalthinking.org/
  • The resources of http://habitsofmind.org/ or Costa, A. L. and B. Kallick (2008). Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind. Alexandria, VA, ASCD.
  • Costa, A. L. (ed.) 2001. Developing minds : a resource book for teaching thinking. 3rd ed. Alexandria, Va. : Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Teays, W. 2009. Second Thoughts: Critical Thinking for a Diverse Society. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill

Your explorations may, of course, lead you to more recent or more appropriate sources than you find in the CCT syllabi.