FAQs - Teaching for Critical Thinking

What is critical thinking?

There are many definitions of critical thinking. This project focuses on SPC's definition of Critical Thinking.

What does it mean to "teach for critical thinking"?

Critical thinking is not just a set of skills that can be learned; it involves a change of attitude and a new mindset. In its broadest sense, critical thinking is an ideal to which teachers and learners alike must aspire; it is a long-term goal that requires frequent practice within a variety of contexts (Ennis, 1993).

Critical thought cannot be taught in a single lesson or even in a single class (Nosich, 2005). Instead it must be infused throughout the curriculum. Educators do not teach critical thinking; they teach for critical thinking through the curriculum, and significant results cannot be expected in a short period of time (Ennis, 1993).

How do you "teach for critical thinking"?

Students learn more effectively when they are actively involved in their learning. To be effective in teaching for critical thinking, however, students must not only be actively involved, they also must be thinking about what they are doing and thinking about their thinking process. Collaborative learning without the standards and elements of critical thinking becomes "collaborative mis-learning" (Paul, 1995, p. 95). With those caveats in mind, the review of the literature identified a number of instructional approaches that help develop students' critical thinking. Among those are active learning, collaborative learning, Socratic questioning, and significant learning experiences, as well as numerous strategies that support the various approaches.

Where can I find information specific to my discipline?

Contact the Faculty Champions or Academic Round Tables (ARTs) to see what is being developed in specific disciplines. When the ARTs have completed their year of engaging in the "scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL)", their results will be shared via an online Instructional Portfolio.

Where can I go to learn how to teach students to think critically?

There are a number of ways to gain additional skill at "teaching for critical thinking."

Attend the next Critical Thinking Institute which is a facilitated opportunity for learning tools and techniques for teaching students to think critically. Or, consider one of the Critical Thinking Conferences held across the country and around the world.

Embark on a self-study via Online Critical Thinking Instruction which includes notes from selected Critical Thinking Institutes and a number of short "courselets" on instructional strategies and technologies that promote students' critical thinking. Participate in an informal Critical Thinking Discussion Forum to share ideas asynchronously.

Consult with a Faculty Champion who is available as an expert resource for her/his campus in addition to leading her/his Academic Round Table. Join one of the current Academic Round Tables (ARTs) if there is one from your discipline that is meeting regularly. If your discipline does not currently have an ART, contact us to learn how to get started: CriticalThinking@SPCollege.edu

Review online Critical Thinking Resources and Games, or visit your nearest SPC Campus Library to check out the materials housed in the Critical Thinking Resources Center which includes a good selection of resources for teaching for critical thinking.

What tools and technology do we have for teaching students to think critically?

There are a number of technologies that have been explored to assist faculty in teaching for critical thinking. These include: Podcasts, RSS, Video, and the St. Petersburg Online Communicator (SPOC). Your Campus Instructional Design Technologist (IDT) is an excellent resource for these and other technologies such as TurningPoint Clickers, Camtasia, Web 2.0 tools, and more.