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If there is no problem there is no point in thinking critically. Thinking our way through a problem to a solution, then, is critical thinking, not something else.
Two things are crucial: 1) critical thinking is not just thinking, but thinking which entails self-improvement 2) this improvement comes from skill in using standards by which one appropriately assesses thinking.
To put it briefly, it is self-improvement (in thinking) through standards (that assess thinking).
Many teachers are apt to take student writing or speech which is fluent and witty or glib and amusing as good thinking.
They are often unclear about the constituents of good reasoning.
The result was, by the way, that a flagrantly mis-graded student essay was showcased nationally (in ASCD's Paul: I don't think so.
Let me suggest a way in which you could begin to test my contention.All of us can engage in small talk, can share gossip.And we don't require any intricate skills to do that fairly well.Hence, critical thinking is not a set of skills separable from excellence in communication, problem solving, creative thinking, or collaborative learning, nor is it indifferent to one's sense of self-worth. We think critically when we have at least one problem to solve.One is not doing good critical thinking, therefore, if one is not solving any problems. There is no way to solve problems effectively unless one thinks critically about the nature of the problems and of how to go about solving them.The "making" and the "testing of that making" are intimately interconnected.In critical thinking we make and shape ideas and experiences so that they may be used to structure and solve problems, frame decisions, and, as the case may be, effectively communicate with others.And then when you explain what you mean, I think you will find that the person is not able to articulate any such standards.Thinking skills programs without intellectual standards are tailor-made for mis-instruction. Only with quality long-term staff development that helps the teachers, over an extended period of time, over years not months, to work on their own thinking and come to terms with what intellectual standards are, why they are essential, and how to teach for them.Hence, even though a student may just be asserting things, not reasoning things out at all, if she is doing so with vivacity and flamboyance, teachers are apt to take this to be equivalent to good reasoning.This was made clear in a recent California state-wide writing assessment in which teachers and testers applauded a student essay, which they said illustrated "exceptional achievement" in reasoned evaluation, an essay that contained no reasoning at all, that was nothing more than one subjective reaction after another.