Your Study Guides and Strategies starts here! 4 million visitors in 39 languages in 2011. What is the topic of the book critical thinking and reading comprehension reading? What are the author’s reasons for his or her statements or belief?
Is the author using facts, theory, or faith? Has the author used neutral words or emotional words? From a paper to the Governor’s Teaching Fellows, Athen,s Georgia, November 19, 1998. Flash exercise contributed by Jennifer Kelly and Dr. School of Design, University of Minnesota.
Website overview: Since 1996 the Study Guides and Strategies Website has been researched, authored, maintained and supported as an international, learner-centric, educational public service. Permission is granted to freely copy, adapt, and distribute individual Study Guides in print format in non-commercial educational settings that benefit learners. The Study Guides and Strategies Website is intended for students, ages middle school through returning adult, as well as their parents, teachers and support professionals. Critical Thinking: Why Is It So Hard to Teach? Learning critical thinking skills can only take a student so far. Virtually everyone would agree that a primary, yet insufficiently met, goal of schooling is to enable students to think critically.
This proper and commonsensical goal has very often been translated into calls to teach “critical thinking skills” and “higher-order thinking skills” and into generic calls for teaching students to make better judgments, reason more logically, and so forth. In 1983, A Nation At Risk, a report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, found that many 17-year-olds did not possess the “‘higher-order’ intellectual skills” this country needed. It claimed that nearly 40 percent could not draw inferences from written material and only onefifth could write a persuasive essay. Following the release of A Nation At Risk, programs designed to teach students to think critically across the curriculum became extremely popular. By 1990, most states had initiatives designed to encourage educators to teach critical thinking, and one of the most widely used programs, Tactics for Thinking, sold 70,000 teacher guides.
3 But, for reasons I’ll explain, the programs were not very effective — and today we still lament students’ lack of critical thinking. After more than 20 years of lamentation, exhortation, and little improvement, maybe it’s time to ask a fundamental question: Can critical thinking actually be taught? Decades of cognitive research point to a disappointing answer: not really. People who have sought to teach critical thinking have assumed that it is a skill, like riding a bicycle, and that, like other skills, once you learn it, you can apply it in any situation. In this article, I will describe the nature of critical thinking, explain why it is so hard to do and to teach, and explore how students acquire a specific type of critical thinking: thinking scientifically. Along the way, we’ll see that critical thinking is not a set of skills that can be deployed at any time, in any context. It is a type of thought that even 3-year-olds can engage in — and even trained scientists can fail in.
And it is very much dependent on domain knowledge and practice. Why is thinking critically so hard? Educators have long noted that school attendance and even academic success are no guarantee that a student will graduate an effective thinker in all situations. There is an odd tendency for rigorous thinking to cling to particular examples or types of problems. Imagine a seventh-grade math class immersed in word problems. How is it that students will be able to answer one problem, but not the next, even though mathematically both word problems are the same, that is, they rely on the same mathematical knowledge?
Thinking tends to focus on a problem’s “surface structure”To understand why the surface structure of a problem is so distracting and, as a result, why it’s so hard to apply familiar solutions to problems that appear new, let’s first consider how you understand what’s being asked when you are given a problem. Anything you hear or read is automatically interpreted in light of what you already know about similar subjects. Members of the West High School Band were hard at work practicing for the annual Homecoming Parade. First they tried marching in rows of 12, but Andrew was left by himself to bring up the rear. Then the director told the band members to march in columns of eight, but Andrew was still left to march alone. Even when the band marched in rows of three, Andrew was left out.
When a student reads a word problem, her mind interprets the problem in light of her prior knowledge, as happened when you read the two sentences about copyrights and China. The difficulty is that the knowledge that seems relevant relates to the surface structure — in this problem, the reader dredges up knowledge about bands, high school, musicians, and so forth. The student is unlikely to read the problem and think of it in terms of its deep structure — using the least common multiple. A treasure hunter is going to explore a cave up on a hill near a beach. He suspected there might be many paths inside the cave so he was afraid he might get lost.
What could he do to make sure he did not get lost trying to get back out of the cave later? It takes a good deal of practice with a problem type before students know it well enough to immediately recognize its deep structure, irrespective of the surface structure, as Americans did for the Hansel and Gretel problem. Looking for a deep structure helps, but it only takes you so far Now let’s turn to the second factor that aids in transfer despite distracting differences in surface structure — knowing to look for a deep structure. Consider what would happen if I said to a student working on the band problem, “this one is similar to the garden problem. Helping students become better at regulating their thoughts was one of the goals of the critical thinking programs that were popular 20 years ago. These programs are not very effective.