Initially outlined by Max Horkheimer in his Traditional and Critical Theorycritical theory may be defined as a self-conscious social critique that is aimed at change and emancipation through enlightenment and that does not cling dogmatically to its own doctrinal assumptions. A certain sort of story a narrative was provided to explain what was happening in society, but the story concealed as much as it revealed. The Frankfurt theorists generally assumed that their task was mainly to interpret the areas of society Marx had not dealt with, especially in the superstructure of society. Drawing upon Max Weber, Horkheimer argued that the social sciences differ from the natural sciences inasmuch as generalizations cannot be easily made from so-called experiences because the understanding of a "social" experience itself is always fashioned by ideas that are in the researchers themselves.
Why scientific thinking depends on scientific knowledge Virtually everyone would agree that a primary, yet insufficiently met, goal of schooling is to enable students to think critically.
In layperson's terms, critical thinking consists of seeing both sides of an issue, being open to new evidence that disconfirms your ideas, reasoning dispassionately, demanding that claims be backed by evidence, deducing and inferring conclusions from available facts, solving problems, and so forth.
Then too, there are specific types of critical thinking that are characteristic of different subject matter: That's what we mean when we refer to "thinking like a scientist" or "thinking like a historian. In a recent survey of human resource officials1 and in testimony delivered just a few months ago before the Senate Finance Committee,2 business leaders have repeatedly exhorted schools to do a better job of teaching students to think critically.
And they are not alone.
These calls are not new. InA Nation At Risk, a report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, found that many 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.
Bymost states had initiatives designed to encourage educators to teach critical thinking, and one of the most widely used programs, Tactics for Thinking, sold 70, teacher guides. 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: 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.
Research from cognitive science shows that thinking is not that sort of skill. The processes of thinking are intertwined with the content of thought that is, domain knowledge. Thus, if you remind a student to "look at an issue from multiple perspectives" often enough, he will learn that he ought to do so, but if he doesn't know much about an issue, he can't think about it from multiple perspectives.
You can teach students maxims about how they ought to think, but without background knowledge and practice, they probably will not be able to implement the advice they memorize.
Just as it makes no sense to try to teach factual content without giving students opportunities to practice using it, it also makes no sense to try to teach critical thinking devoid of factual content. 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: 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. And a student who has learned to thoughtfully discuss the causes of the American Revolution from both the British and American perspectives doesn't even think to question how the Germans viewed World War II.
Why are students able to think critically in one situation, but not in another? The brief answer is: Thought processes are intertwined with what is being thought about. Let's explore this in depth by looking at a particular kind of critical thinking that has been studied extensively: 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?
Typically, the students are focusing on the scenario that the word problem describes its surface structure instead of on the mathematics required to solve it its deep structure.
So even though students have been taught how to solve a particular type of word problem, when the teacher or textbook changes the scenario, students still struggle to apply the solution because they don't recognize that the problems are mathematically the same.
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. For example, suppose you read these two sentences: These firms assert that the Chinese government sets stringent trade restrictions for U.
For example, if you later read the word "Bush," it would not make you think of a small shrub, nor would you wonder whether it referred to the former President Bush, the rock band, or a term for rural hinterlands. If you read "piracy," you would not think of eye-patched swabbies shouting "shiver me timbers!
Thus, it significantly narrows the scope of possible interpretations of words, sentences, and ideas.Enroll now for AMA’s critical thinking course!
Join the millions of leaders who trust our expert faculty to enhance your critical thinking ability. MuseLetter # / May by Richard Heinberg Download printable PDF version here (PDF, KB) Systems Thinking, Critical Thinking, and Personal Resilience As a writer focused on the global sustainability crisis, I’m often asked how to deal with the stress of knowing—knowing, that is, that we humans have severely overshot Earth’s long-term carrying capacity, [ ].
Educators and students as transformative agents of change.
We are thrilled to have the TC² approach to nurturing quality thinking highlighted in an article written by Maria Vamvalis and posted on the new Learning Portal of UNESCO's International Institute for Educational Planning.
"Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
The Paris Institute for Critical Thinking The Institute is devoted to scholarly teaching and research in the English language. Our main aim is to offer university-quality courses in the humanities and social sciences to participants outside the university.
Successful organizations rely on critical thinkers and creative thought leaders who can generate inventive solutions to everyday problems. In this training course, you gain the knowledge and skills needed to leverage left- and right-brain thinking, analyze problems, spur creativity, and implement.