1. What is Critical Thinking, and
How to Teach It?
Peter Jeschofnig, Ph.D.
Institute for Excellence in Distance Science Education
2. Expected Outcomes
• Critical Thinking Research Results
• What is and what is NOT Critical Thinking
• Scientific Method and Critical Thinking
• Teaching Strategies & Examples
• Resources & References
3. Notable Quotes
• Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is
probably why so few engage in it. (Henry Ford)
• At a certain age some people’s minds close
up. They live on their intellectual fat (William Lyon
• He who asks a question may be a fool for five
minutes, but he who never asks a question
remains a fool forever. (Tom Connelly)
4. Evidence from Critical Thinking Research
Research Findings by Richard Paul, 1996:
• 140 interviews of college faculty
• 89% indicate critical thinking is a primary
objective of their instruction
• 19% could give a clear explanation of critical
• 77% had difficulty describing how to balance
content coverage with fostering critical thinking
• 8-9% could articulate how to assess critical
5. More Evidence from Critical Thinking
Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (2009)
Richard Arum & Josipsa Rocksa followed 2,300+ college students.
45 percent of students "did not demonstrate any significant
improvement in learning" during the first two years of college.
36 percent of students "did not demonstrate any significant
improvement in learning" over four years of college.
Those students who do show improvements tend to show only
6. Non-Scientific Beliefs Among
Astronomy Education Review; 2012,
A 22 year survey of 11,000 undergraduates’
knowledge and attitudes related to science and
• Nonscientiﬁc ways of thinking are resistant to
• Change surprisingly little over the course of a
college career that typically includes three science
11. The Death of Critical Thinking:
Scary NYU Study
12. Famous Names in Pseudo-Science
• Dr. Mehmed Oz – Dr. Oz Show
• Dr. Andrew Wakefield – anti-vaccine
• Oprah Winfrey
• Jenny McCarthy - anti-vaccine
• Chuck Norris – teach biblical alternatives in
• Various political commentators (incl. Rush
14. What is Critical Thinking?
Critical Thinking is the ability to:
• Develop a healthy skepticism toward any
information presented as fact
• Apply reasoning and logic to new or unfamiliar
ideas, opinions, and situations.
• See things in an open-minded way and examine
an idea or concept from as many angles as
• Look past one’s own views of the world and
better understand the opinions of others.
15. What Critical Thinking is NOT?
• Blindly accepting at face value all statements
and arguments made by others
• Blindly trusting political commercials
• Blindly believing TV commercials
• Blindly accepting newspaper stories as fact
• Blindly accepting articles in professional journals
• Blindly accepting all information in textbooks
• Blindly holding on to old beliefs
16. Critical Thinkers
• Distinguish between fact and
• Ask questions; make detailed
observations; uncover assumptions
and define their terms; and
• Make assertions based on sound
logic and solid evidence.
Ellis, D. Becoming an Master Student, 1997)
17. Benefits of Critical Thinking
Why is critical thinking important to students?
In Personal and Public Life:
• Avoid falling for scams and making foolish
decisions from ignorance
• Make better decision from verified information
• Free one from unexamined assumptions,
dogmas, and prejudices
• Be a better informed citizen and voter
18. Benefits of Critical Thinking
Why is critical thinking important to students?
In the workplace:
• Be a better problem-solver
• Better analyze information and draw appropriate
• Communicate a position logically
• Make good decisions (based on data, not
19. Barriers to Critical Thinking
Lack of relevant background information
Poor reading skills
Resistance to change
20. Generic List of Thinking Skills that Would
Be Applicable in Many Situations:
• Recognizing that a problem exists
• Developing an orderly approach so that tasks are
prioritized and problems are recognized as differing
with regard to how serious and urgent they are
• Understanding how cause is determined
• Recognizing and criticizing assumptions
• Analyzing means-goals relationships
• Giving reasons to support a conclusion
• Assessing degrees of likelihood and uncertainty
• Incorporating isolated data into a wider framework
• Using analogies to solve problems
21. What Are the Steps of the Modified
1. Make Observations - Ask a Question
2. Propose a Hypothesis
3. Design Experiments to Test the Hypothesis
4. Collect and Analyze Data
5. Accept or Reject the Hypotheses
6. Revise the Hypothesis (Rejected)
or Draw Conclusions (Accepted)
22. Problem Solving Procedure
• Define the problem
• Remove thinking barriers (biases)
• Gather all relevant facts
• Generate solutions (brainstorming, creative
• Select a solution (pro’s and con’s) and have a
back up plan
• Implement and evaluate
23. Becoming a Critical Thinker:
IDEALS – 6 Steps to Effective Thinking
1. Identify the problem: What is the real question
we are facing here?
2. Define the context: What are the facts and
circumstances for this problem?
3. Enumerate choices: What are the most plausible
4. Analyze options: What is our best course of
action, all things considered?
5. List reasons explicitly: Why are we making this
6. Self-correct: Let’s look at it again. What did we
25. Teaching Strategies that Promote
• Open ended assignments
• Case studies
• C.T. Question of
26. Developing Discussion Questions to
Promote Critical Thinking
Higher-Level Thinking Questions Include:
By Walker, S.E. Active Learning Promotes Critical Thinking
• Open-ended questions that aim at provoking
• Questions that go beyond knowledge-level recall
• Questions that promote evaluation and synthesis
of facts and concepts
• Questions that start or end with words or
phrases such as “explain,” “compare,” “why”
27. Questions to Ask
• What do you mean by …?
• How did you come to that conclusions?
• What is the source of your information?
• What assumptions led you to that conclusion?
• What are the implications if you are wrong?
• Why did you make that inference? Is another
one more consistent with the data?
• Why is this issue significant?
• What is an alternate explanation for this
28. Responding to Students’ Discussions
• Ask questions directly related to the student’s
• Ask for clarifications, deeper explanations, and
• Solicit opposing views; encourage students to
make a justified argument for or against a topic
• Posting questions that cannot be answered with
a yes or no answer or one-liners
29. Science Case Studies
• National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science
• Case studies in science education
• Cases online http://www.cse.emory.edu/cases/othercases.cfm
• Case Studies in the Life Sciences
• Case Studies in Inclusive Teaching in Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics
• Science Case Studies http://www.npl.co.uk/science-
32. Critical Thinking and
The Scientific Method
• Designed for my Integrated Science class (SCI 155)
33. Sample Exam (SUS 311)
You are a research intern to a Congressman who holds a seat on an environmental committee
charged with providing environmental remediation grants to foreign countries. The committee
is to soon consider making a large financial grant to Madagascar; it was specifically requested
to help that country combat its claimed problems of:
• Biodiversity, and
• Soil erosion.
You’ve been tasked with investigating if these problems genuinely exist and if they do, to
• How serious are the problems,
• What are their implications for the future of Madagascar,
• What if any international/global implications exist beyond Madagascar, and
• What actions might be taken to mitigate, and possibly reverse, these problems.
Attached is an environmental report on Madagascar with which to begin your research. Additionally, you
must find and review at least two or more other sources of information regarding Madagascar’s current
environmental issues. From this information you will prepare a briefing report for the Congressman that
is five or more pages long, word processed with 12 point, double-spaced type, and is appropriately
referenced to your research sources. The report will conclude with a few paragraphs containing your opinion
regarding the merit of considering a grant application from Madagascar.
• Deforestation in Madagascar Consequences.pdf
Critical Thinking in Global Challenges
The University of Edinburgh
• Week 1: Essential Concepts in Critical
• Week 2: Assessing Evidence: Credibility and
• Week 3: Assessing Arguments (Part A)
• Week 4: Assessing Arguments (Part B)
• Week 5: Developing your own arguments
35. Critical Thinking in Global Challenges-
The University of Edinburgh
• Climate Change
• Infectious Diseases
36. Bart College Citizen Science
• A potential course for all students
• Citizen Science is an innovative program for all
first-year students at Bard College. Through three
weeks of intensive study during January
intersession, students develop a core
understanding of both the conduct and the
content of science. This foundation allows them
as citizens to grapple with the ever-increasing
number of national and global issues influenced
We often see and hear what we want to see
and hear, based upon our past experiences,
interests, motives, etc.
• Critical Thinking: A Necessary Skill in the Age of Spin
• The State of Critical Thinking Today: The Need for a Substantive
Concept of Critical Thinking – Paul Hurd
• WHAT IS CRITICAL THINKING? Jennifer Duncan
• Strategies for Helping Students Develop Critical Thinking Skills –
Cornell U. CTE
44. References - Continued
• Critical Thinking on Climate Change: separating
skepticism from denial.
• Time to Bring Pseudoscience into Science
• Non-Scientific Beliefs Among Undergraduate
45. References - Continued
• The Critical Thinking Community
• Association for Informal Logic & Critical Thinking
• Critical Thinking Web
• An Introduction to Critical Thinking
47. What To Do!
• Talk about critical thinking skills (in syllabus &
• Promote critical thinking via techniques
• Use examples from current global issues
• Using Bloom’s Taxonomy based-testing is not
48. IDEA – 12 Course Objectives
Faculty select 3 – 5 objectives on the Faculty
Information Form (FIF) which best describe the
purpose and content of a particular course. When
responding to the evaluation, students ask
themselves: How well am I developing/progressing
on these objectives?
3. Learning to apply course material to improve
thinking, problem solving, and decisions
49. Go as far as you can see.
When you get there,
you can see farther.