library bookshelf February 14

Partially Annotated Bibliography on Critical Thinking

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Abrami, P. C., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Surkes, M. A., Tamim, R., & Zhang, D. (2008). Instructional interventions affecting critical thinking skills and dispositions: A stage 1 meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 1102-1134.

To develop critical skills in students in a course, instructors must have the explicit goal of developing those skills as well as training in ways to do so. Critical thinking does not progress by accident.

Bloom, B., & Associates. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: David McKay.

Braun, N. M. (2004). Critical thinking in the business curriculum. Journal of Education for Business, 79(4), 232-236.

Nora Braun of Augsburg College points out that in the business world, making decisions is a daily occurrence. Discussions, debates, and guided questioning are some of the techniques that should be used in business courses to classify and evaluate the enormous quantity of available information.

Bookfield, S. D. (2012). Teaching for critical thinking: Tools and techniques to help students question their assumptions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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students working around table January 3

Discipline-Relevant Critical Thinking Skills and Outcomes

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Critical Thinking demands explicit awareness, monitoring, control, and evaluation of one’s thinking, so add a meta-assignment (grade pass/fail) in which students reflect on and describe their thinking processes (metacognition, self-regulated learning). Sample prompts:

  • How did you arrive at your response/solution?
  • Describe the process by which you arrived at your solution and determined it was the best. How did you define the task/problem, decide which principles and concepts to apply, develop alternative approaches and solutions, and assess their feasibility, trade-offs, and relative worth?
  • How did you conduct your design/problem-solving/research process (steps taken, strategies used, problems encountered, how overcome)?
  • How did you set and modify your goals, strategies, and actions in response to other players? (after a simulation or role play)
  • What skills did you use or improve, and when will they be useful in the future?
  • Evaluate your strategies, performance, and success in achieving your goals.
  • What goals and strategies will guide your revision (if applicable)?
  • What learning value did this task have? What would you do differently?
  • What advice would you give next semester’s students before they do this assignment (preparation, strategies, pitfalls, value)?

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professor with small group of students December 1, 2016

Critical Thinking Verbs: Do Your Students Know What They Mean?

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Analyze: Break something down into parts, such as a theory into its components, a process into its stages, or an event into its causes. Analysis involves characterizing the whole, identifying its parts, and showing how the parts interrelate.

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students working on project November 7, 2016

The Power of Transparency in Your Teaching

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The most recent issue of Peer Review (Winter/Spring 2016; published by AACU) highlights the powerful impact ‘transparency’ can have on learning for all students. One aspect of transparency is making obvious the intellectual practices involved in completing and evaluating a learning task. But making these processes visible for students is more easily said than done; we are experts in our fields for the very reasons that our thinking and evaluating are automatic and subconscious. It’s hard to describe exactly what we do intellectually when we synthesize or integrate, critique, or create. Similarly, it’s difficult to articulate the differences between an assignment we score as an A and one to which we give a B. Thus, a challenge in achieving transparency is developing a deep awareness of our own processes. Only then can we explicitly teach those thinking processes. In my own case, thinking about thinking (aka metacognition) was a new pedagogical consideration and it took time to learn this new set of skills in the context of teaching biology. So I was tickled pink one day last September when, at my new institution, I was able to problem-solve on my feet. I was teaching a new-to-me set of skills (writing outside of science) in a new-to-me format (discussion) to a population of students with whom I had no prior experience and in a class I’d never taught before.


college students in class October 24, 2016

Teaching Critical Thinking: Some Practical Points

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We all endorse it and we all want our students to do it. We also claim to teach it. “It” is critical thinking, and very few of us actually teach it or even understand what it is (Paul & Elder, 2013). Research tells us that our students learn critical thinking only after we receive training in how to teach it and design our courses explicitly and intentionally to foster critical thinking skills (Abrami, Bernard, Borokhovski, Wade, Surkes, Tamim, & Zhang, 2008). We have to start by formulating assessable critical thinking learning outcomes and building our courses around them.


students studying at library June 10, 2016

The Phases of Inquiry-Based Teaching

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A central goal of education is teaching critical-thinking skills. Inquiry-based teaching is an excellent path to this goal. Based partly on the philosophy that “humans are born inquirers,” the method focuses on student discovery over pushing information from the instructor. Along the way, the students explore multiple sources and contexts, ask questions and pursue hypotheses, and work to apply their theories to new and diverse situations. In doing this, they actively discover the interrelatedness among concepts, topics, and theories.


online student on laptop December 7, 2015

Built-in Self-Assessment: A Case for Annotation

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we want students to be critical thinkers, we must routinely and explicitly give them structured practice opportunities to critically examine their own thinking. Squeezing two or three metacognitive activities into a hectic semester teaches students that such reflection is only for special occasions. Rather, student self-evaluation should be a daily course routine.


student with laptop September 24, 2015

Scenario-Based Learning in the Online Classroom

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Scenario-based learning can be an effective way for students to apply what they have learned to realistic situations. There are many different ways to design scenarios for online delivery, from text-based case studies to interactive, immersive simulations. Regardless of the resources that you have available, there are effective ways to put students in scenarios that contribute to their learning.


student on laptop June 12, 2015

How to Foster Critical Thinking, Student Engagement in Online Discussions

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Threaded discussions can provide excellent opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking. But critical thinking isn’t an automatic feature of these discussions. It needs to be nurtured through clear expectations, carefully crafted questions, timely and useful feedback, and creative facilitation.


class discussion January 12, 2015

Using Fundamental Concepts and Essential Questions to Promote Critical Thinking

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Could your students identify the most important concepts in your discipline? Do they leave your class understanding these most fundamental concepts, including the ability to reason using these concepts to answer essential questions? Do your students become critical thinkers who connect concepts and practices in your course with other courses? With their future professional lives?