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critical thinking courses do not teach critical thinking any better than other courses

Critical Thinking Wars 1 and 2

A recent meta-analysis of studies of critical thinking (e.g., seeing if students can formulate criticisms of arguments) shows that, on average, college education is associated with critical thinking. From “Does College Teach Critical Thinking? A Meta-Analysis” by Christopher Huber and Nathan Kuncel in Review of Educational Research:

This meta-analysis synthesizes research on gains in critical thinking skills and attitudinal dispositions over various time frames in college. The results suggest that both critical thinking skills and dispositions improve substantially over a normal college experience.

Now, my beef with the whole critical thinking stream is that there is a special domain of teaching called “critical thinking.” The looked at studies where students were in special critical thinking instruction:

Although college education may lag in other ways, it is not clear that more time and resources should be invested in teaching domain-general critical thinking.

How the Chronicle of Higher Education blog summarizes the issue:

Students are learning critical-thinking skills, but adding instruction focused on critical thinking specifically doesn’t work. Students in programs that stress critical thinking still saw their critical-thinking skills improve, but the improvements did not surpass those of students in other programs.

Bottom line: Take regular courses on regular topics and pay close attention to how people in specific areas figure out problems. Skip the critical thinking stuff, it’s fluff talk.

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Written by fabiorojas

October 30, 2015 at 12:01 am

2 Responses

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  1. I disagree with your conclusion.

    Most us are bad at formulating necessary and sufficient conditions without attacking the problem with pen, paper and some practice.

    Without this skill, categorization, definitions, and logical argument is impossible.

    (I don’t hold with fallacy spotting — it is both too easy to do and pointless once done.)

    Like

    michael webster

    October 30, 2015 at 12:42 am

  2. Reblogged this on peakmemory and commented:
    “Students in programs that stress critical thinking still saw their critical-thinking skills improve, but the improvements did not surpass those of students in other programs.”

    Like

    jecgenovese

    October 30, 2015 at 11:02 pm


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