critical thinking

MY last two tutorials have been with students wanting to know how to improve their “critical analysis”.  Following these sessions I have decided to read and summarize Jennifer Moon’s book  “Critical Thinking,  an exploration of theory and practice”.

The author points out that the development of a critical stance could be said to epitomize the aims for the individual of higher education and the professions.  Therefore it might be reasonable to assume that everyone would know what critical thinking is.  But she has begun to doubt whether this term is understood in a manner that is appropriate for its use in teaching.  So the book sets out to explore the theory of critical thinking and consider the practical implications and application of the idea in the classroom with learners.

The introduction points out how “critical thinking” is a fundamental goal of learning in higher education and contained in many level and qualification descriptors in the UK.

Then the wider significance of critical thinking in society is that it is “at the heart of what it means to be a developed person in a democratic society” (Brookfield 1987)

The lack of critical thinking can lead to “groupthink” according to Irving Janis who analysed the “Bay of Pigs events” in America in the 1960’s.  “The more amiability and esprit de corps among the members of a policy-making in-group, the greater is the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against out-groups.” (Janis, 1982:13)

Another example of the importance of critical thinking refers to the massacre of students in Tienanmen square in Beijing.  Barnett (1997,2006)  says those who stood against the tanks were carrying through the outcomes of their critical thinking into significant action.

Bowell and Kemp (2002:4) say “those who hold power … fear the effects of those who can think critically about moral, social, economic and political issues”

The author concludes that ” It is the step beyond the thinking the willingness to act that is really significant” and that can generate academic assertiveness.

The author’s background is explored.  Her interest in the higher qualities of higher education learning,  reflective learning and now critical thinking.

Part Two – mapping the territory of critical thinking will have to be for my next blog!

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