Critical Thinking: A Literature Review October 21, 2002 Table of Contents I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. XI. XII. XIII. XIV. XV. General Definitions of Critical Thinking……………………………………2 Misrepresentations about Critical Thinking…………………………………3 Critical Thinking and Information Processing……………………………… Critical Thinking and Education……………………………………………. Critical Thinking for Science Education…………………………………… Critical Thinking for Agricultural Education………………………………. Critical Studies in Critical Thinking………………………………………… Critical Thinking Skills vs.
Dispositions……………………………………. Critical Thinking Skills……………………………………………………… Critical Thinking Dispositions………………………………………………. Discipline-specific Critical Thinking………………………………………… Predictors and Correlates of Critical Thinking Skill…………………………. Teaching for Critical Thinking……………………………………………….
. The Need for Critical Thinking in Biotechnology Education………………… References……………………………………………………………………. 1 General Definitions of Critical Thinking Over the last several decades, critical thinking has been discussed and contemplated in educational circles.
Many definitions of critical thinking have been offered. In 1991, Pascarella and Terenzini compiled several definitions, stating that critical thinking “typically involves the individual’s ability to do some or all of the following: identify central issues and assumptions in an argument, recognize important relationships, make correct inferences from data, deduce conclusions from information or data provided, interpret whether conclusions are warranted on the basis of the data given, and evaluate evidence or authority (p.
118). Critical thinking involves the formation of logical inferences (Simon & Kaplan, 1989). Some scholars and educators erroneously assume critical thinking to be higher order thinking or cognitive processing (Paul, 1994). According to Elder and Paul (1994), “Critical thinking is best understood as the ability of thinkers to take charge of their own thinking. This requires that they develop sound criteria and standards for analyzing and assessing their own thinking and routinely use those criteria and standards to improve its quality. Critical thinking can be set apart from problem solving (Hedges, 1991) in that problem solving is a linear process of evaluation, while critical thinking is a comprehensive set of abilities allowing the inquirer to properly facilitate each stage of the linear problem-solving process. According to Chafee (1988) critical thinking is “our active, purposeful, and organized efforts to make sens e of our world by carefully examining our thinking, and the thinking of others, in order to clarify and improve our understanding” (p. 29).
According to Halpern (1989) critical thinking is “thinking that is purposeful, reasoned and goal directed. It is the kind of thinking involved, in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and 2 making decisions” (p. 5). Simply put, critical thinking is the “reasonable and reflective thinking that is focused upon deciding what to believe or do” (Norris & Ennis, 1989, p. 18). Misrepresentations about Critical Thinking Critical thinking is looked at and viewed in many different ways. To gain a more complete understanding of critical thinking, it is useful to look at what critical thinking “is not. Critical thinking is not about being superior to someone else. It is different from problem solving, and it is not higher order thinking or cognitive processing. Many scholars engage in, what Richard Paul refers to as “pseudo critical thinking,” which is a form of “intellectual arrogance masked in self-delusion or deception, in which thinking is deeply flawed” (1994, p. 14). Other well- meaning educators simply use the term critical thinking in place of other types of information processing that are very similar to, but at the same time different from critical thinking, such as problem solving. Dr.
Lowell Hedges (1991) is one researcher who understood the difference between problem solving and critical thinking. He contended that problem solving is a linear process of evaluation, while critical thinking is an overlying set of abilities that allow the inquirer to properly facilitate each stage of the linear problem-solving process. Chart of Hedges’ views on critical thinking and problem solving. Critical Thinking 1. The ability to identify and formulate problems, as well as the ability to solve them. 2. The ability to recognize and use inductive reasoning, as well as the ability to solve them. 3.
The ability to draw reasonable conclusions from information found in various sources, whether written, spoken, tabular, or graphic, and to defend one’s Problem Solving 1. Recognizing a problem situation. 2. Defining the problem 3. The ability to comprehend, develop, and use concepts and generalizations. 3 conclusions rationally. 4. The ability to comprehend, develop, and use concepts and generalizations. 5. The ability to distinguish between fact and opinion. 4. Testing hypotheses and gathering data. 5. Revising hypotheses and testing revised or new hypotheses. 6. Forming a conclusion. Critical Thinking and Inquiry-based Learning in Education Since education is our principal means of preparing students – our future citizens – for an active and responsible life within our technologically-based society, school at all levels should become the focus for the fostering/development of critical thinking” (Costa, 1991). According to Nelson (1994), “Enabling students to think critically is one of the central objectives of liberal and professional education. ” Critical thinking in education calls on students to evaluate their own thought process (Kalman, 2002). Critical thinking accompanies a movement in education toward inquiry-based or problem-based learning.
According to Schamel and Ayres (1992), “s tudents learn best by doing,” or preparing their own questions based on their observations rather than participating in a “predetermined exercise with a forgone conclusion. ” Students are fully engaged in learning and cooperative group learning helps students interact with one another (Ahern-Rindell, 1999). Critical Thinking for Agricultural Education Agricultural educators have attempted to study critical thinking as it relates to levels of cognition, learning styles, distance education, pre-service teacher preparation, and critical thinking dispositions at secondary and post-secondary levels.
Rollins (1990) used the Cornell Critical Thinking test, which is not subject-specific to determine the critical thinking of high school agriculture students (n = 668) in Iowa. He found that seniors were better critical thinkers 4 than sophomores, that reading score accounted for 28% of the variance in critical thinking, and that GPA and leadership positions accounted for 2%. Many of the critical thinking studies in agricultural education deal with levels of cognition and higher order thinking. Cano and Martinez (1991), who simply defined critical thinking as “A set of thinking skills needed to answer a particular question” (p. 4) sought to (1) determine the cognitive level of performance of Ohio agricultural education students (n = 385) as measured by the Developing Cognitive Abilities Test (DCAT), (2) the critical thinking ability of agricultural education students as determined by the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (W-GCTA), and the relationship between DCAT and W-GCTA scores. All of the students scored the lowest on the critical thinking portion of the DCAT. Additionally, Cano and Martinez found a linear relationship between critical thinking and grade level as measured by the DCAT.
In their study, all students were found to score the lowest on the Inference sub-skill as measured by W-GCTA, and again, 12th grade students scored higher on critical thinking than all of the others. In 1993, Cano used the DCAT and the W-GCTA and found that agricultural education students scored at higher levels of cognition than the average of other disciplines. Torres and Cano (1995) also used the DCAT with a random sample of agricultural students (n = 196) from The Ohio State University. They also found that (1) the students scored the lowest on the critical thinking ortion of the DCAT and that (2) there was no significant difference in critical thinking accounting for gender. Torres (1999) also introduced baseline information regarding preservice teachers. He reported that preservice teachers are more likely to emphasize basic and application thinking skills and abilities than skills and abilities requiring critical thinking. 5 Whittington (1995, 2000), who concentrates on higher order thinking because she believes it is a key component of critical thinking has studied faculty and critical thinking.
In a study of 28 faculty at the University of Idaho she found that faculty members (1) wanted to teach at all levels of cognition, (2) actually taught at low levels of thinking – 98% of the time actually, (2) aspired to teach at levels higher than where they were assessed, (4) had favorable attitudes toward teaching at higher levels of cognition, and that (5) faculty who had experienced more educational activities held more favorable attitudes towards teaching at higher cognitive levels.
Whittington (1997) has also shown that the factor having the greatest effect on thinking opportunities was the instructor. Torres and Cano (1995b) and Rudd, Baker, and Hoover (2000) hypothesized critical thinking was related to learning styles using the Group Embedded Figures Test (GEFT). Torres and Cano found that learning style predicted 9% of the variance in critical thinking and Rudd, Baker, et al found no significant difference between learning style and critical thinking.
The definition of critical thinking Rudd, Baker, et al provided for critical thinking is noteworthy. They defined critical thinking as “A reasoned, purposive, and introspective approach to solving problems or addressing questions with incomplete evidence and information for which an incontrovertible solution is unlikely” (p. 5). Whether or not distance education delivery methods are effective ways to teacher critical thinking has also been a evaluated by some agricultural educators.
Miller and Pilcher (1999) found that instructors taught at the same levels of instruction for teaching critical thinking in traditional and off-campus courses. Ricketts, Irani, and Jones’s (in press) results generally supported the contention that distance learners were not significantly different than traditional learners with respect to perceptions of course effectiveness, opportunities to think critically and 6 ritical thinking disposition; however, traditional learners were significantly different from distance learners in terms of change in some critical thinking disposition subscale factors, including truth-seeking and inquisitiveness. Critical Thinking and Science Education A current theme in science teaching reform is the emphasis on active, inquiry-based teaching and learning (National Research Council, 1996). Inquiry-based learning is a method of instruction focusing on the student and their ability to design a process for use in solving a problem, requiring higher levels of cognition (Uno, 1999).
While inquiry-based learning takes the focus away from memorization of specific scientific concepts, there is supporting evidence that students learn as much “factual” information as they would in a traditional lecture/lab setting (Gabel, 1994). However, inquiry students tend to retain the information longer (Gabel, 1994) and usually experience higher self-efficacy and process skills than students in traditional science courses (Ebert-May, Brewer, and Allred, 1997). The case has been made for teaching critical thinking skills in school.
Science classrooms provide many opportunities for inquiry-based or problem-based learning. However, in order for this inquiry-based learning to happen, changes must take place in science classrooms to move away from rote and passive application of learned formulas toward the use of critical thinking as the primary tool of learning (Zoller, Ben-Chaim, and Ron, 2000). Critical Thinking for Biotechnology Education One of the difficulties associated with attempting to develop greater understanding of biotechnology among our students is that the science is relatively sophisticated, rapidly changing, and often difficult for students to grasp. Further complicating the educational process is the fact that studies have suggested that most consumers get their information on biotechnology from the media (Hoban, 1998). Indeed, studies indicate that most of the public’s information about biotechnology comes from the mass media, even though their level of trust in what they learn is relatively low (Hallman & Metcalf, 1995). This is true of agricultural educators as well.
In a study of teachers of agriculture from three southern states, Iverson (1998) found that the major source for information about biotechnology was the mass media, primarily newspapers. On the other hand, respondents felt their most trusted source of information about biotechnology was the land grant university. Despite these challenges, some university- level agricultural educators have begun teaching courses solely focused on biotechnology and/or to include it as a course topic in agrisciences curricula.
Arguably, the ultimate objective of such educational efforts among agricultural institutions of higher learning is to enhance understanding and acceptance of food biotechnology. But how can we determine whether or not these objectives are actually being achieved? As agricultural educators, we may have the educational objective of wanting our students to know more about the science associated with biotechnology, its benefits, perceived risks, and attendant potential social issues.
But while we can measure knowledge acquisition based on exposure to information, that does not necessarily inform us of actionable outcomes associated with values, belief systems, attitude formation, and change. The literature has consistently shown that simple exposure to information will not necessarily influence knowledge, attitude or change behavior (Ro gers, 1995; Salwen & Sacks, 1997; Goldberg, Fishbein & Middlestadt, 1997). As nationally known biotechnology educator Thomas Zinnen (2000) has pointed out, however, there is a distinction that needs to be made between individual understanding of biotechnology and acceptance of biotechnology-derived products. For one to lead to the other may require higher order thinking and evaluation that operates beyond mere exposure to factual information in the classroom or elsewhere. Therefore, it may not be enough to produce educational curricula and conduct instruction that contain balanced, fact-based, objective information in an attempt to raise awareness and enhance knowledge acquisition.
It may be equally important to determine how to develop such instruction so as to specifically focus on enhancing a student’s ability to think and reason critically about biotechnology. This would have the added benefit of ensuring that our future graduates in the food and agricultural sciences are equipped with strong reasoning and thinking skills that will help them act, communicate and educate effectively about this important topic. According to Howe and Warren (1989), science or environmental education topics, such as biotechnology, provide a good mechanism for developing critical thinking skills for several reasons.
First, science education provides topics and problems that cut across the school curriculum and can improve the integration of knowledge. Second, science education provides real issues that can be studied or simulated. Last, science education topics can be adjusted to the developmental levels of students. Critical Studies in Critical Thinking The Delphi Study Peter Facione (1990) conducted a Delphi study, which will be described in the next section where a group of critical thinking experts drafted the following definition of critical thinking (CT).
They concluded: “We understand critical thinking to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, 9 conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based. CT is essential as a tool of inquiry. As such, CT is a liberating force in education and a powerful resource in one’s personal and civic life.
While not synonymous with good thinking, CT is habitually inquisitive, well- informed, trustful of reason, open- minded, flexible, fair- minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent is seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and circumstances will permit. Thus, educating good critical thinkers means working toward this ideal.
It combines developing CT skills with nurturing those dispositions which consistently yield useful insights and which are the basis of a rational and democratic society” (p. 3). The multiple definitions of critical thinking and confusion concerning its specificity led to the need for further refinement of the composition of the critical thinking construct. Facione (1990) assembled a group of forty individuals (52% from Philosophy, 22% from Education, 20% from Social Sciences, 6% from Physical Sciences) recognized by their colleagues as having special experience and expertise in CT instruction, assessment, or theory.
Facione (1990) employed the powerful qualitative research methodology known as the Delphi Method was used to develop the theoretical framework used for this study. The Delphi study (Facione, 1990), which ran from February of 1988 until November of 1989, consisted of six rounds of questions and response. The findings of the Delphi Report are as follows: 1. Critical thinking includes the dimensions of skill and disposition. 2. There was consensus that critical thinking could be improved in several ways. The experts agreed that a person could critically examine and evaluate one’s own 10 easoning processes, that they could learn how to think more objectively and logically, that they could expand their repertoire of those more specialized procedures and criteria used in different areas of human thought and inquiry, and that they could increase their base of information and life experience (p. 4). 3. “While CT skills themselves transcend specific subjects or disciplines, exercising them successfully in certain contexts demands domain-specific knowledge, some of which may concern specific methods and techniques used to make reasonable judgments in those specific contexts”(p. 5). 4. There is a critical spirit, a probing inquisitiveness, a keenness of mind, a zealous dedication to reason, and a hunger or eagerness for reliable information which good critical thinkers possess but weak critical thinkers do not seem to have… the affective dispositions are necessary for the CT skills identified to take root and to flourish in students” (p. 11). 5. “It is inappropriate use of the term to deny that someone is engaged in CT on the grounds that one disapproves ethically of what the person is doing. What ‘CT’ means, why it is of value, and the ethics of its use are best regarded as three distinct concerns” (p. 12). 6. A good critical thinker… is habitually disposed to engage in, and to encourage others to engage in a wide range of contexts and for a wide variety of purposes. Although perhaps not always uppermost in mind, the rational justification for cultivating those affective dispositions which characterize the paradigm critical thinker are soundly grounded in CT’s personal and civic value. CT is known to contribute to the fairminded analysis and resolution of questions. CT is a powerful tool in the search for 11 knowledge. CT can help people overcome the blind, sophistic, or irrational defense of intellectually defective or biased opinions.
CT promotes rational autonomy, intellectual freedom and the objective, reasoned and evidence-based investigation of a very wide range of personal and social issues and concerns” (p. 13). Many of the findings of the Delphi study are addressed in one way or another in this investigation. The first finding as stated above indicated that critical thinking includes the dimensions of skill and disposition. This consensual agreement among the experts was a reiterated point of critical thinking scholars preceding them (Dewey 1933; Norris and Ennis 1989), but Facione (1990) and his group of experts went a step further.
They identified a set of specific skills and sub-skills for the skill dimension and a specific set of attitudes for the disposition dimension (Facione 1990). Critical Thinking Skills The critical thinking skills that were identified by the panel of experts were used in this study because they most closely matched the definition of critical thinking that we have adopted for this study, which was “Critical thinking is a reasoned, purposive, and introspective approach to solving problems or addressing questions with incomplete evidence and information and for which an incontrovertible solution is unlikely” (Rudd, Baker et al. 000), p. 5) and because subsequent studies have been conducted to validate their usage (Facione 1990; Jones, Hoffman et al. 1994; Jones, Hoffman et al. 1995; Giancarlo 1996; Giancarlo 1996). Facione’s study (1990) concluded that at the very core of critical thinking are interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self- regulation. Inference is comprehending and expressing meaning about a wide variety of experiences, beliefs, procedures, 12 rules, etc. Analysis was found to be about identifying the relationship between statements, questions, concepts or descriptions to express beliefs, judgments or reasons.
The experts thought that evaluation was about assessing credibility of statements and representations of others as well as assessing the logical strength of statements, descriptions or questions. Inference was found to be the ability to draw reasonable conclusions and/or hypotheses based on facts, judgments, beliefs, principles, concepts or other forms of representation. The experts in the Delphi study found explanation to be about stating and justifying the results of one’s reasoning using each of the aforementioned abilities.
Self-regulation, the last skill was found to be the ability of an individual to monitor their own personal cognitive activities to make sure that they are engaged in critical thinking. Several studies have been conducted to confirm the Delphi consensus statement. The 1990 Delphi report describing the ideal critical thinker was put to the test by Giancarlo (1996) using the California-Q sort method, which was a technique derived from the work of Block (1961). A national expert panel concerning critical thinking sorted 100 Q-sort items to achieve a result that would characterize the ideal critical thinker.
The results would validate the critical thinking skills identified in the theoretical framework in this study. The following study would secure national recognition of the viability of critical thinking skills. Jones, Hoffman, Moore, Ratcliff, Tibetts, and Click (1995; 1994) further validated the use of critical thinking skills through a 1993/1994 national survey and replication study conducted by the National Center for Higher Education Teaching, Learning and Assessment at The Pennsylvania State University.
As a result of this study skills, along with dispositions became recommended outcomes of post-secondary education. 13 Critical Thinking Dispositions Critical thinking is dependent upon a person’s disposition to use it (Paul , 1992). Disposition to think critically can be defined as consistent willingness, motivation, inclination and an intention to be engaged in critical thinking while reflecting on significant issues, making decisions and solving problems (Facione et al. 1995, Facione et al. 1997).
According to Zoller, Ben-Chaim and Ron (2000), a student’s disposition to think critically is a necessary precondition for critical thinking and greatly affects critical thinking capability. In developing the widely used Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, Glaser (1941) defined critical thinking as the “(1) attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one’s experiences, (2) knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning and (3) some skill in applying those methods” (p. 5-6).
Later, in 1997, Taube reported statistical and empirical evidence of skills and dispositions, two distinct factors of critical thinking. Experts continue to agree that critical thinking includes the dimensions of skill and disposition (Dewey 1933; Norris and Ennis 1989). In 1990, Facione and his group of experts identified a set of specific skills and sub-skills for the skill dimensio n and a specific set of attitudes for the disposition dimension (Facione 1990). Facione (2001) developed the CCTDI (California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory), in order to measure these skills, sub-skills and attitudes.
The constructs used are Truth-Seeking, Open- mindedness, Analyticity, Systematicity, Self-confidence, Inquisitiveness, and Maturity (Facione, Facione et al. 2001). The following construct descriptions are from the CCTDI test manual (Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo, 1996). 14 1. Analyticity targets the disposition of being alert to potentially problematic situations and anticipating possible results or consequences. 2. Self-confidence refers to the level of trust one places in one’s own reasoning process. 3.
Inquisitiveness is innate curiousness about acquiring information and which motivates the message recipient to learn more. 4. Maturity addresses cognitive Maturity and mature thinkers are disposed to approach problems, inquiry and decision making realizing that some situations have more than one plausible option and that decisions must sometimes be made without the benefit of having all the relevant information about the situation. 5. Open-mindedness addresses the state of respecting the right of others with differing opinions. 6.
Systemacity targets the disposition to being organized, orderly, focused and diligent in seeking information. 7. Truth-seeking describes thinkers who are eager to seek the truth even if the results do not support one’s own interests or preconceived opinions. Although Facione’s work has seemingly been the only attempt at measuring critical thinking dispositions, its validity has been brought into questions by a study conducted by Moore, Rudd, and Penfield (submitted for publication). This study examined the reliability of the subscales of the CCTDI as well as the factor strength of the whole instrument.
During factor analysis, the data obtained in the Moore, Rudd, et al study did not fit the seven scale structure outlined by Facione and associates (Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo). Ana lysis of the seven factor structure resulted in only 51 of the 75 items on the instrument with factor loadings greater than . 30 and 15 four to 11 items loading on seven factors. The seven factor structure had a sum of Eigenvalues of 25. 33 and explained 27. 2% of the variance. Discipline-specific Critical Thinking While critical thinking skill and disposition can be defined as separate ntities, both are thought to be open to educational influence, particularly when meaningfully, contextually bound (Brown 1997). Critical thinking is a valuable skill that, once learned, can be applied in many different disciplines; however, researchers have contended that there is a need to think critically within specific disciplines. According to Glaser, critical thinking is, in part, “attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one’s experiences (1941, p. 5-6).
Ennis advocates contextual, domain, or subject specific critical thinking for several reasons. First, background knowledge is necessary for making justified critical thinking judgments. Second, critical thinking varies from discipline to discipline and, third, a full understanding of a discipline requires the ability to think critically in the discipline (Ennis 1990). (Halliday 2000) argues that critical thinking is to be used in the context of specific disciplines. He quotes Dunne and Morgan from their article in Irish Educational Studies. Critical thinking is best developed through an engagement with different areas of knowledge rather than as an autonomous skill to be taught in itself. It is through cutting its teeth on actual topics, themes, an issues and problems as these arise within diverse content domains that thinking can acquire the kind of differentiation subtlety and sense of relevance that help to make it truly critical” (Dunne and Morgan, 1995, p. 115). According to Guthrie, Alao & Rinehart (1997), there is a need to situate literacy learning, such as critical thinking skills, within content areas in order to drive learning and increase both 6 literacy ability and knowledge in the content area. Finally, Facione (1990) found that “While CT skills themselves transcend specific subjects or disciplines, excercising them successfully in certain contexts demands domain-specific knowledge, some of which may concern specific methods and techniques used to make reasonble judgements in those specific contexts”(p. 5). The success of domain-specific critical thinking has been demonstrated in research. In a study of 254 seventh grade French speaking science students, researchers found a statistically significant
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