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Critical thinking in the lab (and beyond)

David Read

How to alter existing activities to foster scientific skills

Although many of us associate chemistry education with the laboratory, there remains a lack of evidence that correlates student learning with practical work. It is vital we continue to improve our understanding of how students learn from practical work, and we should devise methods that maximise the benefits. Jon-Marc Rodriguez and Marcy Towns, researchers at Purdue University, US, recently outlined an approach to modify existing practical activities to promote critical thinking in students, supporting enhanced learning. [1]

Although many of us associate chemistry education with the laboratory, there remains a lack of evidence that correlates student learning with practical work. It is vital we continue to improve our understanding of how students learn from practical work, and we should devise methods that maximise the benefits. Jon-Marc Rodriguez and Marcy Towns, researchers at Purdue University, US, recently outlined an approach to modify existing practical activities to promote critical thinking in students , supporting enhanced learning.

A picture of a wood grain desk, with two hands, one holding a piece of graph paper, the other drawing a curve onto the plotted graph

Source: © Science Photo Library

After an experiment, rather than asking a question, task students with plotting a graph; it’ll induce critical thinking and engagement with science practices

Jon-Marc and Marcy focused on critical thinking as a skill needed for successful engagement with the eight ‘science practices’. These practices come from a 2012 framework for science education published by the US National Research Council. The eight practices are: asking questions; developing and using models; planning and carrying out investigations; analysing and interpreting data; using mathematics and computational thinking; constructing explanations; engaging in argument from evidence; and obtaining, evaluating and communicating information. Such skills are widely viewed as integral to an effective chemistry programme. Practising scientists use multiple tools simultaneously when addressing a question, and well-designed practical activities that give students the opportunity to engage with numerous science practices will promote students’ scientific development.

The Purdue researchers chose to examine a traditional laboratory experiment on acid-base titrations because of its ubiquity in chemistry teaching. They characterised the pre- and post-lab questions associated with this experiment in terms of their alignment with the eight science practices. They found only two of ten pre- and post-lab questions elicited engagement with science practices, demonstrating the limitations of the traditional approach. Notably, the pre-lab questions included numerous calculations that were not considered to promote science practices-engagement. Students could answer the calculations algorithmically, with no consideration of the significance of their answer.

Next, Jon-Marc and Marcy modified the experiment and rewrote the pre- and post-lab questions in order to foster engagement with the science practices. They drew on recent research that recommends minimising the amount of information given to students and developing a general understanding of the underlying theory.  [2] The modified set of questions were fewer, with a greater emphasis on conceptual understanding. They questioned aspects such as the suitability of the method and the central question behind the experiment. Questions were more open and introduced greater scope for developing critical thinking.

Next, Jon-Marc and Marcy modified the experiment and rewrote the pre- and post-lab questions in order to foster engagement with the science practices. They drew on recent research that recommends minimising the amount of information given to students and developing a general understanding of the underlying theory. The modified set of questions were fewer, with a greater emphasis on conceptual understanding. They questioned aspects such as the suitability of the method and the central question behind the experiment. Questions were more open and introduced greater scope for developing critical thinking.

In taking an existing protocol and reframing it in terms of science practices, the authors demonstrate an approach instructors can use to adapt their existing activities to promote critical thinking. Using this approach, instructors do not have to spend excessive time creating new activities. Additionally, instructors will have the opportunity to research the impact of their approach on student learning in the teaching laboratory.

Teaching tips

Question phrasing and the steps students should go through to get an answer are instrumental in inducing critical thinking and engagement with science practices. As noted above, simple calculation-based questions do not prompt students to consider the significance of the values calculated. Questions should:

This is more straightforward than it might first seem. The example question Jon-Marc and Marcy give requires students to calculate percentage errors for two titration techniques before discussing the relative accuracy of the methods. Students have to use their data to explain which method was more accurate, prompting a much higher level of engagement than a simple calculation.

As pre-lab preparation, ask students to consider an experimental procedure and then explain in a couple of sentences what methods are going to be used and the rationale for their use. As part of their pre-lab, the Purdue University research team asked students to devise a scientific (‘research’) question that could be answered using the data collected. They then asked students to evaluate and modify their own questions as part of the post-lab, supporting the development of investigative skills. It would be straightforward to incorporate this approach into any practical activity.

Finally, ask students to evaluate a mock response from another student about an aspect of the theory (eg ‘acids react with bases because acids like to donate protons and bases like to accept them’). This elicits critical thinking that can engage every student, with scope to stretch the more able.

These approaches can help students develop a more sophisticated view of chemistry and the higher order skills that will serve them well whatever their future destination.

[1] J-M G Rodriguez and M H Towns, J. Chem. Educ. , 2018, 95 , 2141, DOI: 10.1021/acs . jchemed.8b00683

[2] H Y Agustian and M K Seery, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2017, 18 , 518, DOI: 10.1039/C7RP00140A

J-M G Rodriguez and M H Towns,  J. Chem. Educ. , 2018,  95 , 2141,  DOI: 10.1021/acs . jchemed.8b00683

H Y Agustian and M K Seery,  Chem. Educ. Res. Pract.,  2017,  18 , 518, DOI: 10.1039/C7RP00140A

David Read

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example of critical thinking in chemistry

Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

example of critical thinking in chemistry

Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. Employers prioritize the ability to think critically—find out why, plus see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability throughout the job application process. 

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.

 Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.

Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter, and during your interview.

Examples of Critical Thinking

The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:

Promote Your Skills in Your Job Search

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Add Keywords to Your Resume

You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your  work history , include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your  resume summary , if you have one.

For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”

Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter

Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Show the Interviewer Your Skills

You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.

Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand critical thinking skills in mind as you update your resume and write your cover letter. As you've seen, you can also emphasize them at other points throughout the application process, such as your interview. 

Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with  analytical skills  can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.


Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of colleagues. You need to be able to  communicate with others  to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.


To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.

More Critical Thinking Skills

Key Takeaways

University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."

American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."

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example of critical thinking in chemistry

How To Write Science Reports & Science Practicals For Biology, Chemistry & Physics

This guide can be used by GCSE science and AS Level and A Level biology, AS Level and A2 Level chemistry and physics students who need to help to write up science coursework as part of their syllabus. This can apply to AQA, Edexcel, WJEC, OCR, SQA and CCEA specifications. However it also can be used as a general guideline for students who require help, advice and tips on how to write science practicals, scientific experiments and science reports for degree and university levels. It can also help students with the writing of science experiments and reports for Medicine, Biochemistry, Biomedical Science and Forensic Science as well as other subjects including Psychology, Ecology and Environmental Science.

The Basics - How To Write A Science Experiment, Chemistry or Biology Report

There is a general standardised formal structure to writing science, biology and chemistry reports which you will need to follow. This section will deal with the basics that all science students should be aware of when writing up chemsitry coursework or biology coursework. All science practicals should be written in impersonal past tense. Impersonal means that you should avoid using any personal pronouns. These are phrases that include personal terms such as we, I, you, they, he or she. Past tense means that you must describe the experiment as if it has already been carried out (with the exception of any planning section that you may need to submit as part of your report). Avoid using future tense in any science, chemistry or biology practicals or writing it as if you are describing a method or instructions for others to follow. This can be quite difficult to master at first. Here is a couple of examples of the right and wrong way to style your report.

Wrong Personal - "WE added five cm 3 of buffer solution to tubes A and B and then I incubated both tubes in a water bath at 37 degrees centigrade."

Right Impersonal - "Five cm 3 of buffer solution WAS added to tubes A and B and THEN both tubes were incubated in a water bath at 37 degrees centigrade."

Wrong Future Tense - "YOU WILL need to label 5 tubes from one to five and add 1cm 3 of reagent to each." Or "WE WILL be labelling 5 tubes from one to five and ADDING 1cm 3 of reagent to each.""

Right Past tense - "Five tubes WERE labelled from one to five and 1cm 3 of reagent WAS ADDED to each."

General Layout For Science Coursework & Scientific Experiments

The sections usually included in science reports are:-

Aim or Abstract

Title of your Science Report

Your science report title should be short but detailed enough to accurately describe the work that has been carried out. At the top of your report you should also include the date and your name (the author) and the name of any collaborators if there were any.

Aim - The aim section should describe what the purpose of the biology or chemistry experiment is in no more than two or three sentences. This is fine for most reports for high school up to GCSE level.

Abstract - As you begin to study at a higher level i.e post 16/ undergraduate / university / postgraduate you will need to include an abstract section instead. This is a summary in one paragraph of the entire work including results and conclusion. In academic publications the abstract is useful as it allows others to quickly judge if your work is relevant and of interest to them and warrant more detailed reading. It provides a similar role to the summarised content you find on the back cover of a book. The most difficult aspect in writing an abstract is trying to summarise a long and complex report in a short paragraph without leaving out anything important.

Background / Introduction

This shows your understanding of the science behind the report but it must be relevant. In the science coursework background / introduction you include any background information you have found whilst researching your topic. Include relevant previous work done by yourself or others. Diagrams and images can be included if you so wish, but remember if you do use other sources such as books, other publications or internet sites then you MUST list those sources in your reference/ bibliography section.

Scientific Hypothesis

Your science experiment hypothesis should be clear and be in the form of a question that you want to find the answer to. Ideally the question should have a yes or no answer. For example in a chemistry practical the following hypothesis may apply : "Does vitamin C in orange juice oxidise over time when exposed to the air?" A clear and well written hypothesis can help point the way to what data you need to gather to help you find the answer. Once you know what data you need that helps in the experimental design. So as you can see the hypothesis is the foundation around which your report should be designed and built. From the science experimental data you obtain (if the experiment is well planned and carried out) you should be able to say if the hypothesis has been either supported or not in your conclusion section.

Your science practical method should include a list of the equipment and the method used.

As already mentioned above, try to write your method in the the past tense (ie you are describing something you have already carried out) and avoid personal pronouns (I, we, you, he, she etc). As an example "Four test tubes were labelled 1 to 4" is better than "You will need to label four test tubes 1 to 4" or "We labelled four test tubes 1 to 4". This is quite tricky at first but you get the hang of it once you have written a few reports.

Your method must be detailed enough for others to follow and repeat your work if required but should NOT be written in a style as if it is a series of instructions for others. Again quite tricky until you get the knack. The reproducibility of results by others is one of the cornerstones of the scientific method.

Science Experiment Results

Your science experimental results section should be well presented and include your data in table and graphical form. Any calculations you used on your data including statistical tests if required should also be in this section. Presentation is everything and all graphs should have a title and all axis should be labelled. Do not scale your graphs so that they fill the entire page and butt right up against the margin (a pet hate of mine). It is better to divide your scale by two and have a smaller half sized graph in the centre of the page. If you use this approach you may be able to fit more than one graph per page allowing the reader to review your graphical data and spot trends more easily. If the graphs are on separate pages then they have to flip back and forth between them. You need to choose the correct type of graph for the data you are presenting. A histogram is ideal for comparing two groups whilst a line graph is better for showing how enzyme activity varies with temperature.

You must resist the temptation to make any comments on your results in the results section. That is what the conclusion section is for. An experienced scientist will, by looking at the your results, be formulating their own conclusions based on your data and you should not influence your reader by including your own thoughts and comments here. Once the reader has reviewed your data and maybe come up with their own conclusion they can then move on to the conclusion section and see if your conclusion and theirs agree.

Science Coursework Conclusion

This is where you review your data and state your opinions and arguments of what the results show AT LENGTH. A half page conclusion is not going to get you a good grade. You should quote the data in the results section in support of the scientific conclusion you are making. Such as "as can be seen by graph 3 there is a marked difference between group A and group B which allows the conclusion that ....." etc.

You should state if the hypothesis has been supported or not. Your readers can then decide if they agree or disagree with your conclusions. This is the basis of scientific debate. If the data obtained is not sufficient to support or reject the hypothesis state why and propose further work that will help to generate more data allowing you to be able to draw a firmer conclusion.

Science Report Discussion / Evaluation/ Methods of Improvement

You should include here sources of error that might effect the results. Remember a good scientist is always self critical. If you have used measuring apparatus such as weighing scales for mass or glassware for measuring volumes then you may need to calculate the percentage error of the measuring apparatus. The formula is the smallest graduation halved then divide that number by the volume or mass measured. Finally multiply by 100 to get a percentage. If you have used a pipette to measure 20cm 3 of solution and the smallest graduations on the pipette are 0.1cm 3 apart this means that the actual volume dispensed may be 0.05cm 3 (which is 0.1 ÷ 2 ) above or below 20cm 3 . The actual amount dipensed will be between 19.95cm 3 and 20.05cm 3 . To calculate the percentage error for this measurement 0.1÷2=0.05 and (0.05÷20)*100 = 0.25% Also you could propose here further work or investigations that might be able to produce further data that will support your conclusions.

Always suggest improvements Some students believe, mistakenly I may add, that suggesting improvements to an experiment is admitting that they did not carry out the experiment competently. However there are always improvements that can be made. Even if you are sure that you carried out the experiment to the best of your ability, you may have been limited by the equipment available or time. If you had to repeat the experiment again ask yourself what you would do differently to achieve a better result. If you did make a mistake during the experiment, include it in your evaluation, say what effect it may have had on the result and state what you would do to avoid it next time. In my experience students who do not suggest any improvments in their report and state that they did not make any mistakes because they are just well, awesome do not get the best grades. It is always a good idea to suggest improvements as it shows that you are capable of critical thinking.

Reference / Bibliography

You must include all the external sources of information you have used in compiling your report. Each source should be described in sufficient detail to allow the reader to locate and read the source themselves. One standard way for example of quoting a section in a book would be to in this format. Author(s), Book Title and Edition (year of publication),Publisher, page numbers for example Stryer L, et al, Biochemistry 5th ed (2002) ,W.H.Freeman & Co Ltd, p102-105 Or for a magazine or paper in a scientific journal. Author(s)(year),Title,Publication and volume, page numbers. for example Watson J.D. and Crick F.H.C.(1953) A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid Nature 171, 737-738 If there are more than two authors for a source name the main or first author and use the Latin "et al" which means "and others". For website sources you should quote the full website address. We hope you have found this guide on how to write a science practical useful and wish you the very best with your grades.

By Emlyn Price - Home Tutors Directory

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Supplement to Critical Thinking

This supplement elaborates on the history of the articulation, promotion and adoption of critical thinking as an educational goal.

John Dewey (1910: 74, 82) introduced the term ‘critical thinking’ as the name of an educational goal, which he identified with a scientific attitude of mind. More commonly, he called the goal ‘reflective thought’, ‘reflective thinking’, ‘reflection’, or just ‘thought’ or ‘thinking’. He describes his book as written for two purposes. The first was to help people to appreciate the kinship of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry to the scientific attitude. The second was to help people to consider how recognizing this kinship in educational practice “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (iii). He notes that the ideas in the book obtained concreteness in the Laboratory School in Chicago.

Dewey’s ideas were put into practice by some of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study in the 1930s sponsored by the Progressive Education Association in the United States. For this study, 300 colleges agreed to consider for admission graduates of 30 selected secondary schools or school systems from around the country who experimented with the content and methods of teaching, even if the graduates had not completed the then-prescribed secondary school curriculum. One purpose of the study was to discover through exploration and experimentation how secondary schools in the United States could serve youth more effectively (Aikin 1942). Each experimental school was free to change the curriculum as it saw fit, but the schools agreed that teaching methods and the life of the school should conform to the idea (previously advocated by Dewey) that people develop through doing things that are meaningful to them, and that the main purpose of the secondary school was to lead young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18). In particular, school officials believed that young people in a democracy should develop the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems (Aikin 1942: 81). Students’ work in the classroom thus consisted more often of a problem to be solved than a lesson to be learned. Especially in mathematics and science, the schools made a point of giving students experience in clear, logical thinking as they solved problems. The report of one experimental school, the University School of Ohio State University, articulated this goal of improving students’ thinking:

Critical or reflective thinking originates with the sensing of a problem. It is a quality of thought operating in an effort to solve the problem and to reach a tentative conclusion which is supported by all available data. It is really a process of problem solving requiring the use of creative insight, intellectual honesty, and sound judgment. It is the basis of the method of scientific inquiry. The success of democracy depends to a large extent on the disposition and ability of citizens to think critically and reflectively about the problems which must of necessity confront them, and to improve the quality of their thinking is one of the major goals of education. (Commission on the Relation of School and College of the Progressive Education Association 1943: 745–746)

The Eight-Year Study had an evaluation staff, which developed, in consultation with the schools, tests to measure aspects of student progress that fell outside the focus of the traditional curriculum. The evaluation staff classified many of the schools’ stated objectives under the generic heading “clear thinking” or “critical thinking” (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942: 35–36). To develop tests of achievement of this broad goal, they distinguished five overlapping aspects of it: ability to interpret data, abilities associated with an understanding of the nature of proof, and the abilities to apply principles of science, of social studies and of logical reasoning. The Eight-Year Study also had a college staff, directed by a committee of college administrators, whose task was to determine how well the experimental schools had prepared their graduates for college. The college staff compared the performance of 1,475 college students from the experimental schools with an equal number of graduates from conventional schools, matched in pairs by sex, age, race, scholastic aptitude scores, home and community background, interests, and probable future. They concluded that, on 18 measures of student success, the graduates of the experimental schools did a somewhat better job than the comparison group. The graduates from the six most traditional of the experimental schools showed no large or consistent differences. The graduates from the six most experimental schools, on the other hand, had much greater differences in their favour. The graduates of the two most experimental schools, the college staff reported:

… surpassed their comparison groups by wide margins in academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, scientific approach to problems, and interest in contemporary affairs. The differences in their favor were even greater in general resourcefulness, in enjoyment of reading, [in] participation in the arts, in winning non-academic honors, and in all aspects of college life except possibly participation in sports and social activities. (Aikin 1942: 114)

One of these schools was a private school with students from privileged families and the other the experimental section of a public school with students from non-privileged families. The college staff reported that the graduates of the two schools were indistinguishable from each other in terms of college success.

In 1933 Dewey issued an extensively rewritten edition of his How We Think (Dewey 1910), with the sub-title “A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process”. Although the restatement retains the basic structure and content of the original book, Dewey made a number of changes. He rewrote and simplified his logical analysis of the process of reflection, made his ideas clearer and more definite, replaced the terms ‘induction’ and ‘deduction’ by the phrases ‘control of data and evidence’ and ‘control of reasoning and concepts’, added more illustrations, rearranged chapters, and revised the parts on teaching to reflect changes in schools since 1910. In particular, he objected to one-sided practices of some “experimental” and “progressive” schools that allowed children freedom but gave them no guidance, citing as objectionable practices novelty and variety for their own sake, experiences and activities with real materials but of no educational significance, treating random and disconnected activity as if it were an experiment, failure to summarize net accomplishment at the end of an inquiry, non-educative projects, and treatment of the teacher as a negligible factor rather than as “the intellectual leader of a social group” (Dewey 1933: 273). Without explaining his reasons, Dewey eliminated the previous edition’s uses of the words ‘critical’ and ‘uncritical’, thus settling firmly on ‘reflection’ or ‘reflective thinking’ as the preferred term for his subject-matter. In the revised edition, the word ‘critical’ occurs only once, where Dewey writes that “a person may not be sufficiently critical about the ideas that occur to him” (1933: 16, italics in original); being critical is thus a component of reflection, not the whole of it. In contrast, the Eight-Year Study by the Progressive Education Association treated ‘critical thinking’ and ‘reflective thinking’ as synonyms.

In the same period, Dewey collaborated on a history of the Laboratory School in Chicago with two former teachers from the school (Mayhew & Edwards 1936). The history describes the school’s curriculum and organization, activities aimed at developing skills, parents’ involvement, and the habits of mind that the children acquired. A concluding chapter evaluates the school’s achievements, counting as a success its staging of the curriculum to correspond to the natural development of the growing child. In two appendices, the authors describe the evolution of Dewey’s principles of education and Dewey himself describes the theory of the Chicago experiment (Dewey 1936).

Glaser (1941) reports in his doctoral dissertation the method and results of an experiment in the development of critical thinking conducted in the fall of 1938. He defines critical thinking as Dewey defined reflective thinking:

Critical thinking calls for a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Glaser 1941: 6; cf. Dewey 1910: 6; Dewey 1933: 9)

In the experiment, eight lesson units directed at improving critical thinking abilities were taught to four grade 12 high school classes, with pre-test and post-test of the students using the Otis Quick-Scoring Mental Ability Test and the Watson-Glaser Tests of Critical Thinking (developed in collaboration with Glaser’s dissertation sponsor, Goodwin Watson). The average gain in scores on these tests was greater to a statistically significant degree among the students who received the lessons in critical thinking than among the students in a control group of four grade 12 high school classes taking the usual curriculum in English. Glaser concludes:

The aspect of critical thinking which appears most susceptible to general improvement is the attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one’s experience. An attitude of wanting evidence for beliefs is more subject to general transfer. Development of skill in applying the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, however, appears to be specifically related to, and in fact limited by, the acquisition of pertinent knowledge and facts concerning the problem or subject matter toward which the thinking is to be directed. (Glaser 1941: 175)

Retest scores and observable behaviour indicated that students in the intervention group retained their growth in ability to think critically for at least six months after the special instruction.

In 1948 a group of U.S. college examiners decided to develop taxonomies of educational objectives with a common vocabulary that they could use for communicating with each other about test items. The first of these taxonomies, for the cognitive domain, appeared in 1956 (Bloom et al. 1956), and included critical thinking objectives. It has become known as Bloom’s taxonomy. A second taxonomy, for the affective domain (Krathwohl, Bloom, & Masia 1964), and a third taxonomy, for the psychomotor domain (Simpson 1966–67), appeared later. Each of the taxonomies is hierarchical, with achievement of a higher educational objective alleged to require achievement of corresponding lower educational objectives.

Bloom’s taxonomy has six major categories. From lowest to highest, they are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Within each category, there are sub-categories, also arranged hierarchically from the educationally prior to the educationally posterior. The lowest category, though called ‘knowledge’, is confined to objectives of remembering information and being able to recall or recognize it, without much transformation beyond organizing it (Bloom et al. 1956: 28–29). The five higher categories are collectively termed “intellectual abilities and skills” (Bloom et al. 1956: 204). The term is simply another name for critical thinking abilities and skills:

Although information or knowledge is recognized as an important outcome of education, very few teachers would be satisfied to regard this as the primary or the sole outcome of instruction. What is needed is some evidence that the students can do something with their knowledge, that is, that they can apply the information to new situations and problems. It is also expected that students will acquire generalized techniques for dealing with new problems and new materials. Thus, it is expected that when the student encounters a new problem or situation, he will select an appropriate technique for attacking it and will bring to bear the necessary information, both facts and principles. This has been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others. In the taxonomy, we have used the term “intellectual abilities and skills”. (Bloom et al. 1956: 38)

Comprehension and application objectives, as their names imply, involve understanding and applying information. Critical thinking abilities and skills show up in the three highest categories of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The condensed version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom et al. 1956: 201–207) gives the following examples of objectives at these levels:

The analysis, synthesis and evaluation objectives in Bloom’s taxonomy collectively came to be called the “higher-order thinking skills” (Tankersley 2005: chap. 5). Although the analysis-synthesis-evaluation sequence mimics phases in Dewey’s (1933) logical analysis of the reflective thinking process, it has not generally been adopted as a model of a critical thinking process. While commending the inspirational value of its ratio of five categories of thinking objectives to one category of recall objectives, Ennis (1981b) points out that the categories lack criteria applicable across topics and domains. For example, analysis in chemistry is so different from analysis in literature that there is not much point in teaching analysis as a general type of thinking. Further, the postulated hierarchy seems questionable at the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. For example, ability to indicate logical fallacies hardly seems more complex than the ability to organize statements and ideas in writing.

A revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) distinguishes the intended cognitive process in an educational objective (such as being able to recall, to compare or to check) from the objective’s informational content (“knowledge”), which may be factual, conceptual, procedural, or metacognitive. The result is a so-called “Taxonomy Table” with four rows for the kinds of informational content and six columns for the six main types of cognitive process. The authors name the types of cognitive process by verbs, to indicate their status as mental activities. They change the name of the ‘comprehension’ category to ‘understand’ and of the ‘synthesis’ category to ’create’, and switch the order of synthesis and evaluation. The result is a list of six main types of cognitive process aimed at by teachers: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create. The authors retain the idea of a hierarchy of increasing complexity, but acknowledge some overlap, for example between understanding and applying. And they retain the idea that critical thinking and problem solving cut across the more complex cognitive processes. The terms ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’, they write:

are widely used and tend to become touchstones of curriculum emphasis. Both generally include a variety of activities that might be classified in disparate cells of the Taxonomy Table. That is, in any given instance, objectives that involve problem solving and critical thinking most likely call for cognitive processes in several categories on the process dimension. For example, to think critically about an issue probably involves some Conceptual knowledge to Analyze the issue. Then, one can Evaluate different perspectives in terms of the criteria and, perhaps, Create a novel, yet defensible perspective on this issue. (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270; italics in original)

In the revised taxonomy, only a few sub-categories, such as inferring, have enough commonality to be treated as a distinct critical thinking ability that could be taught and assessed as a general ability.

A landmark contribution to philosophical scholarship on the concept of critical thinking was a 1962 article in the Harvard Educational Review by Robert H. Ennis, with the title “A concept of critical thinking: A proposed basis for research in the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability” (Ennis 1962). Ennis took as his starting-point a conception of critical thinking put forward by B. Othanel Smith:

We shall consider thinking in terms of the operations involved in the examination of statements which we, or others, may believe. A speaker declares, for example, that “Freedom means that the decisions in America’s productive effort are made not in the minds of a bureaucracy but in the free market”. Now if we set about to find out what this statement means and to determine whether to accept or reject it, we would be engaged in thinking which, for lack of a better term, we shall call critical thinking. If one wishes to say that this is only a form of problem-solving in which the purpose is to decide whether or not what is said is dependable, we shall not object. But for our purposes we choose to call it critical thinking. (Smith 1953: 130)

Adding a normative component to this conception, Ennis defined critical thinking as “the correct assessing of statements” (Ennis 1962: 83). On the basis of this definition, he distinguished 12 “aspects” of critical thinking corresponding to types or aspects of statements, such as judging whether an observation statement is reliable and grasping the meaning of a statement. He noted that he did not include judging value statements. Cutting across the 12 aspects, he distinguished three dimensions of critical thinking: logical (judging relationships between meanings of words and statements), criterial (knowledge of the criteria for judging statements), and pragmatic (the impression of the background purpose). For each aspect, Ennis described the applicable dimensions, including criteria. He proposed the resulting construct as a basis for developing specifications for critical thinking tests and for research on instructional methods and levels.

In the 1970s and 1980s there was an upsurge of attention to the development of thinking skills. The annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Educational Reform has attracted since its start in 1980 tens of thousands of educators from all levels. In 1983 the College Entrance Examination Board proclaimed reasoning as one of six basic academic competencies needed by college students (College Board 1983). Departments of education in the United States and around the world began to include thinking objectives in their curriculum guidelines for school subjects. For example, Ontario’s social sciences and humanities curriculum guideline for secondary schools requires “the use of critical and creative thinking skills and/or processes” as a goal of instruction and assessment in each subject and course (Ontario Ministry of Education 2013: 30). The document describes critical thinking as follows:

Critical thinking is the process of thinking about ideas or situations in order to understand them fully, identify their implications, make a judgement, and/or guide decision making. Critical thinking includes skills such as questioning, predicting, analysing, synthesizing, examining opinions, identifying values and issues, detecting bias, and distinguishing between alternatives. Students who are taught these skills become critical thinkers who can move beyond superficial conclusions to a deeper understanding of the issues they are examining. They are able to engage in an inquiry process in which they explore complex and multifaceted issues, and questions for which there may be no clear-cut answers (Ontario Ministry of Education 2013: 46).

Sweden makes schools responsible for ensuring that each pupil who completes compulsory school “can make use of critical thinking and independently formulate standpoints based on knowledge and ethical considerations” (Skolverket 2018: 12). Subject syllabi incorporate this requirement, and items testing critical thinking skills appear on national tests that are a required step toward university admission. For example, the core content of biology, physics and chemistry in years 7-9 includes critical examination of sources of information and arguments encountered by pupils in different sources and social discussions related to these sciences, in both digital and other media. (Skolverket 2018: 170, 181, 192). Correspondingly, in year 9 the national tests require using knowledge of biology, physics or chemistry “to investigate information, communicate and come to a decision on issues concerning health, energy, technology, the environment, use of natural resources and ecological sustainability” (see the message from the School Board ). Other jurisdictions similarly embed critical thinking objectives in curriculum guidelines.

At the college level, a new wave of introductory logic textbooks, pioneered by Kahane (1971), applied the tools of logic to contemporary social and political issues. Popular contemporary textbooks of this sort include those by Bailin and Battersby (2016b), Boardman, Cavender and Kahane (2018), Browne and Keeley (2018), Groarke and Tindale (2012), and Moore and Parker (2020). In their wake, colleges and universities in North America transformed their introductory logic course into a general education service course with a title like ‘critical thinking’ or ‘reasoning’. In 1980, the trustees of California’s state university and colleges approved as a general education requirement a course in critical thinking, described as follows:

Instruction in critical thinking is to be designed to achieve an understanding of the relationship of language to logic, which should lead to the ability to analyze, criticize, and advocate ideas, to reason inductively and deductively, and to reach factual or judgmental conclusions based on sound inferences drawn from unambiguous statements of knowledge or belief. The minimal competence to be expected at the successful conclusion of instruction in critical thinking should be the ability to distinguish fact from judgment, belief from knowledge, and skills in elementary inductive and deductive processes, including an understanding of the formal and informal fallacies of language and thought. (Dumke 1980)

Since December 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions at the three annual divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association. In December 1987, the Committee on Pre-College Philosophy of the American Philosophical Association invited Peter Facione to make a systematic inquiry into the current state of critical thinking and critical thinking assessment. Facione assembled a group of 46 other academic philosophers and psychologists to participate in a multi-round Delphi process, whose product was entitled Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction (Facione 1990a). The statement listed abilities and dispositions that should be the goals of a lower-level undergraduate course in critical thinking. Researchers in nine European countries determined which of these skills and dispositions employers expect of university graduates (Dominguez 2018 a), compared those expectations to critical thinking educational practices in post-secondary educational institutions (Dominguez 2018b), developed a course on critical thinking education for university teachers (Dominguez 2018c) and proposed in response to identified gaps between expectations and practices an “educational protocol” that post-secondary educational institutions in Europe could use to develop critical thinking (Elen et al. 2019).

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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

Administration cancels FC Live

Claire Kister May 11, 2007

Due to a lack of time and attendance at past informational meetings, FC Live has been cancelled on May 14.

?We weren?t able to print the promotional material in time,? Jon Endicott, associate principal, said. ?We also found FC Live attendance has gone down over the past several years and so we chose to cancel it.?

While the event may have seemed beneficial for prospective parents, the administration believes individual consultations give families a better view of the campus and community.

?Our school prefers to meet with families individually anyways,? Endicott said. ?The main goal is to show families our distinctive Christian education while highlighting our sports and performing arts programs. We will still send out the promotional materials and post cards just as we would?ve at FC Live.?

As an alternative, the school is doing a double mailing to the in-house database. This includes a new brochure, which promotes current attending families to invite a friend.

?We still want to increase our enrollment,? Endicott said. ?Families who refer a new student to our school get $500 off their child?s tuition.?

For more information on enrollment and scheduling visit [email protected] or contact the high school office at (559) 299-1695.

Refer back to this article for the new brochure as it was not available yet for publication.

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