Error Propagation Average Mean Of 3 Numbers With Error Formula Is Critical Thinking Overrated or Under-Utilized in Higher Education?

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Is Critical Thinking Overrated or Under-Utilized in Higher Education?

Critical thinking is listed as a desired skill or preferred outcome in many higher education courses. This is something that students are expected to demonstrate through their engagement in class and learning activities. It may be listed in a rubric and/or stated in a course syllabus, depending on the requirements of the program or school. From sometimes to always within a rubric specification, there can be varying degrees of how it is performed and then assessed. It is common practice to provide course rubrics to students at the beginning of class; However, the question becomes: Do students generally know what critical thinking means? Do instructors or schools provide standard definitions?

Additional questions that arise include: Do teachers understand the meaning of critical thinking and have they been provided clarification by the school? These are the questions I sought to answer and I spent over two years talking to teachers and students about this topic. There is information that is readily available, such as websites devoted to critical thinking and some books on the subject, and there are classes that spend entire periods examining it; However, what does the average student and instructor know about this topic? How is it used in classes if it is stated in the rubric? What I want to know is whether or not critical thinking is overrated (which means it’s not actively used in classrooms and is just a catchphrase) or underused in higher education classrooms (which means it’s more likely than currently recognized. ).

The instructor perspective

My perspective is primarily based on my work in the field of distance-learning as an online teacher and faculty development specialist, which has included the role of online faculty peer reviewer. I have reviewed hundreds of online classes and discussed critical thinking with hundreds of online faculty. What I have learned is that the average instructor may have a general knowledge of critical thinking and what it means; However, faculty generally do not provide explanations to students beyond what is stated in the course rubric. I have not observed this as an active discussion or explanation through additional instructional posts or supplementary information, and I have not observed detailed comments about it within the feedback provided.

What do educators generally know about critical thinking? Those who have done some research will find definitions related to logic and reasoning. However, a common go-to definition or explanation is Bloom’s Taxonomy and it provides levels of cognition that can help teachers recognize when a state of critical thinking has been achieved. What is unclear is whether a one-time event indicates how students will use the skill on a regular basis. What do schools teach teachers? They are generally called to use questioning techniques and specifically Socratic questioning by some schools. What I have noticed is that even using questions does not mean that students’ follow-up answers will demonstrate the use of this skill.

Student perspective

When students are asked to define what critical thinking is, the following is a list of the most common answers:

  • Thinking outside the box

  • Thinking more about the topic

  • problem solving

  • Ability to think independently

  • Weight options, pros and cons

  • Be rational and avoid emotions

  • Making decisions, such as going to the grocery store and deciding on food options

  • Being curious, creative and open-minded

  • Learning through trial and error

  • Know what to do in life-threatening situations

  • Making wise decisions

  • Collaborating with others to reach consensus

This is only a partial list of responses received from students, and these were undergraduate and graduate students. After reviewing this list it is clear that without a standard definition of critical thinking, students may not fully understand what is expected when they see it listed on the course rubric. It may also explain why it is difficult for instructors to assess this skill and why students may fall short in their assessments. What I found was that students rarely conducted their own research on the topic and if they did, they still weren’t sure if their definition matched their instructor’s definition, how it applied to their classes and learning activities, or how to meet it. According to the requirements listed in the rubric.

A logical perspective

I reviewed several available online resources to see what instructors and students could read about critical thinking and it was mostly related to the use of logic and reasoning. The same is true for an online class I taught that was six weeks long and combined critical thinking with creative thinking. Course content explained in a logical perspective includes finding facts rather than opinions, evaluating arguments, examining premises, developing logical or rational conclusions, and learning about possible fallacies. This made it more complex and challenging for students to take an already obscure topic and apply it directly to their classroom work. Students generally struggled throughout the course and by the time it was concluded there had been little improvement in their ability to demonstrate the use of this skill.

A cognitive perspective

Bloom’s taxonomy is frequently referenced by faculty and this taxonomy provides a range of cognitive or mental functions that begin with lower order thinking and progress to higher order thinking. At the lower end is the ability to recall information, which is usually held in short-term memory and quickly discarded. Because higher cognitive functions are involved, the student may be able to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. There are action verbs that are commonly associated with each level and this is useful for developing course objectives. The challenge for instructors is to determine how to explain cognitive tasks to students so that they understand what it means to perform critical thinking. For example, how does a student know how to analyze or synthesize information in a discussion post or written assignment? Do they know when they have developed this skill? Does answering an instructor’s question ensure that they have reached a higher cognitive state? How often have they mastered the use of this skill to believe they need to demonstrate its use? This is a challenge for academics; Uncertainty in the use of this skill and how to assess it accurately.

A new perspective

What I propose is the use of simple models that explain how the mind works or operates, which can provide a uniform description for teachers and students. As a starting point, the mind is always active and thinking is a natural process. A useful way to understand how the mind performs is to divide thinking into three specific types, which will explain why critical thinking requires practice to learn before it can be actively used as a skill. The most basic type is called mere thinking or automatic thought processes. It occurs naturally and includes thoughts about the current environment, thoughts that are based on physiological needs, emotions, or external stimuli. These include self-talk, internal dialogue, surface thoughts, established thought patterns, thinking habits, and existing mental structures. Automatic thinking also occurs because data is received through the five senses, while the mind relies on perceptual filters to interpret the information it receives.

Another type is active thinking and this occurs when a person is consciously aware of their thought processes or the mind is deliberately processing information. As an example, consider advertising messages. If the ad is seen, the mind will change from automatic thinking to active or conscious thinking and awareness. Active thinking involves reading, writing, speaking, expressing ideas, and solving problems through the use of informal reasoning. For example, if a financial analysis requires taking numbers and calculating them, putting them into a pattern or equation, classifying, manipulating, or any other form of calculation is needed. Active thinking is what most students believe is involved in critical thinking when they say they “think hard” about a subject or topic. They are consciously aware of the subject and have a memory of current knowledge.

The third type of thinking is critical thinking, which is not automatic and must be active. It can be activated for a specific purpose and learned to use as a skill. Students can trigger it when they need to work beyond their existing knowledge, beliefs, and ideas. It can be activated through something unexpected, unknown, or unique. More importantly, critical thinking is done with a purpose. For example, when a student needs to research a topic and the topic is currently unknown to them. Instead of filling their paper with direct quotes, they can question the information they receive in an attempt to find an answer. It can also enhance problem-solving when students need answers they cannot reach on their own. When students write papers they may provide more of their own analysis and less of their sources because they have examined evidence and reexamined their beliefs or assumptions.

A transformative perspective

Critical thinking has the ability to transform every aspect of student performance from answering discussion questions to written assignments. Students first learn to work with their accumulated knowledge, beliefs, and ideas. In this way they develop an initial response and for many students that is also their final response. But educators want students to move beyond this active form of thinking and show that learning has taken place. It is easy to ask students to demonstrate critical thinking but more challenging to develop a mental model for them to follow and that means it must be prompt so that students can see it in action and then imitate the process. Thinking matters when students provide more than a superficial or cursory response, and in place of ideas they develop well-documented and well-researched position statements and analyses.

Critical thinking is not a natural process although there are times when a period of reflection is possible for adults when they are prompted by unplanned or unexpected changes. Thinking is also important when students do not rely on perceptual filters to determine what is accepted as true and correct, with a willingness to evaluate beliefs and change when compelling evidence is found. Critical thinking can be taught most effectively through the use of detailed explanations, time to practice what is learned, and direct application of the skill to problems and issues, which means that any time this skill is listed as a curriculum requirement, students need a standard definition and an opportunity to practice it. . I do not believe that critical thinking is overrated because it is transformative in nature; However, what I have seen in the field of distance education is that it is underutilized due to the lack of a uniform method of explaining it and this leads to a loss of learning opportunities in higher education classrooms.

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