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Ideas for Critical Thinking Assignments

Critical thought is required in every field of study. Asking students to write is asking them to think. Richard Paul and Linda Elder, of the Foundation for Critical Thinking, define critical thinking as"self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking." Whether we teach auto repair, biology or computer science, we are asking students to become independent learners, capable of critical thought in their field. Writing is a practice uniquely equipped to provide students with a way to develop and hone that skill.
    1.Ask students to gather and organize information relevant to a particular lesson. The students can then assess the information in a short piece of wriitng, focusing on the problems that the information could help to resolve, or avoid.

    2.Have students write two different solutions to a problem in their studies.

    3. According to Paul and Elder, a critical thinker "comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards." Have students write what they understand to be the criteria and standards relevant to their field.

    4. Think about asking students to write about the assumptions they had at the beginning of a particular unit of study, and to think about which of their assumptions were later found to be inaccurate. Ask them to reflect in writing on why those assumptions were not accurate.

    5. Ask your students to write about the difference between opinion and knowledge in their field of study.

    6. Have students write about what the the best research process in your field of study would be. Ask them to explain how they would evaluate whether a given source was credible.

Links for more ideas:

Foundation for Critical Thinking - stresses what their organization sees as the essential intellectual traits of: humility, courage, fairmindedness, empathy, autonomy, integrity, reason and perserverance. This is the group that publishes Richard Paul and Linda Elder, mentioned above.

Critical Thinking -compilation of articles and links to critical thinking at the community college and unversity level - pulled together by Eric Hibbison of the Virginia Community College System.

Educational Psychology Interactive - critical thinking, current trends and Bloom's Taxonomy, from Bill Huitt, of Valdosta State University, Georgia

More about writing across the curriculum


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