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.
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