Teaching Critical Thinking: An Operational Framework
Keith Thomas and Beatrice Lok
Critical thinking has attracted considerable focus in recent years in both high school and tertiary curricula (Ku 2009). While the concept has a long tradition and both philosophers and educators agree on its importance, there is a reported lack of agreement on what the concept involves (Cheung, Rudowicz, Kwan, and Yue 2002; Green, Hammer, and Star 2009; McMillan 1987). There is even less agreement on how to teach it (Noddings 1995). Described as a most difficult term in education (Moore and Parker 2011), it is not surprising that critical thinking has also taken on a narrower focus than when earlier conceived (Davies 2011). This chapter presents an operational framework for teaching critical thinking and illustrates its application in an educational setting.
The need for conceptual clarity
Concerned as critical thinking is with discerning and recognizing faulty arguments, generalizations, assertions, and the like, teachers and academics can have a practical understanding of the many skills associated with this cognitive capability. However, given the lack of agreement on what critical thinking involves, their conceptual understanding can be less clear. This lack of clarity is a problem, as the way we view critical thinking has a major bearing on curriculum design and on the educational approaches adopted (Barnett 1997; Barrie and Prosser 2004). Consequently, as others have suggested, there is a need for conceptual clarity (Green, Hammer, and Star 2009). The following section outlines the process used to identify the attributes and processes discussed in the literature.