Strategy to promote the future development of critical thinking education

Obviously, developing critical thinking education in such a sociocultural restrictive environment is a long and ongoing endeavor. However, with the above understanding of the underlying causes of the difficulties, and with the successfully implemented HUST and Shantou University models of a critical thinking course, we are optimistic. We should be able gradually to steer critical thinking education to a better and faster track by making coordinated efforts in important areas to achieve likely and concrete progress. In turn, this could also help improve the educational environment. For this, here are some tasks we should focus on in the years to come:

  • 1. Continue to help more people understand the broader concept of critical thinking as other than negative thinking, logical application, technical training, theoretical study, or examination preparation. A proper conceptualization is a precondition for critical thinking education to be comprehensive and practical and to win more acceptance and support.
  • 2. Continue to advocate HUST and Shantou University models of a critical thinking course for various class sizes. They display what more helpful content, examples, pedagogy, and tests should be. This would greatly help put critical thinking education on the right track, ensuring that it will not deviate to another logic course or theoretical study of thinking rules. Recently the models have been gaining a wider recognition nationally. This enhances our confidence.
  • 3. Train instructors of critical thinking courses and subject-matter courses. This would be a priority. In the training, emphasize fostering a critical spirit as well as developing skills. Instructors should be urged to learn to be a model of attitudes of reason seeking, open-mindedness, self-regulation, and so on, and abandon traditional ideas and habits, like that of being a preacher transmitting infallible knowledge. Such individual change might also bring about changes to the cultural and social environment for critical thinking education. It is also important to equip the teachers with an awareness of, and ability to use, effective teaching methods as an integral part of the curriculum. We have implemented the training program for university teachers to learn "inquiry-based critical pedagogy"; we shall strive to expand it nationally.
  • 4. Make use of university English courses to teach critical thinking. If the English teachers are well trained in critical thinking attitudes and skills, their courses could be a very effective channel to teach critical thinking to a very large student population, as English is a mandatory two-year course in all Chinese universities. Combining the learning of critical thinking with learning language skills is a very beneficial solution.
  • 5. Encourage university administrations to develop critical thinking education with more resources for teaching, in order to reform the system to introduce teaching assistants, to reward instructors in various ways for their educational work, and to build a risk-taking atmosphere for experiments in reform.
  • 6. Establish a national research and assessment center for critical thinking information, with real-life Chinese examples and tests. Advocate adding critical thinking questions to those important academic and professional examinations, such as the national college entry examination, the graduate school entry examination, and the teacher qualification examination. The Chinese examination-oriented tradition, where tests determine teaching and learning, can be used to develop and control what content will be taught in critical thinking courses. That is, better designed tests can enrich the education.
  • 7. Promote critical thinking through nongovernmental organizations and networks for communication and cooperation. The two-year-old Association for Critical and Creative Thinking Education (ACCTE) and its newsletter have been quite instrumental in this respect. Further, expand critical thinking education to secondary schools and business sectors, and build partnerships with them to reinforce the efforts.
  • 8. Last but not least, continue to persuade governments to create policies and provide resources to incorporate critical thinking into the education system at all levels, thus ensuring the fastest means to spread such education across China.
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