Halpern's model for developing critical thinking

Of the approaches and models for improving critical thinking based on cognitive science, the body of work that has had the most impact is that of Halpern (2003). Halpern (1998) initially proposed an evidence-based, multifaceted model of critical thinking to inform critical thinking curricula. The model depicted not only the skills and methods of critical thinking but also the inclination to apply these skills, the ability to identify appropriate opportunities for critical thinking, and the ability to monitor progress and quality of thinking.

Components of Halpern's model

Halpern (1998) argued that to engage appropriately in critical thinking, first, requires a certain attitude toward critical thinking and analysis. Halpern includes here disposition, a positive view of critical thinking and a willingness to engage in and commit some effort to the work required to develop this skill. She suggests that a critical thinker displays these characteristics:

  • 1. a willingness to engage in and persist at a complex task;
  • 2. habitual use of plans and the suppression of impulsive activity;
  • 3. flexibility or open-mindedness;
  • 4. willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to selfcorrect; and
  • 5. an awareness of the social realities that need to be overcome (Halpern 1998, 452).

Assuming a student has these characteristics, he or she is then capable of developing the skills and abilities of critical thinking. These include an ability to analyze or argue, decision-making and problem-solving skills, an ability to generate alternative explanations or points of view and then sensibly judge these, and an ability to test hypotheses. Training in structure is the ability to recognize or notice when to apply the skills and to detect appropriate contexts for application of critical thinking (453). A key aspect of structure is also the ability to transfer knowledge, skills, patterns, or analogies appropriately from the representations of past experience stored in memory to the current problem. Metacognitive monitoring, Halpern's last component, is the "executive or boss" (454). Halpern describes metacognitive monitoring as the ability to check the progress of any critical thinking activity, to evaluate the thinking against its goal, and to adjust the efforts accordingly. She suggests that this component can be enhanced through "well structured questions" to encourage reflection on learning (454).

Halpern also noted that many educators do not take into account these foundations of cognitive science when developing critical thinking lessons and curricula. She argued that undergraduate students demonstrate poor transferral of critical thinking skills and abilities, citing an example in which 99% of college students endorsed at least one paranormal phenomenon (see Messer and Griggs 1989). Halpern also suggested that many adults are not able to extend critical thinking skills to contexts outside of formal education settings. For example, the majority of adults read horoscopes and most of these believe that they are written for their own personal situation (Lister, 1992, cited in Halpern, 1998).

 
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