Teaching and Learning Resources

Critical Thinking Skills, Teaching

Critical thinking was the vision of Socrates 2,500 years ago. His method of “Socratic Questioning” is the best known critical thinking teaching strategy. He highlighted the need for asking deep questions that probe into thinking before we accept ideas as worthy of belief (Paul, Elder & Bartell, 1997).

There is not one definition of critical thinking. According to The Critical Thinking Community  it is defined as “that mode of thinking – about any subject, content or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing and reconstructing it.”

An essential characteristic of critical thinking identified by many sources is metacognition; thinking about one's own thinking. More specifically, "metacognition is being aware of one's thinking as one performs specific tasks and then using this awareness to control what one is doing" (Jones & Ratcliff, 1993, p.10).

Critical thinking is considered by many to be essential for effective functioning in the modern world. It focuses on developing the skills to become more self-directed, self-disciplined and self-monitored. Often linked to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, critical thinking is considered to be a set of skills that are continually and consciously being developed, analyzed, revised and improved upon. This is based on the view that knowledge is not a collection of facts, but rather an ongoing process of examining information, evaluating that information, and adding it to your understanding.


Tips from the McMaster Community

How do I maintain the attention of a large group of students (450+) while at the same time stimulating critical thinking?

My students, even the ones who do well on the exams, don't seem to understand central course concepts. What can I do in my classes to correct this problem?

Related Resources

The Critical Thinking Community offers a number of articles and resources specifically for University faculty.

Critical Thinking Skills in Education & Life,  from  the  American Scientific Affiliation,  discusses why it is important to teach students to be critical thinker and offers a plethora of resources and strategies to encourage critical thinking in your students.

CRITICAL-THINKING STRATEGIES  (PDF) is a chapter which discusses strategies to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills both online and in the classroom.

Critical Thinking in Everyday Life: 9 Strategies identifies the developmental stages of a critical thinker and then describes 9 strategies to develop critical thinking skills.

A thoughtful article written by Linda Elder from the Critical Thinking Community discusses in detail the importance of and benefits of a professional development model for critical thinking. http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/a-professional-development-model-for-colleges-and-universities-that-fosters-critical-thinking/435