Critical Thinking in Education


Critical thinking is one of the most crucial attributes embodied by students, teachers and parents. As such, it is an important aspect which helps people to innovate, solve problems and relate to each other thoughtfully (Schraw, Crippen & Hartley, 2006). In that light, therefore, it becomes a fundamentally vital area of academic interest. However, whereas critical thinking is of great importance to humans, the people’s understanding of its nature is controversial.

In addition, the prevalence of this attribute among students, teachers, and other people in the society has evoked serious interest. Indeed, such interests are meant to determine the efforts that should be put to impart critical thinking. In line with this understanding, this paper will explore qualitative and quantitative sources in order to determine teachers’ understanding of critical thinking, students’ ability to think critically, and identify some of the multiple definition of critical thinking. In addition, it will set out to determine the teaching strategies which can be used to impart critical thinking, as well as parents understanding of critical thinking.

Teachers’ Understanding of Critical Thinking

Most teachers do not really understand what the corporate world expects from them as far as the preparation of students is concerned. Whereas they have basic understanding that aspects, such as communication skills, are very crucial to the future workforce, critical thinking is also part of their academic coverage. In essence, the perception of critical thinking basically differs from one person to another. Equally, teachers have different perspectives of looking at critical thinking. First, teachers understand and have the opinion that critical thinking takes time (Silva, 2008).

This implies that they expect their students to learn critical thinking gradually. As such, teachers do not train critical thinking while expecting immediate results. Whereas most of the disciplines may take time, teachers are keen to allow students more time when it comes to critical thinking. This is based on the fact that the aspects of critical thinking relates to development of the mind in the orientation of factual and analytic argumentations. Secondly, teachers consider critical thinking as the ability to solve problems, either individually or in teams in order to reach a compromise (Choy & Cheah, 2009).

Indeed, teachers understand that the world needs the workforce to think authentically, divergently and innovatively. In that regard, however, most teachers realize that they have not provided a good opportunity for the students to engage in critical thinking. This can be blamed on the strict use of a curriculum map which should be followed to the letter. Third, the teachers believe that critical thinking is manifested in people’s ability to solve problems in class (Stipek, 1996). In this regards, it is widely accepted by teachers that critical thinking cannot be taught in isolation. Instead, they must engage in various undertakings, in order to manifest and develop their critical thinking capabilities. In other words, critical thinking is embedded in other disciplines across the academic arena.

Student’s Ability to Think Critically in High School

Students have the capability to think critically during the high school level of study. In this regard, it is crucial to understand that every person has the capability to engage in critical thinking regardless of the age or the level of schooling. However, the manifestation of critical thinking differs from one level to another. These disparities are evoked by the difference in the challenges and problems that confront people at different levels of engagement. However, one of the critical findings related to the use of critical thinking in high school is connected to the manner in which it is imparted.

In this regard, Pithers and Soden (2000) indicated that students who receive strategy-based instructions are better critical thinkers than the ones who do not get such instructions. Importantly, it is evident that mere coverage of class work content cannot help to develop the faculties of critical thinking. As such, it is important to cover the contents assigned and expected over a certain period of time. However, although there is the stipulated amount of content, the process of teaching the content is very important. In other words, the question of how this content is delivered to the students should be addressed in tandem with the coverage (Sternberg, 1986).

As such, in the current system, teachers should redesign most of their curriculum structures in order to allow the students to attain critical thinking skills. In addition to this, the students’ ability to think critically at high school level is viewed as the preparation to college life. In this case, students who acquire proficient critical thinking skills at high school level are able to cope up with college work especially when it comes to the engaging disciplines such as mathematics, sciences, and information technology-related subjects. As such, it is a critical point of learning that should not be ignored at any cost.

Multi-Dimensional Definitions

Critical thinking is defined from multidimensional perspectives according to the disciplines and schools of thoughts. For example, psychologists, mathematicians, businessmen, and cognitive scientists have different perspectives of viewing critical thinking. Whereas there are various definitions that exist across disciplines, the critical and most important ones revolve around three aspects. First, critical thinking is viewed as the capability to reason out. As such, reasoning is the attribute that helps people to view issues from multiple dimensions rather than a single perspective (Tindal & Nolet, 1995).

In that regard, people who reason are able to avoid misperceptions and mistakes that can otherwise lead to failure. Indeed, people who reason can be considered as liberal and free thinker. Second, critical thinking is viewed from the perspective of making judgment. When making judgments critical thinkers consider all the aspects prevalent in the situation and provide a judgment. Understandably, critical thinkers employ logics in order to reach useful judgments. As such, they are not ruled by the conventions such as religion and political wave in order to make judgments. Instead, they make logic-based judgment informed by reasoning. Lastly, critical thinking is defined from the perspective of solving real-life problems incurred on daily basis. In this case, critical thinking in light of problem-solving is measured using parameters such as effectiveness, novelty, and self-direction (Turner, 1995).

As such, people who solve problems are basically critical thinkers. They are considered as more effective in the society as compared to their philosophical counterparts as well as speechmakers. This is simply because effectiveness is based on the ability to act, rather than making speeches. However, in any case, critical thinkers are considered effective regardless of whether they engage in oral or practical problem-solving. The bottom line is that the action involved must be capable of eliminating the obstacles.

Teaching Strategies for Critical Thinking

Robinson (2010) conducted a very robust quantitative study to investigate the strategies that can help to impart the ability of critical thinking. Using correlation and regression analysis, the author identified some strategies that can be used to increase and build the ability to think critically among students. First, he found that there was a direct and high correlation between the uses of higher-order thinking assignment and critical thinking. In this case, however, critical thinking has been understood as preparation for corporate world and university contribution. This implies that one of the effective strategies of imparting critical thinking is by giving involving assignment which requires students to think vigorously.

Willingham (2007) focused on critical thinking and tried to answer the question of why it is very difficult to teach and train students in that regard. In the process of discussing the pertinent issues, there were various strategies that were revealed with regards to strategies of training students on how to think critically. Particularly, he indicated that teachers can impart critical thinking skills if only they train their students to apply the right kind of thinking at the right time. From a critical point of view, this implies that students must be trained in the context of the life in order to help them in problem-solving. In addition, the author asserts that mere coverage of content cannot help impart reliable skills of critical thinking among the students. Instead, critical thinkers need to acquire broad and deep knowledge in their fields of specialization.

In this regard, he argues that some of the best critical thinkers in the world were not taught about it in class. Instead, they read widely and acquired very deep as well as extensive knowledge concerning real-life issues and challenges. They exposed themselves to the knowledge of other people. Of course, when reading deeply and extensively students are able to experience and learn how other people, who came before them, solved problems or made good judgments. This triggers a virtual experience and ignites the faculties of students to make decisions based on reasoning and logical thinking (Vangelder, 2005).

Attitude-Based Understanding of Critical Thinking

In essence, most parents do not have a clear understanding of critical thinking and its components. However, they tend to believe that students who do not have critical thinking are academically incapable (Thayer-Bacon, 2000). Where parents are essentially illiterate, they might have the attitude that students are unwilling to acquire the skills of critical thinking. This is based on the fact that they believe that critical thinking is essentially a part of the content coverage. As a result, according to them, lack of such skills is caused by the unwillingness to learn.

Studies’ Components Discussion

In essence, this paper referred to information from quantitative and qualitative sources from different authors. In regard to the quantitative sources, robust and effective methods of analysis were applied by the researchers in order to make various determinations. As such, correlation analysis was conducted to investigate the use of higher order thinking when it comes to development of critical thinking skills among students. For example, using correlation and regression analysis, Robinson (2010) identified some strategies that can be used to increase and build the ability to think critically among students. They found that there was a direct and high correlation between the uses of higher-order thinking assignment and critical thinking. In regard to data collection, the research studies used both secondary and primary data. For the secondary data, they reviewed previous studies that were relevant to critical thinking in order to get a gap analysis and do research. In primary research studies, samples were collected to provide information on the strategies and perspectives of viewing critical thinking.

Works Cited

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Thayer-Bacon, B. J. (2000). Transforming critical thinking: Thinking constructively. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Web.

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Turner, J. C. (1995). The influence of classroom contexts on young children’s motivation for literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 30(3), 410–441. Web.

Vangelder, T. (2005). Teaching critical thinking: Some lessons from cognitive science. College Teaching, 53(1), 41–48. Web.

Willingham, D. (2007). Critical Thinking. and why it is so hard to teach. American Educator, 8(5), 8-18. Web.