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Few people doubt the value of developing students' thinking skills. A 2013 survey in the United States found 93% of employers believe a candidate's "demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [their] undergraduate major."
A focus on critical thinking is also common in education. In the Australian Curriculum, critical and creative thinking are known as "general capabilities"; the US has a similar focus through their "common core".
Thinking - Number - Programs - Schools - Universities
Critical thinking is being taught successfully in a number of programs in Australian schools and universities and around the world. And various studies show these programs improve students' thinking ability and even their standardized test scores.
But what is critical thinking and how can we teach it?
Definitions - Thinking - Thinking
There are many definitions of critical thinking that are vague or ill-formed. To help address this, let's start by saying what critical thinking is not.
First, critical thinking is not just being smart. Being able to recognize a problem and find the solution are characteristics we associate with intelligence. But they are by themselves not critical thinking.
Intelligence - IQ - Tests - Stone - Education
Intelligence, at least as measured by IQ tests, is not set in stone. But it does not seem to be strongly affected by education (all other things being equal), requiring years of study to make any significant difference, if at all. The ability to think critically, however, can improve significantly with much shorter interventions, as I will show.
Second, critical thinking is not just difficult thinking. Some thinking we see as hard, such as performing a complex chemical analysis, could be done by computers. Critical thinking is more about the quality of thinking than the difficulty of a problem.
Quality - Thinking
So, how do we understand what good quality thinking is?
Critical thinkers have the ability to evaluate their own thinking using standards of good reasoning. These include what we collectively call...
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