Critical Thinking In Higher Education

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This is a serious problem that educators need to understand and address.

But before diving into the potential solutions, it’s worth spending a few moments digging deeper into the results and the test itself.

Critical thinking is one of the top-requested skills employers look for in job applicants, but is higher ed doing enough to help students develop this skill?

Fifty-nine percent of surveyed adults ages 18-31 who attend or attended a college or university say they are very confident in their soft skills, including critical thinking—but that same survey also shows a decrease in that group’s ability to distinguish between false and factual information.

In this approach, students are given a problem to solve.

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At Plymouth State, students were asked to conduct a mock trial of Lizzie Borden, who was accused (but eventually acquitted) of the sensational 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother in Massachusetts.Now consider the second path: one taken by students who have learned to evaluate all information that they encounter, and who understand the need to adjust previously held views in light of new data. The travelers on those paths, while perhaps heading in the same direction, will have very different experiences.Unlike the roads of Robert Frost’s poem, our two paths are not equal.Pair that with confirmation bias (the tendency to seek out and believe information that maps to one’s own beliefs) and you have a recipe for trouble.Today’s educators need to do a lot more to help students understand how to evaluate information.Critical thinking is a tremendously important skill.But, it turns out, teaching this skill is no easy task.The most recent results of the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA ) test—a standardized testing initiative designed to measure college students’ critical thinking skills—are not encouraging.Relatively few students who took the test showed any improvement between freshman and senior years, even at schools where critical thinking was part of the curriculum.One way they can do that is by giving them real-world problems to solve on their own; giving students the freedom to do their own research and draw their own conclusions is good preparation for the challenges of life outside the classroom.That’s not to say that educators should simply sit back and take a hands-off approach.


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