Getting students to think critically about material requires instructors to develop habits of repeatedly demonstrating our own processes in class, and perhaps giving students time to practice similar processes. Class discussions often offer such an opportunity.
In a recent Faculty Focus article, Linda Nilson suggests that “questions are central to students acquiring critical thinking skills. We must ask students challenging, open-ended questions that demand genuine inquiry, analysis, or assessment.” She recommends questions like
- What is your interpretation/analysis of this passage/data/argument?
- What are your reasons for favoring that interpretation/analysis? What is your evidence?
- How well does your interpretation/analysis handle the complexities of the passage/data/argument?
- What is another interpretation/analysis of the passage/data/argument? Any others?
- What are the implications of each interpretation/analysis?
- Let’s look at all the interpretations/analyses and evaluate them. How strong is the evidence for each one?
- How honestly and impartially are you representing the other interpretations/analyses? Do you have a vested interest in one interpretation/analysis over another?
- What additional information would help us to narrow down our interpretations/analyses?
If you are interested in learning more about infusing critical thinking into class discussions, please attend one of the upcoming CETL Teaching Talks on Conducting Class Discussions:
- Storrs, November 7, 12:30-1:45 in ROWE 319. email CETL@uconn.edu to register
- Avery Point, Tuesday, November 8, 1:00-2:00 in ACD 319—Register
- Avery Point, Wednesday, November 9, 12:15-1:15 in ACD 109—Register
Refer to the following links for help integrating critical thinking in your classroom:
- Critical Thinking and other Higher-Order Thinking Skills
- “A Syllabus Tip: Embed Big Questions”
- The Critical Thinking Community
- The Role of Socratic Questioning in Thinking, Teaching, and Learning
- What is critical thinking – a YouTube video
- The Best Resources For Helping Teachers Use Bloom’s Taxonomy In The Classroom by Larry Ferlazzo