Running Head: CRITICAL THINKING 1
Critical Thinking and Active Learning Strategies
Mary K. Wells
CRITICAL THINKING 2
According to Mendelman (2007), “the majority of US schools do not teach critical thinking and, as a result, the majority of our populace does not practice it” (300). We seem to have a deficit of critical thinking skills in our current society, but what is critical thinking and what can we do to improve it?
Critical thinking is known by a variety of names such as higher order thinking, reflective thought, or 21st century skills. In addition, critical thinking includes several higher level cognitive skills including, but not limited to analysis, evaluation, explanation, inference, interpretation, and synthesis. Early researchers have stated that critical thinking is a combination of knowledge, attitude and skill; however, more modern theorists suggest that “disposition” is an additional essential characteristic of critical thinking. Therefore, although the average competent person is capable of critical thinking, he has to desire to use that skill (Youngblood & Beitz, 2001). The Encarta World English Dictionary (cited in Medelman, 2007, p.300) defines critical thinking as “disciplined intellectual criticism that combines research, knowledge of historical context, and balanced judgement” (300). Accordingly, Youngblood & Beitz (2001) state that “the ideal critical thinker is one who constantly reevaluates, self-corrects, and strives to improve” (39).
Youngblood & Beitz (2001) assert that critical thinking in adult learners is developed through the use of active learning techniques and strategies because of the “cognitive triggering processes of active learning strategies” (40). Unfortunately, passive learning approaches, which are prevalent in American public schools and colleges, are contributing to less than optimal learning experiences for most students,...