Implementing critical thinking across the curriculum is challenging, involving securing substantial agreement on the nature of critical thinking, areas of prospective application, degree of need for a separate course, and the nature of coordination, including leadership, a glossary, selection of courses for incorporation, avoidance of duplication and gaps, acquiring required subject matter, and assessment of the total effort, teaching methods used, and decrease or increase in retention of subject matter.
Assuming that critical thinking dispositions are at least as important as critical thinking abilities, Ennis examines the concept of critical thinking disposition and suggests some criteria for judging sets of them. He considers a leading approach to their analysis and offers as an alternative a simpler set, including the disposition to seek alternatives and be open to them. After examining some gender-bias and subject-specificity challenges to promoting critical thinking dispositions, he notes some difficulties involved in assessing critical thinking dispositions, and (...) suggests an exploratory attempt to assess them. (shrink)
A popular three-stage argument appraisal strategy calls for (1) identifying the parts of the argument, (2) classifYing the argument as deductive, inductive, or some other type, and (3) appraising the argument using the standards appropriate for the type. This strategy fails for a number of reasons. I propose a comprehensive alternative approach that distinguishes between inductive, deductive, and other standards; calls for the successive application of standards combined with assumption-ascription, according to policies that depend for their selection on the goals (...) of the appraiser; and provides for qualified reasoning. (shrink)
Discussions of critical thinking across the curriculum typically make and explain points and distinctions that bear on one or a few standard issues. In this article Robert Ennis takes a different approach, starting with a fairly comprehensive concrete proposal for a four-year higher-education curriculum incorporating critical-thinking at hypothetical Wisdom University. Aspects of the Program include a one-year critical thinking freshman course with practical everyday-life and academic critical thinking goals; extensive infusion of critical thinking in other courses; a senior project; attention (...) to both critical thinking dispositions and skills; a glossary of critical thinking terms; emphasis on teaching ; communication at all levels; and last, but definitely not least, assessment. Advantages and disadvantages will be noted. Subsequently, Ennis takes and defends a position on each of several relevant controversial issues, including: 1) having a separate critical thinking course, or embedding critical thinking in existing subject matter courses, or doing both ; 2) the meaning of “critical thinking”; 3) the importance of teaching critical thinking because of its role in our everyday vocational, civic, and personal lives, as well as in our academic experiences; 4) the degree of subject-specificity of critical thinking; 5) the importance of making critical thinking principles explicit; and 6) the possible threat to subject matter coverage from the addition of critical thinking to the curriculum. (shrink)
This paper attempts to respond to the critique that critical thinking courses may reflect a cultural bias. After elaborating a list of constitutive dispositions and abilities taught in the critical thinking curriculum , the author considers arguments for why several of these might reflect Western, non-universal values. In each case, the author argues for the conclusion that these values, though they could be applied in ways that reflect a cultural bias, are not inherently biased. Next, the author offers an outline (...) of a more systematic examination of cultural bias. After reiterating the “tentative conclusion” that critical thinking is not culturally biased, the paper concludes by considering the various ways in which critical thinking might be promoted so as to ensure its sensitivity to cultural differences. (shrink)
Defining qualified reasoning as reasoning containing such loose qualifying words as 'probably,' 'usually,' 'probable, 'likely,' 'ceteris paribus,' and 'primafacie, Ennis argues that typical cases of qualified reasoning, though they might be good arguments, are deductively invalid, implying that such arguments fail soundness standards. He considers and rejects several possible alternative ways of viewing such cases, ending with a proposal for applying qualified soundness standards, which requires employment of sufficient background knowledge, sensitivity, experience and understanding of the situation. All of this (...) takes place as part of the process, introduced elsewhere, of successively applying different legitimate sets of standards until one is found that is satisfied, or none is found, the latter calling for rejection of the argument, the former calling for its acceptance. (shrink)
Necessary-condition analyses of singular causal claims are particularly vulnerable to cases of linked overdetermination, so named because the nonoperation of the back-up factor (in fail-safe cases) or the preempted factor (in preemptive cases) is linked to the operation of the actual cause. As an example J. L. Mackie's analysis is here challenged with a simple switch-light case. Three replies are considered, a facts-vs.-events reply, a different-effect reply, and an in-the-circumstances reply. All are found deficient.
This paper provides an analysis of the argument from cause and effect and a comparison of its various types with the argument from correlation. It will be claimed that arguments from causality and from correlation should be treated as equivalent for argumentative purposes. The main advantages of this approach as well as possible theo-retical objections will be discussed.
SummaryIn this essay I offer a set of characteristic scientific activities, accompanied by principles to be used as guides in performing these activities, and dispositions that are desirable for the person performing these activities to have. This set is intended to provide a rough and ready elaboration of scientific thinking as a goal for our schools and colleges.Although they are here labeled scientific, they are intended to apply to other activities than doing what is standardly called science. This wider application (...) is part of the justification for offering science in our schools and colleges. We want people to think scientifically about many other aspects of their lives, as well as about science content.There is no suggestion that science content is not important, nor that scientific thinking should be taught apart from science content. In fact I think that a very good way to teach scientific thinking is by infusing such instruction in the instruction of science content. See Swartz for a discussion of infusion, and Ennis, for treatments of the subject‐specificity issue that is generally raised when thinking and content are discussed.This essay contains one brief case study that exemplifies most of the activities, principles, and dispositions suggested as goals for the schools. I realize that the validity and comprehensiveness of these goals has not been here demonstrated. The scientists, science educators, philosophers of science, and critical thinking specialists to whom1 have shown them are in general agreement about them, but the ultimate test will be in whether the goals are widely adopted and successfully serve as guidance in the promotion of scientific thinking.I hope that this elaboration of scientific thinking and its formulation in terms of a suggested set of goals are “dear and precise as is needed in the situation”. (shrink)
To claim that x was the cause of y is 1) to assume that x was one of a number of things, each of which together with the others was sufficient to have brought about y, and 2) to deem x responsible for the occurrence of y. A best-explanation argument, including application to cases, is offered in defense of this analysis, which holds that claiming that something is the cause is, in part, a speech act that reflects the cause selector’s (...) values or perspectives. No proposed alternative explanation accounts for all the cases with which I am familiar, but this analysis does account for them. Thus the analysis and the defense of sole singular causal claims call for more than empirical evidence, though of course evidence is very important. (shrink)
The Spellings Commission recommends widespread critical-thinking testing to help determine the “value added” by higher education institutions—with the data banked and made available in order to enable parents, students, and policy makers to compare institutions and hold them accountable. Because of the likely and desirable promotion of critical thinking that would result from the Commission’s program, I recommend cooperation by critical-thinking faculty and administrators, but only if there is much less comparability and considerably deeper transparency of the tests and their (...) justification than the Commission recommends, and only if vigilance in handling the many problems and dangers elaborated herein is successful. (shrink)