Critical Thinking Assignments

Most faculty will agree that critical thinking is important, but we lack consensus on what we're talking about when we refer to it.

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If one aspect of critical thinking is questioning the evidence presented in support of a claim, these authors maintain that students need to be able to differentiate between factual statements (those that make concrete assertions that can be verified), normative statements (which use value-based ideas, either good or bad), interpretive statements (which use textual materials to establish what an author means), and causal statements (which make cause-effect arguments).

After presenting material on evidence, offering examples, and giving students a chance to practice recognizing different statements, these authors give their students a quiz that contains samples of each of these statements.

“If the paper assignment is to make and support a causal claim, student submissions should propose causal arguments and use relevant facts and logic to provide supporting evidence.” (p.

621) Frequently students find they have made errors.

To learn the difference between relevant and irrelevant facts, students come to class with two double-spaced copies of a paper due that day.

Before submitting the paper, they are instructed to go through it and identify each statement as one of the four described in the paragraph above.See the Resources area below for additional CT teaching and learning activity ideas! Design scoring tools for evaluating critical-thinking-oriented assignments. Even if you do not intend to only include critical thinking criteria in evaluating student work, these resources can suggest criteria for your customized rubric or list of assignment specifications.Student Engagement Techniques (E Barkley): Chap 13 (Analysis and Critical Thinking)Engaging Ideas (J Bean): Chap 2 (How Writing is Related to Critical Thinking..T&L activities; more philosophical); Chap 7, pgs 122-137 (10 Strategies for Designing Critical Thinking Tasks); Chap 9 (Coaching Thinking through the Use of Small Groups)Teaching for Critical Thinking (S Brookfield): Chap 6 Reading and Writing Critically; Chap 4, p. Ruggiero has written several others books on teaching critical thinking, as well.They usually devote an entire period to going over the quiz, as it generates much discussion.If students effectively argue that a particular statement might belong to another category, they are given some extra credit.If they identify them, they can earn back some of the points they have lost for making them.The authors note that after this activity, student performance on subsequent papers improves significantly.Critical thinking skills are important components of learning in nearly every discipline.College students expect to hone these skills so theyre ready for the workforce or graduate school.And one goal of this article is to remedy that deficiency.The article, written for political science teachers, is a bit more discipline-specific than those customarily highlighted in this newsletter, but the assignment suggestions would work in other fields and the article has great value as a model.

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