What’s “Critical Thinking” in Your Discipline?

In an article for Education Week Teacher, high school principal and world lit teacher Daniel McMahon notes the Orwellian “sheer cloudy vagueness” around the term “critical thinking” despite wide consensus that it’s critical for student success.  He defines critical thinking as a series of skills that move well beyond memory and recognition, those staples of multiple-choice testing.  CT, he says, encompasses “inferential skills, predictive-validity skills, observation and close-reading skills, and pattern-recognition skills.”

McMahon describes how critical thinking practice works in his class.  He gives students related texts–flood stories, for example–and asks them to “1) group everything we know about the stories by what is common to them; 2) start separating the stories by what distinguishes them; and 3) evaluate the stories by a specified criteria (for example, realism, destructiveness, moralism, and so on).”

“To teach predictive validity,” he continues, “I might engage in a close reading of a story or poem—phrase by phrase or line by line—and ask a series of questions after each line about the things that could happen next.”

What do you do to teach critical thinking?



One Response

  1. Great summarization of McMahon’s article. At Laying the Foundation, it helps us to remember that critical thinking is the goal and that objectives within that umbrella need to be delineated, specific to each academic discipline. “Putting it All Together—Tone Analysis,” one of our middle school English lessons, exemplifies this, particularly in an overview in the first two pages of the lesson: http://bit.ly/nlh3YX

    Thanks for sharing!

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