“Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum” (Virtual Keynote Speech)ennis

Robert H. Ennis, University of Illinois, USA

After an undergraduate major in philosophy and three years of high school science teaching, Robert H. Ennis pursued and received his PhD at the University of Illinois in 1958. He became Professor of Philosophy of Education, first at Cornell University (twelve years), then at the University of Illinois (twenty-four years), and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois. For his entire career he has been active in the area of critical thinking, and has published over sixty articles in this area. Many are focused on what critical thinking is, summarized in the following holistic definition of critical thinking: “reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do”. Many of these articles provide detailed analyses of some specific aspect of critical thinking, such as assumption ascription, credible sources, inference to best explanation, deduction, and handling equivocation. Some deal with controversial issues in critical thinking, such as the alleged cultural bias of critical thinking, and the partial subject specificity of critical thinking. The results of these analyses are incorporated in his critical thinking textbook. Other writings deal with the assessment and teaching of critical thinking. All of these works, together with his long experience in the education system combine to provide the basis for his web site, criticalthinking.net, and his keynote address to this seminar. This keynote address presents a comprehensive plan for incorporating critical thinking into a college or university curriculum.

Abstract: Ennis offers a comprehensive, practical proposal for a four-year higher education program incorporating critical thinking across the curriculum at hypothetical Wisdom University. It includes a one-year required critical thinking freshman course promoting both general and subject-specific critical thinking in practical everyday-life and selected subject-matter areas; attention to both critical thinking dispositions and abilities; extensive infusion of critical thinking in other courses; a senior project; a glossary of critical thinking terms; emphasis on teaching methods (interactive-discussion teaching balanced with didactic teaching, using multiple varied examples, teaching for transfer, and making principles explicit); communication at all levels; coordination; and assessment. Significant objections to previous versions of this proposal include first, the cost and magnitude of change involved for the first-year course, and second, the likely resistance to the proposed changes in subject matter courses. The first might be handled by putting two thirds of the course online (preserving the weekly discussion sessions); the second by noting the importance of involvement for effective teaching, and by appealing to the general importance of critical thinking for full participation in a subject or field.

“Effectiveness, the heart of critical thinking” Carlos Saiz

Carlos Saiz Sánchez, University of Salamanca, Spain

Professor Carlos Saiz Sánchez holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Salamanca, where he has been teaching critical thinking for over 20 years. He teaches and gives lectures on critical thinking at various universities in other countries as well. He has published a book and many articles on critical thinking and improving thinking skills, decision-making and problem-solving. For several years he has been elaborating a program (ARDESOS) for the development of these competencies, along with an assessment test (PENCRISAL) to measure the effect of the program, published in co-authorship with Professor Silvia F. Rivas (PhD) in the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (JoSoTL).

Abstract: Critical thinking is about achieving the best explanation for a fact, phenomenon or problem, in order to know how to address it. This definition is the best way I can think of to express what I consider essential in critical thinking. Understanding it in this way, I am indicating that efficacy is the only authentic letter of presentation of critical thinking. Furthermore, I will argue that this is the most convenient way to achieve wellbeing or personal happiness. And therefore, I will try to convince us that good thinking is one of the most interesting activities, with which we can entertain and enjoy ourselves, at least because of the knowledge that it offers to us. Certainly we seek, above all, solutions to our problems, ways to achieve our goals. Thinking, for many of us, should be a tool for our purposes. Enjoying the knowledge, might come after, not before. Before we must see the usefulness of reflection, and then, when there is no better thing to do, we discover that knowledge is an end in itself. But this is only the end of the story, the sweet part of it, the one we like to hear, which attracts and persuades us of the goodness of critical reflection. But, in order to not be fooled, we ought to remember that stories are always bittersweet. It is highly recommended to understand that in order to reach that end, we must travel the winding roads of effort and perseverance. Nothing is achieved or given to us out of this path. To develop a good observation ability so as to “discover” the relevant facts and give them a unique meaning, in hand with a unique explanation, requires perseverance, dedication and even a certain vital attitude, namely, the one which emanates from the obsession of always finding the unmistakable sense of things, the one that arises from the belief that the world (including people) is neither fair nor unfair, it just is, and that the goodness or badness of it depend on the nature of the causes that govern it. The whys are never neutral, and the essence of good thinking rests on finding those who are authentic and unique. The thesis I will defend, then, is simple: critical thinking does not exist without single explanations, the best ones, and no maximum effectiveness exists without these.

IMG_1541“Contributions of Didatics to Critical Thinking Education in Portugal” 

Rui Marques Vieira, University of Aveiro, Portugal

Professor Rui Marques Vieira (PhD) works at the University of Aveiro as a teacher and researcher at the CIDTFF – Research Centre “Didactics and Technology in Education of Trainers”. His Master’s and PhD thesis focused on critical thinking skills of Basic Education students and on teaching practice at this level of education. He conducts research and training in Critical Thinking Education, particularly for primary teachers at post-graduate levels in the area of Didactics of Sciences.

Abstract: In today’s society marked by advances in science and technology, critical thinking [CT] has established itself as one of the keys to successfully respond to the multiple and complex challenges that everyone faces throughout life. Therefore, in many documents, national and international studies, CT is an educational goal given that children and young people must develop a broad understanding not only of the main ideas and key explanatory theories about the natural world that science and technology have to offer, but also about how science works, that is, about how we know what we know and why this is important (Tenreiro-Vieira and Vieira, 2013).
In this context and taking into consideration the research on didacticsfocused on CT, especially of Sciences, which has been held over the past few years in Portugal,we seek to synthesize its major contributions for education. This includesa conceptual clarification and frameworks for teaching and teachers’education, the development of educational resources and teaching/learning strategies oriented to promote the CT.
The results of different studies have been promising since they reveal, for example, that the activities and educational resources developed and focused explicitly on the promotion of CT indicate gains,statistically significant,atthe critical thinking level of the subjects involved, whether of students or of teachers participating in educational programs. In turn, the operational definition of Ennis has been the framework for the development of such activities and resources as well as for turning approaches and strategies focused on this kind of thought, as it is the case of the FA2IA questioning. The review of these studies makes clear that the main areas of research have been linked to the operational dimensions of the didactic and pedagogical practices of teachers, particularly the activities, resources and teaching/learning strategies in primary education. It is now urgent to extend to other conceptual categories, such as the ones linked to the role of teaching and teachers and to other dimensions, such as the classroom environment as well as other levels of education, such as secondary and higher education.