I’ve been asked many times why critical thinking in academia is important at all, given the fact that we are taught in classrooms to memorize all the facts we need to know in order to pass standardized tests. Rather than fostering critical thinking skills, we are taught to rely on facts and memorization rather than to apply critical thinking skills to the real world problems we see and face every day. This is because our institutions of higher learning have become so reliant on memorization as the main form of critical thinking in higher education. In other words, what I’m saying is that if you want to be an effective teacher or professor in a classroom, it’s not enough just to teach the material, you also need to encourage students to develop their critical thinking skills as well. Indeed, this is exactly what my organization, the Association for Research and Teaching Excellence (ARTE) is working towards.
One of the ways we can help ourselves in this regard is by encouraging our graduate students to critically think about the various topics they are studying in the classroom. For example, one of the most important themes that emerge in ARTE reports is the importance of essay writing in the academic discipline. As I pointed out in a recent article in A Higher Education article, there is a growing body of evidence that clearly shows that writing essay writing is an important means of critical thinking. Students need to be encouraged to examine their arguments critically and to develop various types of essay writing skills in order to prepare properly for higher level courses in their course of study. A proper critical thinking program of this sort can certainly help students learn important lessons in a number of different disciplines including History, Literature, and the Arts. As we all know, these are important topics, and we need people to teach them, and we need people to read these important books and essays.
Furthermore, while many universities have changed the name of “required reading” to “required reading list”, the critical thinking process does not stop with reading the required books and essays. We must learn how to think analytically and creatively in order to solve the problems that we face in our daily lives. Fortunately, some of the best critical thinking programs of today are now available online. This allows us to use modern technology to help us with this important process of critical thinking, which is so necessary in modern academia.
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