Defining Critical Thinking: If you only listen to one podcast … (Part 1)
In This Episode.
In response to requests from their listeners, Dave and Steve try to distill seven years of research into 45 minutes! The result? An initial walk-through of how they help faculty and students across disciplines and grade levels conceptualize critical thinking. Want to know how to define critical thinking in a way that works in any classroom? A way that can be assessed? A way that can improve learning outcomes? Then tune in! Plus, news of the week and obligatory Bigfoot references.
Defining Critical Thinking: If you only listen to one podcast … (Part 1)
Voiceover: Welcome to the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast, we bring you research driven solutions to critical thinking education. Why? Because as Bertrand Russell said, most people would sooner die than think. In fact, they do so. And now your hosts Steve Pearlman and Dave Carillo?
Steve Pearlman: All right. Hey, welcome back to the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast. I am Steve Pearlman.
Dave Carillo: I’m Dave Carillo,
Steve Pearlman: And we’re excited to talk to you today. Got a lot of requests from viewers for getting into how we are structuring critical thinking, how we’re defining it, because we’ve referenced it a number of times over the course of the podcast, more abstractly and quite a number of people have contacted us and said, Well, could you finally just do a podcast on how you’re defining critical thinking? And I guess we didn’t want to do that initially, because our objective in this podcast is not really to push for our conception of critical thinking. Our objective in this podcast is to push for the importance of investing critical, thinking more into education. But we are happy to at least offer some insight and share our insights into how we’ve structured this with everyone. And then everyone, of course, can take it or leave it or offer their suggestions back to us, which would be very useful or build their own frameworks from here if they don’t want to work with what we’ve started with here.
Dave Carillo: And we also want to let you know what we value in terms of critical thinking, pedagogy and how we try to communicate it to students and faculty when we do our workshops, when we teach our classes. So this is going to be difficult to some extent because this encompasses a lot of years of research and refining. So maybe this is actually going to lead to a couple more podcasts along the way, but we’re going to give it a go to at least get our listeners sort of centered around what we what we value here, how we’re defining it in those kind of things. So here we go. I guess,
Steve Pearlman: I guess and I guess we should start with a moment of back story on this. Dave and I took the initiative about seven years ago here at the University of St. Joseph to elevate critical thinking outcomes across the university. And the university has been fabulous in supporting this effort. And so what you’re hearing today is the result of years of really just, you know, locking ourselves away and studying all the research that we could find on critical thinking, on critical thinking, pedagogy, on critical thinking assessment, on defining, critical thinking, on neuroscience, around how the brain functions. And it’s gone through many iterations before we’ve gotten to this point, certainly. So you are now benefiting from the product of that. And we don’t want to give you the sense that this was an easy journey or we just clicked our heels together and came up with this at the same time, we know there’s more work to be done on this and we welcome feedback from our listeners. What we found in looking at critical thinking, our first strongest insight that drove a lot of this and I’m not going to get into all of it because ultimately what we have here is a is a neuropsychological model, and we’ll talk about that in a future podcast about how this is intrinsic to our neural processing and our neural linguistics.
Steve Pearlman: And we have a pedagogical model. We have all these other things that are happening here. But I think one critical thing that I want to say before we get into this is that when people ask us for a definition of critical thinking, we’re able to provide essentially a one sentence definition or a two sentence definition of critical thinking, which we will give you. But that’s not really the definition. And what we found is that the vast majority of critical thinking definitions actually fail, and they fail because of this perceived need to capture critical thinking in a sentence or two or three, which inevitably leads us with broad stroke conceptions of what critical thinking is or how to define different terms and where we have departed from. That trend is to try to think about critical thinking instead as a process, and we’d like you as a listener to think about the fact that critical thinking, although it’s something we could define, it’s really something that when you do it, you’re doing a process of things. It’s not one thing reading is a process, writing is a process, thinking is a process. So we want to define it from that procedural nature.
Dave Carillo: Yeah. So to follow up on what Steve was saying, here’s the elevator definition of critical thinking that we’re working with. And it’s important that Steve does mention this idea of a process, because then we’re going to go through sort of the steps in our process based on the critical thinking infographic that we put up on our website. And that represents the specific elements of that process. And we’ve done a lot of work to sort of winnow down the language on the infographic so that it’s easy for students to understand. It’s easy for faculty to understand. It’s easy to assess by. It’s easy to to teach by. But we have done. A lot of work behind the scenes to build up the process, to define the terms, to walk through samples, to give faculty and students a sense of how these things look on the page, which is a big part of it. So our elevator definition is justifying a complex conclusion to a problem by understanding, evaluating and discussing the significance of assumptions, limitations, interpretations and validity of evidence.
Steve Pearlman: So again, that’s the elevator pitch definition, and we believe it’s insufficient. What it is is that when someone says, how do you define critical thinking we can’t go to them and say, Well, do you have half an hour? Because we’d like to explain to you this process that we identify as what critical thinking really is? We have to offer some way of beginning that conversation, but we don’t stop there. In fact, all that is, as Dave said, is the elevator pitch for it, and we want to broaden it out from there. So the first thing we do is we look at understanding and that’s our first category. And each of these categories work in a cycle and they play off each other. And we don’t mean to suggest that these are entirely distinct because they certainly are not.
Dave Carillo: No. But for the benefit of folks who are listening who haven’t had a chance to download the instrument or take a look at it, just picture a circle with five PI pieces. We are on the first PI piece that is understanding there are four others that we’re going to get to. So there’s understanding problem evaluation, complexity and conclusions,
Steve Pearlman: And the infographics also an assessment tool. And we’re not going to talk about how it gets into valuing and assessing these different categories in terms of gradations of success or depth. We’re just going to talk about what the categories are today.
Dave Carillo: My God, like I am already, you know, when we discussed this yesterday, I thought this was going to be a good thing to do. Listeners wanted it and I was like, This will be easy. And we’re already running into like so many issues in terms of like how to frame this just so we can talk about the instrument because there’s so much around it.
Steve Pearlman: And David, we have we have a problem because we geek out on this so much. We love to talk about the intricacies.
Dave Carillo: No, I don’t want to stop doing it. I’m just saying I you kind of feel in what I’m feeling about, Oh, we should have said this first. We should have said that first. I don’t
Steve Pearlman: Know. I thought about this a little bit last night, actually, and I can think of no way that we could go at this. That would make me happy.
Dave Carillo: I had confidence for five seconds and then we’re like ten minutes into this and I’m like, Oh, OK. But you know what? We’ve been asked a couple of times, at least, and I think that this is a good start toward communicating or at least a series of podcasts. So this is this is our critical thinking instrument podcast number one. And maybe we’ll get to the others.
Steve Pearlman: We’re definitely call this critical thinking infographic one or something. Yeah, exactly.
Dave Carillo: All right. Do something like that.
Steve Pearlman: So look so in terms of understanding, here’s the basic rub whenever we are faced with a situation in life where we have to think about it and draw some kind of conclusion. The first and again, these things overlap, but the first thing that happens is some kind of assessment of the factors that would play into that thing. In other words, an assessment of the factors that we need to consider. What do we need to think about the thing that we need to think about and pulling out the essential elements of that in writing, for example, what we know is that most students never move beyond summarizing material. They will take what they’ve read. They will transfer it as fact into their work. What we do in our system is start with understanding, and what we’re asking students to do is to move beyond merely describing or reporting what something has said into explaining the rationale that it uses the evidence that it uses over the method that use it. We call it the REM, the reasoning, evidence or methodology being used for that author to make a point. So viewing an author, viewing a text, not as something that is presenting information, but it’s something that is making an argument or presenting information based on a certain rationale based on a certain meaning.
Dave Carillo: And I think it’s important that you mentioned students, and I think that might be one of the most helpful ways of going about this when we’re describing these things. We’re essentially describing what we’re working with students to accomplish, what we’re asking students to do in their writing and oral presentations and other assignments such that we talk to students about. Here’s what you’re doing when you’re summarizing. Here’s what your summary looks like. Now let’s move beyond that, right? And so if you picture our PI piece like there’s there’s categories to our PI piece and on the outside, and this does have to I guess we have to get into assessment a little bit on the outside of the ring. The outer ring is just f work bad work misunderstanding. And as you move closer to the center of the instrument, you move closer to mastery. Once they understand, here’s what summary looks like, here’s what I’m doing when I’m summarizing, they can start to take those steps towards, including in their discussion of their material. This reasoning, evidence and methods.
Steve Pearlman: If you’re an educator, just think about what a great step it is and how powerful is, how exciting it is if students can just begin. To take whatever kind of source material it is and stop taking it as rote and start engaging it as intellectuals who are engaging other intellectuals who have published things and those intellectuals who have published things have not published perfect things, and we’re engaging it and looking at the extent to which those people are making strong points and valuable points, but also the extent to which those other intellectuals have not necessarily captured everything that could be captured have not captured it as accurately as it could be captured may make an extraordinary point in one respect, but there’s somebody else who makes an extraordinary point in a different respect.
Dave Carillo: And that’s something that we find students embracing too, because now they’re able to understand how they can start to respond to a piece without just saying, I agree or disagree. This is right or wrong. It actually opens up a whole spectrum of opportunity for students to respond to the material in intellectual ways, right? Once they understand. Ok, well, if I’m not just going to summarize, I have to talk about these reasoning, evidence and methods and what this what what our instrument does essentially is make it clear that that’s where they need to be going right, that they can’t just be summarizing that they need to be talking about reasoning, evidence and methods. And here’s another reason why this is a much larger universe when we workshop student writing in my class in Steve’s class. Students are then able to start to see what an author of a paper is actually doing when they engage a source. And if they just see summary, they can say, Hey, look this, this needs to go further than that. I’m just seeing somewhere. I’m not seeing any of the reasoning evidence methods.
Steve Pearlman: Not only that, they see it in their peers work, but then they see it in the source materials work when they see source material. That’s just summarizing what other source material
Dave Carillo: Is saying, and they see it in their own work.
Steve Pearlman: They see it their own work. And so then it becomes it’s a way to read critically. As much as there’s a way to think critically much, is it a way to write critically and engage the world critically right? And that’s exciting. And if you have students who don’t like writing research papers, they don’t like writing research papers because they’re bored by that process because they view research papers as a matter of fact finding. This changes that instantly for them, because now they’re not looking at source material. It’s just a matter of finding those facts or finding those quotes to back up something that they want to say for their thesis. Now they’re looking at themselves as intellectuals who are engaging other intellectuals who have already written things on this material and being able to engage them in terms of the quality and the caliber and the depth of the point that somebody is making, rather than just having to find that quote that says something that supports this thesis that they came up with when they started to write the paper.
Dave Carillo: Yeah. And you see where we’re at now because we could go on about this category forever. This is the first one of five. But and this is and this gets a little bit into that neuropsychological model, which in broad strokes states any organism that has any sort of brain in order to survive is first going to have to understand the environment that they’re in. If you take the material and the sources and all the other content of a class as the environment, then you’re going to want your students to understand their environment and understand their environment in substantive ways. So that’s what we’re trying to get at with that first category understanding.
Steve Pearlman: And I think we should move on. We should because we could spend another, we could do a whole
Dave Carillo: Podcast, we could do it all. We will
Steve Pearlman: Do a whole
Dave Carillo: Podcast. Yeah, because we haven’t even talked about how this instrument works as a multifaceted critical reading instrument as well. So we’ll get to that.
Steve Pearlman: So let’s move on. So we have understanding.
Dave Carillo: All right, so the next one is problem. Ok, now if you understand the reasoning, evidence and methods of your sources, the next PI piece in our instrument is the first critical move that the student has to make, which is essentially to locate a question, a concern or a conflict they see in the material based on the reasoning of evidence and methods of the material. And the broad strokes idea here is that if a student is going to do anything other than just report, they need to be actively engaged in doing something. And that problem is what that something is. They need to be resolving that problem in some way,
Steve Pearlman: Shape or form. And so problem, as Dave said, is an umbrella term for finding some question that they have finding a concern they have or some conflict that they see in the source material. And what’s so critical about this is that rather than professors having to go through extensive work to identify the specific thing that they want students to write about
Dave Carillo: Is a good point. Yes.
Steve Pearlman: Students become the generative force of what the problem is, and so then it’s something that interests them. That doesn’t mean you can’t put any constraints on it. You know, if we’re writing about a certain text or you’re writing about a certain period of time, there might be certain constraints you want to have about which sources we’re using or what subject matters are on or off limits. But within any of that, the students are the ones who are ultimately saying based on. My understanding, which again, exceeds summary of this source material, there’s something here that I have a question about. There’s something here that’s interesting to me that I want to pursue further, and it not only puts the onus on the student to come up with that question, which at first is an onus for them because they’ve been used to being spoon fed questions or theses that they have to contend with sometimes. But ultimately they find it liberating and it makes them engage that material all the more and think about how valuable it is for us as educators when we have students who can simply ask an interesting question about what they’re doing. And for us, that’s I think one of the things for me that has changed so much in the last few years about my students work is how exciting it is to have questions coming out of the students that I never, ever would have thought of and to see them get so enthusiastic about engaging this thing that they know is unique to them and they can support as something that needs to be questioned based on an understanding of the text that exceeds summary.
Dave Carillo: Well, I’m not going to add to that because that was a nice speech, but thank you. Thank you, sir. But what I will say to piggyback on to what Steve is saying is that a huge moment is when you don’t have to tell the students in any sort of assignment prompt what they need to write on beyond maybe the subject because they know with this and this gets new a little bit more of the assessment. They know that if they’re writing a paper, they need to have their own problem. Now, a couple of nuts and bolts things. Two things show up at this point in how we teach, describe, assess, critical thinking on the instrument. One is this idea of logic, and essentially at this point, a student has to start to support the claim they make with evidence from the source. So if they see a problem with an assumption that a source makes, they need to point to where that assumption exists in the text. So there’s this move now beyond understanding to start to make claims about the source material and if they want to achieve mastery here, they have to do so by linking their claims to evidence. So that’s the first thing that shows up. The other thing is is what we have been calling the alive acronym, and that’s sort of an umbrella acronym for the kinds of things that most academics and scholars look for in material and arguments and lab reports and, you know, results and data and so on and so forth. When they present and discussed issues in their discipline, a live stands for the assumptions, the limitations, the interpretations and the validity of evidence, and that just keeps students on track. Well, what am I looking for when I look, you know, when I start to look for my problem and, well, I’m looking for assumptions or I’m looking for limitations or I’m looking for value or validity in this source in this evidence. So those are the two sort of nuts and bolts things that show up at this point that we’re going to continue to talk about.
Steve Pearlman: And I like that you’re bringing in those points because I think it’s important for us to as we’re trying to vacillate between these different levels here. Yeah, right? But I also want to bring it back out to the simple.
Dave Carillo: Yeah, I’m sure that our listeners love are just like massive increase in the decrease in the subject matter and focus. I’m sure they can follow up. It’s perfectly right. It’s a totally perfectly lucid.
Steve Pearlman: Yes, we are doing a great job. But look, in essence, what we’re asking is do is understand the material in a way that goes beyond just taking it as fact. And then we’re asking them to figure out something some question or concern or conflict, something that they have. That’s interesting to them about that that needs to be written about. That’s the first two things now how we define that and the things that Dave went into is crucial because it leads students to more success on that and it leads to depth and it leads to assessment. And those things are essential. But let’s make sure we also keep sense of how it can sound very complicated on one hand and can sound oversimplistic on the other. And I guess we want to present both. So maybe there’s some lukewarm Goldilocks middle on this.
Dave Carillo: Yeah, I know we’re probably doing the lukewarm presentation, but no, Steve is absolutely right. And that’s one of the things that we’ve worked really hard to communicate with this instrument over the dozens of iterations over the past years is to allow for this to be interdisciplinary. The way this instrument is to allow this to be something that students can use alongside faculty and not have it be obscure to students. We’ve had to make sure that the sort of broad strokes are very simple when we do get into some of the nuts and bolts. Those are kind of the things that we’ve built into the definition, to the pedagogy, to the workshop materials, these, you know, assignment design and so on and so forth. That allows for this instrument to be truly unique, which is that it simplifies the definition of critical thinking and the teaching of critical thinking without in any way reducing the ability of the student to be complex in their thinking.
Steve Pearlman: This is why, as a faculty member, it’s something that can be used as simply or as. Loxley is the faculty member likes, and it’s why it’s a K through FD instrument, because we can talk about this on the most simple levels and it can function there and we can go into such incredible depth and detail with it and really bring out the complexity of the concepts and so forth for the students as well. Exactly. All right.
Dave Carillo: So next next guy’s problem. Ok, so the next PI piece is
Steve Pearlman: About understanding problem and
Dave Carillo: Understanding a problem and then evaluation. So in most conceptions of critical thinking is this idea of evaluation, which is essentially the weighing of evidence that will allow a student to come to some kind of conclusion of whatever problem is, is they’ve stated or resolution of the conflict that they found or some kind of answer to the concern that they’ve located in the source material.
Steve Pearlman: So think about as a faculty member, how often you get students who say, Here’s my argument now here’s a bunch of evidence that supports that argument maybe sometimes with some fairly straw person counterarguments. And the result of that is effectively that there’s a single scale instead of a balance scale. There’s the kind of scale you would stand on if you were going to weigh yourself, which is not a balanced scale, not weighing two things against one another. And that’s the vast majority of writing that students have done well. That’s not how our minds ultimately work, and nor linguistically, that’s not how we work and intellectually in terms of what we want to see in our fields. That’s not how we work. What we really want to see from students is not just that they can say, Look, I have a piece of evidence here that supports my claim. Wonderful. Anyone can come up with a piece of evidence that supports any claim. Thank you, Google, right? That’s doable. The question is, what’s the quality of the piece of evidence relative to another piece of evidence? And this is the act that we almost never see occurring in student work? Well, we might get in student work is here’s my perspective.
Steve Pearlman: Here’s some evidence for my perspective, and therefore that was my perspective or what you might also see a lot is here’s a question or thesis. Here are some information on quote both sides. There’s this information on this side, and there’s that information on the other side. And then maybe somewhere in the conclusion, the student says, Well, I agree with Side A, but that’s not evaluation. Evaluation is actually spending the time in the paper to articulate why. As we bring in a certain perspective and a certain piece of evidence, there’s a certain amount of value to it. It has a certain amount of weight. But when compared against some other information which might bolster it or undermine it or contradict it, or complicated to a certain degree, there is something else that we have to reason through there. So it’s this idea of balancing pieces of evidence and idea against other perspectives to then start to weigh out why certain perspectives have more value in forming a conclusion or more impact on certain conclusions than other things.
Dave Carillo: These categories all function alongside each other. Sometimes they bleed into each other, they rely on each other. But to some extent, the evaluation category is the one responsible for finally getting students to understand that their paper is going to be something other than them just repeating back what other sources say. Students who spend time with this instrument who work with this instrument, the evaluation category ends up becoming the driving force behind their paper. And when they introduce another source, you don’t have the more simplistic types of this supports or I disagree with or or any of those other other sort of basic moves that you see throughout a student’s career because they understand that they’re on the hook for evaluating some source against another source, some evidence against another. Other evidence. And remember, this is the third sort of step in the process. So if we’ve gotten this far, we already know that the student can to some extent understand how a source is developing their ideas because they’re understanding beyond just summary. They’re talking about the reasoning, evidence and methods, and we know that they’ve formulated a problem on their own based on the problem category. And so now they know that in order to solve this problem or come to some conclusion, they have to do this evaluative work. It changes the paper, it changes the focus of the student. It changes the whole tenor of the semester when it comes right down to it. If you can get students to start to engage in this kind of evaluative work, they become different learning animals essentially
Steve Pearlman: And to bring it back out again. Dave and I will get mired down in the details easily here.
Dave Carillo: I guess it’s my responsibility to get my I get mired.
Steve Pearlman: No, I was I Maya quite a bit.
Dave Carillo: You you. You had that stirring speech, though. We’ll fight on the beaches. We’ll fight
Steve Pearlman: In the. I appreciate that a lot. But maybe analogize not to Churchill. Yeah. Maybe he might. Yes, I think I think Churchill and I are really roughly the same amount of impact on human history.
Dave Carillo: I would think so, too. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Steve Pearlman: I get a little more time. There’s a and I have to start drinking more
Dave Carillo: A critical thinking fight going on. That’s where we’re going to fight on the beaches. But yeah, no. Go back, raise it.
Steve Pearlman: Bring it up, right? So again, here’s the deal students, what are your. Sources doing beyond just presenting information, what is their reasoning and evidence and method? Ok, great. What’s the problem, you see? What’s a question you have great. Next step. How do you weigh out what’s certain? Interpretations are what certain sources are doing relative to what other sources are doing to start to resolve this question that you had. Don’t just tell me that you have some evidence. How do you weigh out what some people are presenting and what some perspectives are relative to what other perspectives are on this issue? Great. Now we have to move into complexity. So that was understanding problem evaluation now complexity. What we ask for in terms of complexity is that students move beyond a single sided perspective, which we see a lot. Capital punishment is wrong. Here are three ideas of why capital punishment is wrong and then conclusion. See, I told you capital punishment is wrong. And beyond a two sided perspective, capital punishment is either constitutional or unconstitutional. Here’s an argument that is constitutional. Here’s an argument that it’s unconstitutional. I have decided that it’s constitutional. Complexity asks students to go into where the gray areas are, so they’ve done this evaluation of some material and they’ve started to draw out some ideas. Where is it not just a matter of one side being perfectly right and the other side being perfectly wrong? We asked students to put it on a spectrum.
Steve Pearlman: To what degree does any piece of information have some value or contribute in some way to this discussion? Does it have some merit at all? And then to what extent is it also problematic and that it doesn’t answer all of our questions or serve all of our needs? To what extent are there things you don’t know or there are things that maybe you’re making certain subtle suppositions? Where are some of the gray areas about this, where everything isn’t exactly clear and we asked students to recognize for the reader where this isn’t as simple as this thing that I evaluated in the previous category is perfect. This thing that I evaluated in the previous category is terrible, but rather where are the gradations of value for this material and the gradations of consideration and the gradations of certainty that you have as a writer, which is something that we need more of in our society again and more in academia, because it’s the true nature of the world that things should not be perfectly black and white, and that instead we should be looking at things in in terms of their subtleties, in terms of where we have more to acquire, where our conclusions can be tentative, even if we’re drawing
Dave Carillo: Conclusions once students understand and this, we’ve said this in bits and pieces in past podcasts. But if you get students to understand that you as a faculty, you as a teacher value complexity and that’s reflected in their grade. It’s a breath of fresh air for them because it opens up an entirely new way of thinking about how they deal with sources, how they deal with subject matter, how they deal with problems and conclusions, and pretty much everything in the middle. And when I talk to students about what was difficult, but what was rewarding about this process, they always go to complexity because forever they they thought that there was there was no room for that in their writing, thinking. And in fact, what we’re you know what this category allows us to do. And this is, by the way, I think we’re proudest of this category in a sense, as soon as they understand that they can build into their discussion, some sense of uncertainty that they can engage the gray area. It opens up a lot for them, but it’s also difficult for them to wrap their heads around because of how much this sort of one sidedness or this either ordinance has been just inculcated into their psyches, their educational psyches into their cultural psyches, you name it.
Steve Pearlman: It’s a real that’s a really great point, I think, because students are surprised to understand that we would value them recognizing where their point might not be perfect or where they have some reservations or what they might not know perfectly. They’re surprised by that because they think that that would only undermine their thinking or undermine our appreciation of them when we show them. No, that’s that’s what intellectuals are. Intellectuals aren’t the people who think they know everything perfectly, intellectuals or people who recognize the complexity of things, and that’s what we want to foster in them. And then you’re right again, it’s so freeing is so liberating to them. And I’ll speak personally as a faculty member and this is holds true with. I think I can speak about it from a lot of the faculty members with whom we work as well. Imagine how great it is for you as a faculty member to be able to engage a student at any level, as a person, as an intellectual person who has an idea, who has thoughts about it, who can away some things out, but also has a reservations about what they’re doing and concerns and isn’t certain about some things. And they’re trying to wrestle with that and you can help them wrestle with and you can wrestle with them. And it makes this process of education more interactive. It makes this process of information more enriched for me because instead of. Having students who I’m contending with a fraction of their intellectual capacity, I feel like I get their whole person, including where, you know, where they’re struggling with ideas and where they’re wanting to do more, and it’s wonderful.
Dave Carillo: Yeah, it is, absolutely. And so to bring it back up top now, at this point, we just want students to understand that as they’re working through their evaluation, they are not tied to all or nothing either. Or so, as they’re starting to weigh evidence, they don’t necessarily even have to say this outweighs that if they can start to articulate the gray areas even in that evaluative process, overall complexity also gives students the opportunity not to feel like they have to solve their problem entirely. It allows them to draw conclusions and asks them to, to some extent, draw conclusions and build in that idea of gray or uncertainty into those conclusions. In fact,
Steve Pearlman: Let me interrupt you there, because our last category is conclusions and we’ve slid into it. So it’s understand the material, formulate what the problem is. The question is that you’re having evaluate that source material to recognize your complexity and then ultimately you’re drawing conclusions. And it’s important that we put an s on that.
Dave Carillo: Yeah, not just not just conclusion, as in there’s an introduction and a conclusion. Of course, there needs to be a conclusion, but actually, this category takes into account that there needs to be multiple temporary conclusions or soft conclusions conclusions along the way that essentially answer the question. So what about the evaluation and the areas of complexity in relation to the problem so that the student isn’t just mentioning the problem in the first paragraph and getting back to it in the last paragraph, but that each time new evidence is evaluated or introduced, each time a new complexity is sort of uncovered, there needs to be that kind of soft conclusion along the way that shows how this adds to the resolution, how this affects the problem or speaks to the problem. And so as students are moving through this process, they’re become aware of the fact that just pointing to strong evidence or weak evidence requires a kind of conclusion.
Steve Pearlman: Conclusions kind of have therefore two aspects to our conclusions as we approach them with students. The first is is Dave saying, if they’re writing, let’s say hypothetically, they’re just writing a three page paper, but roughly, let’s say halfway through the paper, they’ve done some evaluation, they’ve dealt with some source material. And I have to say, all right, based on what I’ve done so far, tentatively, here’s where this pans out. Tentatively, here’s what we’re starting to see as a response to that problem that I put forward or the question that I put forward. But now, even though it looks like we’re here, let me introduce and contend with some of this other material. So conclusions are this thing that is this sort of pluralistic, evolving move that continues. The second thing is that we don’t want the conclusion that is ultimately black and white at the end. We don’t want the either or conclusion at the end. What we want is a conclusion at the end that doesn’t have to say. Therefore, capital punishment is obviously entirely unconstitutional. You know, there’s no argument at all for its constitutionality.
Steve Pearlman: We want them to say is really the evidence leans towards a constitutionality or unconstitutionality of capital punishment for the following reasons this shocked students to understand that they don’t have to come to a perfect solution. What they say? Well, what we have to conclude, I say, Well, what do you ultimately conclude? What really is your conclusion? Sometimes the conclusion is this is fairly inconclusive. Sometimes the conclusion is I’m going to lean this way, but I’m not entirely comfortable with it. Sometimes the conclusion is I’m fairly certain, right, that I have the right conclusion or have a good strong conclusion here. And sometimes the conclusion is that the question that I ultimately asked can’t quite be answered in the way that I was initially framed, and we’re going to reframe it a little to answer it this way because it’s the really the most honest, truthful, intellectually worthy way to respond to this. And that’s all we want students to do is not to put forth some canned conclusion or some preconceived conclusion, but after they go through all this reasoning, really, what’s worth concluding?
Dave Carillo: Yeah. In the process, this blows away the sort of basic conception that they roll into class with about conclusions, which is just summarize what you said and then pick a side and get out of town. Similarly, of students trying to articulate new insights into the subject matter, starting to talk in terms of implication and new questions that arise after the evaluation, much more intellectually engaged, much more interesting, much more compelling, much more thoughtful conclusions to problems that you’ve never had to set up because they realized they needed to do it themselves.
Steve Pearlman: So let’s review it again. So it’s understand your source material, understand the situation in a way that exceeds thinking, taking things as fact. What’s your question, concern or conflict once you understand some of the things that are going on in this? It matter in this discourse. All right, once you have that question, evaluate evaluate some of the different pieces of evidence that would ultimately allow you to start to draw a conclusion about your question or resolve this problem that you’ve put forward. Recognize your complexities. Where is it gray? What’s uncertain? And then finally, draw some conclusions that soft conclusions or tentative conclusions that ultimately lead to a final conclusion that is not necessarily an either or, but that really just is actually the conclusion of that reasoning process and representative of it. And that is really how we define critical thinking. That’s really what we mean by our initial definition, which we can read again. I guess now,
Dave Carillo: Which is the initial definition justifying a complex conclusion to a problem by understanding, evaluating and discussing the significance of the assumptions, limitations, interpretations and validity of
Steve Pearlman: Evidence. Absolutely. And I guess we would hope that in presenting this framework, I hope what’s coming through is just a little bit of our excitement about it because the people who work with this are able to engage students and interact with students on a different level than what they were doing potentially before. And I’m generalizing and I’m not saying this is the only framework where that can happen, that other ways to approach critical thinking. I’m not just trying to champion this one perspective, but we at least have faith in this particular method. And I hope educators are thinking about what prospects and what possibilities this might bring or something similar if they don’t want to do this one in particular. But what similar things might bring to their practice and the way that they’re able to engage with students and engage their craft to make it a more enriching experience overall?
Dave Carillo: Yeah. Possibilities, I think is the key here. I mean, because it seems at times that nothing else is possible. And I’ve been there and I think a lot of our listeners been there. We’ve tried all sorts of things to engage our students and at times nothing seems to work. And what we’re finding from this is that it’s consistently offering faculty and students new possibilities of how to engage the material, how to engage each other.
Steve Pearlman: And it’s not only for us as faculty students get more engaged. We know with critical thinking that persistence of information goes up, depth of learning goes up, retention of material goes up, student engagement goes up. We know that retaining students at universities depends on how much they feel engaged, intellectually engaged in the material. It’s one of the factors. There are so many benefits that come out of this moving forward, and it’s not just about that moving them through this one critical thinking act, and it becomes central to the culture of your class, central to the culture of the institution and central to how students conceptualize themselves. Are they thinking about themselves as students in the class, or are they thinking about themselves as burgeoning intellectuals who are being welcomed into academia, into the intellectual world by other members of that community who were just farther down the path?
Dave Carillo: I had some misgivings in the beginning, but I think that this this segment went better than I thought it was going to. I was I was nervous, so I’m a little bit happier. I thought we communicated some good things.
Steve Pearlman: I will wait for feedback on our listeners, but I will go far as to say that I am not nauseated by what we’ve done here today.
Dave Carillo: That’s, you know, that’s good enough for me.
Voiceover: This episode of the Critical Thinking Initiative is brought to you by the Critical Thinking Initiative. Org Visit the Critical Thinking Initiative. Org For an ever expanding resource of books, syllabi, videos and other resources on critical thinking, the critical thinking initiative is always seeking out other people in education who want to work towards raising critical thinking outcomes locally and nationally.
Steve Pearlman: All right, so it is time for Question of the
Dave Carillo: Week and we have one today from Will in Rhode Island. Thank you, will. Thank you, will in Rhode Island. Here’s the question that will poses. Dear Steven Dave, after listening to your conversation with Peter Arthur, who is great, by the way, about metacognition and how it relates to and overlays with the subject of critical thinking, I was wondering if I could play devil’s advocate for a moment. To what extent do you see metacognition playing a role in critical thinking pedagogy? Can there be a critical thinking pedagogy without that layer? What would that look like?
Steve Pearlman: That’s a fair question.
Dave Carillo: That’s a fair question. And we always we we always welcome someone playing devil’s advocate here. So thank you very much, Will.
Steve Pearlman: Well, initially, certainly, it’s possible in in a certain respect, one can think critically without that strong, metacognitive element in the more formal sense of metacognition. In fact, one of the things that we are always talking to faculty and students about is that critical thinking has an intrinsic nature to its process, and it’s not something that has to be taught in the sense or learned in the sense that it’s something brand new. It has to be brought. Forward into the conscious, mind made explicit, but critical thinking happens when we decide what to put on in the morning, and we might not be particularly metacognitive about that process. So in a sense, that’s the case, however, and it’s an important, however, as I’m seeing it, at least if you want to become better at it, if you want to improve on it and you also want to do it more effectively. That can happen without a healthy measure of self-awareness about what it is you’re doing when you’re doing it. What are the cognitive processes you’re going through in the sense of what is the process of critical thinking? And secondarily, where are your own biases and your own dispositions with respect to being an intellectual and a critical thinker? So I guess what I’m saying is great question. In one sense, we do it all the time, sort of subconsciously, which may not involve a metacognitive element. But if we really do want to do it better and we want to improve on it and we want to know what we’re doing, then we have to bring it up to the metacognitive level.
Dave Carillo: I agree with everything that Steve says. I would go one step further and say, not only is that metacognitive layer necessary if you want to get better at it, but to some extent we need to make developing that metacognitive layer just as explicit as developing any sort of critical thinking skills in the classroom. So in other words, while we may ask students now and then to reflect on their process, I would argue that you want students to be met a metacognitive and start to make it clear that they’re doing this to develop a framework that allows them to think about their thinking. They’re looking at how they look at things so that they can get a better sense of what it is they can do outside of class to get better at critical thinking. So I would say that, yeah, you know, like Steve says, to some extent, you know, we’re doing this all the time. If we want to get better at it, then we need to have that metacognitive layer. And I would say that if we want our students to get better at it, not only are we going to want to build in to our work or our discussions, that metacognitive layer, you know, what are we doing now? How are we reading this? Like, You know what? What should we do next once we understand it? But make it clear what you are doing there, you’re allowing them the opportunity to build this metacognitive framework. And this metacognitive framework is important because of how it allows students to start to think about their thinking and why that in and of itself is important.
Steve Pearlman: In fact, I would add in, and this is actually a well-timed question for our podcast today, because if you’ll reflect back on everything we talked about with respect to our model and this is not by accident, by any stretch of the imagination, because we baked into this the critical importance of metacognition when we were doing it as an objective. But if you look at what we talked about in our model understanding, what is it that you are finding important and why are you finding it important problem? What are you seeing to be an issue, a question or a concern or a conflict that you see? Why do you see that to be there? That’s those are all metacognitive moves evaluation. Why are you finding certain pieces of evidence or certain perspectives more or less valuable than others? One has to be self aware of what one is valuing. One has to be self-aware of how one is weighing. One has to be self-aware. One’s logical framework what are you seeing is gray and where might you not know things? And where are your biases? What conclusions are you drawing? To what extent can you draw successful conclusions? All of those elements are, in another entire sense, just completely metacognitive acts. They’re not only metacognitive acts because they are outwardly geared as well towards an outward source, but there certainly is an intentional, metacognitive framework built into that entire model that we did.
Dave Carillo: So I guess your question as to what it would look like without that metacognitive layer? I don’t know what it would really look like, but I know that like we like we uncovered in our neuropsychological research, any organism that has any sort of brain brainstem sort of brainy sort of, you know, need to survive is going to think critically to the extent that they understand their situation, figure out that they need to act, figure out the best way to act and then conclude that that’s what they’re going to do. So maybe really successful amoebas or. Well, I think
Steve Pearlman: I think we’ve seen examples of that actually now that I’m thinking about, I didn’t think about it till you set it that way. But when we’ve seen critical thinking frameworks or rubrics that say provide sufficient source material or evidence for its claim, their students might simply go through that process and heap on piles of evidence and source material without any reflection as to what the value of it is without any real explanation as to why they’re putting it there or why they chose those things, all of which they have to do as we consider critical thinking. But. Those would be a way to sort of at least those are assessments of critical thinking that certainly don’t take that into account.
Dave Carillo: Oh, sorry, yeah, that was to say, that was a nice way to sum it up, and I want to get back to that too, because that’s something that we actually don’t talk about enough how a lot of rubrics don’t provide that kind of
Steve Pearlman: Framework that metacognitive. Yes. Yes. So we should do a whole episode.
Dave Carillo: No, I would. Well, I mean, maybe, maybe we have to. But now we’re going to get to news of the week.
Steve Pearlman: I’m excited about news of the week this.
Dave Carillo: I’m glad you sound excited. I’m going to let you go first.
Steve Pearlman: If so, I am excited about this week for for no positive reason. Well, a positive for some people in the world. Yes. All right.
Dave Carillo: So first, oh, I saw that one. I think.
Steve Pearlman: Yeah, yeah, I actually have two articles this week and I’m only going to reference the first one very briefly. They’re both from inside higher ed. The first one by Colleen Flaherty is titled Full Time Jobs in English and Languages Reach New Low MLA report finds MLA is the modern language association for those who are not familiar, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this. Look, there’s been a lot of research in the United States of late about how liberal arts is in decline, how humanities is in the decline, the number of majors is going down, the number of full time positions is going down. And there have been actually some great calls by some leaders of industry who have called for more investment in the liberal arts in education. Unfortunately, those calls are not being heard as well as they could be here in the United States, but they are being heard elsewhere. Which brings me to my other article here from inside higher ed, this one by Noah Pincus and Cara Goodwin, and it is titled Liberal Arts Innovations in Chinese Higher Education. Yes, sir. Interesting. China is making progressive moves in liberal arts education while we are on the decline, so it starts off quote at the very moment that liberal arts and sciences education is being criticized for a lack of economic or social utility in its U.S.
Steve Pearlman: home. It’s increasingly embraced in China, throughout Asia and in other parts of the world, and it goes on quote Why is this so as we enter a world shaped by rapid global change, the habits and skills cultivated by a liberal arts and sciences, education, creativity, innovation, adaptability, collaboration and communication are seen as crucial for individual and national success in Asia. Now, certainly, there’s nothing to say that a non liberal arts founded education cannot also involve critical thinking. But what we’ve noticed, what we’ve advocated for is that the liberal arts can be an essential and rich enriching part of that critical thinking construct for the very reasons that were mentioned here in this particular article creativity, innovation, adaptability, collaboration and communication. And yet, here in the United States, liberal arts is on the fall, and English majors, for example, are on the fall now. What’s the connection? I’m making back to critical thinking because it’s not that liberal arts is necessarily the only place where critical thinking can happen, or it’s better. It can happen in STEM, it can happen in business, it can happen all over the place. Here’s my point.
Dave Carillo: What’s your point,
Steve Pearlman: If in the liberal arts, we’re not seen and liberal arts programs are not centered on directly, not implicitly, directly, explicitly as the focus of their mission, bringing forward critical thinking skills for the students, highlighting those very skill sets that this article just named as being critical to the development of the individual, not only because people should have those skills and value those things, but because in today’s economy and world, those things are going to be needed, then those liberal arts programs are not going to flourish, then those liberal arts programs are in fact going to suffer, and that’s what I believe is happening. We want to know why history majors are down and English majors are down. It’s because people don’t make the immediate association between that and employment. But there is an immediate association or there could be if it were made explicit. And that would be critical thinking and communication and writing. And so much of what we try to talk about is the fact that schools really are not explicitly contending with all of this, and they claim that they are doing critical thinking or faculty believe that they are developing critical thinkers. But we’ve shown over and over again, for example, that many of the primary means the pedagogical means that faculty use to quote unquote teach critical thinking are not correlated with growth in explicit critical thinking outcomes. But there’s that possibility, and it’s so easily attained for faculty to do this.
Dave Carillo: That’s a really that is a really good point, you know, especially these days, and it’s interesting that you make that connection because, you know, it goes back to some of the things that we said earlier, and this is this is no one’s fault. Maybe it’s all our faults. But you know, there are plenty of faculty in these programs go out of their way to teach critical thinking, go out of their way to engender critical thinking in class. But a lot of the kinds of things that generally are accepted as doing that don’t actually do that. And so, you know, they’re putting in the effort, but they’re putting in the they’re putting in the effort and not getting the kind of return. And it’s and it’s not, you know, it’s not resonating that way. And you’re right, I think that just one or two moves in another direction could for a whole department change. You know, the outcome is as far as the development of those kinds of skills are concerned. So.
Steve Pearlman: Well, let me just give you an example of that. What you what kind of energy in that direction is needed and it’s not very expensive for schools. Relatively speaking, it is not. And this says about some things that China is doing. And it says, for example, quote explained in detail in our report, the report by the authors that they offer quote. These things include careful attention to the limitations of general education, investing in interdisciplinarity and an integrated academic culture, prioritizing faculty development and incentives that are balanced with other strategic goals, embracing innovative pedagogy, fostering quality and access, and connecting the local and global dialectic while teaching a variety of perspectives.
Dave Carillo: Those things sound OK, right?
Steve Pearlman: Right. And that’s mostly just faculty training, which again, is not a high budget ticket item really for a university necessarily. And then look at what it says for like. It gives an example of a number of different universities in China about what they’re doing. But it talks about Duke Kunshan University, which quote emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches, engagement with research questions, problem based and team based learning, and opportunities for students to craft individual pathways and deepen their intellectual engagement over time. It sounds nice quote, right? And so much of that is exactly what we’re talking about, exactly what we’re pushing for in academia. And in one hand, it’s exciting that billions of people in China will be doing this because the world needs it regardless of who is doing it. But in terms of where American education is in terms of staying on the cusp of critical thinking development and liberal arts education and the connection therein, it doesn’t seem like we’re any more at the cutting edge.
Dave Carillo: That’s too bad, but interesting article.
Steve Pearlman: I hope maybe we’re ringing a bell loud enough where people are hearing that people in every walk of academia and our culture should be concerned about this because other countries now are putting more effort into developing the skill sets that are going to be meaningful in this global economy. But at the same time, I hope people in the liberal arts hear what we’re saying here and understand that the liberal arts can be the bastion again of great emphasis of critical thinking
Dave Carillo: And
Steve Pearlman: Science. And it could be an asset and sell the liberal arts and the humanities. But it might not necessarily be doing that as well as it could be if we’re not for grounding critical thinking explicitly.
Dave Carillo: You’re right. You know, let’s make liberal arts the bastion of critical thinking and then make everything else the bastion of critical thinking, too, because we need it. That said, you know, to think critically, you have to be both analytical and motivated, really, just be one. Yes, that’s just that’s my news of the week from. This is from the Ars Technica, from their science section and this is by John Timmer. To think critically, you have to be both analytical and motivated. So this article basically is sort of giving us a sort of an overview of a new paper just published by University of Illinois at Chicago’s Thomas. Tomas Stahl and Jan Willem van Pouyanne at the New Amsterdam. But we’ll get to that in a second. I mean, we’re seeing this so much now, but so many of these articles contextualize their argument with quote. In a world where accusations of fake news are thrown around, essentially random critical thinking would seem to be a must. But this is also a world where the moon landings are viewed as a conspiracy, and people voiced serious doubts about the Earth’s roundness. End quote So, you know, again, fake news shows up as as one of the things that’s driving the need for critical thinking. Can I stop you there for sure? Are you going to go back? Are you going to start raving about the Moon?
Steve Pearlman: There was the Earth. The Earth is round.
Dave Carillo: I, I’m not sure. Ok, right? And it is that
Steve Pearlman: No two sides to everything,
Dave Carillo: Sides to everything. And no, yeah, actually, I have heard the Moon. The Earth is round. I’ve heard there’s some sound science for that. But who knows, right? Well, no. Look, and you know this idea about conspiracy theories and we get back to conspiracy theories. It’s interesting because I’ve picked up an article from The Atlantic, which was written a couple of years ago. The title was this person. I can’t remember his name now. He’s all he’s been all over the news because he’s one of the parents who lost a child at Sandy Hook. And the title of the article in The Atlantic, which I think is online you can get to, is he used to be this person used to believe in conspiracy theories until his son became one? And it details this long and painful fight that this individual had had with a whole host of conspiracy theorists and internet trolls and any number of people who who refuse to believe that Sandy Hook was a real thing and were more than vicious to this individual in any number of situations about about the Sandy Hook tragedy. And it was a it was a compelling read because he had to fight back. He had to rethink how he thought things through. And at one time, he there’s even a moment where he, like he sat in on these conspiracy chat rooms to try to answer Sandy Hook questions and just had to take all the abuse. It was nuts. And that’s kind of the issue here, right? The article goes on to talk about, you know, one of the proposed solutions to this issue is to cooperate more critical thinking or education system.
Dave Carillo: But critical thinking is more than that’s a skill. The point is is you have to recognize when to apply it and to do so effectively and then know how to respond to the result. Right, right. Understanding what a person what makes a person effective at analyzing fake news and conspiracy theories has to take all of this into account. A small step forward toward understanding comes from a recently released paper, which looks at how analytical thinking and motivated skepticism interact to make someone an effective, critical thinker. And that’s when these scholars come in. Stahl and Van Pouillon Stahl apparently published a paper last year on what he termed moralizing epistemic rationality, which I had not heard before. But I’m going to go look up. That’s a great term, and the article gives us this overview. He said. It says in this paper, Stahl quote looked at people’s thoughts on the place critical thinking should occupy in their lives. The research identified two classes of individuals those who valued their own engagement with critical thinking and those who viewed it as a moral imperative that everyone engage in this sort of analysis. So that’s really interesting because I’m wondering why they didn’t find other sort of types of people that like don’t need to think critically or don’t think there’s any place for it. But this is maybe
Steve Pearlman: Everyone thinks they do
Dave Carillo: Or well, I’m not sure, and I would love to see sort of what that research is. And maybe everybody, everybody does assume they do. To some extent, we can talk about confirmation bias and all that right.
Steve Pearlman: I mean, but that’s interesting because I mean, have you ever met somebody who would think that?
Dave Carillo: I don’t think, well, you know, you would think that. But then, you know, there’s also this trend, which we could cite and pull quotes up about. There are some folks in this country that seem to take pride in a certain amount of ignorance. That’s true. Right. So who knows, right? And if you say critical thinking, that might not necessarily, you know, my
Steve Pearlman: Opinion is as good as your fact, right?
Dave Carillo: Right. Oh, that’s all right. Anyhow, here’s in the new paper. The method is essentially Stan van pew and looked into how quote critical thinking protects people from bizarre beliefs. Ok? They focused on a mixture of actual conspiracy theories. The moon landing was a hoax. The U.S. knew the 911 attacks were coming to more general conspiratorial thinking, like there are secret organizations that greatly influence political decisions, end quote. They also then added a bunch of questions about paranoia. Well, beliefs like astrology and ESP, and it doesn’t go into that, but maybe that they use that as a way to gauge sort of where each individual sort of fell like, I believe in ESP, I believe in Bigfoot, that kind of thing. I mean, not Bigfoot Bigfoot, obviously real.
Steve Pearlman: Well, we know Bigfoot Real
Dave Carillo: Bigfoot is real. So here’s the interesting findings in these surveys. Participants took a test to determine whether they tend to do approach problems critically termed an analytic cognitive style. They were also evaluated based on styles earlier work to determine if they personally valued critical thinking or viewed doing so as a moral requirement for everyone. And I think this is part of what the study was aiming at was a sort of distinction between person value and this sort of like larger sort of universal moral belief that everybody should. We’ll get to that. I don’t understand this. I made a note. Don’t understand. The article goes on to say overall quote. A tendency for analytical thinkers did provide consistent protection against conspiratorial thinking and other irrational beliefs, but only if it was accompanied by a belief in the value of critical thinking. The moralizing version of this belief, where you think everyone should be approaching things critically didn’t seem to have any influence on holding irrational ideas. So maybe this moralizing aspect is that, well, I obviously think critically, everybody else should start everybody else, and that way they will all know that, you know, Kubrick film the moon landing or something along those lines.
Steve Pearlman: But so really, what you’re kind of saying is that the belief that everybody needs to think critically is sort of a tacit indictment of the belief that they’re not. Well, it seems to.
Dave Carillo: Maybe it seems to project outward rather than look inward. If I personally value critical thinking, then I might be someone who wants to think critically about things and aims to do so. And I may or may not be upset with the way other people do or don’t do this. But then there’s this other group who view this as some sort of moral imperative that everyone engage in it. And as such, if that’s if we’re over me, maybe if we characterize this as an over generalization and that is a sort of
Steve Pearlman: Or as an abstract idea in an abstract sense, I believe everyone
Dave Carillo: Should think. I believe everyone should think critically too.
Steve Pearlman: But I’m getting this anteriorly. I don’t necessarily really do it a lot,
Dave Carillo: And that’s just it. I’m getting a sense that the moralizing version of this belief where again, I’m quoting from the article quote the moralizing version of this belief where you think everyone which is in italics should be approaching. Things critically didn’t seem to have any influence on holding irrational ideas. The authors, however, acknowledge a limitation in their test for analytical thinking. It only tells whether a person approaches problems analytically. It says nothing about whether they’re any good at doing so. You can think of this question as addressing the issue of whether better education on critical thinking would help. So they set up a similar experiment but focused on actual analytical ability through tests of numerical and verbal ability. This showed that analytical ability was associated with lower levels of belief in conspiracies and the paranormal. So. So I guess what that saying is they also tested folks to see how good they were thinking critically. You know, you could think you think critically, but you know, I’ve thought critically about vaccines and I’ve weighed all the evidence, all
Steve Pearlman: The evidence or
Dave Carillo: Non evidence relevant to my beliefs, right? And that all seems pretty cut and dry, but I’m not going to go any farther past that I have now. Everybody should morally think critically in the same way. Ok, so I mean, and so that that might be one of the issues that this sort of moral contingent seems to suggest that those who are sort of in this moral category expect everybody else to, but aren’t necessarily valuing it themselves or have already come to conclusions that they’re not able to sort of deal with or something along those lines. We remember earlier in the article, it says not only do you need to be able to think critically, but you have to deal with the results. So if you’re really thinking critically about something that you previously thought was a hoax and you’re finding out that it wasn’t a hoax, you need to be able to change your belief system, which as we know is for humans, all sorts of difficult to do. The article goes on to say over overall, the authors conclude that their studies provided support for the notion that skepticism toward paranormal and conspiracy beliefs requires sufficient analytic skills, as well as motivation to form beliefs based on logic and evidence. While it may seem obvious people need to both be motivated and capable to do something, it gets at the issue of whether greater education and critical thinking would help it suggest that we need to accompany any education efforts with parallel efforts to make critical thinking seem valuable or fun, or it won’t end up being the default approach.
Dave Carillo: Hmm. Yeah, to some extent, you know, critical thinking needs to be explicitly valued for people to want to do it now. I mean, it’s easier to some extent in the classroom, right? And we’ve talked about how assessment can drive student performance. And if you make that assessment authentic, then you know, students are going to. Produce authentic, critical thinking work, I don’t know about this fun thing, but we do know that based on our experience and the research, choose that they’re more engaged. Maybe it isn’t fun. Maybe it’s frustrating, but they care about it. Now the trick, though, is can we value it on outside of the classroom? I mean, we’re not necessarily seeing the same kind of value outside. I mean, we see research right and we see data on what companies value and what teachers value. But I think that there’s this counter-trend or if there’s not this counter trend, there’s this subtext here that, well, maybe it doesn’t matter as much. Maybe there’s just too much against us to, you know, I don’t know.
Steve Pearlman: I think maybe part of the problem is that I don’t think it is explicitly valued in academia. Well, right. I mean, how many classes really talk about the idea that the central thing we want you to get out of this? The critical thing we want to get out of this is the ability to think better, know I hear right? And it’s not about memorizing that and it’s not about acquiring this body of knowledge. Foremost, right? Those things are important, of course, but foremost, the thing that we want you to do through an education is become a more agile thinker. Yeah, and we know that that’s actually not explicitly stated a lot in education, and we see students come into our classes, not necessarily reporting that critical thinking was the most important thing that they got out of it or the focus of their education to the point where they came into our classrooms as a collective generalization.
Dave Carillo: As a generalization, I hear you. That’s that’s a good point. I mean, we preach this a lot. Make critical thinking pedagogy explicit. You know, make that like the foremost assessment for the student’s grade. You know, you don’t have to sacrifice content but make this other conversation like happen every day.
Steve Pearlman: That’s a fascinating study. And as you are, I’d love to dig more into that and understand those motivational differences better. And maybe there’s more research on that because that could knock open a lot of doors in terms of what we need to do to help people and students adopt that motivation. And next week’s episode all on Bigfoot.
Dave Carillo: Oh yeah. Obviously, we have to do a big photo episode, people. So prepare. Yes. Yeah. Even though this is podcast, prepare for Steve and I to to look at that film over and over again and just just pore over every detail.
Steve Pearlman: All right. Thanks for listening.
Dave Carillo: Take care.
Voiceover: Thank you for listening to the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast. Got questions for Steve and Dave? Just send them to info at the Critical Thinking Initiative dot org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and find us at WW W Dot The Critical Thinking Initiative. Org.