Expeditionary Learning schools are grounded in the philosophy that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. To students at Two Rivers Public Charter School, critical thinking is simply school culture. In addition to classroom lessons, they work on subject-specific projects and showcase their findings to classmates, parents and teachers. The school has designed a critical thinking curriculum, including assessment tools and core constructs of effective reasoning.
Innovations in educational technology have often sparked dramatic pronouncements, to be sure. Socrates, for example, famously observed that writing tools would impair people’s ability to remember. The Reboot Foundation recently explored the efficacy of education technology by analyzing two large achievement data sets. A growing body of evidence suggests that technology can have negative effects on student achievement.
Pseudoscientific beliefs can lead to weak or irresponsible decisions. Conspiracy theories, the paranormal, climate change and evolution denialism, Bigfoot: many Americans belive in these phenomena. In response, educators are testing ways that instruction on human error of perception and logic can train more critical thinkers.
Groupthink is the tendency to make decisions based on consensus, even if, individually, group members may find those decisions to be weak. Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to avoid groupthink. There are new and powerful ways to teach people to be better, more independent thinkers. For one, people should be encouraged to play the devil’s advocate and help break up the norm of agreement. Along the same lines, people with a dissenting opinion should be encouraged to speak up, without negative consequences, so long as their opinion is fact-based and well-researched.
“Calling Bullshit,” got its start as a lecture series covering the various ways in which news agencies, corporations, and even scholarly institutions sling, well, bullshit. Now also a college-level course, Calling Bullshit provides people with tools to look critically at what is too often considered unassailable — data. The founding University of Washington professors continue to make a wealth of course materials available online including syllabus readings and case studies.
Last year, the Cornell University SC Johnson College of Business launched an online certificate program that focuses exclusively on developing critical thinking skills. The economy is changing, driving demand for richer forms of reasoning and independent thought. The university recognized that their students would be attractive future employees, whose improved decision making skills would help forge thriving teams and organizations in the professional world.