Are you concerned with the thought process your students utilize when they are working on their assignments or participating in class discussions? Do you consider it important that your students demonstrate an ability to think through important course concepts? Do you want your students to do something more in class than recite facts and state opinions? The process of critical thinking is a structured method of analyzing, processing, and interacting with information. When instructors encourage students to implement this formal approach to thinking they begin to work with information by using logic, reasoning, and higher-order cognitive processes. Critical thinking becomes critical to learning when students are directly engaged in the process of learning and knowledge creation.
As an instructor, how do you know that learning has occurred? Students learn about various topics and subjects throughout the course and they acquire knowledge through the materials and information provided. Learning objectives are designed to guide the activities and assessments implemented by the instructor. Course outcomes are established as a means of projecting a desired result for students by the end of the class, which includes demonstrating the use of academic skills, overall developmental progress and knowledge acquisition.
The most common forms of assessment for use in measuring students’ progress and learning include a written paper and an exam. Often a written paper will consist of fact gathering, presenting an essay, or stating beliefs and opinions. An exam will measure information that students can recall based upon what they have learned and what they have memorized. When an instructor wants students to demonstrate their thought process by working with ideas, solving problems, reaching conclusions, and developing original thinking about a subject, advanced cognitive skills are required.
The basic premise of cognition involves the way that the mind processes information. Bloom’s taxonomy is often cited for its explanation of the cognitive functions. Students can be taught to utilize higher-order cognitive skills when they have a technique that focuses their thinking. Instructors can encourage the use of critical thinking as it provides the tools necessary to guide students through the cognitive development process. Students are encouraged to seek answers, find new solutions, consider alternatives, explore other options, develop their own ideas, and question what they read rather than accept it as fact.
Critical thinking becomes critical to learning when students gather information, transform that information by working with it and analyzing it, and acquire knowledge that meets their developmental and professional needs. It is a process of focused thinking that can demonstrate progress and skill set development, which allows students to be actively engaged in the process of learning and the class. As a result, it also provides instructors with a means of measuring progress made towards course outcomes and learning objectives.