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Critical Thinking and Writing Across the Curriculum for Faculty: Resources and Ideas

Books on Teaching Critical Thinking Available at your Library

Ideas from the Faculty

"The following are some of the best (and practical) strategies that I have found useful for promoting critical thinking. I certainly did not invent them, but I do try to incorporate them" - Lee Hobbs (note: edited for brevity):

 

  • Encourage students to find analogies or valid relationships between different data or concepts.
  • Advocate interaction between students. This also emphasizes the concept of the academic discourse (give and take).
  • Use the Socratic method where possible. For example, rather than always giving a factual answer to their conceptual questions,  try to promote a dialectical form of debate and inquiry between students with different viewpoints based on asking key questions to help illuminate ideas AND to stimulate critical thinking.
  • When asking questions, use open-ended ones.  If the problem itself is not too specifically defined, and the students know beforehand that they do not have to be in fear for giving a “wrong answer,” a situation presents itself that will allows for more creative responses and critical thinking.
  • Teach for "transfer.” (lifelong learning).  If opportunities are provided for students to play with the idea of how an idea might apply to other situations (including their own experiences), then any critical thinking skills you’ve encouraged in our own courses should “travel well” to other courses in other disciplines.


The following are some strategies that I have found useful for getting students to “write critically,” (the natural extension of thinking critically):
 

  • Encourage students to start an “ongoing conversation” with the texts they cover in the course....ask them to build on their smaller writing assignments throughout the semester. ....If they can carry over their ideas discussed in one content area to another (and maintain that train of critical thought from week to week), they create an agenda that will inform that larger research project I will expect from them at the end.
  • Although the mechanical process of research (searching, digging) is important to our fields, I find that it is useless if students cannot perform analysis on what they dig up. Many simply do not comprehend what they are asked to read, for example, in a journal article and can not therefore formulate either an educated interpretation or summarization.
  • Emphasize the skills of analysis and give them as many opportunities to hone them as possible. Texts and even ideas are constructs. I want students to take them apart, see how they were put together in the first place, and then be able to explain how they were assembled. Of what use is it?, etc.
  • Play the devil’s advocate. In their arguments “for” a particular position, I want students to be able to address the obvious opposing ones by, at least acknowledging them and how they “could” be argued as viable too.

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