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Triggers fostering critical thinking in the eyes of the already succeeded
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of pedagogy.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0928-4308
2013 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this article is to examine what kind of seminars that may foster critical thinking, if you ask the already succeeded. The point of departure is that lectures, associate professors and professors have achieved competences that have enabled them to advance within the academic system. They are so to say the best succeeded examples. Could it be that there have been special occasions, sequences of occasions or anything the like that had been especially important in developing these competences? And if so, could these be transformed to exercises within an existing Master's programme?

In accordance with Mezirow (1990) we hold meaning perspectives, made up of propositions, beliefs, higher-order schemata, theories, evaluations and network of arguments. New experiences is transformed and assimilated in processes of interpretation within these meaning perspectives. They are mostly uncritically acquired in childhood through socialization, often in an emotionally charged relationship context, where parents and teacher play a prominent role. Meaning perspectives have three functions, to guide actions, to reassess the justification for what you already know and to give coherence to the familiar. Critical reflection or premise reflection is, if we follow Mezirow to challenge the validity of such already made presuppositions. It involves awareness of how our presuppositions have constrained how we understand, perceive and feel about the world.

Paul & Elder (2012) claims that critical thinking has three dimensions, i. e. analytic, evaluative and creative, each dimension necessary to be monitored. We also have to realize that every domain of human thought is possible to question regarding the parts of thinking. Paul, Binker, Martin & Adamson (1989) maintain that a critical thinker is a “reasonable person” with intellectual autonomy. One of the most important steps towards this ideal is to relize that you have a perspective that you must work on and change. You have to command the elements of thinking to develop special traits of mind, as intellectual courage, humility and integrity. The authors speak of perfection of thought, as clarity, precision, consistency and being logical.

If one compares the two perspectives of critical reflection, and tries to draw them apart Mezirow speak of transformation and of changing meaning perspectives, while Paul et al emphasizes the development of special traits of mind. It could be that exercises promoting transformation should be more open and thus have no obvious or correct answer. Maybe such exercises open gaps into the mind, trigging transformation partly conscious and partly unconscious. An interpretation of Paul et al is that exercises with the goal of forming traits have to be repeated within a certain form, especially if one emphasizes promoting capacities as perfection of thought and being logical.

Sternberg & Grigorenko (2003) gives another interpretation of critical thinking. The authers make a distinction between analytical, creative and practical teaching. The first means to encourage students to analyse, judge, critique and compare, the second to encourage to invent, create and discover and the third encourage to use, apply and implement.

Methodology

The empirical material consists of 30 interviews conducted among lecturer, associate professors and professors in pedagogy. Two question areas are in focus:

1 If you look back on your own experience, could you mention a special occasion or a sequence of occasions which have been especially important in improving your, what could be called, scientific or critical thinking and transformative skills? What sort of competence, capability or knowledge did you acquire at this occasion?

The first question is intended to be a gateway to the second question.

2 If we turn over to the Master's programme, special seminars will be arranged in order to advance student’s critical thinking. The form is about one hour of introduction together with the teacher, two hours of work in groups where the students are alone, and one hour of summing up together with the teacher. Could the experience we just talked about be transformed to an exercise within this form of seminar developing such competences?

The interviews could be characterised as informal conversational interview, which is the most open-ended approach (Patton, 1990). They last from 15 to 30 minutes and are carried through as a dialogue where both parts made suggestions and interpretations.

Results

Most of the interviewed could quite easily point out occasions that had been especially important in improving their critical thinking. In some cases a well-informed, even strict person was mentioned. Most of the competences mentioned are to acquire some form of reflective attitude, for example to be open, to realize, to dare and to always be ready to reconsider

The second question is however in main focus. The suggestions have been analysed out of three different methods.

First the material is divided into exercises suitable for students within courses in pedagogic, in social science and in general science. Second the material is structured out of the distinction between analytical, creative and practical teaching (Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2003). Half are characterised as practical, seven as creative and six as analytical. In the third method two different theoretical approaches are used. 18 of the exercises are characterized as forming logical traits (Paul & Elder, 2012; Paul, Binker, Martin & Adamson,1989)) while four are categorized as transformative (Mezirow, 1990). An interesting result is that 78%? of the suggested exercises promoting transformation were made by professors or associate professors, while 75% of the exercises forming logical traits were suggested by doctors.

Intent of publication

Journal of Diversity in Higher Education

References

Mezirow, Jack (1990). How Critical Reflection Triggers Transformative Learning. I Mezirow, Jack and Associates Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods.NewburyPark: SAGE Publications.

Paul, Richard & Elder, Linda (2012). Critical Thinking. Boston: Pearson

Paul, Richard, Binker, A.J.A, Martin, Douglas, & Adamson Ken (1989). Critical Thinking Handbook: High School. Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique: Sonoma State University.

Sternberg, Robert & Grigorenko, Elena (2003). Teaching for Successful Intelligence: Principles, Procedures, and Practices.   In Journal of the Education of the Gifted, 27(2/3), 207-228.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013.
Keywords [en]
Critical thinking, Meaning system, Logical trait, Reflective attitude
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences, Pedagogics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-43371OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-43371DiVA, id: diva2:814427
Conference
ECER 2013, The European Conference on Educational Research, Istanbul 10-13 September 2013
Available from: 2015-05-27 Created: 2015-05-27 Last updated: 2017-01-10Bibliographically approved

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Sellbjer, Stefan

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