To counter these trends, a group of politically diverse scholars have set up a Heterodox Academy.They agitate for the importance of teaching students how – not what – to think.
To counter these trends, a group of politically diverse scholars have set up a Heterodox Academy.
Employers have long been insisting on the importance of critical thinking skills.
In 2006, a major report by a consortium of more than 400 US employers ranked “critical thinking” as the most desirable skill in new employees.
Being a good critical thinker is a desirable trait for getting a job in today’s economy. What business or enterprise does not want a good critical thinker?
Actually, none of this is really new – although the pace might have quickened of late.
Over the years theorists have tried to nail down a definition of critical thinking.
These include: “…reflective and reasonable thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.” “…the ability to analyse facts, generate and organise ideas, defend opinions, make comparisons, draw inferences, evaluate arguments and solve problems.” “…an awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions, plus the ability and willingness to ask and answer them at appropriate times.” “…thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking to make your thinking better.” Whatever definition one plumps for, the next question that arises is what are universities doing about teaching it?There is some justification in the claim that universities do not teach critical thinking, despite their oft-cited claims that they do.In the US media recently, there was a heightened concern about the teaching of critical thinking in universities.Others include the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal and the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests. I suspect because universities would be justifiably worried about what the results might indicate.In the margin — and tangentially — some (pessimistic) academics have countered that universities promote precisely the opposite of critical thinking; a culture of uncritical left-wing orthodoxy, an orthodoxy that takes the form of cultural attitude or milieu within the sector and which largely goes unchallenged.And there is no shortage of studies demonstrating that “very few college courses actually improve these skills”. The important thing is that it does need to be taught, and we need to ensure graduates emerge from university being good at it.One thing is certain: beyond vague pronouncements and including “critical thinking” among nebulous lists of unmet or hoped-for graduate attributes, universities should be paying more attention to critical thinking and doing a lot more to cultivate it.The report found employers can pay a premium for many enterprise skills.For example, evidence of problem solving and critical thinking skills resulted in a higher mean salary of A,745.Employers increasingly recognise what is needed in graduates is not so much technical knowledge, but applied skills, especially skills in critical thinking.These skills are also said to be important within companies themselves as drivers of employee comprehension and decision making. If we do not have a clear idea of what it is, we can’t teach it.