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Controversies have arisen over the generalizability of critical thinking across domains, over alleged bias in critical thinking theories and instruction, and over the relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking.active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends.First, it’s helpful to distinguish between two possible definitions of critical thinking.
In the 1930s, many of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study of the Progressive Education Association (Aikin 1942) adopted critical thinking as an educational goal, for whose achievement the study’s Evaluation Staff developed tests (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942).
Glaser (1941) showed experimentally that it was possible to improve the critical thinking of high school students.
Instructors and programs therefore face a lot of pressure to improve this valuable skill.
So what does the research tell us about critical thinking?
In 1987, the APA’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy commissioned a consensus statement on critical thinking for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (Facione 1990a).
Researchers have developed standardized tests of critical thinking abilities and dispositions; for details, see the Supplement on Assessment.Does this mean that we can’t teach critical thinking as a domain general skill? An excellent article by van Gelder (2005) summarizes some key lessons from cognitive psychology that can help guide instruction on critical thinking (2). For example, I’m a cognitive psychologist who happens to enjoy science fiction.I have many well formed opinions about the nature of memory and conscious experience and how they are represented in popular media like Westworld, The Matrix, and Ghost in the Shell. However, my ability to think critically about cognitive psychology in these movies/shows does not necessarily mean I can think critically about the cinematography or directing. In this view critical thinking is a general skill that can be developed and then applied in a range of situations and scenarios.It’s a general mode of thinking or being and refers to a relatively stable trait of an individual.Or that I can think critically about software or computer programs (outside of turning it off and on again, I’m pretty useless). Or that I can think critically about any number of things outside of my very specific areas of training and experiences. However, most research on the transfer of skills suggests that the latter definition, critical thinking as a domain-specific ability, is more accurate (1).People’s ability to solve problems and make effective decisions depends on their level of expertise and experience within one area. Even within a single domain critical thinking is a complex, higher-order skill that is hard to learn and even harder to transfer across domains.Also since 1980, the state university system in California has required all undergraduate students to take a critical thinking course.Since 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions in conjunction with the divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association (APA).