Articles on Critical Thinking

Bailin, S., Case, R., Coombs, J. R., & Daniels, L. B. (1999). Common misconceptions of critical thinking. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31(3), 269-283. 

This article critiques three popular views of critical thinking that focus on skills, processes, and procedures. The shortcomings and contradictions of each view are discussed. The authors conclude that critical thinking should not be relegated to the framework of any of these views, but should be conceptualized as a content-specific, complex activity that produces desired intellectual results. 


Bailin, S., Case, R., Coombs, J. R., & Daniels, L. B. (1999). Conceptualizing critical

thinking. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31(3), 285-302. 

This article presents a conception of critical thinking that includes problem solving, decision-making, creative thinking, and the disposition to think critically. This conception centers on what the authors call intellectual resources. These include background knowledge, operational knowledge of the standards of good thinking, knowledge of key critical concepts, heuristics, and habits of mind. Implications for teaching with this conception are discussed. 

Browne, M. N., & Freeman, K.  (2000).  Distinguishing features of critical thinking classrooms. Teaching in Higher Education, 5(3), 301-309.

This article describes methods of facilitating critical thinking in the classroom.  These methods range from encouraging students to ask evaluative questions (examples provided), to overcoming the developmental tension often associated with critiquing previously held assumptions.  Active student participation and instructor as mentor are emphasized as important elements. 

Davis-Seaver, J., Leflore, D., & Smith, T.  (2000) Promoting critical thinking at the university level.  National Forum of Teacher Education Journal, Electronic, 10E(3), 30-40. 

This article addresses the concern that high school students are ill prepared for the type of thinking required at the university level. The writers sought ways to infuse critical and creative thinking into classes such that students would become competent and independent thinkers and thus perceive of themselves as able to do university level study and research. After attending two national conferences, the writers implemented many of the strategies recommended. This article describes those strategies and the results. They found that not only did the classes become more insightful, but the students also claimed ownership of their learning and the direction of the inquiry.

Dlugos, P. (2003).  Using critical thinking to assess the ineffable.  Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 27, 613-629.

This article emphasizes critical thinking as a way to connect academic/cognitive objectives to affective/behavioral objectives.  Strategies to facilitate critical thinking encourage students to connect course material and theory with their daily lives.  Two lesson modules from a philosophy/ethics course that use this strategy are described.  The importance of metacognitive exercises is also discussed.   

Dockrill, P. M. (2003).  Facilitating critical thinking in first year community college students. Diss. Saint Francis Xavier U.

This dissertation explores theories and best practices relating to critical thinking.  The author emphasizes concept of “facilitation” as well as emotional and spiritual aspects.  Theories reference adult learning challenges and opportunities, including resistance.  The author finds journal writing to be effective and emphasizes “critical reflection” throughout.  Findings are based on author’s classroom research.

Douglas, N. L. (2000).  Enemies of critical thinking: lessons from social psychology  

research.  Reading Psychology, 21, 129-144. 

This article identifies two primary blockers to critical thinking: the inability to recognize and reject new faulty information, and the inability or unwillingness to discard old ideas once they are proven false or unfounded.  This article provides both philosophical and psychological underpinnings for these two problems, and describes several case studies that tested this theory.  The findings here point to the importance of instructors understanding and identifying students’ preconceptions an old ideas before introducing more sophisticated or contradictory content. 

Elder, L.  (2000, July). Why critical thinking is essential to the community college mission.   Retrieved June 13, 2005 from The Critical Thinking Community Web


This article discusses how critical thinking is essential to learners who must compete in the new, rapidly changing global economy.  It discusses three dimensions of higher education philosophy that must adapt to a new paradigm that encourages critical thinking.  These dimensions are “Content as Thinking,” “Rethinking Thinking and Its Parts,” and “Universal Intellectual Standards.”  In “Rethinking Thinking,” a list of eight “structures” we use whenever we attempt to reason is discussed.  Teaching that makes the components and characteristic of critical thinking explicit is the most effective means of improving learners’ critical thinking skills.  Mental flexibility becomes more valuable as the economy and job market evolve services and commodities that are more abstract.  Community colleges must lead the way in emphasizing such training since they are the primary workforce trainer. 

Facione, P.A. (1990).  Critical thinking:  A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction, Executive summary.  Millbrae, CA: California Academic. 

This article summarizes “The Delphi Report,” an effort to bring together experts on critical thinking in order to reach a consensus on CT’s definition and assessment potential.  This group agreed on many specific components of CT as both cognitive skills and dispositions.  Cognitive skills identified are interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation.  Dispositions of good critical thinkers include inquisitiveness, emphasis on reason, and a strong desire for legitimate information.  This report gives specific examples and descriptions of all these components and describes essential qualities any method of assessing CT must have.

Garcia, T., & Pintrich, P. R. (1992, August).  Critical Thinking and Its Relationship toMotivation, Learning Strategies, and Classroom Experience.  Paper presented at theannual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC. 

This paper describes research conducted to assess the relationship between student motivation and depth of cognitive engagement as demonstrated by critical thinking in three diverse courses.  This research concludes that when students are intrinsically motivated they are more likely to demonstrate deep learning strategies than when extrinsically motivated.  Such deep learning strategies include critical thinking and metacognition or self-monitoring.

Kelder, R. (1992).  Epistemology and Determining Critical Thinking Skills in the Disciplines. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Institute for Critical Thinking, Montclair, NJ.

This paper reviews various theories on the nature of critical thinking across the curriculum.  It asserts that critical thinking cannot be separated from course content but is more accurately understood as how knowledge is constructed within a discipline.  It suggests before instructors can effectively foster CT within their courses, they must first do a critical analysis of their discipline in order to reveal its epistemological foundations.  Encouraging students to recognize and work within these foundations is suggested as the best way to foster CT. 

Kroll, B. M. (1992).  Reflective inquiry in a college English class.  Liberal Education, 78(1), 10-14. 

This article describes the application of a reflective judgment model to student inquiry in a freshman course on Vietnam War literature.  This approach emphasizes student engagement with “ill-structured” problems that require complex analysis and an examination of personal assumptions.  The effectiveness of reflective journaling is also described.

McKendree, J., Small, C., Stenning, K., & Conlon, T. (2002).  The role of representation in teaching and learning critical thinking.  Educational Review 54(1), 57-67.

This article discusses the cognitive theory of representation and transferability in general, and specifically with regard to CT.  The article describes the importance of learners being able to choose effective representations, or symbols, to solve problems in various contexts.  Learners’ awareness of different representations, and their subsequent willingness to try new representations to approach problems is said to be vital to CT.  Several examples of problems that differ in difficulty based on selected representation are provided.  Fluency with representations, according to this article, is the basis for CT skill transferability between content areas.

Payne, B. K. & Gainey, R. R.  (2003).  Understanding and developing controversial issues in college courses.  College Teaching, 51(2), p.52-58. 

This article reviews controversial topics typically examined in college courses including the death penalty and gun control.  Diverse viewpoints on these topics are described and suggestions are made as to how class discussion on such topics can encourage students’ critical thinking.    Specific classroom strategies for instigating lively discussions are described.  Connections and comparisons across academic disciplines are also discussed.

Pithers, R. & Soden, R. (2000). Critical thinking in education: a review.  Educational Research, 42(3), 237-249.

This article reviews research on theoretical and practical conceptions of critical thinking in higher education.  This review includes discussions of: critical thinking abilities (skills) and dispositions; the importance of evaluation and metacognition; methods that can enhance and inhibit critical thinking; the role of “scaffolding” in the process of student inquiry. 

Shavelson, R. J., & Huang, L. (2003).  Responding responsibly to the frenzy to assess learning in higher education.  Change, January/February, p.11-19. 

This article discusses trends in the assessment movement and critiques that movement’s emphasis on solely cognitive measures.  This article also briefly reviews the historical contexts of assessment in higher education and recommends the development of a comprehensive framework to unite the disparate objectives assessment stakeholders bring to the debate.  A discussion of the different cognitive realms of learning is also presented in which domain-specific and general knowledge features are compared. 

Smith, G. F.  (2001).  Towards a comprehensive account of effective thinking.  Interchange,

32(4), p. 349-374. 

This article reviews the substantial debate over the scope and nature of critical thinking by comparing the view that CT is best understood in terms of argument analysis with the view that CT encompasses broader thinking components.  The author presents a framework that borrows from both views and incorporates elements of problem solving and everyday reasoning.  This framework includes descriptions of specific skills the author feels can be practiced and improved in educational settings. 

Torres, R. M., & Cano, J.  (1995).  Critical thinking as influenced by learning style.  Journal of Agricultural Education, 36(4), 55-62.

This article presents a study in which correlation between learning styles and critical thinking skills was examined.  The study is concerned with two learning styles described as “Field-Dependent” and “Field-Independent.”  Statistically significant though not entirely conclusive evidence of correlation is reported.  This article also presents a conceptual framework of variables that contribute to students’ higher-level cognitive development.

Tsui, L. (1999).  Courses and instruction affecting critical thinking.  Research in Higher Education, 40(2), p. 185-200.

This article describes research conducted to compare the impact of instructional areas and techniques on students’ self-reported enhancement of critical thinking.  The research points toward moderate positive correlations between interdisciplinary and writing intensive courses, as well as active learning classroom strategies.  The article also reviews research on standardized critical thinking tests and describes difficulties encountered in assessing students’ critical thinking development over time. 

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2000).  The

NPEC Sourcebook on Assessment, Volume 1: Definitions and Assessment Methods for Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Writing. (NCES Publication No. 2000—172).  Prepared by T. Dary Erwin for the Council of the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative Student Outcomes Pilot Working Group: Cognitive and Intellectual Development.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

This report provides comprehensive descriptions and definitions of critical thinking, problem solving, and writing skills.  It also reviews multiple standardized assessments for these skills and provides detailed inventories of specific learning outcomes assessed by each instrument, as well as instruments’ validity statistics.  Assessment instruments are compared in highly detailed reference tables.   

van Gelder, T.  (2005). Teaching critical thinking: some lessons from cognitive science. College Teaching, 53(1), 41-46.

This article discusses six lessons from the field of cognitive science.  These lessons include: the need for combining critical thinking theory with practice; the difficulty of mastering critical thinking; the need for focusing on transferability; and the challenges belief preservation presents.  This article approaches critical thinking as mainly concerned with argument analysis.

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