The weaknesses in much critical-thinking instruction

The weaknesses in much critical-thinking instruction was examined in a recent article in the American School Board Journal. Richard Paul and Linda Elder of the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking suggest ways to emphasize critical thinking in daily lessons. They write that students need opportunities to take thinking apart; to analyze their own thinking according to standards of clarity, accuracy, relevance, logic and fairness.

Too often, according to these researchers, teachers allow students to get by with random and undisciplined thought. Students need to develop the basic building blocks of thinking:

  • Clearly state goals and purposes for study
  • Formulate questions and problems
  • Develop a defensible point of view
  • Assess resources and texts for honesty and fairness
  • Question assumptions and biases
  • Make valid inferences
  • Evaluate consequences of judgments and reasoning


Teachers should encourage students to:

  • Summarize what others have said
  • Elaborate on concepts or ideas
  • Relate topics to their own knowledge or experience
  • Give examples to clarify and support ideas
  • Make connections between related concepts


Encouraging students to reason their way into subjects instead of spoon-feeding them information to memorize is what develops their thinking skills and improves their retention.

“Habits of Thought,” American School Board Journal, Volume 191, Number 12, December 2004, pp. 52-54.

Published in ERN January 2005 Volume 18 Number 1


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