Critical Thinking Is Absent Long Before Students Reach College

Today is Friday and I like to reserve Fridays for either conversations about available data or commentaries regarding higher education and her constituents.  Today I have an interesting commentary from Dr. Elwood Watson, who is a Professor of History and African American Studies at East Tennessee State University. His areas of specialty include 20th Century Post WWII U.S. History, African American History, Gender Studies, Popular Culture and Ethnographic Studies.

Over the past few years, there has been no shortage of op-ed articles, feature stories, conference panels and other forums discussing and, in many cases, decrying the deficient level of critical thinking that has supposedly evaded far too many among college students and graduates.

Last year, academics Richard Arum and Josipa Roska in their co-authored book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, penned a sobering indictment of what they believe to be a serious dearth of analytical thought by students taking place on many college campuses. Both authors made a number of appearances on radio programs, and their articles graced the op-ed pages of a number of the nations’ most prestigious newspapers and internet blogs.

As a result of their efforts, (along with a few other individuals), critical thinking became the buzzword and topic du jour at a number of academic conferences and institutions of higher learning.

As a professor whose teaching pedagogy is largely Socratic and hands-on, I certainly was not surprised that some students would initially be resistant to such a method. However, I make it clear to them that, in my classes, we will talk about, discuss, debate, analyze and, in some cases, visualize the course material.

Moreover, I quickly inform my students that I am there to guide them, keep them on track, place them back on track if they get derailed and clarify anything they are unclear about.

After more than 16 years of teaching, many of my student evaluations often mention that my class was one of the few where they (students) were required to avidly and extensively participate in their own learning. Yes, indeed. In my course(s), informative class participation is a significant percentage of their grade. I also require students to do an extensive amount of expository writing in my courses. <Read more.>

Via Dr. Elwood Watson, Diverse Issues in Higher Education.