Not What to Think But How to Think: Critical and Reflective Thinking in University Education

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The term “critical thinking” covers a variety of important skills, including the formulation of good questions, the analysis and synthesis of ideas, logical and evidence-based reasoning, the examination of assumptions and biases, and communication of ideas and results to others (van Gelder, 2005). Most importantly, it is based on the belief that in university education we should teach students not WHAT to think, but HOW to think. Too often our courses focus on content rather than on the process of learning, and although we assume that students are also learning critical thinking skills through the content we rarely make explicit the skills involved. Liberal Education courses can offer a space to make some of these skills explicit for students, and emphasize higher-order and metacognitive learning (Flavell, 1987; Krathwohl, 2002). This session will describe a Liberal Education course designed to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills, by moving students beyond a focus on content - the WHAT - to a more metacognitive approach to their thinking and learning - the HOW. Participants will have the opportunity to monitor their own thinking as they engage in some of the course activities, and to assess how the activities and course focus on metacognitive knowledge to engage students in deep learning about their own learning.