By Dr. Stephanie Bennett, Department of Sociology and Provisions Critical Thinking Fellow
When I first engaged in researching for the Provisions Critical Thinking Fellowship, I started like any other academic. I went into a variety of databases for academic articles in my field. In my discipline specific searching, I found a wealth of information on Sociologists interpret critical thinking. But I did know that my search needed to move from a discipline specific search to a more interdisciplinary search to fit to be able to engage in a campus wide conversation. So I moved to a more general search, and yes I will admit it moved me to a Google search.
Regardless of the search terms I put in, one of the first results was the Foundation for Critical Thinking. I found Richard Paul philosopher, author of a variety of books, and a founder of the foundation. His name was familiar as it was referenced in other critical thinking articles with a co-author Linda Elder. The Paul-Elder model of critical thinking had become a standard. For me, I needed to know what they believes were. I felt that if I was going to provide resources for others on campus, there was no way I could overlook such a prominent name.
So I choose the book, Critical Thinking: What Every Person Needs To Survive in a Rapidly Changing World. I choose this one of all his books, because it was a collection of his what he believes are his “major” papers. I started reading articles on education. While I found that many of the articles on teaching were centered on k-12 education, I found the critique in the articles was relevant to all structured education. Paul criticizes the lack of deep learning emphasis today and proposes a more Socratic method.
The more I read of the articles the more I began to understand the Paul-Elder model. He believes that critical thinking is a way to reconstruct the way one thinks. “In thinking critically we take command of our conceptual creations, assessing them more explicitly than is normally done.”
I found that reading the articles I got a deeper understanding of Paul’s belief system and his outlook on Critical thinking. I feel there are parts of his theory that have opened my eyes to further understanding of the wide definition of Critical Thinking. He not only critiques the lack of Critical thinking in society and education, but he also suggests ways to change this. It was worth the read for me.