By Dr. Stephanie Bennett, Department of Sociology and Provisions Critical Thinking Fellow
Throughout the summer, last semester, and this semester, I have been delving into the academic world of critical thinking. I found that the process could get overwhelming very quickly. I started on a journey that took me into a variety of areas. I choose for the group, Richard Paul’s Critical Thinking: What every person needs to survive in a rapidly changing world. Amina Eladdadi brought to the group Hunter’s A Practical Guide to Critical Thinking. Paul and Hunter’s book brought me into Philosophy. Jim Allen brought to the group Halpren’s Thought and Knowledge which revealed the Educational Psychology of critical thinking. All us Provision Fellows read the Bean book Engaging Ideas which opened me up to understanding how to bring about critical thinking thru writing exercises. From these core books I have found that Critical Thinking is truly interdisciplinary and that I could learn from all.
So after being overwhelmed with new ideas, new fields of study, and new ways to look at the issue I began to hone in my needs. My need was how to get all this information into my understanding and bring it to a usable place for my students. This led me into some more interdisciplinary work.
I found an author Elizabeth Barkley who just so happens to be a Professor of Music. Barkley’s book Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty was really good for me. The book illustrates real class engagement techniques that have been tried in real classes with success that have been selected from various sources. One specific example I liked was to set up book clubs for classes. Allow students to collaboratively work on book with faculty guidance and then present an end of the year report. I have sent students off to do book reports in groups, but I found with a little honing, I could get better outcomes. The book is filled with several examples all providing step by step instructions. I found it to be a great resource for transitioning from the wealth of knowledge I had gained to being able to translate it into my classrooms.