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Although we may define critical thinking in a more complex manner, it is essentially a practical or applied activity because reasoning and decisionmaking are applied activities.Conceptual analysis is a useful tool to help students do critical thinking activities collaboratively, and it can be taught in a team-based or collaborative setting.Researchers debate whether critical thinking can be learned or if it's a developmental process regulated by motivations, dispositions, and personality traits.
Both conceptual analysis and collaborative discussion strategies show that they can be applied practically in diverse classroom tasks for teaching multiple complex skills such as working collaboratively and thinking critically—two of the 21st century skills that will become increasingly important as the new generation of students move into the workforce of the future.
Many researchers, including Facione, Simpson and Courtneay, Banning, Brookfield, Ornstein and Hunkins, Sternberg, Ennis, and Lipman, have defined critical thinking (CT).
Although Ben’s class subject is History, when people ask him what he teaches, Ben points out that he teaches “conceptual analysis.” This is his approach to developing critical thinking skills in a collaborative setting as the students learn history.
Irrespective of the content or skills learned the ability to analyze material and concepts is crucial.
When using critical thinking, individuals step back and reflect on the quality of that thinking.
Simpson and Courtneay point out that critical thinking processes require active argumentation, initiative, reasoning, envisioning and analyzing complex alternatives, and making contingency-related value judgment.
Ask students to list some of the skills they use when producing a history essay; support the students in doing this by querying statements of what they produce to help them distinguish the actual processes they use. Now ask students to describe what different levels of quality of these processes would look like, i.e., a description of an advanced example, and a middle-level example, and a basic level example.
Figure 2 shows how this class activity would look like when completed as a grid, where for each step in “researching,” the students provided what they think are different levels of quality.
If students have not yet reached the formal operations stage, their ability to use critical thinking skills may be limited by an inability to handle abstract ideas.
It is important to remember that Piaget's stages of cognitive development are also linked to intellectual potential and environmental experiences.