Using Critical Thinking Skills In Writing

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In short, critical thinking requires effort and doesn't spring automatically from a pen moving across paper.

Only a few studies to date have actually examined the link between critical thinking and writing (Quitadamo & Kurtz, 2007).

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.

Consider the following word problem: A bat and ball cost $1.10. That's because many of us jump reflexively to the wrong answer: 10 cents.

(If we slow down and do the math, we see that the correct answer is 5 cents.) From his synthesis of decades of research, Kahneman has concluded that human thinking comprises two mental systems.The trouble is, our brains are—in a word—lazy, says Kahneman.We default to System 1, and only with effort power up System 2.In an early study, Langer and Applebee (1987) observed that "process-oriented approaches to writing instruction [such as guiding students through brainstorming, journaling, and reviewing peers' work] have been relative ly in effective in helping students to think and write more clearly" (p. However, their small but indepth study suggested that properly designed writing assignments could support higher-level thinking.They recorded students engaging in think-alouds as they completed three different types of writing assignments about social studies texts: taking notes, answering study questions, and writing an analytical essay.The researchers also found, however, that the writing assignments most benefited students who had stronger critical-thinking skills in the first place. In other words, the analytical writing exercises seemed to have the same sort of Matthew effect that researchers have observed in reading—students who start with better skills increase their abilities at a faster rate than students who start with weaker skills (Stanovich, 1986). How writing shapes thinking: A study of teaching and learning. What may be more useful is to explicitly introduce students to the language of logic and reason, providing them with an approach to analyze their own and others' thinking. As University of Melbourne professor Tim van Gelder (2005) observes, "Instead of saying, 'That argument sucks,' the critical thinker can say that she does not accept the conclusion, even though she grants the premises, because the inference is an example of the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc" (p. In my own first semester of college, I enrolled in a logic course that turned out to be a fortuitous complement to freshman composition. Years ago, fresh out of college and armed with a handful of new neckties and a head full of good intentions, I found myself teaching a course for college freshmen titled "Thinking and Writing." As its title would suggest, the course was predicated on the notion that good writing and thinking are linked.My task, and that of the other graduate students who taught the class, was to help students become better thinkers and writers so they could deal with the intellectual rigors of college.


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