The Instructor’s Challenge: Moving Students beyond Opinions to Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is defined as a reflective and reasonable thought process embodying depth, accuracy, and astute judgment to determine the merit of a decision, an object, or a theory (Alwehaibi, 2012). Creative thinking involves analysis, evaluation, and a synthesizing of facts, ideas, opinions, and theories. Possessing the capacity to logically and creatively exercise in-depth judgment and reflection to work effectively in the realm of complex ideas exemplifies a critical thinker (Carmichael & Farrell, 2012).

Mere thinking might lead a student to engage in the offering personal opinions or life experiences to address a topic, yet the challenge for an instructor is to move students beyond offering personal opinions. Gaining additional thinking skills prompts a student to research the existing body of topical knowledge and respond by repeating the ideas and theories of experts in the subject matter. Quoting scholarly authors is a step above proffering personal beliefs and perceptions, yet regurgitating the thoughts of others does not equate to critical thinking.

As instructors, the goal should be to create a learning environment that causes students to engage in critical reflection and evaluation of the existing literature to render judgment based on a compilation of synthesized evidence. Although a student’s opinion might be relevant and provide a bridge for additional discussion, the challenge is to prompt students to provide justifications and founded explanations of their views. What does a student learn if the only criteria for the assignment is read the textbook and tell me what the author said? An effective method for beginning to teach the critical thinking process is for the instructor to respond to students with research-supported replies. By the instructor setting the example, students at least have the opportunity to view a reflective, evaluative response.


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