Critical Thinking Skills

Read these four tutorials on critical thinking. As you read, compare the abilities that a person acquires after becoming a critical thinker with your own goals as a student, as well as with your future career and life goals.

Teaching Critical Thinking

In a survey conducted by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, 99.6% of university teachers agreed that critical thinking is an "very important" or "essential" goal for undergraduate education. (HERI (2009) The American College Teacher: National Norms for 2007–2008. Higher Education Research Institute, University of California.)

But how should critical thinking be taught? There are lots of different issues to be investigated, such as:

    • Should critical thinking be taught as a separate subject on its own, or should it be taught in combination with other specific subjects that the students are studying?
    • Which are the topics that are most crucial? How useful are lessons in formal logic or Venn diagrams? How should we go about designing a curriculum?

Research from education psychology and cognitive science are very much relevant when designing an effective pedagogy for teaching critical thinking. Here is a research article on this topic commissioned by our website:

Tim van Gelder (2004) "Teaching Critical Thinking: Lessons from Cognitive Science"

A later version is published as van Gelder, T. J. (2005). Teaching Critical Thinking: Some Lessons from Cognitive Science. College Teaching, 53, 41-6.

Abstract: This article draws six key lessons from cognitive science for teachers of critical thinking. The lessons are: acquiring expertise in critical thinking is hard; practice in critical thinking skills themselves enhances skills; the transfer of skills must be practiced; some theoretical knowledge is required; diagramming arguments ("argument mapping") promotes skill; and students are prone to belief preservation. The article provides some guidelines for teaching practice in light of these lessons.