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Critical Thinking about Psychology

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Teaching and Learning Critical Thinking Skills
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Part A
Commonly, learners face major challenges when learning critical thinking skills that can dramatically fluctuate. Learning cognitive skills varies, from trivially easy to insufferably difficult. There are various reasons for the variations including the quantity information the learner is supposed to receive and process and the complexity of the information. Shaw (2014) cites some cases where the tasks to be done have the same amount of information but different in terms of the effort that is necessary to come to a level of mastery. The learners can find procedures and concepts in some areas of the curriculum highly obstinate, making it hard to master. Teaching thinking skills can prove even more challenging, but with effective teaching strategies students end up achieving the required level of mastery. In this essay, I will discuss Teaching Thinking Skills applying the Cognitive Load theory, and discuss development Thinking Skills program applying H.O.T.S. (Higher-Order Thinking Skills).
According to Senay Sen (2013) critical thinking is necessary for the modern life where people are facing major challenges as a result of the increase in the amounts of information that have to be infused into the mind and processed. The modern world is also characterized by complex problems as well as major social and technological changes. This means that critical thinking is at the center of every effort to instill knowledge into the minds of the learners (Angeli & Valanides, 2009).

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Regardless of passively supporting or disputing this perspective of reasoning, scholars in critical thinking apply analytical skills in the efforts to understand and assess its merits, in terms of weaknesses and strengths. Kuhn and Udell (2007) stress that capacity to assume convincing arguments is participate in sound the key element of effective critical thinking as well as in developing the necessary decision-making skills.
To become effective in critical thinking and decision making, it is necessary that a learner is successful taught how to think and reason, as Shaw (2014) emphasizes. Thus, researchers have come up with theories to assist in the understanding of how to effectively teach cognitive or thinking skills. Among these theories is cognitive load theory that appears to bring in a promising framework for teaching and learning about learning activities and development of cognitive functioning. The builds upon the extensively acknowledged human information processing model (see figure 1 below). The theory suggests that the process has three critical components: “sensory memory, working memory and long-term memory” (Senay Sen 2013, p. 43).
Figure 1: Information Processing Model (Atkinson and Shiffrin, 1968)

Cognitive Information Processing theory is associated with memory. Given the fact that memory is a prerequisite for more complex cognitive functions like analysis, comprehension, and synthesis, it is believed, from the point of view of the theory that information progresses via corresponding series of units; short-term store, the sensory register, or temporary working memory, as well as permanent or long term store. Shaw (2014) suggests that the idea that information is retained in the temporary memory is sufficient for the information to be moved to the permanent store is questionable. Similarly, maintaining information for a long time or increasing the likelihood of transfer might not essentially cause improved learning.
This theory has a major contribution to learning and education by applying human cognitive architecture in understanding how to structure an effective instruction using the most effective teaching strategies. The theory assumes working memory resources being limited when the processing of information is taking place. Holt, et al. (2015) suggests the necessity of schemas in learning, decision making and problem solving. Where this is the case, there are conditions that are required for the acquisition of the schemas to effectively take place. Thus, the theory is necessary to achieve effectiveness in inculcating the required knowledge in the minds of the learners as it suggests the quantity of information that the mind is capable of holding at any particular time. Thus, given the limited capacity of the working memory, it is important to avoid its overload with extra activities which do not support learning.
In teaching critical thinking skills, it is important to teach the students how to use wise judgment in decision making as well as to be able to give a reasoned-out argument and critique. Thus, the main goal of teaching critical thinking skills is provide the learners with what it takes to be wise by directing them towards effective decision-making abilities exercise reasoned judgment. There are various skills, as Howard, Tang & Jill Austin (2015) posit, that the students should be taught to come to this level of reasoning, including the capability to judge a source’s credibility; recognize assumptions, bias and generalization; recognize nuance in use of language; recognize the audience; comprehend the purpose of a spoken or written text; and to make critical judgments in relation to relative effectiveness of different applied strategies to a text’s purpose.
In the area of problem-solving, Holt, et al (2015) defines it as the incurring of a problem in case the learner is seeking to achieve a particular goal or outcome but does not directly recognize the most effective solution or the path to reaching the solution. The problem being solved is the reaching of the projected objective. Given that the student is not able to automatically realize the most effective way of reaching the solution, the application of critical thinking skills come into play. Howard, Tang & Jill Austin (2015) use the term problem solving in defining these thinking processes. They can comprise learning with understanding, remembering information, formulation of creative alternatives, critical evaluation of ideas, and effective communication.
Benjamin (2008) furthers the argument by suggesting that critical thinking is being able to be responsive to information as opposed to simply accepting all the information one receives. Critical thinkers are able to question all the information encountered. Thus, teachers should begin from the understanding that critical thinking is at the core of all subjects including scientific, mathematical, philosophical, as well as historical and economic thinking. All these are necessary to production of a holistic student who is capable of positively contributing to the development of the society. At the core of the effective teaching of critical thinking skills is the understanding of the effective design of the instruction.
While there are various ways of developing effective instruction programs to enhance development of critical thinking, this paper proposes a program developed using
H.O.T.S. (Higher-Order Thinking Skills), H.O.T.S. was proposed Stanley Pogrow, and it is a computer-based thinking program effective in teaching students from grades 4 through 8. Rather than a focus on the conventional drill-and-practice activities and content areas’ supplementary instruction, this program has a focus on “the basic thinking processes that underlie all learning” (Pogrow, 1987, p. 11). This model of teaching thinking skills is especially important in teaching students who have challenges developing critical thinking capability.
In implementing the H.O.T.S. program, the use of computer-mediated teaching strategies is emphasized. According to Benjamin (2008), it is the computers that help in achieving the improvement of metacognition skills, decontextualization, inference from context, and information synthesis. As a result, the learners enhance their understanding and become confidence in their capability to learn. Thus, the program is implemented, not an end in itself, but as the means to develop the cognitive skills critical for effective learning and academic performance.
The main assumption in the use of H.O.T.S. to develop instruction aimed at developing critical thinking skills is that learning is not static or fixed, but dynamic in nature and hence, modifiable. As a result, such a program is effective in correcting deficiencies in basic thinking skills, providing the learners with the necessary skills, concepts, operations, strategies, and techniques required to operate as independent learners, to diagnosing and, and helping them to learn the way to learn. A well designed program must have elements that serve as a motivation for the student, have specific details of what is to be learned, apply prior knowledge, prompt the student to remember, offer information that is new, provide feedback and guidance, assess understanding, and supply remediation (Grantz & Gruber, 2014).
Angeli & Valanides (2009) suggest the importance of the cognitive thinking program being designed from a constructivist perspective, which is student-centred. This means that the content of the instruction should be based on the needs of individual students and their needs in terms of information processing and problem solving abilities. In setting up the course, the teacher will provide the course materials on the computer and engage the students in thoughtful discussions relating to the material. Students will be engaged in using theories, distinguishing between facts, using examples, evaluating the content, and engaging in reasoned arguments.
A teaching approach with an emphasis on higher order thinking skills has been revealed in research to be more effective in achievement of higher scores in math and reading comprehension, especially for challenged students (Pogrow, 1987). The program distinguishes the use of this approach from the traditional approaches to learning, suggesting the need to think when solving a problem, as opposed to remembering what was taught by the teacher. Thus, in teaching, using this approach, the teacher should engage the students in solving problems on their own as opposed to providing them with information they should remember during an assessment. A research by Angeli & Valanides (2009) analyzing classroom tests as revealed that majority of the teacher-made tests necessitate information recall.
A more influential predictor for learning is the depth as well as the richness of the encoding of the material (Grantz & Gruber, 2014). This means that instruction emphasizing rote learning, recall, repetition, and other kinds of short-term memory retrieval approaches might be less effective compared to those that incorporate means of manipulating current information like utilizing it in creating a new product or to verify a hypothesis. The cognitive readiness of the students for tasks is another important factor that entails abstract as well as deductive reasoning. This means that learners should be trained to question, explore, and problem-solve in the classroom.
From the point of view of mental processes, the commonly-accepted Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy of the cognitive domain is a theoretical framework which uses a blend thinking skills of lower and higher order in instruction and assessment. Teachers’ questioning technique is central to this perspective. Studies have revealed that most teachers constantly pose sets of questions which necessitate learners to simply memorize and recall information that is factual (Grantz & Gruber, 2014). On the contrary, factual recollection is a pre-condition for complex cognitive functions, analytic and critical thinking is promoted when leaders are motivated to regularly interpret, evaluate, analyze, or synthesize.
Learning goals of education curricula highlight the need for critically thinking. Nonetheless, there appears to be inconsistencies in the interpretation of the learning objectives. The achievement of this goal, however, necessitates that the teachers are teaching with their eyes towards critical thinking skills. Research has revealed a number of ways of teaching critical thinking as well as embedding it across the curriculum in education. As a process, it is the “intellectual process of actively conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by observation, experience, reflection, reasoning or communication, as a guide to belief and action” (Grantz & Gruber, 2014, p. 1525).
Howard, Tang & Jill Austin (2015) contend that critical thinking can be applied to all areas of study and all disciplines, achieving the benefits discussed in research. Teachers can use various approaches and strategies in applying the principles of critical thinking into the curriculum and the learning process. These strategies include posing questions for searching, directing the learners to perform their independent research, motivating learners to challenge or question assertions, and presenting their independent fact-supported positions.
Generally, in supporting learners to become critical thinkers there is a need to change pedagogy and the curriculum in general. With the understanding of what is meant by critical thinking and the theories that inform it, it is important that educators examine the curriculum to adopt them to stimulating critical thinking among the students. It is also necessary that the educators reflect on their own practices, and decide the extent to which they model critical thinking and the changes that should be made towards this end (Howard & Jill Austin, 2015). The educators should also develop the tendency of observing the students more carefully with the intention of identifying diagnostic purposes, behaviors, as well as attitudes which make it possible for the educators to come up with some judgment regarding the quality of their thinking. For instance, do the cues from the students suggest the need to allow more time for questions, making connections or adding more information?
Summarily, teachers are required to facilitate the development of problem-solving skills and teach more advanced information-gathering skills that will make the learners discover the correct resources that will enable them to address complex problems. Critical thinking in teaching suggests the philosophical shift in the teaching focus from learning to thinking; drilling and practice to problem-based learning; output to process, and subject isolation to subject integration. It is also important for the teachers to shift from what is convenient to what is necessary, both presently and in the future.
Part B
Annotated bibliography
Angeli, C., & Valanides, C. (2009). Instructional effects on critical thinking: Performance on ill-defined issues. Learning and Instruction, 19, 322-334.
This article documents a research to study effectiveness in teaching and developing critical thinking skills. The results of the study revealed that different methods of teaching critical thinking skills produce differing results. Thus, the authors suggest the importance of implementing the most effective method based on the needs of the learners.
Atkinson, R.C.; Shiffrin, R.M. (1968). “Chapter: Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes”. In Spence, K.W.; Spence, J.T. The psychology of learning and motivation (Volume 2). New York: Academic Press. pp. 89–195.
In this chapter, the authors propose an important model of understanding information processing, as relates to critical thinking. The chapter suggests this as the basic model for understanding the teaching of thinking skills to students. Therefore, the information from the chapter provides a critical background for research in any research on the teaching of critical thinking skills, as it relates to information processing.
Benjamin, R. (2008). The Case for Comparative Institutional Assessment of Higher-Order Thinking Skills. Change, 40(6), 50-55.
The significance of comparative assessments is emphasized by the author in this article. Development of higher-order thinking skills is emphasized as the most basic consideration in the development of curriculum in the modern education context. The author suggests the reasons for the principal focus on higher-order thinking skills, including the value they add to education.
Grantz, R. E., & Gruber, R. (2014). “How Well Did I Learn What I Learned?” The Art of Self Assessment. Journal Of The Academy Of Business Education, 1523-40.
This article aimed at describing procedures for self-assessment utilized in an accounting context in a liberal arts training program. Such assessment is critical to understanding the level of critical thinking skills development in older students. The importance of self-assessment as a lifelong skill is the primary focus of this important article. The article also relates to the development of the higher-order cognitive skills to perform better in subjects such as accounting.
Holt, E. A., Young, C., Keetch, J., Larsen, S., & Mollner, B. (2015). The Greatest Learning Return on Your Pedagogical Investment: Alignment, Assessment or In-Class Instruction?. PloS ONE, 10(9), 1-19
This study is based on the understanding of the most programs for preparing adults for college and work. The authors suggest the importance of developing skills such as thinking skills to produce the kind of workforce required to deal with the complex challenges in the modern labor market. A concept mapping and problem-based learning are recommended as beign capable of promoting achievement of higher-order thinking skills by the learners.
Howard, L., Tang, T., & Jill Austin, M. (2015). Teaching Critical Thinking Skills: Ability, Motivation, Intervention, and the Pygmalion Effect. Journal Of Business Ethics, 128(1), 133-147.
The authors used a Solomon four-group design in investigating the impact of an intervention in critical thinking on critical thinking of students. The results revealed the importance of effectively implemented programs in developing critical thinking skills and improving overall academic performance. The authors also provide important information on what it means to implement such effective programs.
Kuhn, D., & Udell, W. (2007). Coordinating own and other perspectives in the argument. Thinking & Reasoning, 13, 90–104.
The authors in this article define what it means to have a reasoned argument. The answer lies in the development of cognitive skills. The authors suggest different ways of teaching these skills given that learners at different levels of development learn these skills differently. They also suggest the importance of developing the epistemological understanding of the importance of reasoned argument as well as of opposing positions in any argument, based on the objective of the argument.
Pogrow, S. (1987). “The HOTS Program: The Role of Computers in Developing Thinking Skills.” TECHTRENDS 32/2 10-13.
The article provides critical information on the ways the H.O.T.S (Higher Order Thinking Skills) program perspective is different from others in teaching critical thinking skills. According to the author, who is also its main proponent, the difference comes in because of the application of computer in teaching and developing thinking skills. The article has an emphasis on the necessity of instructional software to enable the challenged students to make inferences, instead of simply instructing them on inferences.
Senay Sen, H. (2013). Reflective thinking skills of primary school students based on problem solving ability. International Journal Of Academic Research, 5(5), 41-48
The study in this article is based on the importance of reflective thinking skills, which is the element of questioning, assessment and reasoning. The study revealed a gender-based understanding of reflective thinking skills, with females revealed to score higher in this than male students. Other factors involved include education of parents, levels of income, and interest in education. Understanding such factors can influence effective implementation of critical thinking teaching programs.
Shaw, R. D. (2014). How Critical Is Critical Thinking?. Music Educators Journal, 101(2), 65-70.
The author presents the importance of critical thinking skills in the 21st century, and goes ahead to propose some of the effective ways of developing the skills. The importance of the skills in problem solving and decision making are particularly stressed. Training of students in critical thinking skills is revealed as being important in various areas including music. The importance of student learning in developing critical skills is a central argument in this important article for the research.

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