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Critical Thinking at Texas Tech


ARIES Acquiring Research Investigative and Evaluative Skills (a brief look early ... Special thanks to other ARIES folks Patricia Wallace, Zhiqiang Cai, Cristian ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Critical Thinking at Texas Tech

Critical Thinking at Texas Tech March 6, 2009
Teaching and Assessing Critical Thinking How to
Make Critical Thinking a REAL Learning Outcome
  • Diane F. Halpern, PhD
  • Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA

With special thanks to a lifetime of coauthors,
especially Milt Hakel, Art Graesser, Keith
Millis, my NCUEP Colleagues, and the real
thinkersour wonderful students
Our Studentsthe Millennials
  • They are the children of late Baby Boomers
    (1945-64) or Gen Xers (1965-81)
  • They spend 6.5 hours a day on various media
  • They are 36 of US population
  • They are more diverse than any prior group

Lets Start by Thinking About the Lives of Our
Students Present and Future
  • What do they need to know in a world where
    knowledge is accumulating an unprecedented rate?
  • Where our students will work at jobs that do not
    exist today.
  • Where a college degree is a requirement for 90
    of the fastest growing jobs.
  • Where pollution is a major problem, along with
    racism, poverty, and terrorist attacks

Information, information, information
  • "A weekday edition of The New York Times contains
    more information than the average person was
    likely to come across in a lifetime in 17th.
    century England."
  •  Information Anxiety, R.S.Wurman

  • Multitaskers--Attention is limited, and when it
    is divided among too many tasks or the tasks are
    difficult, performance suffers. Of course, people
    have always been able to multitask (that is,
    attend to more than one thing) Parents monitor
    their children while cooking dinner, we carry on
    conversations while walking, students do homework
    while listening to music, and so on. But those
    who overload their systems by, for example,
    studying while checking e-mail, instant
    messaging, and watching television will do worse
    at all these tasks than they would if they
    focused on one at a time.
  • The more they use the web, the more difficult it
    becomes to stay focused on long pieces of

Rethinking the Purpose of Education
  • The best education for life in the 21st century
    must be built on the twin pillars of "learning
    how to learn" and how to think critically about
    the vast array of information that confronts us.

Using What We Know About Teaching and Learning
  • Systematically apply what we know about how
    people learn to curricular design and class
  • Better use of technologyfor example learning
  • Recognize what students really need to knowhow
    to think critically and learn in a world where we
    are drowning in information

So, if you are thinking critically, you are
wondering if it is possible to help students
improve how they think? Why not? We teach
writing, oral communication, math with the belief
that these skills will transfer to appropriate
Evidence That Better Thinking Can Be Learned with
Appropriate Instruction
  • "Blind" evaluations of programs designed to
    enhance thinking skills (e.g., the Venezuela
  • Student self reports (weak evidence, but students
    believe that they have improved)
  • Gains in cognitive growth and development (e.g.,
    Piagetian tasks that measure cognitive stages)
  • More expert-like mental representations following
    instruction (relative to control groups)
  • Decision makers trained to reorganize existing
    knowledge in naturalistic settings showed more
    expert-like performance
  • Tests of cognitive skills (e.g., standardized
    tests for critical thinking)
  • Spontaneous and uncued transfer (e.g., call
    students at home months after the class is
    completed under the guise of a survey)
  • Inductive reasoning tasks were taught to college
    students using realistic scenarios form many
    different domains. The authors conclude that
    critical thinking is a skill and that it is

Most important robust finding
  • The majority of studies report positive impact
    on pupils attainment across a range of
    noncurriculum measures (such as reasoning or
    problem-solving). No studies reports reported
    negative impact on such measures (Thinking Skills
    Review Group, October 2003).

  • Critical thinking is the use of those cognitive
    skills and abilities that increase the
    probability of a desirable outcome.
  • It is purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed.
    It is the kind of thinking involved in solving
    problems, formulating inferences, calculating
    likelihoods, and making decisions. Critical
    thinkers use these skills appropriately, without
    prompting, and usually with conscious intent, in
    a variety of settings. That is, they are
    predisposed to think critically. When we think
    critically, we are evaluating the outcomes of our
    thought processes--how good a decision is or how
    well a problem is solved. Critical thinking also
    involves evaluating the thinking process--the
    reasoning that went into the conclusion we've
    arrived at or the kinds of factors considered in
    making a decision.

Important Robust Findings from Research
  • Critical thinking will transfer when it is taught
    for transfer.
  • The effect may not be even across all groups.
  • Some of the benefit derives from making the
    thinking skills explicit.
  • The disposition to think critically, like the
    learning-performance distinction is important

Thinking About Critical Thinking Instruction
Effective critical thinking instruction is
predicated on two assumptions
  • There are clearly identifiable and definable
    thinking skills that students can be taught to
    recognize and apply, and
  • (2) If recognized and applied, the students will
    be more effective thinkers.

Teaching Learning to Think Critically A
Four-Part Model
  • 1.Explicitly teach/learn the skills of critical
  • 2.Encourage/develop the disposition of effortful
    thinking and learning
  • 3.Direct learning activities in ways that
    increase the probability of transfer
  • 4.Make metacognitive monitoring explicit and
    overt (Halpern, 1998, 2004)

Here is a generic list of thinking skills that
would be applicable in many situations
  • recognizing that a problem exists
  • developing an orderly, planful approach so that
    tasks are prioritized and problems are recognized
    as differing with regard to how serious and
    urgent they are
  • understanding how cause is determined,
  • recognizing and criticizing assumptions,
  • analyzing means-goals relationships,
  • giving reasons to support a conclusion,
  • assessing degrees of likelihood and uncertainty,
  • incorporating isolated data into a wider
  • using analogies to solve problems.

Generic Thinking Skills, continued
  • Relating new knowledge to information that was
    previously learned
  • Using numerical information, including the
    ability to think probabilistically and express
    thoughts numerically
  • Using matrices and other diagrams to communicate
  • Synthesizing information from a variety of
  • Determining credibility and using this
    information in formulating and communicating
  • Selecting among alternatives with the use of a
    reasoned method

Build on critical thinking skills throughout the
  • Identify the skills you want students to learn in
    your General Education critical thinking courses,
    then be sure they are used in other classes
  • Deliberately add new skills throughout the
    curriculummay be some differences by discipline,
    but ensure overlap among GE courses
  • Some critical thinking skills that are firmly
    rooted in psychology
  • Understanding that small samples yield more
    extreme results
  • Recognizing and avoiding hindsight bias
  • Knowing why we need control groups
  • Avoiding either-or thinking (e.g., is it nature
    or nurture)
  • Being aware of the fallibility of memory
  • Self-serving attributes for success and failure
  • Halo effects

Making Arguments Worksheet Example 1 Does
violence on television really have a negative
influence on children's behavior? 1. State your
conclusion. (although you may begin your formal
writing here, but sure that the conclusion
follows from your reasons). As you work, this is
the last part this is filled in, not the
first.   2. Give three reasons (or some other
number) that support your conclusion.   3. Rate
each reason as weak, moderate, strong, or very
4. Give three counterarguments (or some other
number) that weaken your conclusion. Rate how
much each counterargument weakens the conclusion
little, moderate, much, or very much.   5. List
any qualifiers (limitations on the reasons for or
againstfor example some evidence may be
restricted to early childhood)   6. List any
assumptions.   7. Are your reasons and
counterarguments directly related to your
conclusion?   8. What is the overall strength of
your argument weak, moderate, strong, or very
strong? Now that you have completed this
worksheet, rate the overall strength of your
Dispositions for effortful thinking and learning
Model and provide explicit instruction in the
  • willingness to engage in and persist at a complex
  • conscious use of plans and suppression of
  • flexibility and open-mindedness
  • willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies
    and self-correct

We need to direct learning activities that make
transfer more likely
  • Draw a diagram/graphic that organizes
  • What additional information would you want before
    answering the question?
  • Explain why you selected (a particular) multiple
    choice question.
  • State the problem in at least two ways.
  • Which information is most important? Why?
  • Which information is least important? Why?
  • Categorize the information in a meaningful way.

What Makes Great Teachers Great?
  • Create a natural critical learning environment.
    "Natural" because what matters most is for
    students to tackle questions and tasks that they
    naturally find of interest, make decisions,
    defend their choices, sometimes come up short,
    receive feedback on their efforts, and try again.
    "Critical" because by thinking critically,
    students learn to reason from evidence and to
    examine the quality of their reasoning, to make
    improvements while thinking, and to ask probing
    and insightful questions. This is, by far, the
    most important principle -- the one on which all
    others are based and which commands the greatest
  • Ken Bain
  • Chronicle of Higher Education, April9, 2004
    Volume 50, Issue 31, Page B7

Measuring Critical Thinking
Halperns Taxonomy of Critical Thinking Skills A
Guide for Instruction Assessment
Halperns Critical Thinking Assessment
  • Verbal reasoning ability to comprehend defend
    against persuasive techniques embedded in
    everyday language
  • Argument Analysis ability to judge how well
    evidence supports a conclusion
  • Hypothesis testing accumulating observations,
    forming beliefs/hypotheses/seeking convergent

HCTA, continued
  • Likelihood Uncertainty recognizing regression
    to the mean, understanding the limits of
    extrapolation probability chance.
  • Decision making/problem solving Seeking
    information to reduce uncertainty listing
    alternatives recognizing bias.

Assessing Critical Thinking the Halpern
Critical Thinking Assessment (HCTA)
  • Available on the Internet/Paper (2 versions)
  • Scenario-based
  • Each competency is evaluated with forced- choice
    constructed responses
  • Forced-choice recognition memory
  • Constructed response free recall

Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment Sample
  • A recent report in a magazine for parents showed
    that adolescents who smoke cigarettes also tend
    to get low grades in school. As the number of
    cigarettes smoked each day increase, GPA
    decreased. One suggestion made in this report
    was that we could improve school achievement by
    preventing adolescents from smoking.
  • Based on this information, would you support this
    idea as a way of improving the school achievement
    of adolescents who smoke?
  • Type yes or no and explain why or why not.

  • Based on this information, which is the best
  • 1. School grades probably will improve if we
    prevent adolescents from smoking.
  • 2. School grades might increase, but we cannot be
    certain because we only know that grades go down
    when smoking increases.
  • 3. There is no way to know because we only know
    that smoking and grades are related, not whether
    smoking causes grades to change.
  • 4. There will probably be no effect on grades
    if we prevent adolescents from smoking because
    the magazine is written for parents, so it is
    probably biased against teen smoking.

  • Based on this information, which is the best
  • 1. School grades probably will improve if we
    prevent adolescents from smoking.
  • 2. School grades might increase, but we cannot be
    certain because we only know that grades go down
    when smoking increases.
  • 3. There is no way to know because we only know
    that smoking and grades are related, not whether
    smoking causes grades to change.
  • 4. There will probably be no effect on grades
    if we prevent adolescents from smoking because
    the magazine is written for parents, so it is
    probably biased against teen smoking.

IES Grant that is incorporating what we know
about the science of Learning
  • A program to teach critical thinking/ scientific
    reasoning skills using what we know about current
    students (play games on line, use teaching
    agents, and more).
  • Grant is with Keith Millis at Northern Illinois
    University and Art Graesser at University of
    Memphis(they are the brains behind this project)
  • ARIES Acquiring Research Investigative and
    Evaluative Skills (a brief look early in the
  • Special thanks to other ARIES folksPatricia
    Wallace, Zhiqiang Cai, Cristian Moldovan, Carol
    Forsyth, Anne Britt, Joseph Magliano, Katja Wiemer

ARIES Acquiring Research Investigative and
Evaluative Skills
  • Animated Agentsa teacher and a student guide the
    student through the tutor lessons and will be an
    expert on scientific inquirythe heart of
    critical thinking
  • For example My roommate and I got into an
    argument yesterday on who was more influential on
    hip hop James Brown or Stevie Wonder to which
    the Teacher-Agent might respond, You know, you
    could have resolved the argument by using what
    scientists call an operational definition.

Some Key Concepts in Scientific Inquiry
  • Developing Research Ideas
  • Theories, hypotheses, pseudoscience,
  • The Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Operational definitions, reliability, accuracy,
    precision, validity, objectivity of scoring
  • Experimental Control
  • Comparison groups, random assignment, subject
    bias, attrition/mortality
  • The Sample Experimenter
  • Representative, sample size, experimenter bias,
    conflict of interest
  • Drawing conclusion
  • Alternative interpretations, limits of
    correlation research, quasi-experimental designs,
    replication of results

ARIES Acquiring Research Investigative and
Evaluative Skills
  • We use science of learning in the program
  • Self-explanation
  • Generate reasons why a study is faulty or not
  • Reciprocal teaching
  • Students teach the fellow student
  • Spacing, testing effects
  • Students must recognize concepts across many
  • Variable encoding
  • Psychology, biology and chemistry problems
  • Authentic learning
  • Case studies are magazine, news articles,
  • Motivation, engagement
  • Consequences for their performance
  • Auto-tutor platform that allows students to hold
    a dynamic conversation with the learner (dialog
  • Principles of serious gaming.

Operation ARIES! Your mission to become an
agent of the Federal Bureau of Science (FBS) to
hunt down Fuath spies who are on Earth stealing
our resources. Be careful because they look and
act human! The Fuaths have been publishing
faulty research in a variety of fields in order
to confuse future human generations about the
scientific method. They are also milking our
economy dry by selling products on the Internet,
based on suspect research.
Aliens taking over the earth with bad sciencenow
that is scary!!
How can you become an FBS agent?
Step 1 Take a Science Training Course
You will learn key concepts in the scientific
method like control groups, validity,
independent and dependent variables (20 in
all). You will read (and be tested on) a science
book used by the Fuath spies. You will be guided
by an FBS handler and be joined by a fellow
(animated) student
How can you become an FBS agent?
Step 2 Analyze Case Studies
You will analyze examples of research written by
the Fuaths. They are from magazines, the
Internet, and newspapers, covering topics in
Psychology, Biology and Chemistry. With help
from your FBS handler and a Fuath defector, you
will learn to identify flaws in the research.
Pay attention because the Fuaths use the flaws to
communicate with one another. You will likely
uncover important clues to their plans.
How can you become an FBS agent?
Step 3 Interrogate Suspected Alien Scientist
You are close to finding and stopping the
mastermind behind the invasion. FBS has
captured a number of scientists, some of whom are
Fuaths and some whom are Human. It is your job
to tell the difference between them by asking
questions about their research. If a study is
faulty, then you have found a Fuath and you are
one step closer to saving the Earth. Be alert!
A Sample Screen
Example of Research to Evaluate Students Have to
Ask Questions
Scientific Thinking/ Critical Thinking
  • For each chapter
  • Multiple choice questions
  • Types Definitional, Function/importance, Example
  • 2 of each, 6 total
  • Challenge Test
  • Options take before or after reading chapter
  • If before, and any error on first three, then
    given chapter
  • Order of questions
  • D F E D F E
  • Trialog after the last 3 questions

Types of Trialogs
  • Dr. Quinn (teacher) to Glass (student agent)
  • Vicarious learning for students with low scores
  • Low knowledge good for vicarious learning (Craig
    et al., 2004)
  • Dr. Quinn (teacher) to human
  • Standard AutoTutor for students with intermediate
  • Partial knowledge, zone of proximal development
  • Human to Glass Tealman (student agent)
  • Teachable agent for students getting all or most
    questions correct
  • Reinforce and use existing knowledge

Here is an example of a session in which the
student evaluates information to decide if the
person doing the research is a human (good
research) or an alien (flawed research)
  • ARIES is an initial attempt to incorporate
    AutoTutor in a game-like setting
  • Dialogs in AT
  • Make learning active, increasing motivation
  • Can serve different tasks (testing, evaluating
    studies, promoting questioning skills,
    advancing story line)
  • Making engaging games that lead to deep learning
    is still a new frontier in education

Many Experiments are Underway
  • 1. Does Having Different Content Domains in ARIES
    Increase Transfer?
  • 2. Does Role Playing and the Type of Activity
    Affect Learning?
  • 3. Do We Need Full Dialog Exchanges for all
    Active Applications Problems for Deep Learning to
  • 4. Does the Reciprocal Teaching in ARIES Affect
  • 5. Does the Effectiveness of Teachable Agents
    Depend on the Perceived Knowledge of the Agent?

Contact Information
  • Dr. Diane F. Halpern
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • 850 Columbia Ave.
  • Claremont, CA 91711
  • (909) 607-9647
  • To try out the critical thinking assessment, send
    an e-mail to