A Very Nice Place to Start

On my way out to the ELI Annual meeting in San Antonio, I started reading Derek Bok’s Our Underachieving Colleges.  It’s fascinating reading, and I know the book is something our president has been discussing recently.

I don’t have enough time to respond to everything I’m reading, but Bok has a definition of critical thinking that is good enough that I want to write it down someplace.  Too long for a tweet, so it will live here.

Bok says of critical thinking:

Among these qualities are an ability to recognize and define problems clearly, to identify the arguments and interests on all sides of an issue, to gather relevant facts and appreciate their relevance, to perceive as many plausible solutions as possible, and to exercise good judgement in choosing the best of these alternatives after considering the evidence and using inference, analogy, and other forms of ordinary reasoning to test the cogency of the arguments.

Bok goes on to say that critical thinking also may include “certain basic quantitative habits.”  I think his definition is a great starting point.  What’s missing?  What could be expanded upon or clarified?

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2 Responses to A Very Nice Place to Start

  1. Gene Roche says:

    I’ve been meaning to read the Bok book for some time, and seeing you actually carrying it at ELI may be the inspiration for me to finally buy it. I like the definition of critical thinking as a starting place, but I think “perceive as many plausible solutions as possible” is a little weak. I think Gardner has made the point that we need students who can “imagine” or “invent” alternatives, and those verbs may be more appropriate. Also, a contemporary definition of critical thinking may need some component of collaboration and communication as part of the testing process.

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