Exploration Exercise for Instructors
Exploration: Choose one course that you are currently teaching or will be teaching next
semester, and set aside a block of time each week or each class meeting to emphasize and practice
critical thinking in your discipline area. Create a name for this time, for example "CT Time" or
"Monday's Critical Think," so students begin to recognize and expect it. Acknowledging that critical
thinking is the focus of the exercise will help students begin to examine process as well as the
content of the discussion.
One suggestion for your weekly critical thinking time is to begin the class with a problem or
controversy that is relevant to the current course material. Then focus on assisting students to
practice the five activities listed in section II: thinking actively, carefully exploring situations,
thinking for themselves, viewing situations from different perspectives, and supporting diverse
perspectives with reason and evidence.
For example, you might find a controversial issue that is addressed from two different
perspectives in two web sites. You can show the two web sites at the beginning of class and ask
students to determine what questions they would ask the authors of the web sites, so the students can
draw their own conclusions. As the instructor, you could role-play the parts of both authors and
answer students' questions or bring in a guest speaker to class to play the part of the second author.
Each student can then write about his/her perspective on the issue and support the perspective with
reason and evidence.
As the semester progresses, you can ask student teams to be responsible for researching and
presenting a current problem.
Assist students to define, understand and value critical thinking. Have
students visit web sites about critical thinking. Students can start with a search engine like google
(www.google.com) and type in "critical thinking" in the key word
search or further define their search given your perimeters by adding "education," "employment" or
others. There is a multitude of web sites and the vastness of information can be overwhelming, but it
can also assist students to see what an important role critical thinking plays in life. Have each
student report on one web site including in her report the definition of critical thinking, reasons
given in the site for the importance of developing critical thinking skills and any activities in the
web site that assist individuals to build critical thinking skills. If you assign students to work
in teams, have them view 3-5 web sites and also rank the web sites from most useful to least useful
A variation of this exercise is to send students to specific web sites that you have previously
viewed and know contain valuable information on critical thinking. Here is a suggested web site for
www.sjsu.edu:80/depts/itl/index.html. This web site, designed and maintained by San Jose State University, is called " Mission Critical." It
is an interactive instructional site designed to promote and teach critical thinking. It has great
information and fun interactive quizzes. Some of the topics covered include arguments, common
fallacies and applied critical thinking. Note: like many educational sites, "Mission Critical" asks
for your feedback. This can serve as an opportunity for real-life application for your students.
Student reports can be prepared for the author of the site and used to help improve the site for
Exercise Two: Ask students to think critically about and evaluate web sites. We use
web sites to research an array of topics in our personal lives, and students may be asked to use web
sites for research in your course or other courses. Assist students to determine the validity of the
sites by giving them direct instruction in this area. Ask students to explore and evaluate three web
sites that are pertinent to the course material. You will probably want to give students a list of
acceptable topics for search purposes. For example, if you teach Child Development, the list might
include disciplining children, diagnosing learning difficulties, mainstreaming children, and prenatal
development. Have students visit the following web site to obtain a web evaluation checklist or ask
student to create criteria for evaluating web sites or modify an the existing web evaluation check
www.ithaca.edu/library/training/hott.html. (This site also provides a presentation mode. If you have Internet access in your classroom, you
can present this material to students and as a group create a classroom web evaluation checklist by
modifying the one shown here. The information is presented in a colorful and interactive format and
includes a sample exercise comparing two web sites that supply statistical information about
There are many web sites that deal with the issue of evaluating web sites. For an interesting
twist on this exercise, you can have your students evaluate the validity and usefulness of "web
evaluation" web sites. Many of the sites have great suggestions that students can put to immediate
use. For suggested web evaluation sites, visit the Helpful Resources section of this module.
C. Skill Connections:
- Invisible Curriculum: Developing
critical thinking skills will assist students to make better decisions about their education and their
lives. The Invisible Curriculum module discusses other ways that instructors can help students take
responsibility for their learning.
- Active Learning: Critical thinking can be
taught to students. The Active Learning module provides examples of strategies that can be used to
teach critical thinking through collaborative and student-centered learning.
- Paired Courses: One of the most effective ways to teach critical thinking skills is to
pair a critical thinking skills course with a discipline course. Students have an entire course
devoted to learning critical thinking skills (a crucial need in higher education and life) and have
the opportunity to apply that learning immediately to the content of another course. In addition, the
content instructor can provide reinforcement of the critical thinking skills by employing critical
thinking activities in his/her classroom.
IV. Frequently Asked
Q: I have a lot of content material to teach. How can I justify spending time
teaching critical thinking?
A: Directly teaching critical thinking skills will help students to be
successful in your course and help students learn to analyze and apply the course materials creating
higher level learning for students. The time spent teaching critical thinking skills may replace time
previously spent explaining the importance of concepts and connections that students can now determine
Q: Can you teach critical thinking without technology resources?
A: Absolutely. This module suggests using the World Wide Web as a source of content to teach
critical thinking for two reasons. First, web sites provide engaging, current and easily accessible
material on a variety of issues and interactive exercises in critical thinking. Secondly, it is
important that students, and everyone, employ critical thinking skills when using information that is
found on a web site.
VI. Helpful Resources
Learn more about critical
www.criticalthinking.org. This web
site, The Center for Critical Thinking, is sponsored by many educational non-profit organizations
including the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking. The site provides research and
assignment for use by educators from primary to university level.
www.thinkersway.com. This is John Chaffee's web site and
provides an interactive quiz, "How Effective a Critical Thinker Am I?" It also has a wonderful
section on problem solving as well as other activities.
www.philosophy.unimelb.edu.au/reason/critical/. This site has an extensive directory of quality on-line resources.
Learn more about evaluating
web sites: www.slu.edu/departments/english/research/. This is a web search and evaluation guide tutorial. It was designed for first-year writing students,
but can easily be used by all students.
www.library.ucla.edu/libraries/college/help/critical/index.htm. This site, "Thinking Critically
About World Wide Web Resources," also has a page on thinking critically about discipline-based www
www.namss.org.uk/evaluate.htm. This is a
wonderful site with a multitude of links for sites that deal with everything from web evaluation to
plagiarism. Some great interactive sites here too!
Learn more about the books mentioned in this module: www.hmco.com. Browse Houghton Mifflin Company's college catalog for more
information on John Chaffe's textbook The Thinker's Guide to College Success as well as other
critical thinking texts.
www.edwdebono.com. This site provides information about
de Bono's Thinking Course and Edward de Bono's other books.
Learn more about workshops on critical thinking: www.facultytraining.com to attend a workshop on this topic
or bring one to your campus, visit this site or call Faculty Development Programs at (800) 856-5727.
Learn the answer to the brainteaser: Henry Smith was the officiating clergyman at each of the