Implications of Different Forms of Critical Thinking

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Presented by Neil M. Browne at the Speaking About English Online Conference on October 17, 2013.

College catalogs often tout the emphasis on critical thinking in their curriculum and classrooms. Critical thinking has a ring to it that makes it seem like something we should be doing, or even are already doing. But when we do not wrestle together about what manner of critical thinking we intend to encourage, many of the noble intentions associated with critical thinking are actualized as a cacophonous din. Many things termed “critical thinking” in one classroom are contradictory to the practices known as “critical thinking” in the classroom next door. In the interest of appealing to colleagues to discuss openly the form and ramifications of what they are calling “critical thinking,” Neil Browne will present two things. First, he will identify several forms of critical thinking discovered in the survey responses of California teachers who claimed they were actively teaching critical thinking. Then he will suggest the implicit assumptions about higher education present in each of these forms. Second, he will suggest the desirability of one form of critical thinking; not to argue that there should be only one true form, but rather to suggest the desirability of experimenting with this particular form.


Neil is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Economics and Law and Senior Scholar at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. In addition to teaching courses in Critical Thinking and Great Ideas, he manages the admissions, mentoring, and programming needs of a learning community of 40 students whose interdisciplinary curriculum and research is anchored in critical thinking and ethical reasoning. In addition to having won numerous national, state and local teaching awards, he has published research articles on a broad range of topics, from the role of markets in distorting values to rhetoric in the social sciences, the role of metaphors in shaping disciplinary perspectives, the implications of cross-cultural differences in attitudes toward individualism, pay equity, cognitive biases and the pretentions of expertise, the inappropriateness of the customer metaphor for students, and the conflict between students evaluations and the encouragement of an optimal learning environment. Among his more than 50 books and editions in developmental education, economics, business law, business ethics, and cognitive skills he is most proud of Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking, currently in it’s 10th ed.

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