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Select Tools For Teaching For and About Thinking

Strong reasoning skills and thinking mindset are needed for decision strength. Insight Assessment

When we refer to someone as 'well educated' we are often focusing on their display of relevant content knowledge. Yet owning content knowledge is a trivial pursuit if one cannot retrieve appropriate knowledge in the context of well analyzed problems or use it to draw critical inferences in emergency situations. For this reason, "Education is nothing more, nor less, than learning to think." Peter Facione

Everyone can learn to think better. Training someone to attend to their own thinking process, and teaching them about how they evaluate information, draw inferences, and avoid thinking errors, is a lifelong gift.

On this page we have included a number of resources for those engaged in teaching for and about thinking. Many of the strategies that have proven valuable for training excellence in reasoning and judgment can be applied across disciplines and settings, in teaching and training people of all ages, in all nations around the world. The external expression of thought differs culturally, as governments and families determine who can speak aloud. But the human reasoning process is universal. 

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Critical Thinking: What It Is And Why It Counts

Critical Thinking: What It is and Why It Counts: an essay written by Dr. Peter Facione, a leading authority in critical thinking. This essay is periodically updated to capture new findings and discussion points to help trainees explore the domain of critical thinking in all aspects of life and work. Author and the publisher hold copyright, ISBN 13: 978-1-891557-07-1. Permission is granted for paper, electronic, or digital copies to be made in unlimited amounts for purposes of advancing education and improving critical thinking, provided that distribution of copies is free of charge and properly cited when extracted in whole or in part.    More on this essay  

Pensamiento Crítico: ¿Qué es y por qué es importante?         

批判性思维:它是什么,为何重要?

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The Reflective Log

The Reflective Log – Critical thinking is vital to your success in life and work. It’s worth developing strong thinking skills. This critical thinking tool is intended to give structure and focus to journaling by students or trainees to integrate their insights about their thinking and decision making. Metacognition is trained through reflective writing. This version of the exercise, aimed at the undergraduate or novice professional, is easily adapted for use in other populations. Use the Reflective Log to coach trainee' self-monitoring and self-correction skills

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Techniques for Trainers of Reasoning Skills and Decision Making

Techniques for Trainers of Reasoning Skills and Decision Making - Use these techniques to strengthen the training strategies you currently use to improve thinking skills and mindset in your trainee and student groups. Apply these strategies to all training exercises where the goal is to improve thoughtful problem identification and reflective decision making. Reflecting periodically on these three directives will offer you insights about your current best training practices and help you to focus your training efforts on critical thinking across content domains and educational contexts.

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Training Session Feedback Form

Training Session Feedback Form - This tool is intended to function as both a self-evaluation tool for the trainee and as an evaluation of the training program itself for its ability to engage the learner as intended. Completing the feedback form guides trainees to reflect specifically on their thinking experience related to the learning opportunity. Responses for each of the individual items are informative, and as a collection they serve as a subjective report of the trainee’s engagement in the embedded training exercises aimed at improving thinking skills and mindset. This is not a direct measure of the objective quality of strength or weakness of the trainee’s actual critical thinking ability.

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Strong Critical Thinking in Groups

Strong Critical Thinking in Groups is designed to trigger and augment the benefits of strong critical thinking that occurs in groups during projects, discussions or presentations. This one page tool guides evaluation of the quality of the thinking and decision making demonstrated by the group process. When used as a rating tool by someone evaluating the group process (perhaps as a leadership exercise), the rater is asked to explain the basis for his or her ratings of the group’s work in framing and analyzing the problem, and formulating solutions. When used as a self-evaluation, this tool assists group participants to reflect on the quality of the thinking and problem solving just completed and marks the beginning of the evaluation of decisions made.

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Question Asking Skills: A Leadership Tool

Question Asking Skills: A Leadership Training Tool - Asking clear and relevant questions is an essential leadership skill.  Well focused questions gather important information, identify unspoken assumptions, clarify issues and explore options.  Question asking is key in unfamiliar and uncertain problem situations. Building questioning skills is an important part of training thinking skills. Certain questions are associated with certain reasoning and decision skills.

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The Culture of Thinking in Your Organization

The Culture of Thinking in your Organization - Use this tool to assess the culture of thinking and decision-making that is characteristic of your organization.  Consider how prevalent these manifestations of strength in thinking and decision making can be found in various working groups and in overall expectations. These characteristics can be difficult to achieve, but they are the hallmark of strong thinking organizations both in the leadership and in the membership. These ideas apply to all types of organizations: business, health sciences, education, defense, security, commerce.

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Perspectives that Influence Thinking and Knowing

Perspectives that Influence Thinking and Knowing - This tool describes seven different ways that individuals see the world. These varying perspectives have a profound effect on how a person interprets new information, identifies problems (or fails to), and determines how or whether the problems can be solved. Effective training programs aimed at reasoning and decision making skills and mindset account for the variation of knowledge perspectives present in the training group.

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Designing A Study of Workplace Productivity

Designing A Study of Workplace Productivity - Use this tool to infuse strong reasoning and decision making into studies of workplace conditions or as an example of how strong thinking and decision skills are embedded in each step of an a well- designed investigation.   Well-designed studies provide trustable information, poorly designed studies do not.  This example examines factors that are believed to impact productivity. The same process could be used to study the variables that influence innovation.

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 Snap Judgments - Risks and Benefits of Heuristic Thinking

“Snap Judgments – Risks and Benefits of Heuristic Thinking” There are two important systems at work in human thinking and decision making. One is a highly reflective judgment process (referred to often as ‘System Two’) and the other (‘System One’) is an heuristic process that relies on previous learning and sensory input. Both systems are at work all the time. Both systems are valuable to survival, and they check and balance each other when humans think well.  Both need to be monitored for error to prevent poor decision making and lost opportunity. This material describes System One and cautions against common errors that occur in System One thinking.  These pages are extracted from THINK Critically, Facione & Gittens, Pearson Education (3rd. edition) and offered here with the author’s permission.

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Course Evaluation Design Discussion Questions

A student course evaluation form, if well-conceived and designed, can reinforce educational goals, shape student expectations, and assist faculty to improve their courses and their teaching in many ways.  The assessment research team at Insight Assessment offers this set of guiding questions to faculty and academic leaders seeking an effective and integrated approach to student course evaluations.

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Critical Thinking Exam Questions and Study Guides for High Content Courses

Dr. Carol A. Gittens, former Director of Assessment at Santa Clara University, shows how to design exam questions which evoke critical thinking in content heavy courses.  See how “Why Correct?” and “Why Wrong?” formats convert standard content-based multiple choice items into explanations.  Success on exams built using these formats demands much more of students than simple response option triggered content memory recall.

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Participant Course Evaluation Form

The “Participant Course Evaluation Form” is a five-factor tool that can be used either for formative evaluation to assist with mid-course corrections, or as a summative instrument after the course is completed.  Students are able to complete the evaluation in just a few minutes.  The results can quickly be summed and reviewed because the form conveniently divides information into separate areas of concern. 

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Insight Assessment Resources

Insight Assessment Resources includes discussions of what critical thinking is, lists of research about critical thinking,  and practical strategies that have proven valuable for training excellence in reasoning and judgment. These resources can be applied across disciplines and settings, in teaching and training people of all ages, in all nations around the world.

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 In the end, nothing substitutes for reflective practice:

  • Improve Thinking by Reflecting on Actual Examples of Successful and Unsuccessful Decision-Making and Problem-Solving!
  • Teach groups and individuals to reflect upon and critically analyze their problem solving and decision-making processes by asking themselves systematic and tough questions about their own assumptions, methodologies, standards, and theoretical frames of references.
  • "Step-Back" and be sure that you understand the problem before you try to solve it.
  • Be sure you know what success would really look like before you set about making things right. Too often we, and our students, do things just to be doing something, without knowing what the problem really is, why we are doing it, or how we will know when to declare victory.

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