Saturday, October 11, 2008

Integrating Critical Thinking into Online Classes

The integration of critical thinking skills into the online curriculum is an essential to providing intellectually challenging and relevant learning experiences for students. The paper will offer a basic description of critical thinking and discuss how to engage students in higher order thinking skills.

Nature of Critical Thinking
Distance education literature contains frequent references to the importance of critical thinking and teachers are encouraged to cultivate reflective thought in their students. Yet, even veteran teachers will admit that integrating critical thinking instruction into their classes is one of their most difficult tasks. Teachers who want to enhance the teaching and learning process realize that fostering critical thinking skills will require extra work to effectively communicate complex ideas to their students. Bullen’s research (1998) reveals that a student’s ability to demonstrate critical thinking skills during online discussions is influenced by four major factors:
cognitive maturity
teaching style of instructor
student’s prior learning experiences
degree of understanding the critical thinking process
The list of factors reveals that students will vary in their understanding of critical thinking skills and cognitive abilities. Therefore, teachers will need to develop a set of strategies that will help them to meet a diversity of student needs. A good starting point is to examine the literature on critical thinking to create an educational philosophy that reflects the latest research studies and teaching ideas.
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