Following our "first" workshops about Critical Thinking this week, Sept. 15 and 16, we are posting "what we now know" about the topic, or what we have personally developed as a workable theory about Critical Thinking. Of course, the primary focus will be to apply these thoughts to ASU student learning in a clear and usable way. I tend to think and organize visually, so I created the following chart. At first, the chart was meant to simply accommodate a variety of mental states--as many as I could imagine, as well as whatever came up in the workshop discussion, with an eye toward organizing from basic-to-most-complex, shallow-to-deep, low-to-high, etc.
"Critical Thinking," as we applied it to one mental function after another, for me, has lent itself into this particular form. In my chart below, I am trying to demonstrate how we can associate Critical Thinking with different mental experiences and learning tasks and, at the same time, give a sense of a student's educational journey from simpler to more complex achievements.
As you see, this chart begins in the upper left with "pre-conscious"states of mind, then shifts to a focused, attentive-awake state of mind in the upper right, and is divided into three or four levels whose learning activities become more complex with each (forward) level downward.
What struck me most after creating this chart was that each block on the right end of each level shows the person accomplishing, by way of making CONNECTIONS, a distinctly different, more sophisticated task. After listening to Ravi Malik describe a student's journey through his Botany class, I saw in my levels, first, a solitary focus given to a single subject; then, in the second level, the student learns and follows different processes to demonstrate mastery, and, last, in the third level, the student uses an emotional connection with her/his personal quest to, ultimately, find one's place in larger society.
In other words, I am returning to our basic tenet of Connectivism -- we will improve student learning by helping them connect to "information networks." In this case, I am thinking of separate sources of knowledge, but I am also thinking of the students making connections between what they are learning in one class and what they already know and/or with what they are learning in another class. This focus also parallels the original QEP directive regarding "critical thinking": "CONNECTING IDEAS AND INFORMATION ACROSS DISCIPLINES AND SYNTHESIZING THOSE IDEAS IN WRITING."