Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Developing Critical Thinkers

Brookfield, Stephen D. (1987) Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults to Explore Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers

Professor Brookfield from the Department of higher and Adult Education, Teachers College, Columbia University made a strong case for the teaching and use of critical thinking in adults outside the classroom. Apparently the teaching and use of critical thinking has not translated well to the workplace, politics, media and social lives of adults.
Critical thinking is defined by Brookfield as “reflecting on the assumptions underlying our and others’ ideas and actions, and contemplating alternative ways of thinking and living” (p.x). This he assumes is the way we “become adults.”

There are nine theses which Brookfield put forward in this book.

(1) Critical thinking is a positive activity that is total engagement with daily living.
(2) Critical thinking is an ongoing process, not an outcome.
(3) Critical thinking is closely linked to the context in which the process occurs.
(4) Critical thinking is triggered by life events, both positive and negative.
(5) Critical thinking involves the cognitive and the affective (emotive).
(6) Critical thinking is based on identifying and challenging assumptions.
(7) Critical thinking also challenges the importance of context.
(8) Critical thinking involves imagining and exploring alternatives.
(9) Critical thinking leads to reflective scepticism.

Other concepts closely related or similar to critical thinking are emancipatory thinking (Habermas), dialectical thinking (Riegel and Basseches), reflective learning (Boyd and Fales) and framing (Schon).

The key to critical thinking is our assumptions. To examine our assumptions, we must be aware of how much influence our culture, upbringing and social mores has on us. It is essential that we understand our assumptions in context. I agree with Brookfield that it is not something any of us are capable to doing by ourselves. Brookfield identified the trigger for critical thinking as positive or negative life events such as death, cancers, divorce, etc which forces us to re-evaluate our life situations. This is where critical thinking comes in. It challenges our assumptions and our context and then explores alternatives for us to live our lives. To Brookfield, a person who is a seasoned critical thinker is a reflective skeptic who takes nothing on face value.

There is a real need for many of us to develop critical thinking and examines issues that plague our countries and our churches.


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Blogger Paul said...

One of the best ways to develop critical thinking is to "be in conversation" so we share different ideas, thoughts, experiences which will broaden our perspectives

11:49 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

I agree with you Paul, that conversations can be useful to sharpen our thinking. However we need to go beyond the superficialities which characterises many of our conversations.

If our conversation challenges our basic assumptions, forces us to understand the context of our situation, and makes us imagine and seek alternatives, then we can say we are doing critical thinking.

12:32 PM  

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