Book by: Trudy Bers, Marc Chun, William T. Daly, Christine Harrington, Barbara F. Tobolowsky & Associates
Review by: Amber Kargol
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Iowa State University
Critical thinking is a highly valued skill in the academy and the marketplace. It is a muscle that needs to be intentionally flexed, moved, and assessed in order to develop. This book highlights the need for critical thinking in today’s marketplace, discusses critical thinking theory, and provides models on how critical thinking has been improved within undergraduate and graduate coursework at a variety of institutions. It would be beneficial for any team looking to develop and assess critical thinking on their campus.
A main theme in this book is collaboration. Developing critical thinking skills requires educators and students to work together. Students need to be willing to think outside of their comfort zones and challenge their ideas in order to grow and educators need to provide classroom experiences where those ideologies are challenged. Although some educators provide these experiences, not all students rise to the challenge. This book explores the cycle of learning and discusses critical thinking and cognitive development theories such as, Piaget and Vygotsky while also addressing learning conditions that promote critical thinking.
Improving critical thinking skill in students requires campus partners to work together to create and assess a plan to improve it either within their own disciplines or on the whole campus. The institutions with successful critical thinking models included multi-level support systems. A culture of critical thinking, faculty workshops and mentoring were all proven to increase critical thinking skill in their students. These models were addressed in discipline-specific examples, first year seminar courses, a graduate internship course, as well as capstone courses. Most campuses which addressed critical thinking used standardized tests such as the California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory (CCTDI) and the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) as the first step in studying their students.
The Community College of Baltimore County created an initiative entitled the General Education Assessment Teams (GREAT). This model has been in place for over a decade and promotes critical thinking in general education courses which is foundational for all students. They have included common graded assignments within selected courses as well as accompanying rubrics. The faculty have access to a repository of previous assignment and rubrics and report to a GREAT coordinator and other team leaders for support throughout this process.
Academic Advisors are constantly being challenged to measure student outcomes and provide data for retention purposes. Navigating the learning process with students is a challenging and complex task. The type of interactions advisors encounter with students on a daily basis is as varied as the students themselves. Improving critical thinking skills of students in the advising relationship needs to be well thought out and focused. This book only highlights critical thinking skills in relationship to academic classes and coursework.
This book serves as a great resource for understanding the learning process in the context of critical thinking. It excels in providing examples of critical thinking assessments and applying them to many institutions. It is a great book for administrators and faculty looking to improve critical thinking, but would not be as applicable to academic advisors.
Foundations for Critical Thinking. (2015). Book by Trudy Bers, Marc Chun, William T. Daly, Christine Harrington, Barbara F. Tobolowsky & Associates. Review by Amber Kargol. Columbia, SC: National Resource Center. 223 pp., $0.00, (Paperback), ISBN 978-1-889-27193-4