In a white paper developed for the Foundation for Critical Thinking (2007), Richard Paul and Linda Elder argue that students who are intellectually engaged understand the concept of critical thinking, are able to describe the process, and
… are aware of, and routinely focus on:
· The purpose of instruction
· The question at issue
· The information relevant to the question
· The key concept they need to understand
· Whatever inferences they are making
· The implications of their thinking
· The point of view within which they are thinking.
Elsewhere in the paper, Paul and Elder offer a detailed list of behaviors exhibited by intellectually engaged students. For example, the authors say that these students
· Make sure they thoroughly understand class requirements and expectations
· Become active learners, arriving at class prepared to “work ideas into their thinking”
· Think of each subject as a form of thinking
· Become questioners
· Look for interconnections, perceiving content in every class as a system of ideas
· Think of their instructors as coaches and themselves as team members
· Think of class as a time in which they practice thinking
· Relate content to issues, problems and situations in their own lives
· Seek key concepts of a course
· Discover their own learning strengths and weaknesses, and work to improve them
· Test themselves before coming to class by trying to summarize the main points of the last class meeting
· Learn to test their thinking using intellectual standards
· Evaluate their own listening and reading to check for understanding
(For the complete list, see Paul and Elder, “Consequential Validity.”
Critical Thinking Definition and Conceptualization
Definition: Critical thinking is reasonable reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.
Ennis, R. H. (2002). Goals for a critical thinking curriculum and its assessment. In Arthur L. Costa (Ed.), Developing minds (3rd Edition). Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Pp. 44-46.
Ennis, R. H. (1996) Critical thinking. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Ennis, R. H. (1993). Critical thinking: What is it? In Henry A. Alexander (Ed.), Philosophy of education 1992. Urbana, IL: Philosophy of Education Society. Pp. 76-80.
Ennis, R. H. (1992). John McPeck's Teaching critical thinking. Educational Studies, 23 (4), 462-472.
Ennis, R.H. (1991). Critical thinking: A streamlined conception. Teaching Philosophy, 14 (1), 5-25.
Ennis, R.H. (1991). An elaboration of a cardinal goal of science instruction: Scientific thinking. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 23 (1), 31-45.
Ennis, R.H. (1990). The rationality of rationality: Why think critically? In Ralph Page (Ed.), Philosophy of education 1989. Bloomington, IL: Philosophy of Education Society, 1990. Pp. 402-405.
Ennis, R.H. (1987). A taxonomy of critical thinking dispositions and abilities. In J. Baron & R. Sternberg (Eds.), Teaching thinking skills: Theory and practice. New York: W.H. Freeman. Pp. 9-26.
Ennis, R.H. (1981). Eight fallacies in Bloom's taxonomy. In C.J.B. Macmillan (Ed.), Philosophy of education 1980. Bloomington, IL: Philosophy of Education Society. Pp. 269-273.
Ennis, R. H. (1980). Presidential address: A conception of rational thinking. In Jerrold Coombs (Ed.), Philosophy of education 1979. Bloomington, IL: Philosophy of Education Society. Pp. 1-30.
Ennis, R.H. (1979). Research in philosophy of science and science education. In P. Asquith & H. Kyburg (Eds.), Current research in philosophy of science. East Lansing, MI: Philosophy of Science Association. Pp. 138-170.
Ennis, R.H. (1962). A concept of critical thinking. Harvard Educational Review, 32, 81-111.
Return to the first page.