A two-year collaborative critical thinking project of eight Lone Star College-CyFair faculty members representing seven different disciplines resulted in published essays featured in Inquiry, a national academic peer-reviewed journal.
Philosophy professor Maria Sanders received a $2,500 Lone Star College System Innovative Grant to fund a Faculty Learning Community on the topic of “Applying Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum in Higher Education.”
“Currently many states, including Texas, mandate a critical thinking component for academic courses, but little attention has been given to assessing the extent to which this is effectively being accomplished in the classroom,” she said. “The motivation for developing this extensive and collaborative assessment of critical thinking stemmed from a simple premise: If critical thinking is to be embraced in the classroom, it must also be embraced outside of the classroom.”
Joining Sanders in the Faculty Learning Community collaborative project were professors of political science Frank Codispoti (who passed away this summer), sociology Idolina Hernandez, philosophy and religion Jason Moulenbelt, psychology Lori Richter and chemistry Ann Van Heerden. Also participating were librarian Susan Green and now, Dean of Humanities, Math and CIT, Dr. Claire Phillips.
In addition to co-authoring the essays published in the 2011 spring and summer volumes of Inquiry, a valuable resource for those deeply involved in the theory, practice and pedogagy of critical thinking, these faculty members read and discussed literature on applying critical thinking in higher education as well as researched a specific area of interest in critical thinking and applied critical thinking exercises in their classes.
“The overall goal of the project was to increase the base knowledge of the Learning Community participants on the topic of applying critical thinking across the curriculum and to create a valuable resource for community college faculty seeking to apply critical thinking in their respective classes,” said Sanders, who served as project director.
The essay titles (and purpose) were:
- Embracing Critical Thinking as a Model for Professional Development (encourage other community colleges to build similar professional development opportunities on their campuses)
- What is meant by “Critical Thinking”? (provide an interdisciplinary review of conceptions of critical thinking, highlight similarities and differences among these definitions, and recommend pathways for effective communication on the topic across disciplines)
- Online Instruction and Development of Critical Thinking Skills: A Review of the Research (provide a literature review of research on specific methodologies that show evidence of success in online instruction which is rapidly growing)
- Lecturing and Readings in the Development of Critical Thinking Skills (share a model for embracing critical thinking in active lecturing and intellectual skills to be developed to help students develop skills to participate in ongoing conversations in various disciplines)
Faculty as Critical Thinkers: Challenging Assumptions (describe how critical thinking skills are developed and the process used to purposefully plan critical thinking exercises, tools used to promote critical thinking and problems encountered that may prohibit critical thinking)
- Questions about Critical Thinking: A Survey of Relevant Research (review research findings on the relation between critical thinking and factors such as critical thinking dispositions, academic skills, job related skills, years of education, fields of study, learning styles, etc.)
- Transforming a Content-Driven Course to One Focused on Critical Thinking Skills (Without “Sacrificing” Content) (chronicle the process used to transform a content-driven introductory chemistry lab course into a course focused on developing critical thinking skills which could be a guide for other disciplines)
“I feel extremely privileged to work with such talented faculty and colleagues, and continue to be grateful for the institutional support that makes projects such as this one possible,” said Sanders. “It is quite an honor to have all seven essays submitted by our Faculty Learning Community accepted for publication by a journal as highly respected as ‘Inquiry.’”