A recent study by North Carolina State University researchers finds that teaching critical thinking skills in a humanities course significantly reduces student beliefs in “pseudoscience” that is unsupported by facts.
“Given the national discussion of ‘fake news,’ it’s clear that critical thinking – and classes that teach critical thinking – are more important than ever,” says Anne McLaughlin, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work.
“Fundamentally, we wanted to assess how intentional you have to be when teaching students critical thinking,” says Alicia McGill, an assistant professor of history at NC State and co-author of the paper. “We also wanted to explore how humanities classes can play a role and whether one can assess the extent to which critical thinking instruction actually results in improved critical thinking by students.
“This may be especially timely, because humanities courses give students tools they can use to assess qualitative data and sort through political rhetoric,” McGill says. “Humanities also offer us historical and cultural perspective that allow us to put current events into context.”
For this study, the researchers worked with 117 students in three different classes. Fifty-nine students were enrolled in a psychology research methods course, which taught statistics and study design, but did not specifically address critical thinking. The other 58 students were enrolled in one of two courses on historical frauds and mysteries – one of which included honors students, many of whom were majors in science, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
The psychology class served as a control group. The two history courses incorporated instruction explicitly designed to cultivate critical thinking skills. For example, students in the history courses were taught how to identify logical fallacies – statements that violate logical arguments, such as non sequiturs.
At the beginning of the semester, students in all three courses took a baseline assessment of their beliefs in pseudoscientific claims. The assessment used a scale from 1 (“I don’t believe at all.”) to 7 (“I strongly believe.”).
Some of the topics in the assessment, such as belief in Atlantis, were later addressed in the “historical frauds” course. Other topics, such as the belief that 9/11 was an “inside job,” were never addressed in the course. This allowed the researchers to determine the extent to which changes in student beliefs stemmed from specific facts discussed in class, versus changes in a student’s critical thinking skills.
At the end of the semester, students took the pseudoscience assessment again.
The control group students did not change their beliefs – but students in both history courses had lower beliefs in pseudoscience by the end of the semester.
Students in the history course for honors students decreased the most in their pseudoscientific beliefs; on average, student beliefs dropped an entire point on the belief scale for topics covered in class, and by 0.5 points on topics not covered in class. There were similar, but less pronounced, changes in the non-honors course.
“The change we see in these students is important, because beliefs are notoriously hard to change,” says McLaughlin. “And seeing students apply critical thinking skills to areas not covered in class is particularly significant and heartening.”
“It’s also important to note that these results stem from taking only one class,” McGill says. “Consistent efforts to teach critical thinking across multiple classes may well have more pronounced effects.
“This drives home the importance of teaching critical thinking, and the essential role that humanities can play in that process,” McGill says. “This is something that NC State is actively promoting as part of a universitywide focus on critical thinking development.”
Receive an email update when we add a new CRITICAL THINKING article.
The Latest on: Critical thinking
via Google News
The Latest on: Critical thinking
Real science we learned from The Big Bang Theory: the key to critical thinking
on May 15, 2019 at 11:55 pm
WASHINGTON -- If you’ve ever hit a road block and can’t solve a problem – you MAY want to try stepping away and doing a simple task for a while. Fans of the Big Bang Theory learned this in Season 3, ... […]
Cybersecurity, privacy and technologies still top challenges for IT audit teams and leaders
on May 14, 2019 at 10:05 pm
According to the survey, the skills that organizations most seek in new hires are related to advanced and enabling technologies, critical thinking and data science. This echoes findings from ISACA’s ... […]
Critical Thinking Couldn't Be More Critical
on May 13, 2019 at 4:21 pm
The dark times that haunt the current age are epitomized by the barbarians who echo the politics of a fascist past and have come to rule the United States, Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Brazil, the ... […]
3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking
on May 6, 2019 at 5:20 am
A few years ago, a CEO assured me that his company was the market leader. “Clients will not leave for competitors,” he added. “It costs too much for them to switch.” Within weeks, the ... […]
How to Build Strong Critical Thinking Skills
on April 22, 2019 at 8:45 am
Given the many challenges facing organizations today, leaders must find effective strategies for making good decisions. Simply collecting information randomly or making a “gut instinct” choice isn’t ... […]
RMA Critical Thinking Course Will Enhance Bankers' Cognitive and Communications Skills
on March 14, 2019 at 8:37 am
PHILADELPHIA, March 14, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The Risk Management Association (RMA) is pleased to offer its Critical Thinking Course on May 2, 2019, at its headquarters in Philadelphia, Pa. Designed ... […]
Educators stress need for critical thinking
on March 13, 2019 at 9:43 pm
It is essential for schools to develop critical thinking, collaborative skills and adaptability among students to enable them become more relevant in the changing work environment and grow as leaders. ... […]
Are schools failing to teach critical thinking?
on March 11, 2019 at 6:03 am
The ability to question things, analyze facts and debate ideas is one of life’s greatest skills. In sum, teaching critical thinking is one of the education system’s most important tasks. Some teachers ... […]
OPINION: A critical lack of critical thinking
on March 9, 2019 at 12:15 am
I am a high school teacher, and I believe the biggest failure of our country’s education system is an inadequate emphasis on critical thinking. You don’t have to be in the school system to see this; ... […]
via Bing News