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Critical thinking should be trained as a separate discipline within a course; in addition, students must learn how to apply the acquired knowledge, skills and attitude to the other fields of their study.The entire curriculum should challenge the student to do so.Knowledge of a coherent conceptual framework makes it possible to spot and define mistakes in reasoning, and it increases the student`s capacity of self-reflection and self-criticism; it will also make it easier for teachers to provide feedback.
For example, if you know what is meant by affirming the consequent, it will be easier for you to find examples of poor reasoning, because you will be able to pick out the kind of reasoning that fits that particular pattern more quickly.
People are naturally inclined to stick to something that is old and trusted.
Like ballet, critical thinking is a highly contrived activity.
Running is natural; nightclub dancing is so to a lesser extent; but ballet is something that you can only do well after investing time and money in painful, intensive training for years.
If you are new to critical thinking at university, sign up for our short online course at Future Learn: Critical thinking at university: an introduction If you are a final year student, you can find out more about being critical in your dissertation or final year research project from our resource The Final Chapter.
In his article `Teaching critical thinking: some lessons from cognitive science` (2005) Tim van Gelder formulates six basic principles in relation to critical thinking.
You need to ask the right questions when reading the work of others; your writing needs to show you have the ability to weigh up different arguments and perspectives and use evidence to help you form your own opinions, arguments, theories and ideas.
Critical thinking is about questioning and learning with an open mind.
However, critical thinking at university does not mean looking only for the most important aspects of a topic or just criticising ideas.
It is also about not accepting what you read or hear at face value, but always questioning the information, ideas and arguments you find in your studies.