Cognition and Instruction/Problem Solving, Critical Thinking and Argumentation

We are constantly surrounded by ambiguities, falsehoods, challenges or situations in our daily lives that require our Critical Thinking, Problem Solving Skills, and Argumentation skills. While these three terms are often used interchangeably, they are notably different. Critical thinking enables us to actively engage with information that we are presented with through all of our senses, and to think deeply about such information. This empowers us to analyse, critique, and apply knowledge, as well as create new ideas. Critical thinking can be considered the overarching cognitive skill of problem solving and argumentation. With critical thinking, although there are logical conclusions we can arrive at, there is not necessarily a 'right' idea. What may seem 'right' is often very subjective. Problem solving is a form of critical thinking that confronts learners with decisions to be made about best possible solutions, with no specific right answer for well-defined and ill-defined problems. One method of engaging with Problem Solving is with tutor systems such as Cognitive Tutor which can modify problems for individual students as well as track their progress in learning. Particular to Problem Solving is Project Based Learning which focuses the learner on solving a driving question, placing the student in the centre of learning experience by conducting an extensive investigation. Problem Based Learning focuses on real-life problems that motivate the student with experiential learning. Further, Design Thinking uses a specific scaffold system to encourage learners to develop a prototype to solve a real-world problem through a series of steps. Empathy, practical design principles, and refinement of prototyping demonstrate critical thought throughout this process. Likewise, argumentation is a critical thinking process that does not necessarily involve singular answers, hence the requirement for negotiation in argumentative thought. More specifically, argumentation involves using reasoning to support or refute a claim or idea. In comparison problem solving may lead to one solution that could be considered to be empirical.

This chapter provides a theoretical overview of these three key topics: the qualities of each, their relationship to each other, as well as practical classroom applications.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Defining Critical Thought and its interaction with knowledge
  • Defining Problem Solving and how it uses Critical Thought to develop solutions to problems
  • Introduce a Cognitive Tutor as a cognitive learning tool that employs problem solving to enhance learning
  • Explore Project Based Learning as a specific method of Problem Solving
  • Examine Design Thinking as a sub-set of Project Based Learning and its scaffold process for learning
  • Define Argumentation and how it employs a Critical Though process
  • Examine specific methodologies and instruments of application for argumentation

Critical thinking edit

Critical thinking and its relationship to other cognitive skills

Critical thinking is an extremely valuable aspect of education. The ability to think critically often increases over the lifespan as knowledge and experience is acquired, but it is crucial to begin the process of this development as early on as possible. Research has indicated that critical thinking skills are correlated with better transfer of knowledge, while a lack of critical thinking skills has been associated with biased reasoning [1]. Before children even begin formal schooling, they develop critical thinking skills at home because of interactions with parents and caregivers [2]. As well, critical thinking appears to improve with explicit instruction [3]. Being able to engage in critical thought is what allows us to make informed decisions in situations like elections, in which candidates present skewed views of themselves and other candidates. Without critical thinking, people would fall prey to fallacious information and biased reasoning. It is therefore important that students are introduced to critical thought and are encouraged to utilize critical thinking skills as they face problems.

Defining critical thinking edit

In general, critical thinking can be defined as the process of evaluating arguments and evidence to reach a conclusion that is the most appropriate and valid among other possible conclusions. Critical thinking is a dynamic and reflective process, and it is primarily evidence-based [4]. Thinking critically involves being able to criticize information objectively and explore opposing views, eventually leading to a conclusion based on evidence and careful thought. Critical thinkers are skeptical of information given to them, actively seek out evidence, and are not hesitant to take on decision-making and complex problem solving tasks [5]. Asking questions, debating topics, and critiquing the credibility of sources are all activities that involve thinking critically. As outlined by Glaser (1941), critical thinking involves three main components: a disposition for critical thought, knowledge of critical thinking strategies, and some ability to apply the strategies [6]. Having a disposition for critical thought is necessary for applying known strategies.

Critical thinking, which includes cognitive processes such as weighing and evaluating information, leads to more thorough understanding of an issue or problem. As a type of reflection, critical thinking also promotes an awareness of one's own perceptions, intentions, feelings and actions.[7]

Components of Critical Thinking
Knowledge Developing a knowledge base and specific tactics to aid the acquisition of knowledge are more easily controlled through instruction.
Inference Forming connections between an existing knowledge base through the use of Deduction and/or Induction.
Evaluation Analyzing, judging, weighing, making forming moral judgments, criticizing and questioning external information presented as well as one's own knowledge base.
Metacognition The process of "thinking about thinking". This involves the assessment of whether one's own decisions, opinions or beliefs are informed and well supported.

Critical thinking as a western construct edit

Critical thinking is considered to be essential for all democratic citizens

In modern education, critical thinking is taken for granted as something that people universally need and should acquire, especially at a higher educational level [8][9]. However, critical thinking is a human construct [10] - not a scientific fact - that is tied to Ancient Greek philosophy and beliefs [11].

The link to Ancient Greece relates both to Ancient Greek priorities of logic over emotion [11], as well as its democratic principles. Various authors, including Elder & Paul [12], Moon [8], and Stanlick & Strawser [13] share the view that critical thinking questioning back to the time of Socrates. Likewise, Morgan & Saxton (2006) associate critical thinking with a fundamental requirement of all democratic citizens [14].

An additional connection with Ancient Greece involves the Socratic Method. The Socratic Method involves a conversation between two or more people in which they ask and answer questions to challenge each other’s theses using logic and reason [15]. Such debates are subject to the issue of objective/subjective dualism in that the purpose of debate is the belief that there is a ‘right answer’, yet the ability to conduct such a debate demonstrates the subjectivity of any thesis [15].

Because of this strong connection to Ancient Greece, critical thinking is generally considered to be a western construct. This is further amplified another western construct called Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is considered to be the essence of critical thinking in modern education [16].

Since critical thinking is a human construct, notions of what constitutes critical thinking vary considerably from person to person. Moon (2007) lists 21 common notions of critical thinking provided by people from her workshops, and then provides her own 2-page definition of the term [8]. One view of critical thinking is that it involves a set of skills that enables one to reach defensible conclusions and make decisions in a domain or context in which one has some prior knowledge [10]. Another view is that critical thinking involves the use of systematic logic and reasoning, which while not necessarily producing empirical answers nevertheless uses a rational and scientific approach [17]. Ultimately, Moon concludes that there is no right or wrong definition [8].

Critical thinking in other parts of the world edit

Scholars argue that while the critical thinking construct is linked to western, democratic nations, that does not mean that other non-western cultures do not possess or use similar constructs that involve critical thinking [18]. Instead, “there are different ways or forms of reasoning” [19]; for example, Asian approaches to debates involve finding connections between conflictive arguments in order for such ideas to coexist [18]. This is due to eastern values regarding face-saving [8]. In contrast, western approaches are often viewed as being competitive: attacking the views of others while defending one's own position. Despite this dichotomous generalisation, eastern and western approaches have more similarities than they would first seem. With regards to the diplomatic Asian approach to debating, western approaches also involve compromise and negotiation for the very reason that ideas are often complex and that there can be many ‘right’ answers [14]. Similarly, the extent to which other cultures adopt western notions of critical thinking is determined by cultural values. In Muslim cultures, for example, the value of critical thinking is link to views on the appropriateness of voicing one’s views [20].

Disposition and critical thinking edit

It has been suggested that critical thinking skills alone are not sufficient for the application of critical thinking – a disposition for critical thinking is also necessary [5]. A disposition for critical thought differs from cognitive skills. A disposition is better explained as the ability to consciously choose a skill, rather than just the ability to execute the skill [4]. Having a disposition for critical thinking can include such things as genuine interest and ability in intellectual activities. Perkins et al. (2000) expand on the idea of the necessity for a critical thinking disposition, and indicate three aspects involved in critical thinking disposition: an inclination for engaging in intellectual behaviours; a sensitivity to opportunities, in which such behaviours may be engaged; and a general ability for engaging in critical thought [5]. Halpern (1998) suggests that this critical thinking disposition must include a willingness to continue with tasks that seem difficult, openmindedness, and a habit of planning [5]. In fact, in a cognitive skills study conducted by Clifford et al. (2004), they discovered that a disposition for critical thinking was associated with better overall critical thinking skills [4].

These are characteristics of one's attitude or personality that facilitate the process of developing CT skills:

  1. Inquisitive
  2. Systematic
  3. Judicious
  4. Truthseeking
  5. Analytical
  6. Open-minded
  7. Confidence in reasoning
Religious and cultural beliefs affect one's disposition towards critical thinking

There are many factors that can influence one's disposition towards CT; the first of these is culture [5]. There are many aspects of culture that can impact the ability for people to think critically. For instance, religion can negatively impact the development of CT [5]. Many religions are founded upon faith, which often requires wholehearted belief without evidence or support. The nature of organized religion counters the very premise of CT, which is to evaluate the validity and credibility of any claim. Growing up in an environment such as this can be detrimental to the development of CT skills. This kind of environment can dampen dispositions that question religious views or examine the validity of religion. Another cultural factor that can be detrimental to a CT disposition is that of authority [5]. When a child is raised under the conditions of an authoritarian parenting style, it can be detrimental to many aspects of their lives, but especially to their CT skills, as they are taught not to question the credibility of authority and often receive punishment if they do. This is also applicable in the classroom [5]. Classroom environments that foster a disposition for critical thinking in which teachers who do not foster an atmosphere of openness or allow students to question what they are taught can impact CT development as well. Classrooms where questions are rejected or home environments in which there is a high level of parental power and control can all affect the ability of students to think critically. What is more, students will have been conditioned not to think this way for their entire lives [5]. However, despite these cultural limitations, there are ways in which a disposition for CT can be fostered in both the home and the classroom.

Classroom structure is a primary way in which CT dispositions can be highlighted. Fostering a classroom structure in which students are a part of the decision making process of what they are studying can be very helpful in creating CT dispositions [5]. Such structures help students become invested in what they are learning as well as promote a classroom atmosphere in which students may feel free to question the teacher, as well as other students' opinions and beliefs about different subjects. Allowing the freedom to scrutinize and evaluate information that has been given to students is an effective way of creating a classroom environment that can encourage students to develop CT dispositions. This freedom allows for the students to remain individuals within the larger classroom context, and gives them the power to evaluate and make decisions on their own. Allowing the students to share power in the classroom can be extremely beneficial in helping the students stay motivated and analytical of classroom teachings [5]. Teachers can also employ a variety of techniques that can help students become autonomous in the classroom. Giving students the opportunity to take on different roles can be effective in creating CT dispositions, such as making predictions and contemplating problems [5]. Allowing students to engage with problems that are presented, instead of just teaching them what the teacher or textbook believes to be true, is essential for students to develop their own opinions and individual, though. In addition to this, gathering data and information on the subject is an important part of developing CT dispositions. Doing so allows for students to go out and find resources that they themselves can analyze and come to conclusions on their own [5]. Using these aspects of CT students can most effectively relate to the predictions that were first made and critique the validity of the findings [5].

Self-regulation and critical thinking edit

In conjunction with instructing CT, teachers also need to keep in mind the self-regulation of their students. Students need to be able to maintain motivation and have a proactive attitude towards their own learning when learning a new skill. In an article by Phan (2010), he argues that self-regulated students that have better goal setting have more personal responsibility for their learning, can maintain their motivation, are more cognitively flexible, and hence are more inclined to utilize CT. Since CT skills are highly reflective, they help in self-regulated learning (SRL), and in turn, self-regulatory strategies aid in developing CT skills. These two cognitive practices are assets to students’ growth and development [7].

Self-Regulation provides students with the basic meta-cognitive awareness required for proactive learning. This pro-activity allows students to engage in the cognitive processes of CT, such as evaluation, reflection and inference. Through one’s meta-cognitive ability to assess one’s own thoughts, one develops the capability to become autonomous in one’s learning [7]. Instead of having a supervisor overlook every task, the learner can progress at their own pace while monitoring their performance, thereby engaging in SRL. Part of this process would include periodic reflection upon the strategies that one uses when completing a task. This reflection can facilitate the student’s learning by using CT to evaluate which strategies best suit their own learning based on their cognitive needs.

The complex nature of CT suggests that it requires a long developmental process requiring guidance, practice and reinforcement. To facilitate this process, self-monitoring as a first step to self-regulation can jump-start reflective thought through assessing one’s own educational performance. This assessment promotes self-efficacy through generating motivational beliefs about one’s academic capabilities [7]. From there, through practice, students can extend their CT skills beyond themselves and into their educational contexts. With practice, students use their meta-cognitive strategies as a basis for developing CT in the long run.

Critical thinking strategies edit

Concept map

Psychologists and educators have discovered many different strategies for the development of critical thinking. Among these strategies are some that may be very familiar, such as concept maps or Venn diagrams, as well as some that may be less familiar, such as appeal-question stimuli strategies [21]. Concept mapping is particularly useful for illustrating the relationships between ideas and concepts, while Venn diagrams are often used to represent contrasting ideas [21].

Venn Diagrams edit

Venn diagram

Venn diagrams are used frequently in elementary grade levels and continue to be used as a contrast/compare tool throughout secondary school. An example of a situation in which a Venn diagram activity may be appropriate is during a science class. Instructors may direct students to develop a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting different plants or animals. Concept maps may be introduced in elementary grades, although they are most often used in the secondary and post-secondary levels. Concept maps are an interactive and versatile way to encourage students to engage with the course material. A key aspect of concept mapping is how it requires students to reflect on previously learned information and make connections. In elementary grades, concept maps can be introduced as a project, while later, possibly in college or university, students may use them as a study strategy. At the elementary level, students can use concept maps to make connections about the characters, settings, or plot in a story they have read. When introducing concept maps, teachers may provide students with a list of words or phrases and instruct the students to illustrate the connections between them in the form of a concept map. Asking questions can also be a simple and engaging way to develop critical thought. Teachers may begin by asking the students questions about the material, and then encouraging students to come up with their own questions. In secondary and post-secondary education, students may use questions as a way to assess the credibility of a source. At the elementary school level, questions can be used to assess students' understanding of the material, while also encouraging them to engage in critical thought by questioning the actions of characters in a story or the validity of an experiment. Appeal-question stimuli, founded by Svobodová, involves a process of students asking questions regarding their reading comprehension [21].

Discussions edit

Using discussions as a way to develop students’ critical thinking skills can be a particularly valuable strategy for teachers. Peer interactions provide a basis for developing particular critical thinking skills, such as perspective taking and cooperation, which may not be as easily taught through instruction. A large part of discussions, of course, is language. Klooster (2002) suggested that critical thinking begins with asking questions [21]. Similarly, Vygotsky has claimed that language skills can be a crucial precursor for higher level thought processes [2]. As children develop larger vocabularies, they are better able to understand reading material and can then begin to think abstractly about the material and engage in thoughtful discussions with peers about what they understood [2].

Studies have indicated that cross-age peer discussions may be particularly helpful in facilitating the development of critical thinking. Cross-age peer groups can be effective because of the motivation children tend to have when working with peers of different ages [2]. Younger children often look up to the older children as mentors and valuable sources of knowledge and experience, while older children feel a sense of maturity and a responsibility to share their knowledge and experience with younger students [2]. These cross-age peer discussions also provide students with the challenge of tailoring their use of language to the other group members in order to make their points understandable [2]. An example of cross-age peer groups that is relatively common in Canadian schools is the big buddy programs, where intermediate grade students are assigned a primary grade buddy to help over the course of the school year. Big buddies may help their little buddies with projects, advice, or school events. The big buddy/little buddy programs can be effective as younger students look up to their big buddies, and the big buddies feel a responsibility to help their little buddy. One important factor to be considered with cross-age peer discussions, as noted by Hattie (2006), is that these discussions should be highly structured activities facilitated by a teacher in order to ensure that students understand their group responsibilities [2].

The classroom environment edit

Having an environment that is a safe place for students to ask questions and share ideas is extremely valuable for creating a classroom that encourages critical thinking. It has been suggested that students are more likely to develop a disposition for critical thinking when they are able to participate in the organization and planning of their classroom and class activities [5]. In these classrooms, students are legitimately encouraged by their teacher to engage in the decision making process regarding the functioning of the classroom [5]. It is also important for teachers to model the desired types of critical thought, by questioning themselves and other authorities in a respectful and appropriate manner [5]. Studies have indicated higher levels of cognitive engagement among students in classrooms with teachers who are enthusiastic and responsive [22]. Therefore, teachers should be encouraging and inclusive, and allow student engagement in classroom planning processes when possible.

Critical questions edit

Research is increasingly supporting the idea that critical thinking can be explicitly taught [23]. The use of critical questioning in education is of particular importance, because by teaching critical questioning, educators are actively modelling critical thinking processes. One of the key issues with teaching critical thinking in education is that students merely witness the product of critical thinking on the part of the teacher, i.e. they hear the conclusions that the teacher has reached through critical thinking [9]. Whereas an experienced critical thinker uses critical questions, these questions are implicit and not normally verbalised. However, for students to understand critical questioning and critical thinking strategies, the students must see the process of critical thinking. Modelling the formation and sequencing of critical questions explicitly demonstrates the thought process of how one can reach a logical conclusion.

There various methods of teaching critical questioning. The frameworks discussed below are among the most famous of these. All have their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of ease-of-use, complexity, and universality. Each of these methods approaches critical thinking with a specific definition of this human concept. As such, one’s own definition of critical thinking will likely affect one’s receptiveness to a specific critical questioning framework.


Socratic Method edit

One of the key features of western approaches to critical thinking involves the importance of critical questioning, which is linked to the Socratic Method from Ancient Greece traditions. Whether answering existing questions posed or creating new questions to be considered, critical thinking involves questions, whether explicitly / implicitly, consciously / unconsciously [13]. Browne & Keeley (2006) base their definition of critical thinking specifically on the involvement of critical questions [24].

Answers to critical questions are not necessarily empirical. They may involve reasoning and be logical, but are nevertheless subject to alternative views from others, thus making all views both subjective and objective at the same time. Elder & Paul (2009) separate such critical questions into three categories [12]:

  1. Questions that have a correct answer, which can be determined using knowledge
  2. Questions that are open to subjective answers that cannot be judged
  3. Questions that produce objective answers that are judged based the quality of evidence and reasoning used

Books on critical questioning tend to be influenced heavily by the Socratic Method, and they make a distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ questions. Good questions are those that are relevant to the topic at hand and that take a logical, systematic approach [14][13], while bad questions are those that are not relevant to the topic, are superficial, and are sequenced haphazardly. Elder & Paul (2009) argue that “[i]t is not possible to be a good thinker and a poor questioner.”[25] In other words, if a person cannot thinking of relevant and logical questions, they will be unable to reach any rational conclusions.

Additionally, as indicated above, critical thinking requires more than just asking the right questions. There is a direct relationship between critical thinking and knowledge [23]. One can possess knowledge, but not know how to apply it. Conversely, one can have good critical questioning skills, but lack the knowledge to judge the merits of an answer.

In terms of teaching critical questioning using the Socratic Method, it is essential to appreciate that there is no set of questions that one can follow, since the type of critical questions needed is based on the actual context. Consequently, the examples presented by different authors vary quite considerably. Nevertheless, there are specific guidelines one can follow [26]:

  1. Use critical questions to identify and understand the situation, issues, viewpoints and conclusions
  2. Use critical questions to search for assumptions, ambiguity, conflicts, or fallacies
  3. Use critical questions to evaluate the effects of the ideas

Part 1 of the Socratic Method is more of an information gathering stage, using questions to find out essential details, to clarify ideas or opinions, and to determine objectives. Part 2 uses the information from Part 1 and then uses questions to probe for underlying details that could provide reasons for critiquing the accuracy of the idea. Part 3 uses questions to reflect upon the consequences of such ideas.

Conklin (2012) separates the above three parts into six parts [27]:

  1. Using questions to understand
  2. Using questions to determine assumptions
  3. Using questions to discover reasons / evidence
  4. Using questions to determine perspectives
  5. Using questions to determine consequences
  6. Using questions to evaluate a given question

Here are some sample questions for each part [28]:

Questions for understanding:

  • Why do you think that?
  • What have you studied about this topic so far?
  • How does this relate to what you are studying now?

Questions that determine assumptions

  • How could you check that assumption?
  • What else could be assumed?
  • What are your views on that? Do you agree or disagree?

Questions that discover reasons / evidence

  • How can you be sure?
  • Why is this happening?
  • What evidence do you have to back up your opinion?

Questions that determine perspectives

  • How could you look at this argument another way?
  • Which perspective is better?

Questions that determine consequences

  • How does it affect you?
  • What impact does that have?

Questions that evaluate a given question

  • Why was I asked this question?
  • Which questions led to the most interesting answers?
  • What other questions should be asked?

Depending on the text, the Socratic Method can be extraordinarily elaborate, making it challenging for educators to apply. Conklin (2012) states that a teacher would need to spend time planning such questions in advance, rather than expect to produce them during a lesson [27].

Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy edit

Bloom’s Taxonomy was originally designed in 1956 to determine cognitive educational objectives and assess students’ higher-order thinking skills [29]. Since then, though, it has become adapted and used as a useful tool for promoting critical thinking skills, particularly through critical questioning [30]. These critical questions involve Bloom’s categories of understanding, applying, analysing, synthesising and evaluating. Such categories can be seen to relate to the Socratic Method promoted by other authors, i.e. the importance of questioning to understanding, analyse and evaluate. Moon (2007) believes that “‘evaluation’, ‘reflection’ and ‘understanding’” are key aspects of critical thinking [8], which should therefore appear in any notion of critical thinking. At the same time, Bloom’s Taxonomy generates a natural set of questions that can be adapted to various contexts [31].

In one example, a teacher uses a picture of a New York speakeasy bar. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy, the teacher could ask and model the following critical questions [14]:

  1. KNOWLEDGE: What do you see in the picture?
  2. COMPREHENSION: What do people do in places like that?
  3. ANALYSIS: Why are there so many policemen in the picture?
  4. APPLICATION: What similar situations do we see nowadays?
  5. SYNTHESIS: What if there were no laws prohibiting such behaviour?
  6. EVALUATION: How would you feel if you were one of these people? Why?
Norman Webb's Depth of Knowledge

Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge edit

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) taxonomy was produced in 2002 in response to Bloom’s Taxonomy [32]. In contrast with Bloom’s Taxonomy, Webb’s DOK focuses on considering thinking in terms of complexity of thinking rather than difficulty [32].

Webb’s DOK has four levels:

  1. Recall & reproduction
  2. Working with skills & concepts
  3. Short-term strategic thinking
  4. Extended strategic thinking

Level 1 aligns with Bloom’s level of remembering and recalling information. Example critical questions in this level would include:

  • What is the name of the protagonist?
  • What did Oliver Twist ask Fagin?

Level 2 involves various skills, such as classifying, comparing, predicting, gathering, and displaying. Critical questions can be derived from these skill sets, including the following:

  • How do these two ideas compare?
  • How would you categorise these objects?
  • How would you summarize the text?

Level 3 involves analysis and evaluation, once again aligning with Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  • What conclusions can you reach?
  • What theory can you generate to explain this?
  • What is the best answer? Why?

At the same time, Level 3 of DOK shares similarities with the Socratic Method in that the individual must defend their views.

Level 4 is the most elaborate and challenging level. It involves making interdisciplinary connections and the creation of new ideas / solutions.

Since DOK becomes increasingly elaborate with levels and leads to the requirement to defend one’s position using logic and evidence, there are parallels with the Socratic Method. At the same time, because is used to develop standards in assessing critical thinking, it shares similarities with Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Williams Model edit

The KWL method shares some similarities to the 'wonder' aspect of the Williams Model

The Williams Model was designed by Frank Williams in the 1970s [27]. Unlike other methods, the Williams Model was designed specifically to promote creative thinking using critical questioning [27]. This model involves the following aspects:

  • Fluency
  • Flexibility
  • Elaboration
  • Originality
  • Curiosity
  • Risk taking
  • Complexity
  • Imagination

Critical questions regarding fluency follow a sort of brainstorming approach in that the questions are designed to generates ideas and options [27]. For ‘flexibility’, the questions are designed to produce variations on existing ideas. ‘Elaboration’ questions are about building upon existing ideas and developing the level of detail. As the name suggests, critical questions for ‘originality’ are for promoting the development of new ideas. The ‘curiosity’ aspect of the Williams Model bears a similarity with that of the ‘Wonder’ stage of the Know Wonder Learn (KWL) system [33]. ‘Risk taking’ questions are designed to provoke experimentation. Although the name ‘complexity’ may sound similar to ‘elaboration’, it is instead about finding order among chaos, making connections, and filling in gaps of information. The final aspect is ‘Imagination’, which involves using questions to visualise.

Wiggins & McTighe’s Six Facets of Understanding

Wiggins & McTighe’s Six Facets of Understanding edit

Wiggins & McTighe’s ‘Six Facets of Understanding’ are all based on deep understanding aspects of critical thinking [34]. The method is used for teachers to design questions for students to promote critical thinking [34]. The six facets are Explanation, Interpretation, Application, Perspective, Empathy, and Self-Knowledge [35].

‘Why’ and ‘How’ questions dominate the ‘Explanation’ facet in developing theory and reasoning [36]:

  • How did this happen? Why do you think this?
  • How does this connect to the other theory?

Interpretation questions encourage reading between the lines, creating analogies or metaphors, and creating written or visual scenarios to illustrate the idea. Questions include:

  • How would you explain this idea in other words?
  • Why do you think that there is conflict between the two sides?
  • Why is it important to know this?

Application questions are about getting students to use knowledge. Part of this comes from predicting what will happen based on prior experience. Another aspect involves learning from the past. Critical questions in this facet include:

  • How might we prevent this happening again?
  • What do you think will happen?
  • How does this work?

Perspective questions involves not only looking at ideas from other people’s perspectives, but also determining what people’s points of views are. In comparison with Empathy questions, though, Perspective questions involve more of an analytical and critical examination [35]. Here are some example questions:

  • What are the different points of view concerning this topic?
  • Whose is speaking in the poem?
  • Whose point of view is being expressed?
  • How might this look from the other person’s perspective?

Empathy questions involve perspective-taking, including empathy, in order to show an open mind to considering what it would feel like to walk in another person’s shoes.

  • How would you feel in the same situation?
  • What would it be like to live in those conditions?
  • How would you react if someone did that your family?

Self-knowledge questions are primarily designed to encourage self reflection and to develop greater self awareness [35]. In particular, Self-Knowledge questions reveal one’s biases, values, and prejudices and how they influence our judgment of others. Critical questions in this facet include:

  • How has my life shaped my view on this topic?
  • What do I really know about the lives of people in that community?
  • What knowledge or experience do I lack?
  • How do I know what I know? Where did that information / idea come from?

Questions within the Six Facets of Understanding all incorporate the following attributes [36]:

  1. They are open ended
  2. They require deep thought
  3. They require critical thinking
  4. They promote transfer of knowledge
  5. They are designed to lead to follow-up questions
  6. They require answers that are substantiated

For examples of critical questioning in action in a classroom environment, view the External Link section at the bottom of this page.

Problem Solving edit

In everyday life we are surrounded by a plethora of problems that require solutions and our attention to resolve them to reach our goals [37]. We may be confronted with problems such as: needing to determine the best route to get to work, what to wear for an interview, how to do well on an argumentative essay or needing to find the solution to a quadratic equation. A problem is present in situations where there is a desire to solve the problem, however the solution is not obvious to the solver[38]. Problem solving is the process of finding the solutions to these problems. [39]. Although they are related, critical thinking differs fundamentally from problem solving. Critical thought is actually a process that can be applied to problem solving. For example, students may find themselves engaging in critical thought when they encounter ill-defined problems that require them to consider many options or possible answers. In essence, those who are able to think critically are able to solve problems effectively [40].

Problem Based Learning differs from traditional styles by focusing the learner on solving a question.

This chapter on problem solving will first differentiate between Well-defined Problems and Ill-defined Problems, then explain uses of conceptualizing and visually representing problems within the context of problem solving and finally we will discuss how mental set may impede successful problem solving.

Well-defined and Ill-defined Problems edit

Problems can be categorized into two types: ill-defined or well-defined [37] Cognitive Psychology and Instruction (5th Ed). New York: Pearson.</ref> to the problem at hand. An example of a well-defined problem is an algebraic problem (ex: 2x - 29 = 7) where one must find the value of x. Another example may be converting the weight of the turkey from kilograms to pounds. In both instances these represent well-defined problems as there is one correct solution and a clearly defined way of finding that solution.

In contrast, ill-defined problems represent those we may face in our daily lives, the goals are unclear and they have information that is conflicting, incomplete or inconclusive [41]. An example of an ill-defined problem may be “how do we solve climate change?” or “how should we resolve poverty” as there is no one right answer to these problems. These problems yield the possibility to many different solutions as there isn’t a universally agreed upon strategy for solving them. People approach these problems differently depending on their assumptions, application of theory or values that they use to inform their approach[42]. Furthermore, each solution to a problem has its own unique strengths and weaknesses.[42].

Ill-Defined versus Well-Defined Problems
Ill-Defined Well-Defined
Given state is not clearly specified , unclear goal state, unclear set of allowable procedures and multiple solutions [41]. Given state is clearly specified, there are clearly specified goals, clearly specified set of allowable procedures and one clear solution[41].
For example: How should we resolve global warming? For example: 5x=10
Argumentation, attitudes and "metacognition highly predicted problem-solving score[43] Domain knowledge and justification skills highly predicted problem-solving scores[43].

Table 1. Summarizes the difference between well-defined and ill-defined problems.

Differences in Solving Ill-defined and Well-defined Problems edit

In earlier times, researchers assumed both types of problems were solved in similar ways [44], more contemporary research highlights some distinct differences between processes behind finding a solution.

Kitchener (1983) proposed that well-defined problems did not involve assumptions regarding Epistemological Beliefs[37] because they have a clear and definite solution, while ill-defined problems require these beliefs due to not having a clear and particular solution[45]. In support of this idea, Schraw, Dunkle and Bendixen conducted an experiment with 200 participants, where they found that performance in well-defined problems is not predictive of one's performance on ill-defined problems, as ill-defined problems activated different beliefs about knowledge.[46]

Furthermore Shin, Jonassen and McGee (2003), [43] found that solving ill-defined problems brought forth different skills than those found in well-structured problems. In well-structured problems domain knowledge and justification skills highly predicted problem-solving scores, whereas scores on ill-structured tasks were predictive of argumentation, attitudes and metacognition in an astronomy simulation.

Aligned with these findings, Cho and Jonassen (2002) [47] found that groups solving ill-structured problems produced more argumentation and problem solving strategies due to the importance of considering a wide variety of solutions and perspectives. In contrast, the same argumentation technique distracted the participant's activities when they dealt with well-defined problems. This research highlights the potential differences in the processes behind solving ill-defined and well-defined problems.

Implications Of The Classroom Environment edit

The fundamental differences between well-structured and ill-structured problems implicate that solving ill-structured problems calls for different skills, strategies, and approaches than well-structured problems[43]. Meanwhile, most tasks in the educational setting are designed around engaging learners in solving well-structured problems that are found at the end of textbook chapters or on standardized tests.[48]. Unfortunately the strategies used for well-defined problems have little application to ill-defined problems that are likely to be encountered day to day[49] as simplified problem solving strategies used for the well-structured designs have been found to have almost no similarities to real-life problems[48]

This demonstrates the need to restructure classrooms in a way that facilitates the student problem solving of ill-structured problems. One way we may facilitate this is through asking students questions that exemplify the problems found in everyday life[50]. This type of approach is called problem based learning and this type of classroom structure students are given the opportunity to address questions by collecting and compiling evidence, data and information from a plethora of sources[51]. In doing so students learn to analyze the information,data and information, while taking into consideration the vast interpretations and perspectives in order to present and explain their findings[51].

Structure Of The Classroom edit

In problem-based learning, students work in small groups to where they explore meaningful problems, identify the information needed to solve the given problem, and devise effective approaches for the solution [50]. Students utilize these strategies, analyze and consider their results to devise new strategies until they have come up with an effective solution[50]. The teacher’s role in this classroom structure is to guide the process, facilitate participation and pose questions to elicit reflections and critical thinking about their findings[50]. In addition teachers may also provide traditional lectures and explanations that are intended to support student inquiry[50].

In support of the argument to implement a problem-based approach to problem solving, a meta-analysis conducted by Dochy, Segers, Van den Bossche, & Gijbels (2003), found problem-based learning to be superior to traditional styles of learning though in supporting flexible problem solving, application of knowledge, and hypothesis generation.[52] Furthermore, Williams, Hemstreet, Liu, and Smith (1998) found that this approach fostered greater gains in conceptual understanding in science[53]. Lastly Gallagher, Stepien, & Rosenthal (1992), found that in comparing traditional vs. project-based approaches students in problem-based learning demonstrate an ability to define problems.[54] These findings highlight the benefits of problem-based learning on understanding and defining problems in science. Given the positive effects of defining problems this education approach may also be applied to our next sub-topic of conceptualizing problems.

Steps to Problem Solving edit

There have been five stages consistently found within the literature of problem solving: (1) identifying the problem, (2) representing the problem, (3) choosing the appropriate strategy, (4) implementing the strategy, and (5) assessing the solutions[37]. This overview will focus on the first two stages of problem solving and examine how they influence problem solving.

The five stages of problem solving create a cycle of refinement for learners to achieve improved results in their conceptualisation of the best solution.

Conceptualizing Problems edit

One of the most tedious and taxing aspects of problem solving is identifying the problem as it requires one to consider the problem through multiple lenses and perspectives without being attached to one particular solution to early on in the task[39]. In addition it is also important to spend time clearly identifying the problem due to the association between time spent "conceptualizing a particular problem and the quality of one's solutions".[37] For example consider the following problem:

Becka baked a chocolate cake in her oven for twenty five minutes. How long would it take her to bake three chocolate cakes?

Most people would jump to the conclusion to multiply twenty five by three, however if we place all three cakes in the oven at a time we find it would take the same time to bake three cakes as it would take to bake one. This example highlights the need to properly conceptualize the problem and look at it from different viewpoints, before rushing to solutions.

Taking this one step further, break down the five steps as the would be used to conceptualize the problem:

Stage 1 - Define the Problem

Goal ( I want too.... Barrier (but...)
Buy a new car. I am not sure what the most economical model is.
Exercise more. I do not know when I will have time.
Get a better job. I am not sure what type of retraining I will need.

Stage 2 - Brainstorm Solutions

Problem Checking Facts
I need to get a new car. How much money will it take?

Do I really need a car or can I take transit?

Is it better to buy a new car or used?

Stage 3 - Pick a Solution


Stage 4 - Implement the Solution


Stage 5 - Review the Result

Result -

Was the decision to buy a new car the best solution?

Decided to buy a new car, saved money to purchase it, and bought a new economical car.

The new car cost more, but it is reliable and has worked as transportation for a long time.

Therefore, this was the best solution.

Research also supports the importance of taking one's time to clearly identifying the problem before proceeding to other stages. In support of this argument, Getzel and Csikszentmihalyi found that artist students that spend more time identifying the problem when producing their art were rated as having more creative and original pieces than artists who spent less time at this stage[37] . These researchers postulated that in considering a wider scope of options during this initial stage they were able to come up with more original and dynamic solutions.

Furthermore, when comparing the approaches of experienced teachers and novice post-secondary students studying to be teachers, it was found that experienced teachers spent a greater amount of time lesson planning in comparison to post-secondary students when in a placed in a hypothetical classroom.[37] In addition these teachers offered significantly more solutions to problems posed in both ill-defined and well-defined problems. Therefore it is implicated that successful problem solving is associated with the time spent finding the correct problem and the consideration of multiple solutions.

Instructional Implications edit

One instructional implication we may draw from the literature that supports that the direct relationship between time spent on conceptualizing a problem and the quality of the solution, is that teachers should encourage students to spend as much time as possible at this stage[37] . In providing this knowledge and by monitoring student’s problem solving processes to ensure that they “linger” when conceptualizing problems, we may facilitate effective problem solving[37] .

Representing the Problem edit

Problem Representation refers to how the known information about a particular problem is organized[37] . In abstract representation of a problem, we merely think or speak about the problem without externally visually representing[37] . In representing a problem tangibly this is done by creating a visual representation on paper, computer, etc. of the data though graphs, stories, symbols, pictures or equations. These visual representations [37] may be helpful they can help us keep track of solutions and steps to a problem, which can particularly be useful when encountering complex problems.

Dunker's Buddhist Monk example.

For example if we look at Dunker's Buddhist Monk example[37] :

In the morning a Buddhist monk walks outside at sunrise to climb up the mountain to get to the temple at the peak. He reaches the temple just prior to sunset. A couple days later, he departs from the temple at sunrise to climb back down the mountain, travelling quicker than he did during his ascent as he is going down the mountain. Can you show a location along the path that the monk would have passed on both at the exact time of the day?[37]

In solely using abstraction, this problem is seemingly impossible to solve due to the vast amount of information, how it is verbally presented and the amount of irrelevant information present in the question. In using a visual representation we are able to create a mental image of where the two points would intersect and are better able to come up with a solution [55].

Research supports the benefits of visual representation when confronted with difficult problems. Martin and Schwartz[56] found greater usage of external representations when confronted with a difficult task and they had intermittent access to resources, which suggests that these representations are used as a tool when problems are too complex without external aids. Results found that while creating the initial visual representation itself took up time, those who created these visual representations solved tasks with greater efficiency and accuracy.

Another benefit is that these visual representations may foster problem solving abilities by enabling us to overcome our cognitive biases. In a study conducted by Chambers and Reisberg[57], participants were asked to look at the image below then close their eyes and form a mental image. When asked to recall their mental image of the photo and see if there were any alternate possibilities of what the photo could be, none of the participants were able to do so. However when participants were given the visual representation of the photo they were quickly able to manipulate the position of the photo to come up with an alternate explanation of what the photo could be. This shows how visual representations may be used in education by learners to counteract mental sets, which will be discussed in the next section.

Instructional Implications edit

As shown above, relying on abstraction can often overload one’s cognitive resources due to short- term memory being limited to seven items of information at a time[37]. Many problems surpass these limits disabling us being able to hold all the relevant information needed to solve a problem in our working memory[37]. Therefore it is implicated that in posing problems teachers should represent them written or visually in order to reduce the cognitive load. Lastly another implication is that as teachers we may increase problem-solving skills through demonstrating to students different types of external representations that can be used to show the relevant information pertaining to the problem. These representations may include different types of graphs, charts and imagery, which all can serve as tools for students in coming up with an effective solution, representing relevant information and reducing cognitive load

Challenges of Problem Solving edit

As discussed above there are many techniques to facilitate the problem solving process, however there are factors that can also hinder this process. For example: one’s past experiences can often impede problem solving as they can provide a barrier in looking at novel solutions, approaches or ideas[58].

Mind set edit

A mind set refers to one's tendency to be influenced by one's past experiences in approaching tasks.[58] Mental set refers to confining ourselves to using solutions that have worked in the past rather than seeking out alternative approaches. Mental sets can be functional in certain situation as in using strategies that have worked before we are quickly able to come up with solutions. However, they can also eliminate other potential and more effective solutions.

The Candle Task is an example of functional fixedness caused from a closed mindset.

Functional Fixedness edit

Functional Fixedness is a type of mental set that refers to our tendency to focus on a specific function of an object (ie. what we traditionally use it for) while overlooking other potential novel functions of that object. [37]

A classic example of functional fixedness is the candle problem [59]. Consider you are at a table with a box full of tacks, one candle, and matches, you are then asked to mount the lit candle on the wall corkscrew board wall as quickly as possible, and make sure that this doesn't cause any wax to melt on the table. Due to functional fixedness you might first be inclined to pin the candle to the wall as that is what tacks are typically used for, similar to participants in this experiment. However, this is the incorrect solution as it would cause the wax to melt on the table.

The most effective solution requires you to view the box containing the tacks as a platform for the candle rather than it's traditional use as a receptacle. In emptying the box, we may use it as a platform for the candle and then use the tacks inside to attach the box to the wall. It is difficult to initially arrive at this solution as we tend to fixate on the function of the box of holding the tacks and have difficulty designating an alternate function to the box (ie. as a platform as opposed to a receptacle). This experiment demonstrates how prior knowledge can lead to fixation and can hinder problem solving.

Techniques to Overcome Functional Fixedness edit

As proposed by McCaffrey (2012),[60] one way to overcome functional fixedness is to break the object into parts. In doing so we may ask two fundamental questions “can it be broken down further” and “does my description of the part imply a use”. To explain this we can use McCaffrey’s steel ring figure-8 example. In this scenario the subject is given two steel rings, a candle and a match, they are asked to make the two steel rings into a figure 8. Looking at the tools provided to the subject they might decide that the wax from the candle could potentially hold the two pieces of steel together when heated up. However the wax would not be strong enough. It leaves them with a problem, how do they attach the two steel rings to make them a figure eight.

In being left with the wick as a tool, and labelling it as such we become fixated on seeing the primary function of the wick as giving off light, which hinders our ability to come up with a solution for creating a figure-8. In order to effectively solve problem we must break down our concept of the wick down further. In seeing a wick as just a waxed piece of string, we are able to get past functional fixedness and see the alternate functions of the string. In doing so we may come to the conclusion and see the waxed string as being able to be used to tie the two rings together. In showing the effectiveness of this approach McCaffrey (2012) found that people trained to use this technique solved 67% more problems than the control group[60].

Instructional Implications edit

Given the effectiveness of this approach, it is implicated that one way we may promote Divergent Thinking is through teaching students to consider: "whether the object may be broken down further"[60] and "whether the description of the part imply a use" in doing so we may teach students to break down objects to their purest form and make salient the obscure features of a problem. This connects to the previously discussed idea of conceptualization where problem solving effectiveness can be increased through focusing time on defining the problem rather than jumping to conclusions based on our own preconceptions. In the following section we will discuss what strategies experts use when solving problems.

Novice Versus Expert In Problem Solving edit

Many researchers view effective problem solving as being dependent on two important variables: the amount of experience we have in trying to solve a particular category of problems[61], which we addressed earlier by demonstrating that in practicing problem solving through engaging in a problem-based approach we may increase problem solving skills. However, the second factor to consider is the amount of domain-specific knowledge that we have to draw upon[61]. Experts possess a vast amount of domain knowledge, which allows them to efficiently apply their knowledge to relevant problems. Experts have a well-organized knowledge of their domain, which impacts they notice and how they arrange, represent and interpret information, this in turn enables them to better recall, reason and solve problems in comparison to novices.[62]

In comparing experts to novices in their problem strategies, experts are able to organize their knowledge around the deep structure in important ideas or concepts in their domain, such as what kind of solution strategy is required to solve the problem[63]. In contrast novices group problems based on surface structure of the problems, such as the objects that appear in the problem.[63]

Experts also spend more time than novices analyzing and identifying problems at the beginning of the problem-solving process. Experts take more time in thinking and planning before implementing solutions and use a limited set of strategies that are optimal in allowing them to richer and more effective solutions to the given problem.[64]

In addition experts will engage in deeper and more complete problem representation novices, in using external representations such as sketches and diagrams to represent information and solve problems. In doing so they are able to solve problems quicker and come up with better solutions.[65]

Given the literature above it is evident that problem solving and expertise overlap as the key strategies that experts utilize are also provided as effective problem solving strategies. Therefore, we may conclude that experts not only have a vast knowledge of their domain, they also know and implement the most effective strategies in order to solve problem more efficiently and effectively in comparison to novices.[65] In the next section we will discuss the connection between problem solving and critical thinking.

Cognitive Tutor for Problem Solving edit

Cognitive Tutor is a kind of Intelligent Tutoring Systems.[66] It can assign different problems to students according to their individual basis, trace users’ solution steps, provide just-in-time feedback and hint, and implement mastery learning criteria.[67]

According to Anderson and colleague,[67] the students who worked with LISP tutors completed the problems 30% faster and 43% outperformed than their peers with the help of teachers in mini-course. Also, college students who employed ACT Programming Tutor (APT) with the function of immediate feedback finished faster on a set of problems and 25% better on tests than the students who received the conventional instruction.[68] In addition, in high school geometry school settings, students who used Geometry Proof Tutor (GPT) for in- class problem solving had a letter grade scores higher than their peers who participated in traditional classroom problem-solving activities on a subsequent test.[69]

An overview of Cognitive Tutor edit

In 1985, Anderson, Boyle, and Reigser added the discipline of cognitive psychology to the Intelligent Tutoring Systems. Since then, the intelligent tutoring system adopted this approach to construct cognitive models for students to gain knowledge was named Cognitive Tutors.[67] The most widely used Cognitive Tutor is Cognitive Tutor® Algebra I.[69] Carnegie Learning, Inc., the trademark owner, is developing full- scale Cognitive Tutor®, including Algebra I, II, Bridge to Algebra, Geometry, and Integrated Math I, II, III. Cognitive Tutor® now includes Spanish Modules, as well.

Cognitive Tutors support the idea of learning by doing, an important part of human tutoring, which to provide students the performance opportunities to apply the objective skills or concepts and content related feedback.[69] To monitor students’ performance, Cognitive Tutors adopt two Algorithms, model tracing and knowledge tracing. Model tracing can provide immediate feedback, and give content-specific advice based on every step of the students’ performance trace.[67] Knowledge tracing can select appropriate tasks for every user to achieve mastery learning according to the calculation of one’s prior knowledge.[67][69]

Cognitive Tutors can be created and applied to different curriculum or domains to help students learn, as well as being integrated into classroom learning as adaptive software. The curriculum and domains include mathematics in middle school and high school,[66] [68] [70] genetics in post-secondary institutions,[71] and programming.[67][68][72][73]

Cognitive Tutors yielded huge impacts on the classroom, student motivation, and student achievement.[74] Regarding the effectiveness of Cognitive Tutors, research evidence supports more effectiveness of Cognitive Tutors than classroom instruction.[67][75][76][68]

The Theoretical Background of Cognitive Tutor edit

ACT-R theory edit

The theoretical background of Cognitive Tutors is ACT-R theory of learning and performance, which distinguishes between procedural knowledge and declarative knowledge.[67] According to the ACT-R theory, procedural knowledge cannot be directly absorbed into people’s heads, and it can be presented in the notation of if-then Production rules. The only way to acquire procedural knowledge is learning by doing.

Production rules edit

Production rules characterize how students, whether they beginning learners or advanced learners, think in a domain or subject.[67] Production rules can represent students' informal or intuitive thinking.[77] The informal or intuitive forms of thinking are usually different from what textbook taught, and students might gain such patterns of thinking outside from school.[78] Heuristic methods, such us providing a plan of actions for problem-solving instead of giving particular operation;[79] and non-traditional strategies, such as working with graphics rather than symbols when solving equation,[69] can be represented in production rules as well.

Cognitive model and model tracing edit

Cognitive model is constructed on both ACT-R theory and empirical studies of learners.[69] All the solutions and typical misconceptions of learners are represented in the production system of the cognitive model.

Three strategies of solving an algebra equation

The equation: 2(3+X)=10

Strategy 1: 2x3+2xX=10

Strategy 2: 2(3+X)÷2=10÷2

Strategy 3: 2x3+X=10

For example, there are three strategies of solving an algebra equation, 2(3+X)=10. Strategy 1 is multiplying 2 across the sum (3+X); Strategy 2 is dividing both sides of the equation by 2; Strategy 3 shows the misconception of failing to multiply 2 across the sum (3+X). Since there are various methods of each task, students can choose their way of solving problems.

Model tracing is an algorithm that can run forward along every student’s learning steps and provide instant context-specific feedback. If a student chooses the correct answer, for example, using strategy 1 or strategy 2 to solve the equation, the Cognitive Tutor® will accept the action and provide the student next task. If the student’s mistake match a common misconception, such as using strategy 3, the Cognitive Tutor will highlight this step as incorrect and provide a just-in- time feedback, such as you also need to multiply X by 2. If the student’s mistake does not match any of the production rule in the cognitive model, which means that the student does not use any of the strategies above, the Cognitive Tutor® will flag this step as an error in red and italicized. Students can ask for advice or hint any time when solving problems. According to Corbett,[68] there are three levels of advice. The first level is to accomplish a particular goal; the second level is to offer general ideas of achieving the goal, and the third level is to give students detailed advice on how to solve the problem in the current context.

Knowledge tracing edit

Knowledge tracing can monitor the growing number of production rules during the problem solving process. Every student can choose one production rule every step of his or her way of solving problems, and Cognitive Tutors can calculate an updated estimate of the probability of the student has learned the particular rule.[68][69] The probability estimates of the rules are integrated into the interface and displayed in the skill-meter. Using probability estimates, the Cognitive Tutors can select appropriate tasks or problems according to students’ individual needs.

Effectiveness edit

Cognitive Tutor® Geometry edit

Aleven and Koedinger conducted two experiments to examine whether Cognitive Tutor® can scaffold self-explanation effectively in high school geometry class settings.[66] The findings suggested that “problem-solving practice with a Cognitive Tutor® is even more effective when the students explain their steps by providing references to problem-solving principles.”[80]

In geometry learning, it could happen when students have over-generalized production rules in their prior knowledge, and thus leading shallow encoding and learning. For instance, a student may choose the correct answer and go to next step base on the over-generalized production rule, if an angle looks equal to another, then it is, instead of real understanding. According to Aleven & Koedinger, self-explanation can promote more general encoding during problem-solving practice for it can push students to think more and reflect explicitly on the rules in the domain of geometry.[66]

All the geometry class in the experiments includes classroom discussion, small-group activities, lectures, and solving problems with Cognitive Tutor®. In both of the experiments, students are required to solve problems with the help of the Cognitive Tutor®. However, the Cognitive Tutor® were provided with two different versions, the new version can support self-explanation which is also called guided learning by doing and explaining,[66] and the other cannot. Theses additional features of the new version required students to justify each step by entering geometry principles or referring the principles to an online glossary of geometry knowledge, as well as providing explanations and solutions according to students’ individual choice. Also, the form of explanation in the new version is different from speech-based explanations mentioned in another experiment on self-explanation. The researchers found that students who use the new version of the Cognitive Tutor® were not only better able to give accurate explanation, but also able to deeper understand the domain rules. Thus, the students were able to transfer those learned rules to new situations better, avoiding shallow encoding and learning.

Genetics Cognitive Tutor edit

Corbett et al. (2010) conducted two evaluations of the Genetics Cognitive Tutor in seven different kinds of biology courses in 12 universities in America. The findings suggested the effectiveness of implementing Genetics Cognitive Tutor in post-secondary institution genetic problem-solving practice settings.[81]

In the first evaluation, the participants used the Genetics Cognitive Tutor with their class activities or homework assignments. The software has 16 modules with about 125 problems in five general genetic topics. Genetics Cognitive Tutor utilized the cognitive model of genetics problem solving knowledge to provide step-by-step help, and both model tracing and knowledge tracing. With the average correctness of pretest (43%) and post-test (61%), the average improvements of using Genetic Cognitive Tutors was 18%. In the second empirical evaluations, the researchers examined whether the knowledge tracing can correctly predict students’ knowledge. The finding suggested that the algorithm of knowledge tracing is capable of accurately estimating every student performance on the paper- and-pencil post-test.

Project Based Learning and Design Thinking edit

Theorizing Solutions for Real World Problems edit

Project Based Learning is a concept that is meant to place the student at the center of learning. The learner is expected to take on an active role in their learning by responding to a complex challenge or question through an extended period of investigation. Project Based Learning is meant for students to acknowledge the curriculum of their class, but also access the knowledge that they already have to solve the problem challenge. At its roots, project-based learning is an activity in which students develop an understanding of a topic based on a real-life problem or issue and requires learners to have a degree of responsibility in designing their learning activity[82]. Blummenfeld et al. (1991) states that Project Based Learning allows students to be responsible for both their initial question, activities, and nature of their artifacts[83].

Project based learning is based on five criteria[84]

Characteristics of Project Based Learning
Projects can be either central or peripheral to the curriculum.
Projects are focused on questions or problems that drive students to encounter (and struggle with) central concepts and principles of a discipline.
Projects involve students in a constructive investigation.
Projects are student-driven to some significant degree.
Projects are realistic, not school-like.

Similar in nature, Project Based Learning challenges the learner to present a practical and workable solution.

Challenges are based on authentic, real-world problems that require learners to engage through an inquiry process and demonstrate understanding through active or experiential learning. An example would be elementary or secondary students being asked by their teacher to solve a school problem – such as how to deal with cafeteria compost. Students would be encouraged to work in groups to develop solutions for this problem within specific criteria for research, construction, and demonstration of their idea as learners are cognitively engaged with subject matter over an extended period of time keeping them motivated[83]. The result is complex learning that defines its success is more than as more than the sum of the parts[85]. Project Based Learning aims at learners coordinating skills of knowledge, collaboration, and a final project presentation. This type of schema construction allows learners to use concrete training to perform concrete results. The learner uses previous knowledge to connect with new information and elaborate on their revised perception of a topic[85]. In Project Based Learning this would constitute the process of information gathering and discussing this information within a team to decide on a final solution for the group-instructed problem.

Unlike Problem-Based Learning, experiential learning within a constructivist pedagogy, is the basis of Project Based Learning, and learners show their knowledge, or lack there of, by working towards a real solution through trial and error on a specific driving question. The philosophy of Experiential experiential learning education comes from the theories developed by John Dewey in his work Education and Experience. Dewey argues that experience is shown to be a continuous process of learning by arousing curiosity, strengthen initiative, and is a force in moving the learner towards further knowledge[86]. The experiential aspect of Project Based Learning through working towards solutions for real world problems ties learner’s solutions to practical constructs. Learners must make up the expected gap in their knowledge through research and working together in a collaborative group. The experiential learning through Project Based Learning is focused on a driving question usually presented by the teacher. It is this focus that students must respond to with a designed artifact to show acquired knowledge.

The constructivist methodology of Project Based Learning is invoked through the guided discovery process set forth by the instructor, unlike pure discovery which has been criticised for student having too much freedom[87], Project Based Learning involves a specific question driven by the instructor to focus the process of investigation. This form of constructivist pedagogy has shown to promote cognitive processing that is most effective in this type of learning environment[87]. Project Based Learning provides a platform for learners to find their own solutions to the teacher driven question, but also have a system in which to discover, analyze, and present. Therefore, Project Based Learning delivers beneficial cognitive meaningful learning by selecting, organizing, and integrating knowledge[87].

Experience is the Foundation of Learning edit

Project Based Learning is a branch of education theory that is based on the idea of learning through doing. John Dewey indicated that teachers and schools should help learners to achieve greater depth in correlation between theory and real-world through experiential and constructivist methods. Dewey stated that education should contain an experiential continuum and a democratization of education to promote a better quality of human experience[86]. These two elements are consistent with Project Based Learning through the application of authentic, real world problems and production of artifacts as solutions, and the learner finding their own solutions through a collaborative effort with in a group. Blumenfeld et al. mentions that the value in Project Based Learning comes from questions that students can relate to including personal health and welfare, community concerns, or current events[83].

Project Based Learning has basis also in the work of Jean Piaget who surmised that the learner is best served to learn in a constructivist manner – using previous knowledge as a foundation for new learning and connections. The learner’s intelligence is progressed from the assimilation of things in the learner’s environment to alter their original schema by accommodating multiple new schema and assimilating all of this experienced knowledge[88]. Piaget believed in the learner discovering new knowledge for themselves, but that without collaboration the individual would not be able to coherently organize their solution[87]. Project Based Learning acknowledges Piaget’s beliefs on the need for collective communication and its use in assembling new knowledge for the learner.

Self-Motivation Furthers Student Learning edit

Project Based Learning is perceived as beneficial to learners in various ways including gained knowledge, communication, and creativity. While engaging on a single challenge, learners obtain a greater depth of knowledge. Moreover, abilities in communication, leadership, and inter-social skills are strengthened due to the collaborative nature of Project Based Learning. Students retain content longer and have a better understanding of what they are learning. There are at least four strands of cognitive research to support Project Based Learning [84] – motivation, expertise, contextual factors, and technology.

Students relate their motivations for their Project Based Learning models

Motivation of students that is centred on the learning and mastery of subject matter are more inclined to have sustained engagement with their work [89]. Therefore, Project Based Learning discourages public competition in favour of cooperative goals to reduce the threat to individual students and increase focus on learning and mastery[84]. Project Based Learning is designed to allow students to reach goals together, without fear of reprisal or individual criticism. For instance, Helle, et al. completed a study of information system design students who were asked to work on a specific assignment over a seven-month timeline. Students were given questionnaires about their experience during this assignment to determine their motivation level. Helle, et al. examined the motivation of learners in project groups and found intrinsic motivation increased by 0.52 standard deviations, showing that Project Based learner groups used self-motivation more often to complete assignments. Further, the study implied intrinsic motivation increase substantially for those who were lowest in self-regulation [90].

Learner metacognitive and self-regulation skills are lacking in many students and these are important to master in student development in domains[84]. In the Project Based Learning system the relationship between student and teacher allows the instructor to use scaffolding to introduce more advance forms of inquiry for students to model, thus middle school students and older are very capable of meaningful learning and sophisticated results [91]. Learners would then become experts over time of additional skills sets that they developed on their own within this system.

Contextually, situated cognition is best realized when the material to be used resembles real-life as much as possible[84], therefore, Project Based Learning provides confidence in learners to succeed in similar tasks outside of school because they no longer associate subjects as artificial boundaries to knowledge transfer. Gorges and Goke (2015) investigated the relationship between student perception of their abilities in major high school subjects and their relating these skills to real-world problem application through an online survey. Learners showed confidence in problem-solving skills and how to apply their learning to real-life situations, as Gorges and Goke[92] report, and that students who used Project Based Learning style learning have increased self-efficacy and self-concepts of ability in math (SD .77), history (SD .72), etc.[92]. Therefore, students are more likely to use domain-specific knowledge outside of an academic setting through increased confidence. Further, a comparison between students immediately after finishing a course and 12 weeks to 2 years provided effect sizes that showed Project Based Learning helped retain much knowledge[92].

Technology use allows learners to have a more authentic experience by providing users with an environment that includes data, expanded interaction and collaboration, and emulates the use of artifacts[84]. The learner, in accessing technology, can enhance the benefits of Project Based Learning by having more autonomy is finding knowledge and connecting with group members. Creativity is enhanced as students must find innovative solutions to their authentic problem challenges. For instance, using digital-story-telling techniques through Project Based Learning, as stated by Hung and Hwang[93], to collect data (photos) in elementary class to help answer a specific project question on global warming in science provided a significant increase in tests results (SD 0.64). As well, in order to find answers, learners must access a broad range of knowledge, usually crossing over various disciplines. The end result is that projects are resolved by student groups that use their knowledge and access to additional knowledge (usually through technology) to build a solution to the specific problem.

Educators Find Challenges in Project Based Learning Implementation edit

One of the main arguments against this type of learning is that the project can become unfocused and not have the appropriate amount of classroom time to build solutions. Educators themselves marginalized Project Based Learning because they lack the training and background knowledge in its implementation. Further financial constraints to provide effective evaluation through technology dissuades teachers as well[94]. The information gained by students could be provided in a lecture-style instruction and can be just as effective according to critics. Further, the danger is in learners becoming off-task in their time spent in the classroom, and if they are not continually focused on the task and the learning content, then the project will not be successful. Educators with traditional backgrounds in teaching find Project Based Learning requires instructors to maintain student connection to content and management of their time – this is not necessarily a style that all teachers can accomplish [94].Blumenfeld et al. (1998) state that real success from Project Based Learning begins and ends with a focused structure that allows teacher modelling, examples, suggested strategies, distributing guidelines, giving feedback during the activity, and allowing for revision of work [91].

Learner Need for Authentic Results through Critical Thought edit

Framework for 21st Century Learning

Project Based Learning is applicable to a number of different disciplines since it has various applications in learning, and is specifically relevant with the 21st century redefinition of education (differentiated, technologically-focused, collaboration, cross-curricular). STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is one form of 21st century education that benefits from instructors using Project Based Learning since it natural bridges between domains. The focus of STEM is to prepare secondary students for the rigors of post-secondary education and being able to solve complex problems in teams as would be expected when performing these jobs in the real world after graduation. Many potential occupational areas could benefit from Project Based Learning including medical, engineering, computer design, and education. Project Based Learning allows secondary students the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and become successful in high-stakes situation[95] . Moreover, these same students then develop a depth in knowledge when it comes to reflecting upon their strengths and limitations [95]. The result would be a learner who has developed critical thinking and has had a chance to apply it to real situations. Further the construction of a finished product is a realistic expectation in presenting an authentic result from learning. The product result demands accountability, and learner adherent to instructor expectations as well as constraints for the project[95].

The learner is disciplined to focus on specific outcomes, understand the parameters of the task, and demonstrate a viable artifact. The implication is that students will be ready to meet the challenges of a high-technology, fast-paced work world where innovation, collaboration, and results-driven product is essential for success. Technology is one area where Project Based Learning can be applied by developing skills in real-world application, thus cognitive tools aforded by new technology will be useful if perceived as essential for the project (as is the case in many real-world applications)[83].. For example, designers of computer systems with prior knowledge may be able to know how to trouble-shoot an operating system, but they do not really understand how things fit or work together, and they have a false sense of security about their skills[96].

Design-Thinking as a Sub-set of Project-Based Learning edit

Using the Process of Practical Design for Real-World Solutions edit

Design thinking requires the learner to work within a specific scaffold process to solve a design challenge

Design Thinking is a pedagogical approach to teaching through a constructionist methodology of challenge-based problem solving branching off of Project Based learning. It should be understood as a combination of sub-disciplines having design as the subject of their cognitive interests[97].

An example of design-thinking would be learners engaged with finding a solution to a real-world problem. However, unlike Project Based Learning, design-thinking asks the learner to create a practical solution within a scaffolding process (Figure 3) such as finding a method to deliver clean drinking water to a village. Designers would consider social, economic, and political considerations, but would deliver a final presentation of a working prototype that could be marketable. Hence a water system could be produced to deliver water to villagers, but within the limits of the materials, finances, and local policies in mind. It designates cores principles of empathy, define, ideate, prototype, and test to fulfill the challenges of design. Starting with a goal (solution) in mind, empathise is placed upon creative and practical decision making through design to achieve an improved future result. It draws upon a thinking that requires investigation into the details of a problem to find hidden parameters for a solution-based result. The achieved goal then becomes the launching point for further goal-setting and problem solving.[97]

Design Thinking - Example of designing a Motion Sensor Device to Motivate Exercise in Children

This type of approach to education is based on the premise that the modern world is full of artificial constructs, and that our civilization historically has relied upon these artifacts to further our progress in technological advances. Herbert Simon, a founder of design-thinking, states that the world that students find themselves in today is much more man-made and artificial that it is a natural world[98]. The challenge of design-thinking is to foster innovation by enhancing student creative thinking abilities[99]. Design-thinking is a tool for scaffolding conventional educational projects into Project Based thinking. Van Merrienbroer (2004) views design-learning as a scaffolding for whole-task practice. It decreases intrinsic cognitive load while learners can practice on the simplest of worked-out examples[87]. Therefore, Design-thinking is currently becoming popular due to its ability to bridge between the justification of what the learner knows and what the learner discovers within the context of 21st century skills and learning. A further example of this process is the design of a product that children will use to increase their physical activity (see video on Design Thinking) and can be explained using the scaffold of Design Thinking:

'Example of Design Thinking - Building a Motion Sensor Device to Motivate Exercise in Children'
Design Steps Result
Learn from People - "How to make using a motion sensor device compelling?" Asking kids from across the United States to share their likes, habits, frustrations. Interview children who are the mainstream, but also those who are very active or very sedentary. Those at the extremes are better at articulating the needs of the mainstream moderate group of children.
Find patterns - Capturing the results from interviews on post-it notes to organize. Look for patterns that create opportunities. Some children expressed the need to socialize while playing games, while others stated they enjoyed talking with others while exercising.
Design Principles - Research developed some specific design principles to be applied to the project - "Facilitate social interaction at all times", "Boost rewards early to increase adherence", "Motivate family activity, not just kid activity", "devote special attention to stay-at-home kids". These principles became the guide posts for designing a prototype.
Make Tangible - How might these principles be made into a usable product? Create prototypes based on these principles.
Iterate Relentlessly - Create mock-ups of electronic device user interfaces with paper and pencil and create devices from cardboard and tape. Create digital and physical models for children to test and provide feedback. The final result is a refined model based on this feedback.

Critical Thought on Design in the Artificial World edit

Design-thinking is can be traced back to a specific scholars including Herbert Simon, Donald Schon, and Nigel Cross. Simon published his findings on the gap he found in education of professions in 1969. He observed that techniques in the natural sciences and that just as science strove to show simplicity in the natural world of underlying complex systems, and Simon determined the it was the same for the artificial world as well[100]. Not only should this include the process behind the sciences, but the arts and humanities as well since music, for example involves formal patterns like mathematics (Simon, 136). Hence, the creative designs of everyone is based upon a common language and its application. While Schon builds upon the empathetic characteristics of design-thinking as a Ford Professor of Urban Planning and Education at MIT, referring to this process as an artistic and intuitive process for problem-solving[101]. Schon realized that part of the design process was also the reflection-in-action that must be involved during critical thinking and ideating. Moreover, the solutions for problems do not lie in text-books, but in the designer’s ability to frame their own understanding of the situation[100]. Cross fuses these earlier ideas into a pedagogy surrounding education stating that design-thinking should be part of the general education of both sciences and humanities[97]. He implies that students encouraged to use this style of thinking will improve cognitive development of non-verbal thought and communication[97].

Critical Thinking as Disruptive Achievement edit

Design-thinking follows a specific flow from theoretical to practical. It relies upon guided learning to promote effective learner solutions and goes beyond inquiry which has been argued does not work because it goes beyond the limits of long-term memory[97]. Design-thinking requires the learner to have a meta-analysis of their process. Creativity (innovative thought) is evident in design thinking through studies in defocused and focused attention to stimuli in memory activation [97]. Hu et al. (2010) developed a process of disrupted thinking in elementary students by having them use logical methods of critical thought towards specific design projects, over a four-year period, through specific lesson techniques. The results show that these students had increased thinking ability (SD .78) and that these effects have a long-term transfer increasing student academic achievement[102]. This shows use of divergent and convergent thinking in the creative process, and both of these process of thought has been noted to be important in the process of creativity (Goldschmidt, 2016, p 2) and demonstrates the Higher Order Thinking that is associated with long-term memory. Design-thinking specifically demonstrates the capability of having learners develop

Designers are Not Scientific? edit

Design-thinking critics comment that design is in itself not a science or cognitive method of learning, and is a non-scientific activity due to the use of intuitive processes [97]. The learner is not truly involved within a cognitive practice (scientific process of reasoning). However, the belief of Cross is that design itself is a science to be studied, hence it can be investigated with systematic and reliable methods of investigation [97]. Further, Schon states that there is connection between theory and practice that in design thinking means that there is a loyalty to developing a theoretical idea into a real world prototype[101]. Design-thinking is a process of scientific cognitive practice that does constitute technical rationality[101] and using this practice to understand the limits of their design that includes a reflective practice and meta. Further, this pedagogy is the application for the natural gap between theory and practice for most ideas, by allowing the learner to step beyond normal instruction and practice to try something new and innovative to come up with a solution. Design-thinking rejects heuristically-derived responses based on client or expert appreciation to take on an unforeseen form[101].

21st Century Learners and the Need for Divergent Thinking edit

Design-thinking is exceptionally positioned for use with 21st century skills based around technological literacy. Specifically, it is meant to assist the learner in developing creative and critical skills towards the application of technology. Designing is a distinct form of thinking that creates a qualitative relationship to satisfy a purpose[103]. Moreover, in a world that is rapidly becoming technologized, design-thinking the ability to make decisions based upon feel, be able to pay attention to nuances, and appraise the consequences of one’s actions[103]. The designer needs to be able to think outside the perceived acceptable solution and look to use current technology. Therefore, learners using design thinking are approaching all forms of technology as potential applications for a solution. Prototyping might include not just a hardware application, but also the use of software. Cutting-edge technologies such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality would be acceptable forms of solutions for design challenges. Specific application of design-thinking is, therefore applicable to areas of study that require technological adaptation and innovation. Specifically, the K-12 BC new curriculum (2016) has a specific focus on Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies that calls for all students to have knowledge of design-thinking throughout their entire education career and its application towards the advancement of technology. Therefore, Design Thinking is a relative and essential component to engaging student critical thought process.

Argumentation edit

Argumentation is the process of assembling and communicating reasons for or against an idea, that is, the act of making and presenting arguments. CT in addition to clear communication makes a good argument. It is the process through which one rationally solves problems, issues and disputes as well as resolving questions [104].

The practice of argumentation consists of two dimensions: dialogue and structure [105]. The dialogue in argumentative discussions focus on specific speech acts – actions done through language (i.e. accept, reject, refute, etc.) – that help advance the speaker’s position. The structure of an argument helps distinguish the different perspectives in discussion and highlight positions for which speakers are arguing [105].

Educators Find Challenges in Project Based Learning Implementation edit

One of the main arguments against this type of learning is that the project can become unfocused and not have the appropriate amount of classroom time to build solutions. Educators themselves marginalize PBL* because they lack the training and background knowledge in its implementation. Further financial constraints to provide effective evaluation through technology dissuades teachers as well (Efstratia, 2014, p 1258). The information gained by students could be provided in a lecture-style instruction and can be just as effective according to critics. Further, the danger is in learners becoming off-task in their time spent in the classroom, and if they are not continually focused on the task and the learning content, then the project will not be successful. Educators with traditional backgrounds in teaching find Project Based Learning requires instructors to maintain student connection to content and management of their time – this is not necessarily a style that all teachers can accomplish (Efstratia, 2014, p 1258).

Learner Need for Authentic Results through Critical Thought edit

Project Based Learning is applicable to a number of different disciplines since it has various applications in learning, and is specifically relevant with the 21st century redefinition of education (differentiated, technologically-focused, collaboration, cross-curricular). STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is one form of 21st century education that benefits from instructors using Project Based Learning since it natural bridges between domains. The focus of STEM is to prepare secondary students for the rigors of post-secondary education and being able to solve complex problems in teams as would be expected when performing these jobs in the real world after graduation. Many potential occupational areas could benefit from Project Based Learning including medical, engineering, computer design, and education.

Project Based Learning allows secondary students the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and become successful in high-stakes situation (Capraro, et al., 2013, p 2). Moreover, these same students then develop a depth in knowledge when it comes to reflecting upon their strengths and limitations (Capraro, et al., 2013, p 2). The result would be a learner who has developed critical thinking and has had a chance to apply it to real situations. Further the construction of a finished product is a realistic expectation in presenting an authentic result from learning. The product result demands accountability, and learner adherent to instructor expectations as well as constraints for the project (Capraro, et al., 2013, p 2). The learner is disciplined to focus on specific outcomes, understand the parameters of the task, and demonstrate a viable artifact. The implication is that students will be ready to meet the challenges of a high-technology, fast-paced work world where innovation, collaboration, and results-driven product is essential for success. Technology is one area where Project Based Learning can be applied by developing skills in real-world application. For example, designers of computer systems with prior knowledge may be able to know how to trouble-shoot an operating system, but they do not really understand how things fit or work together, and they have a false sense of security about their skills (Gary, 2013, p 1).

Critical Thinking as Disruptive Achievement edit

Design-thinking follows a specific flow from theoretical to practical. It relies upon guided learning to promote effective learner solutions and goes beyond inquiry which has been argued does not work because it goes beyond the limits of long-term memory (Lazonder and Harmsen, 2016, p 2). Design-thinking requires the learner to have a meta-analysis of their process. Creativity (innovative thought) is evident in design thinking through studies in defocused and focused attention to stimuli in memory activation (Goldschmidt, 2016, p 1). Hu et al. (2010) developed a process of disrupted thinking in elementary students by having them use logical methods of critical thought towards specific design projects, over a four-year period, through specific lesson techniques. The results show that these students had increased thinking ability (SD .78) and that these effects have a long-term transfer increasing student academic achievement (Hu, et al. 2010, p 554). This shows use of divergent and convergent thinking in the creative process, and both of these process of thought has been noted to be important in the process of creativity (Goldschmidt, 2016, p 2) and demonstrates the Higher Order Thinking that is associated with long-term memory. Design-thinking specifically demonstrates the capability of having learners develop.

The Process of Argumentation edit

Argumentation Stages edit

The psychological process of argumentation that allows one the produce, analyze and evaluate arguments[106]. These stages will be discussed in more detail later in this chapter.

1. Production How one produces reasons for a standpoint, opinion or assertion.
2. Analysis Assessing the validity of proposed arguments.
3. Evaluation Exploring the different views of an argument.

The Impact of Argumentation on Learning edit

Argumentation does not only impact the development of CT and vice versa, it affects many other aspects of learning as well. For instance, a study conducted in a junior high school science class showed that when students engaged in argumentation, they drew heavily on their prior knowledge and experiences [107]. Not only did argumentation enable the students to use their prior knowledge, it also helped them consolidate knowledge and elaborate on their understanding of the subject at a higher level [107]. These are just a few of the ways in which argumentation can be seen to impact aspects of learning other than the development of CT.

Video: Argumentation in Education:

The Relationship between Critical Thinking and Argumentation edit

Argumentation and CT appear to have a close relationship in instruction. Many studies have shown the impact that both of these elements can have on one another. Data suggests that when CT is infused into instruction it impacts the ability of students to argue[108] tasks that involve both critical thinking and creative thinking must be of an argumentative nature[109], and that argument analysis and storytelling can improve CT[110]. In other words it would appear that both CT and argumentation impact the development of each other in students and that both impact other aspects of learning and cognition.

How Critical Thinking Improves Argumentation edit

CT facilitates the evaluation of the information necessary to make an argument. It aids in the judgement of the validity of each position. It is used to assess the credibility of sources and helps in approaching the issue from multiple points of view. The elements of CT and argumentation have many common features. For example, examining evidence and counter-evidence of a statement and the information that backs up these claims are both facets of creating a sound argument and thinking critically.

The impact of how CT explicitly impacts one’s ability to argue and reason with reference to the aforementioned four CT components will be examined in this section. First, there needs to be an examination of the aspects of CT and how they can be impacted by argumentation. The first component, knowledge, as stated by Bruning et. al (2011), actively shapes the way in which one resolves problems[111]. Therefore, it is essential that students have a solid foundation of knowledge of whatever it is that they are arguing. The ability to use well founded information in order to effectively analyze the credibility of new information is imperative for students who wish to increase their argumentative abilities. The second component of CT that is important for argumentation is inference. As Chesñevar and Simari (2007) discuss in their examination of how we develop arguments, inference and deduction are essential aspects of reaching new conclusions from knowledge that is already known or proven[112].

Induction and deduction are important to both critical thinking and argumentation.

In other words, the ability to reach conclusions from known information is pivotal in developing and elaborating an argument. As well, the use of induction, a part of the CT process, is important to argumentation. As Bruning et al. suggest, the ability to make a general conclusion from known information is an essential part of the CT process[111]. Ontañón and Plaza (2015) make the argument that induction can be used in argumentation through communication with one another. Moreover, making inductions of general conclusions using the complete information that every member of the group can provide shows how interaction can be helpful through the use of induction in argumentation[113]. Therefore, it can be seen how induction, an important part of CT, can have a significant impact on argumentation and collaboration. The final component of CT, that may be the most important in its relationship to argumentation, is evaluation. The components of Evaluation indicated by Bruning et al. are analyzing, judging and weighing. These are three essential aspects of creating a successful argument [111]. Hornikx and Hahn (2012) provide a framework for three key elements of argumentation that are heavily attached in these Bruning et al.'s three aspects of CT[106].

Production, Analysis, and Evaluation edit

The three aspects of argumentation that Hornikx and Hahn focus on in their research is the production, analysis and evaluation of arguments[106]. Producing an argument uses the key aspects of CT; there must be evaluation, analysis, judgement and weighing of the argument that one wishes to make a stand on. Analysis of arguments and analysis in CT go hand in hand, there must be a critical analysis of information and viewpoints in order to create a successful and fully supported argument. As well, evaluation is used similarly in argumentation as it is derived from CT. Assessing the credibility of sources and information is an essential part in finding articles and papers that can assist someone in making an informed decision. The final aspect of evaluation in critical thinking is metacognition, thinking about thinking or monitoring one's own thoughts [111]. Monitoring one's own thoughts and taking time to understand the rationality of the decisions that one makes is also a significant part of argumentation. According to Pinto et al.’s research, there is a strong correlation between one's argumentation ability and metacognition.[114] In other words, the ability to think about one’s own thoughts and the validity of those thoughts correlates positively with the ability to formulate sound arguments. The transfer of thoughts into speech/argumentation shows that CT influences argumentation dramatically, however some research suggests that the two interact in different ways as well. It can clearly be seen through the research presented that argumentation is heavily influenced by CT skills, such as knowledge, inference, evaluation and metacognition. However there are also strong implications that instruction of CT in a curriculum can bolster argumentation. A study conducted by Bensley et. al (2010) suggests that when CT skills are directly infused into a course compared to groups that received no CT instruction, those who received CT instruction showed significant gains in their ability of argument analysis[115]. There can be many arguments made for the implication of specific CT skills to impact argumentation, but this research shows that explicit teaching of CT in general can increase the ability of students to more effectively analyze arguments as well. This should be taken into account that Skills Programs mentioned later in this chapter should be instituted if teachers wish to foster argumentation as well as CT in the classroom.

How Argumentation Improves Critical Thinking edit

Argumentation is a part of the CT process, it clarifies reasoning and the increases one's ability to assess viable information. It is a part of metacognition in the sense that one needs to evaluate their own ideas. CT skills such as induction and/or deduction are used to create a structured and clear argument.

Toulmin Argumentation Example- Argumentation is a part of the CT process, it clarifies reasoning and the increases one's ability to assess viable information. CT skills such as induction and/or deduction are used to create a structured and clear argument.

Research by Glassner and Schwarz (2007) shows that argumentation lies at the intersection of critical and creative thinking. They argue that reasoning, which is both critical and creative, is done through argumentation in adolescents. They suggest that reasoning is constantly being influenced by other perspectives and information. The ability to think creatively as well as critically about new information is managed by argumentation [116]. The back and forth process of accommodating, evaluating, and being open minded to new information can be argued as critical and creative thinking working together. However, the way in which one reaches conclusions from information is created from the ability to weigh this information, and then to successfully draw a conclusion regarding the validity of the solution that students come to. There is also a clear correlation of how argumentation helps students to nurture CT skills as well.

It is clear that CT can directly impact argumentation, but this relationship can also be seen as bidirectional, with argumentation instruction developing the CT skills. A study by Gold et al. shows that CT skills can be fostered through the use of argument analysis and storytelling in instruction[117]. This research suggests that argumentation and argument analysis are not only be beneficial to students, but also to older adults. This study was conducted using mature adult managers as participants. The article outlines four skills of CT that can be impacted by the use of argument analysis and storytelling: critique of rhetoric, tradition, authority, and knowledge. These four skills of CT are somewhat deeper than many instructed in high schools and extremely important to develop. The ability of argumentation to impact CT in a way that enables a person to gain a better perspective on their view about these things is essential to developing personal values as well as being able to use argumentation and CT to critique those values when presented with new information. The ability of argumentation to influence the ability of individuals to analyze their own traditions and knowledge is important for all students as it can give them better insight into what they value.

Argumentation is beneficial to CT skills as well as creative thinking skills in high school students. Research done by Demir and İsleyen (2015) shows that argumentation based a science learning approach in 9th graders improves both of types of thinking[118]. The ability of students to use argumentation to foster CT as well as creative thinking can be seen as being very beneficial, as mentioned earlier creative and CT skills use argumentation as a means of reasoning to draw conclusions, it is therefore not surprising that argumentation in instruction also fosters both of these abilities. In summation, it can clearly be seen that there is a link between both argumentation and CT along with many skills in the subset of CT skills. Explicit instruction of both of these concepts seems to foster the growth of the other and can be seen as complementary. In the next sections of this chapter how these aspects can be beneficial if taught within the curriculum and how they go hand in hand in fostering sound reasoning as well as skills that will help students throughout their lives will be examined.

Instructional Application of Argumentation and Critical Thinking edit

A debate is a practical application of argumentation and CT

Teaching Tactics edit

An effective method for structuring the instruction of CT is to organize the thinking skills into a clear and sequential steps. The order in which these steps aid in guiding the student towards internalizing those steps in order to apply them in their daily lives. By taking a deductive approach, starting from broader skills and narrowing them down to task-specific skills helps the student begin from what they know and generate something that they hadn't known before through CT. In the spirit of CT, a student's awareness of their own skills also plays an important role in their learning. In the classroom, they should be encouraged to reflect upon the process through which they completed a goal rather than just the result. Through the encouragement of reflection, students can become more aware of the necessary thinking skills necessary for tasks, such as Argumentation.

Instructing CT and Argumentation predisposes the instruction to using CT skills first. In designing a plan to teach CT, one must be able to critically evaluate and assess different methods and make an informed decision on which would work best for one's class. There are a variety of approaches towards instructing CT. Descriptive Models consist of explanations of how "good" thinking occurs. Specifically, it focuses on thinking strategies such as heuristics to assess information and how to make decisions. Prescriptive Models consist of explanations of what good thinking should be. In a sense, these models give a prototype, a "prescription", of what good thinking is. This approach is comparatively less applicable and sets a high standard of what is expected of higher order thinking. In addition to evaluating which approach would work best for them, prior to teaching CT, instructors need to carefully select the specific types of CT skills that they want students to learn. This process involves assessing factors such as age range, performance level as well as cognitive ability of one's class in order to create a program that can benefit most of, if not all, the students. A final aspect of instruction to consider as an educator is whether direct or indirect instruction will be used to teach CT. Direct Instruction refers to the explicit teaching of CT skills that emphasizes rules and steps for thinking. This is most effective when solutions to problems are limited or when the cognitive task is easy. In contrast, Indirect Instruction refers to a learner-oriented type of teaching that focuses on the student building their own understanding of thinking. This is most effective when problems are ambiguous, unclear or open to interpretation such as moral or ethical decisions [111].

One example of indirect CT instruction is through the process of writing literature reviews. According to Chandler and Dedman, having the skills to collect, assess and write literature reviews as well as summarize results of studies requires CT. In a teaching note, they evaluated a BSW (Baccalaureate of Social Work) program that strived to improve CT in undergraduate students. Specifically, they assert that practical writing assignments, such as creating literature reviews, help students combine revision and reflection while expanding their thinking to evaluate multiple perspectives on a topic. They found that upon reframing the assignment as a tool to facilitate students in becoming critical reviewers, students viewed the literature review as a summation of course material in addition to an opportunity to improve critical reading and writing skills. Through questioning during discussions, students were guided to analyze the authority and credibility of their articles. The students actively sought for more evidence to support articles on their topics. They found that students successfully created well synthesized literature reviews at the end of the BSW program [119]. This program used implicit instruction of CT skills through dialogue between instructor and students as well as peer engagement. Instead of explicitly stating specific skills or steps to learn CT, the instructors lead the students to practice CT through an assignment. As students worked on the assignment, they needed to use reasoning, analysis and inferential skills in order to synthesize and draw conclusions around the evidence they found on their topics. Practical application of CT skills through an assignment helped students develop CT through indirect instruction.

Argument mapping is a visualization of argumentation

Argument mapping is a way to visualize argumentation. The following are links to argument mapping software:

Skills Programs for CT edit

These programs aid in the formulation of critical thinking skills through alternative methods of instruction such as problem-solving. They are usually targeted towards special populations such as students with learning disabilities or cognitive deficits.

The CoRT Thinking Materials edit

The CoRT (Cognitive Research Trust) program is based on de Bono’s idea that thinking skills should be taught in school as a subject[120]. The Thinking Materials are geared towards the improvement of thinking skills. This skills program takes on a Gestalt approach and emphasizes the perceptual factor of problem solving. It usually spans over the course of 2 years and is suitable for a wide age range of children. The lessons strive to develop creative thinking, problem-solving as well as interpersonal skills. The materials are split into 6 units and cover topics such as planning, analyzing, comparing, selecting, evaluating and generating alternatives. A typical unit has leaflets covering a single topic, followed by examples using practice items. The leaflets are usually effective in group settings. The focus of these units are to practice thinking skills, therefore much of the instructional time is spent on practicing the topics brought up in the leaflets[111].

Much of the empirical research on this stand-alone program revolves around the development of creative thinking, however, it is relatively more extensive in comparison to the other programs mentioned in this chapter. The CoRT program has been shown to improve creativity in gifted students. Al-Faoury and Khwaileh (2014) assessed the effectiveness of the CoRT on gifted students’ creative writing abilities. The students were given a pretest that evaluated the fluency, flexibility and originality in writing creative short stories [120]. Students in the experimental group were taught 20 CoRT lessons in total with 10 from CoRT 1 “Breadth” and 10 from CoRT 4 “Creativity” over the course of three months while the control group received traditional lessons on creative writing. The posttest followed the same parameters as the pretest and the results were analyzed by comparing pre and posttest scores. The researchers found a statistically significant effect of CoRT on the experimental group’s fluency, flexibility and originality scores. The mean scores of the experimental groups in all three elements were higher than the control group[120]. These findings suggest that the CoRT program aids gifted students in creative writing skills as indicated through the use of rhetorical devices (metaphor, analogy, etc.), developing characters through dialogue and the control of complex structures [120]. The flexibility and fluency of writing is also applicable to the practice of argumentation and CT. In developing the ability to articulate and modify ideas, students can transfer these skills from creative writing towards higher-order cognitive processes such as CT and argumentation.

The Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment Program (FIE) edit

The FIE is a specialized program focused on mediated learning experiences that strives to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. Mediation is learning through interaction between the student and the mediator. Similar to Vygotsky's scaffolding, mediation is student-oriented and hinges upon 4 parameters: Intentionality, Reciprocity, Transcendence and Meaning.[121] Intentionality emphasizes the differences between mediation and interaction where the student and mediator have a common goal in mind. Reciprocity involves the student-oriented mentality of mediation, the response of the student hold most importance over academic results. Transcendence focuses on the connectivity of the mediation, it encourages the formation of associations and applications that stretch beyond the scope of the immediate material. Lastly, Meaning in mediation is where the student and mediator explicitly identify "why" and "what for" which promotes dialogue between the two during mediation.[121][122]

The "instruments" used to facilitate instruction are a series of paper and pencil exercises geared towards practicing internalizing higher order thinking strategies. The instruments cover domains such as analytic perception, spatial organization, categorization, comparison and many more. The implementation of this program varies across countries and is also dependent on the targeted population. A typical program contains 14 units with 3-4 sessions for a few hours every week administered by trained IE staff and teachers.[121]

The Productive Thinking Program edit

The Productive Thinking Program consists of the development of planning skills, generating and checking hypotheses as well as creating new ideas. This program is designed as a set of 15 lessons aimed at being completed over one semester. The target population of the program is upper-level elementary school students. The lessons are administered through the use of narrative booklets, often taking a detective-like approach to problem solving where the student is the detective solving a mystery. A structured sequence of steps guides the student to attain an objective specific to the lesson at hand.[123] Following the booklet or story, supplementary problems are given in order for students to apply and practice learned skills.[111]

The IDEAL Problem Solver edit

The IDEAL Problem Solver structures problem-solving as 5 steps using the acronym IDEAL. First, (I)dentify the problem, the solver needs to find out what the problem is. Second, (D)efine the problem involves having a clear picture of the entire problem before trying to solve it. Third, (E)xplore the alternatives, meaning that the solver needs to assess the potential solutions available. Fourth, (A)cting on a plan, that is, applying the solution and doing the act of solving. Lastly, (L)ooking at the effects which encompasses the evaluation of the consequences of the chosen solution. IDEAL is flexible in that it can be adapted to suit a wide age range and different levels of ability in its application. It can also be applied to different domains such as composition or physics.[111]

Instructing Argumentation edit

Research on argumentation is a comparatively new field of study for education, but has been noted to be of significant importance to almost all educational settings. Grade schools, high schools, and colleges now emphasize the use of argumentation in the classroom as it is seen as the best way for communication and debate in a both vocational and educational settings around the world.[124] A longitudinal study done by Crowell and Kuhn showed that an effective way to help students gain argumentative skills was through consistent and dense application of argumentation in the classroom and as homework.[124] During this longitudinal study, students were exposed to a variety of different methods from which they gained argumentative abilities. The activities employed such as peer collaboration, using computers, reflection activities, individual essays, and small group work all have implications for being valuable in teaching argumentation although it is not clear which ones are the most effective.[124] Data also showed that students all rose to a similar level of argumentative ability, no matter what they scored on argumentative tests before the study began. This shows that even students with seemingly no argumentative skills can be instructed to become as skilled or more skilled than their peers who tested higher than them at the beginning of the study.[124]

Dialogue and Argumentation edit

Research by Crowell and Kuhn (2011) highlights collaborative dialogical activities as practical interventions in the development of argumentative skills. The researchers implemented a longitudinal argumentative intervention that used topic cycles to structure a middle school philosophy class [125]. The students had class twice a week for 50 minutes each class over the span of three years. The intervention is as follows: first, students were split into small groups on the same side of the argument to generate ideas around the topic (“for” and “against” teams). Then individuals from either side argue with an opponent through an electronic medium. Finally, the students engage in a whole class debate. These three stages were termed Pregame, Game and Endgame, respectively. After the intervention, students were required to write individual essays regarding the topic through which their argumentative skills would be assessed [125]. The results showed an increased in the generation of dual perspective arguments in the intervention group. Such arguments require the arguer to assume the opposing stance to one’s own and reason its implications. This type of argument reflects a higher-order reasoning that requires critical assessment of multiple perspectives. These results did not begin to appear until year two and was only found statistically significant in year three suggesting that argumentative skills have a longer development trajectory than other lower-level cognitive skills [125]. Through this stand-alone intervention, the collaborative aspect of dialogical activities facilitates the development of intellectual dispositions necessary for good argumentation [125].

Dialogical activities are important in the development of argumentation. Family therapist David Kantor describes these four distinct roles that dialogue participants adopt dynamically as the dialogue proceeds.

Further research suggests that teaching through the use of collaborative discussions and argumentative dialogue is an effective teaching strategy [105]. Through argumentation, students can acquire knowledge of concepts as well as the foundational ideas behind these concepts. In formulating arguments, students need to generate premises that provide structure to an argument through accepted definitions or claims. Argumentation helps students reveal and clarify misconceptions as well as elaborate on background knowledge. The two aforementioned dimensions of argumentation – dialogue and structure – are often used in assessing and measuring argumentative performance [105]. Specifically, through student-expert dialogue, the students can be guided to give certain arguments and counterarguments depending on the expert’s dialectical decisions [105]. This scaffolding helps the student engage in more critical evaluations that delve deeper into the topic in discussion.

In a study using content and functional coding schemes of argumentative behavior during peer-peer and peer-expert dialogue pairings, Macagno, Mayweg-Paus and Kuhn (2014) found that through student-expert dialogues, students were able to later formulate arguments that dealt with abstract concepts at the root of the issue at hand (i.e. ethical principles, conflict of values) in comparison to peer-peer dialogues [105]. The expert used more specific and sophisticated ways of attacking the student’s argument, such as suggesting an alternative solution to the problem at hand, which in turn enhanced the performance of the student in later meta-dialogues [105]. The results suggest that the practical application of argumentation through collaborate activities facilitates the development of argumentation skills. Similar to CT skills development, rather than teaching, implicit instruction through the practice of argumentation in interactive settings helps its development.

Science and Argumentation edit

Much of the literature surrounding the application of argumentation in the classroom revolves around the scientific domain. Argumentation is often used as a tool in scientific learning to enhance CT skills, improve class engagement and activate prior knowledge and beliefs around the subject [105]. In order to articulate and refine scientific theories and knowledge, scientists themselves utilize argumentation [104]. Jonassen and Kim (2010) assert that science educators often emphasize the role of argumentation more than other disciplines [126]. Argumentation supports the learning of how to solve well-structures problems as well as ill-structured ones in science, and from there by extension, in daily life. Specifically, the ill-structured ones reflect more practical everyday problems where goals and limitations are unclear and there are multiple solution pathways as well as multiple factors for evaluating possible solutions [104].

Through argumentation, students learn to use sound reasoning and CT in order to assess and justify their solution to a problem. For example, a well-structured problem would be one posed in a physics class where concrete laws and formulas dictate the solution pathway to a problem or review questions found at the end textbook chapters which require the application of a finite set of concepts and theories. An ill-structured problem would be finding the cause of heart disease in an individual. Multiple developmental and lifestyle factors contribute to this one problem in addition to the various different forms of heart disease that need to be evaluated. This sort of problem requires the application of knowledge from other domains such as nutrition, emotional well-being and genetics. Since ill-structured problems do not have a definite answer, students are provided with an opportunity to formulate arguments that justify their solutions [104]. Through the practice of resolving problems in science, such as these, students can use CT to develop their argumentative ability.

One’s willingness to argue as well as one's ability to argue also play a significant role in learning science[127]. For one science is at its core, extremely argumentative.

Science at its core is extremely argumentative, such reasoning can be seen when looking at the scientific method.

If students have to ability to engage in argumentation at an early age then there knowledge of specific content such as science can grow immensely. The main reason for this is argumentative discourse, being able to disagree with others is extremely important because for adolescents they are at an age which is fundamentally social (ie junior to senior high) using this social ability is pivotal as students at this point may have the confidence to disagree with one another. When a student disagrees with another in argument in a classroom setting it gives them an opportunity to explain the way in which they think about the material. This verbalization of one’s own thoughts and ideas on a subject can help with learning the subject immensely[127]. It also allows for the student to reflect upon and expand their ideas as they have to present them to the class which helps with learning. This also provides the opportunity for the student to identify any misconceptions they have about the subject at hand as more than likely they will receive rebuttal arguments from others in their class[127]. All these factors are aspects of CT and contribute to the learning of the concept and conceptual change in the student which is what learning is all about. The nature of adolescent social behaviour could provide a window through which argumentation could benefit their learning in dramatic ways in learning science [127].

Argumentation, Problem Solving and Critical Thinking in History Education edit

History education offers learners an abundant opportunity to develop their problem solving and critical thinking skills while broadening their perspective on the human condition. The study of history addresses a knowledge gap; specifically, it is the difference between our knowledge of present day and the “infinite, unorganized and unknowable everything that ever happened”. [128] It has long been understood that the study of history requires critical thought and analytical problem-solving skills. In order to become proficient at the study of history, learners must interpret and construct how we come to know about the past and navigate the connection between the past and the body of knowledge we call history. [129] Unfortunately, history education has been demoted to simply recalling factual information - via the overuse of rote memorization and multiple-choice testing - all of which is placed outside the context of present day. This approach does little to inspire a love of history nor does it support the learner’s ability to construct an understanding of how the past and present are connected.

On the other hand, the study of science and mathematics has for many years been centred around developing skills through problem-solving activities. Students learn basic skills and build upon these skills through a progression of increasingly complex problems in order to further their understanding of scientific theory and mathematical relationships. Specific to science education, learners are taught to think like scientists and approach problems using the scientific method. If this approach works well for science and math education, why should it not be utilized for the teaching of history? [128]. Therefore, to develop historical thinking skills it is necessary for instructors to teach the strategies and problem-solving approaches that are used by professional historians. However, unlike science and mathematics, the problems we solve in history are often ill-defined and may be unanswerable in a definitive sense making it more challenging for students to learn and transfer these skills. The following section will address these challenges and provide support for teaching historical thinking via The Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts (2013).

Historical Thinking - The Big Six edit

Based upon years of research and first-hand classroom experience, Seixas and Morton (2013) established a set of six competencies essential to the development of historical thinking skills. Much like science and mathematics education discussed above, the Big Six approach to history education allows the learner to progress from simplistic to advanced tasks. Moreover, the Big Six approach is intended to help the learner “move from depending on easily available, commonsense notions of the past to using the culture’s most powerful intellectual tools for understanding history”. (pg 1) [128] Additionally, the Big Six concepts reveal to the learner the difficulties we encounter while attempting to construct a history of the past. The Big Six competencies include the following: historical significance, evidence, continuity and change, cause and consequence, historical perspectives, and the ethical dimension.

Historical Significance

To develop a critical view of history the learner must recognize and define the qualities that makes something (e.g., person, event, social change) historically significant and why they should spend their time learning about this thing. Behaviourist approaches to history education, focusing on the textbook as the main source of information, have caused learners to become passive in their approach to learning about the past. The textbook becomes the authority on what they need to know. Moreover, the sole use of textbooks to teach national history may contribute to the creation of a “master narrative” that limits a student’s access to what is controversial about their country’s past.[130] By shifting the focus away from the textbook, learners may be able to further their critical thinking skills by following the steps historians take to study the past and constructing their own “reasoned decisions about historical significance”. [128] However, even if a learner is provided primary source evidence to construct a narrative of the past but is not taught to recognize the subjective side to historical thinking - why these pieces of evidence were selected, why this topic was selected, and why they are both historically significant - they may not recognize the impacts of human motivation on the construction of historic understanding. Unlike scientific inquiry that relies on a “positivistic definition of rationality”, historical thinking requires learners to acknowledge human motivation - their own motivation in studying the past, their instructors motivation for selecting certain topics of study, and the motivation of those living in the past [131]

Seixas & Morton (2013) cite two elements involved in constructing historical significance: “big, compelling concerns that exist in our lives today, such as environmental sustainability, justice, power, [and] welfare” and “particular events, objects, and people whose historical significance is in question” (pg 16) [128] The intersection between these two elements is where historical significance is found. It is useful here to add Freedman’s (2015), definition of critical historical reasoning . Critical historical reasoning requires us to recognize that the study of history is not objective. Historians “frame their investigations through the questions they pose and the theories they advance” and therefore, learners of history must analyze the “integrity of historical narratives and their pattern of emphasis and omission” (pg 360). [131] Critical historical reasoning aims towards “conscious awareness of the frame one has adopted and the affordances and constraints it imposes” (pg 360) [131]. Therefore, both historians and learners of history must recognize that historical significance is assigned and not an inherent feature of the past, and, importantly, is subject to change.


The second set of competencies described by Seixas and Morton (2013) are based on using evidence to address an inquiry about the past. In a study of the cognitive processes involved in evaluating source documents, Wineburg (1991) lists three heuristics: corroboration, sourcing, and contextualization. Corroboration refers to comparing one piece of evidence to another, sourcing is identifying the author(s) of the evidence prior to reading or viewing the material, and contextualization refers to situating evidence in a specific time and place (pg 77). [132]

This study utilized an expert/novice design to compare how historians and high school students make sense of historic documents. Wineburg (1991) argues that the historians were more successful in the task not because of the “schema-driven processing” common to science and mathematics, but by building a model of the [historic] event through the construction of “context-specific schema tailored to this specific event” (pg 83). [132]Additionally, historians demonstrated greater appreciation for the source of the historic documents compared to the students. This suggests that the students did not make the connection between a document's author and the reliability of the source. As Wineburg states, the historian understands “that there are no free-floating details, only details tied to witnesses, and if witnesses are suspect, so are their details” (pg. 84). [132] This study suggests the potential for historical understanding to be improved by teaching the cognitive strategies historians use to construct history.

Multiple narratives of the past exist as individuals bring their own values and experiences to their interpretations of historical evidence. Recognizing this may push learners beyond accepting historic accounts at face value and pull them towards a more critical approach to history. Inquiry-based guided discovery activities, such as Freedman’s (2015) Vietnam war narrative study, suggest that students may gain an awareness of the way they and others “frame” history through exploring primary source documents and comparing their accounts with standardized accounts (i.e. a textbook). [133] By allowing learners to view history as an interpretation of evidence rather than a fixed body of knowledge, we can promote critical thought through the learners’ creation of inferences based on evidence and construction of arguments to support their inferences.

Continuity and Change

Developing an understanding of continuity and change requires the learner to recognize that these two elements overlap over the chronology of history; some things are changing at the same time that other things remain the same. If students are able to recognize continuity and the processes of change in their own lives they should be able to transfer this understanding to their study of the past. [134] Students should be encouraged to describe and question the rate and depth of historic change as well as consider whether the change should be viewed as progress or decline.[134] The evaluation of historic change as positive or negative is, of course, dependent on the perspective taken by the viewer. An example of continuity through history is the development of cultural identity. Carretero and van Alphen (2014), explored this concept in their study of master narratives in Argentinian high school students. They suggest that identity can be useful to facilitate history education, but could also create misconceptions by the learner confounding past with present (or, presentism), as demonstrated when using “we” to discuss people involved in victorious battles or revolutions of the past which gave shape to a nation (pg 308-309). [130] It is useful, then to teach students to differentiate between periods of history. However, periodization of history, much like everything else in the knowledge domain, is based on interpretation and is dependent on the questions historians ask [134]

Educational technology such as interactive timelines, narrative history games, and online discussion groups may help learners make connections between the past and present. For example, the Museum of Civilization offers a teaching tool on the history of Canadian medicare ( Interactive timelines allow students to see connections between continuity, change, cause, and consequences by visually representing where these elements can be found over historic time. Also, guiding the learners’ exploration of interactive timelines by selecting strong inquiry questions may improve students understanding and facilitate the development of historical thinking. For example, an investigation into the European Renaissance could be framed by the following question: “Did everyone in Europe experience the Renaissance the same way?” Questions such as this are open-ended so as to not restrict where the students takes their inquiry but also suggest a relationship between the changes of the Renaissance and the continuity of European society. Other examples of educational technology that support historical thinking include the “Wold History for us All” ( project. This website offers world history units separated into large-scale and local-scale topics and organized by historic period. The lesson plans and resources may allow the learner to making connections between local issues and the broader, global conditions affecting world history. Finally, a case study by Blackenship (2009) suggests that online discussion groups are a useful for developing critical thinking by allowing the teacher to view the students’ thought processes and thereby facilitating formative assessment and informing the type of instructional interventions required by the teacher. Blackenship (2009) cites additional research supporting the use of online discussion because it allows the learners to collect their thoughts before responding to a discussion prompt; they have more time to access prior knowledge and consider their own ideas. [135]

Cause and Consequence

The historical thinking competencies of cause and consequence require learners to become proficient at identifying direct and indirect causes of historic events as well as their immediate and long-term consequences. Effective understanding of the causes of historic change requires the recognition of both the actions of individuals as well as the prevailing conditions of the time. Historical thinking requires students to go beyond simplistic immediate causes and think of history as web of “interrelated causes and consequences, each with various influences” (pg 110). [134] In addition to improving understanding of the past, these competencies may help learners to better understand present-day conflicts and issues. Shreiner (2014) used the novice/expert format to evaluate how people utilize their knowledge of history to make reasoned conclusions about events of the present. Similar to the Wineburg (1991) study discussed above, Shreiner (2014) found the experts were better at contextualizing and using sourcing to critically analyze documents for reliability and utility in establishing a reasoned judgement. Additionally, the study found that while students would use narrative to construct meaning, they typically created schematic narrative templates - general statements about the past which lack specific details & events. [136] Seixas and Morton (2013) caution the use of overly-simplistic timelines of history because they could create a misconception that history is nothing more than a list of isolated events.The study indicates that historical narratives that follow periodization schemes and are characterized by cause-and-effect relationships, as well as change over time, are helpful for understanding contemporary issues.[134] Therefore, it is important that educators work to develop these competencies in students. Much like historic change, the consequences of certain actions in history can be viewed as positive and negative, depending on perspective. This will be discussed in further detail below.

Historical Perspectives and Ethics

The final two historical thinking competencies proposed by Seixas and Morton are historical perspectives and ethics. Historical perspectives refers to analyzing the historical context for conditions that would influence a historic figure to view an event or act in a particular way. This could include religious beliefs, social status, geographic location, time period, prevailing economic and political conditions, and social/cultural conditions. This again requires some interpretation of evidence as oftentimes we do not have evidence that explicitly describes a historic figure’s attitudes and reasons for acting. Primary source documents, such as letters and journals can provide insight but still require the historian to use inference to make sense of the documents and connect the information to a wider historical narrative or biographical sketch of an individual. Additionally, “[h]ard statistics, such as birth and death rates, ages of marriage, literacy rates, and family size... can all help us make inferences about people's experiences, thoughts, and feelings” (pg 143). [134] There are, of course, limitations to how much we can infer about the past; however, Seixas and Morton (2013) suggest that acknowledging the limitations of what we can know about the past is part of “healthy historical thinking” (pg 143). [134] Learners can develop their understanding of historical perspective by observing the contrast between past and present ways of life and worldviews, identifying universal human traits that transcend time periods (e.g., love for a child), and avoiding presentism and anachronism. [134] A greater understanding of historical perspective will be useful for students when encountering conflicting historical accounts as they will be able to see where the historical actors are “coming from” and therefore better understand their actions. Historical perspective and ethics are related. Seixas and Morton (2013) argue that “the ethical dimension of historical thinking helps to imbue the study of history with meaning” (pg 170). [134] To understand the moral reasons for an individual's actions we need to understand the influence of historical, geographical, and cultural context. Additionally, to understand ethical consequences of the past we make moral judgments which require “empathetic understanding[;] an understanding of the differences between our moral universe and theirs” (Seixas and Peck, 2004, pg 113). [137] People with little experience with historical thinking have difficulty separating the moral standards of today’s society with the societies of the past. Additionally, students tend to judge other cultures more critically than their own; oftentimes defending or justifying actions of their own nations. [138] Therefore, Lopez, Carretero and Rodriguez-Moneo (2014) suggest using national narratives of nations different from the learner’s own nation to more effectively develop critical historical thinking. As the learner becomes proficient at analyzing the ethical decisions of the past, they can translate these skills to analyzing present-day ethical questions. Role playing is a useful instructional strategy for teaching historical perspective. Traditional, face-to-face classrooms allow for dramatic role play activities, debates, and mock trials where students can take on the role of an individual or social group from history. Additionally, educational games and websites allow for the integration of technology while using the role play strategy. Whitworth and Berson (2003) found that, in the 1990-2000s, technology in the social studies classroom was focused mostly on using the internet as a digital version of material that would have otherwise been presented in the classroom. They suggest that alternative uses of technology - such as inquiry-based webquests, simulations, and collaborative working environments - promote interaction and critical thinking skills. [139] One example of a learning object that promotes critical thinking through role playing is the Musee-Mccord’s online game collection ( Specifically, the Victorian Period and the Roaring Twenties games allow the learner to progress through the time period and make decisions appropriate to the historic context of the period. These games are paired with relevant resources from the museum collections which can enhance the learner’s depth of understanding of the period. In terms of teaching strategies for the ethical component of history can be explored through historical narratives, debating ethical positions on historic events, and evaluating and critiquing secondary sources of information for ethical judgements.

To summarize, introducing professional historians’ strategies for studying history is widely regarded as a way to improve historical thinking in students. Professional historian’s cognitive processes of corroborating accounts, critically analyzing sources, and establishing historic context are reflected well by Seixas and Morton’s Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts (2013). Historical thinking gives students the skills to problem solve within the context of history and make sense of the past and connect it to the present in order to broaden the learner’s perspective, understand prevailing social conditions, and influence how they interact with the world. See the Historical Thinking Project’s webpage ( for instructional ideas for all the historical competencies.

Instructing through Academic Controversy edit

Using the technique of Academic Controversy could be an effective way of teaching both argumentation and CT skills to students. Academic controversy involves dividing a cooperative group of four in two pairs of students and assigning them opposing positions of an argument or issue, after which the two pairs each argue for their position. The groups then switch their positions and argue again, finally the group of four is asked to come up with an all-around solution to the problem [140]. This activity can be effective in instructing both aspects of argumentation and CT, though it may be a bit dated. The activity is argumentative by nature, making students come up with reasons and claims for two sets of arguments. This equilibrium is important to the argumentative process because provides the students with an opportunity to evaluate the key points of their argument and the opposition's which could be beneficial in any debate. As well, this activity is geared to engage students in a few aspects of CT such as evaluation, since the students must assess each side of the argument. It also engages metacognitive processes as the students must come up with a synthesized conclusion with their peers of their own arguments, a process which requires them to be both analytical and open minded. This activity is a good way of increasing both CT skills and argumentation as it requires students to be open-minded, but also engage in analytical debate.

Glossary edit

Academic Controversy
a two-round debate process through which a cooperative group of 4 are divided into opposing pairs that engage in a debate.  Each pair argues for their own position and switch to the opposing position in the next round.
Procedures that can be applied to particular problems that if executed properly, guarantees the correct answer.
Attributing characteristics or events of one time period to another.
The identification and selection of relevant information to allow for further inference and interpretation.
The process of using reasoning to support or refute a claim or idea.
Critical Thinking
A type a reflective thinking consisting of weighing, evaluating and understanding information
A type of reasoning where specific conclusions are made from general, given information
Descriptive Model
An instructional approach that explains how good thinking occurs.
Design Thinking
Student centred learning engaged with finding a solution to a real-world problem.
Direct Instruction
A guided learning approach that directly teaches cognitive skills and involves knowledge being explicitly passed from teacher to student.
Disposition [for critical thought]
The ability to consciously choose a skill, including an inclination for engaging in intellectual behaviours, a sensitivity to opportunities where such behaviours may be engaged, and a general ability for engaging in critical thought.
Divergent Thinking
Thinking characterized by the generation and testing of multiple and diverse solutions .
Domain Specific Knowledge
Knowledge in a special area or field.
Epistemological Beliefs
Belief regarding the nature and acquiring of knowledge.
An umbrella term for the sub skills of analyzing, judging, and weighing
Functional Fixedness
A bias that restricts a person to using an object only in the way it is typically used in everyday life.
Ill-defined Problem
Problems that do not have a clear goal, solution path, or an expected answer.
Indirect Instruction
The learner-oriented instruction of material with emphasis on how the learner interprets the taught material
A type of reasoning where  general conclusions are made from specific information
A type of connection or association between two units of knowledge
Inquiry-based Instruction
A form of minimally guided learning that allows students to construct their own understanding of the materials.
Information that one has, this can include connections and associations between known information
Knowledge people have about their own thoughts.
Classifying the past into distinct blocks of time (periods).
Prescription Model
An instructional approach that explains the criteria and characteristics of good thinking
A tendency to interpret past events using present day values and concepts.
Problem-based Learning
A student-centered approach in which students learn about a particular subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem or question.
Problem Presentation
Allows problem solvers better visualize the problem at hand and thus aids them in arriving at a solution.
Problem Solving
Cognitive processing' used to accomplish a goal when no solution is apparent to the solver.
 The generation of arguments
Project Based Learning
A student-centred approach in which the learner responds to a complex challenge through a specific design process.
The process of being metacognitively, behaviourally, and motivationally active in one's own learning
Skills Programs
instructional curriculums designed to facilitate the development of CT skills through alternative teaching methods such as problem-solving
Well-defined Problems
Problems that do not have a clear goal, solution path, or an expected answer.

Suggested Readings edit

  1. Abrami, P.C., Bernard, R.M., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Surkes, M.A., Tamim, R., & Zhang, D. (2008). Instructional Interventions Affecting Critical Thinking Skills and Dispositions: A Stage 1 Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 78(4). 1102-1134. DOI: 10.3102/0034654308326084.
  2. Phan, H.P. (2010). Critical thinking as a self-regulatory process component in teaching and learning. Psicothema, 22(2). 284-292.
  3. Kozulin, A. & Presseisen, B.Z. (1995). Mediated Learning Experience and Psychological Tools: Vygotsky’s and Feuerstein’s Perspective in a Study of Student Learning. Educational Psychologist, 30(2), 67-75.
  4. Crowell, A., & Kuhn, D. (2011). Dialogic Argumentation as a Vehicle for Developing Young Adolescents’ Thinking. Psychological Science, 22(4), 545-552. DOI: 10.1177/0956797611402512.

External links edit

References edit

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