Critical thinking as a process and an outcome

The development of critical thinking, though often not an enumerated learning objective, guides much of what I aspire to for my students. Such an orientation can be seen through the selection of course materials as well as through questions that I ask and tasks that I assign in a course. I had never before explored the concept of cognitive presence, much less its connection to social presence and teaching presence. However, having reviewed the material in this module, it seems self-evident that the three are intimately related.  How can we expect students to engage in critical thinking (which involves some degree of “putting yourself out there” and taking risks) if they are feeling isolated, marginalized, disconnected, or without guidance? I appreciated how the practical inquiry model laid out a sequence of steps that might occur in the development of critical thinking as a process. The model suggests a progression, which may involve returning to prior phases of the process, and a cyclical pattern that may emerge to further develop the thought process. Additionally, this heuristic model helps to clarify that the process of critical thinking cannot always be fully and adequately assessed through the methods that would view critical thinking merely as an outcome. Hence, there is a need to develop a range of methods for assessing the extent to which critical thinking as a process has occurred and cognitive presence has been achieved.

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