Critical Thinking Applied

Most of us are not what we could be. We are less. We have great capacity. But most of it is dormant; most is undeveloped. Improvement in thinking is like improvement in basketball, in ballet, or in playing the saxophone. It is unlikely to take place in the absence of a conscious commitment to learn. As long as we take our thinking for granted, we don’t do the work required for improvement.

Development in thinking requires a gradual process requiring plateaus of learning and just plain hard work. It is not possible to become an excellent thinker simply because one wills it. Changing one’s habits of thought is a long-range project, happening over years, not weeks or months. The essential traits of a critical thinker require an extended period of development.

How, then, can we develop as critical thinkers? How can we help ourselves and our students to practice better thinking in everyday life?

First, we must understand that there are stages required for development as a critical thinker:

Stage One: The Unreflective Thinker (we are unaware of significant problems in our thinking)
Stage Two: The Challenged Thinker (we become aware of problems in our thinking)
Stage Three: The Beginning Thinker (we try to improve but without regular practice)
Stage Four: The Practicing Thinker (we recognize the necessity of regular practice)
Stage Five: The Advanced Thinker (we advance in accordance with our practice)
Stage Six: The Master Thinker (skilled & insightful thinking become second nature to us)

We develop through these stages if we:

  1) accept the fact that there are serious problems in our thinking (accepting the challenge to our thinking) and
2) begin regular practice.


In this article, we will explain 9 strategies that any motivated person can use to develop as a thinker. As we explain the strategy, we will describe it as if we were talking directly to such a person. Further details to our descriptions may need to be added for those who know little about critical thinking. Here are the 9:

  1. Use “Wasted” Time.
2. A Problem A Day.
3. Internalize Intellectual Standards.
4. Keep An Intellectual Journal.
5. Reshape Your Character.
6. Deal with Your Ego.
7. Redefine the Way You See Things.
8. Get in touch with your emotions.
9. Analyze group influences on your life.


There is nothing magical about our ideas. No one of them is essential. Nevertheless, each represents a plausible way to begin to do something concrete to improve thinking in a regular way. Though you probably can’t do all of these at the same time, we recommend an approach in which you experiment with all of these over an extended period of time.

First Strategy:Use “Wasted” Time. All humans waste some time; that is, fail to use all of their time productively or even pleasurably. Sometimes we jump from one diversion to another, without enjoying any of them. Sometimes we become irritated about matters beyond our control. Sometimes we fail to plan well causing us negative consequences we could easily have avoided (for example, we spend time unnecessarily trapped in traffic — though we could have left a half hour earlier and avoided the rush). Sometimes we worry unproductively. Sometimes we spend time regretting what is past. Sometimes we just stare off blankly into space.

The key is that the time is “gone” even though, if we had thought about it and considered our options, we would never have deliberately spent our time in the way we did. So why not take advantage of the time you normally waste by practicing your critical thinking during that otherwise wasted time? For example, instead of sitting in front of the TV at the end of the day flicking from channel to channel in a vain search for a program worth watching, spend that time, or at least part of it, thinking back over your day and evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. For example, you might ask yourself questions like these:

When did I do my worst thinking today? When did I do my best? What in fact did I think about today? Did I figure anything out? Did I allow any negative thinking to frustrate me unnecessarily? If I had to repeat today what would I do differently? Why? Did I do anything today to further my long-term goals? Did I act in accordance with my own expressed values? If I spent every day this way for 10 years, would I at the end have accomplished something worthy of that time?

It would be important of course to take a little time with each question. It would also be useful to record your observations so that you are forced to spell out details and be explicit in what you recognize and see. As time passes, you will notice patterns in your thinking.

Second Strategy: A Problem A Day. At the beginning of each day (perhaps driving to work or going to school) choose a problem to work on when you have free moments. Figure out the logic of the problem by identifying its elements. In other words, systematically think through the questions: What exactly is the problem? How can I put it into the form of a question. How does it relate to my goals, purposes, and needs?

  1) Wherever possible take problems one by one. State the problem as clearly and precisely as you can.

2) Study the problem to make clear the “kind” of problem you are dealing with. Figure out, for example, what sorts of things you are going to have to do to solve it. Distinguish Problems over which you have some control from problems over which you have no control. Set aside the problems over which you have no control, concentrating your efforts on those problems you can potentially solve.

3) Figure out the information you need and actively seek that information.

4) Carefully analyze and interpret the information you collect, drawing what reasonable inferences you can.

5) Figure out your options for action. What can you do in the short term? In the long term? Distinguish problems under your control from problems beyond your control. Recognize explicitly your limitations as far as money, time, and power.

6) Evaluate your options, taking into account their advantages and disadvantages in the situation you are in.

7) Adopt a strategic approach to the problem and follow through on that strategy. This may involve direct action or a carefully thought-through wait-and-see strategy.

8) When you act, monitor the implications of your action as they begin to emerge. Be ready at a moment’s notice to revise your strategy if the situation requires it. Be prepared to shift your strategy or your analysis or statement of the problem, or all three, as more information about the problem becomes available to you.


Third Strategy:Internalize Intellectual Standards.
Each week, develop a heightened awareness of one of the universal intellectual standards (clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, logicalness, significance). Focus one week on clarity, the next on accuracy, etc. For example, if you are focusing on clarity for the week, try to notice when you are being unclear in communicating with others. Notice when others are unclear in what they are saying.

When you are reading, notice whether you are clear about what you are reading. When you orally express or write out your views (for whatever reason), ask yourself whether you are clear about what you are trying to say. In doing this, of course, focus on four techniques of clarification : 1) Stating what you are saying explicitly and precisely (with careful consideration given to your choice of words), 2)Elaborating on your meaning in other words, 3)Giving examples of what you mean from experiences you have had, and 4)Using analogies, metaphors, pictures, or diagrams to illustrate what you mean. In other words, you will frequently STATE, ELABORATE, ILLUSTRATE, AND EXEMPLIFY your points. You will regularly ask others to do the same.

Fourth Strategy: Keep An Intellectual Journal. Each week, write out a certain number of journal entries. Use the following format (keeping each numbered stage separate):

  
1. Situation. Describe a situation that is, or was, emotionally significant to you (that is, that you deeply care about). Focus on one situation at a time.

2. Your Response. Describe what you did in response to that situation. Be specific and exact.

3. Analysis. Then analyze, in the light of what you have written, what precisely was going on in the situation. Dig beneath the surface.

4. Assessment. Assess the implications of your analysis. What did you learn about yourself? What would you do differently if you could re-live the situation?


Strategy Five: Reshape Your Character.
Choose one intellectual trait---intellectual perseverance, autonomy, empathy, courage, humility, etc.--- to strive for each month, focusing on how you can develop that trait in yourself. For example, concentrating on intellectual humility, begin to notice when you admit you are wrong. Notice when you refuse to admit you are wrong, even in the face of glaring evidence that you are in fact wrong. Notice when you become defensive when another person tries to point out a deficiency in your work, or your thinking. Notice when your intellectual arrogance keeps you from learning, for example, when you say to yourself “I already know everything I need to know about this subject.” Or, “I know as much as he does. Who does he think he is forcing his opinions on me?” By owning your “ignorance,” you can begin to deal with it.

Strategy Six: Deal with Your Egocentrism. Egocentric thinking is found in the disposition in human nature to think with an automatic subconscious bias in favor of oneself. On a daily basis, you can begin to observe your egocentric thinking in action by contemplating questions like these: Under what circumstances do I think with a bias in favor of myself? Did I ever become irritable over small things? Did I do or say anything “irrational” to get my way? Did I try to impose my will upon others? Did I ever fail to speak my mind when I felt strongly about something, and then later feel resentment? Once you identify egocentric thinking in operation, you can then work to replace it with more rational thought through systematic self-reflection, thinking along the lines of: What would a rational person feel in this or that situation? What would a rational person do? How does that compare with what I want to do? (Hint: If you find that you continually conclude that a rational person would behave just as you behaved you are probably engaging in self-deception.)

Strategy Seven:Redefine the Way You See Things. We live in a world, both personal and social, in which every situation is “defined,” that is, given a meaning. How a situation is defined determines not only how we feel about it, but also how we act in it, and what implications it has for us. However, virtually every situation can be defined in more than one way. This fact carries with it tremendous opportunities. In principle, it lies within your power and mine to make our lives more happy and fulfilling than they are. Many of the negative definitions that we give to situations in our lives could in principle be transformed into positive ones. We can be happy when otherwise we would have been sad.

We can be fulfilled when otherwise we would have been frustrated. In this strategy, we practice redefining the way we see things, turning negatives into positives, dead-ends into new beginnings, mistakes into opportunities to learn. To make this strategy practical, we should create some specific guidelines for ourselves. For example, we might make ourselves a list of five to ten recurrent negative contexts in which we feel frustrated, angry, unhappy, or worried. We could then identify the definition in each case that is at the root of the negative emotion. We would then choose a plausible alternative definition for each and then plan for our new responses as well as new emotions. For example, if you tend to worry about all problems, both the ones you can do something about and those that you can’t; you can review the thinking in this nursery rhyme:
“For every problem under the sun, there is a solution or there is none. If there be one, think til you find it. If there be none, then never mind it.”

Let’s look at another example. You do not have to define your initial approach to a member of the opposite sex in terms of the definition “his/her response will determine whether or not I am an attractive person.” Alternatively, you could define it in terms of the definition “let me test to see if this person is initially drawn to me—given the way they perceive me.” With the first definition in mind, you feel personally put down if the person is not “interested” in you; with the second definition you explicitly recognize that people respond not to the way a stranger is, but the way they look to them subjectively. You therefore do not take a failure to show interest in you (on the part of another) as a “defect” in you.

Strategy Eight: Get in touch with your emotions: Whenever you feel some negative emotion, systematically ask yourself: What, exactly, is the thinking leading to this emotion? For example, if you are angry, ask yourself, what is the thinking that is making me angry? What other ways could I think about this situation? For example, can you think about the situation so as to see the humor in it and what is pitiable in it? If you can, concentrate on that thinking and your emotions will (eventually) shift to match it.

Strategy Nine:Analyze group influences on your life: Closely analyze the behavior that is encouraged, and discouraged, in the groups to which you belong. For any given group, what are you "required" to believe? What are you "forbidden" to do? Every group enforces some level of conformity. Most people live much too much within the view of themselves projected by others. Discover what pressure you are bowing to and think explicitly about whether or not to reject that pressure.

Conclusion: The key point to keep in mind when devising strategies is that you are engaged in a personal experiment. You are testing ideas in your everyday life. You are integrating them, and building on them, in the light of your actual experience. For example, suppose you find the strategy “Redefine the Way You See Things” to be intuitive to you. So you use it to begin. Pretty soon you find yourself noticing the social definitions that rule many situations in your life. You recognize how your behavior is shaped and controlled by the definitions in use:

  1. “I’m giving a party,” (Everyone therefore knows to act in a “partying” way)
  2. “The funeral is Tuesday,” (There are specific social behaviors expected at a funeral)
  3. “Jack is an acquaintance, not really a friend.” (We behave very differently in the two cases)

You begin to see how important and pervasive social definitions are. You begin to redefine situations in ways that run contrary to some commonly accepted definitions. You notice then how redefining situations (and relationships) enables you to “Get in Touch With Your Emotions.” You recognize that the way you think (that is, define things) generates the emotions you experience. When you think you are threatened (i.e., define a situation as “threatening”), you feel fear. If you define a situation as a “failure,” you may feel depressed. On the other hand, if you define that same situation as a “lesson or opportunity to learn” you feel empowered to learn. When you recognize this control that you are capable of exercising, the two strategies begin to work together and reinforce each other.

Next consider how you could integrate strategy #9 (“Analyze group influences on your life”) into your practice. One of the main things that groups do is control us by controlling the definitions we are allowed to operate with. When a group defines some things as “cool” and some as “dumb, ” the members of the group try to appear “cool” and not appear “dumb.” When the boss of a business says, “That makes a lot of sense,” his subordinates know they are not to say, “No, it is ridiculous.” And they know this because defining someone as the “boss” gives him/her special privileges to define situations and relationships.

You now have three interwoven strategies: you “Redefine the Way You See Things,” “Get in touch with your emotions,” and “Analyze group influences on your life.” The three strategies are integrated into one. You can now experiment with any of the other strategies, looking for opportunities to integrate them into your thinking and your life. If you follow through on some plan analogous to what we have described, you are developing as a thinker. More precisely, you are becoming a “Practicing” Thinker. Your practice will bring advancement. And with advancement, skilled and insightful thinking may becomes more and more natural to you.

 

Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2001). Modified from the book by Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2001). Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life.

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APPLYING INTELLECTUAL STANDARDS

Universal intellectual standards must be applied to thinking whenever one is interested in checking the quality of reasoning about a problem, issue, or situation. The standards are not unique to engineering, but are universal to all domains of thinking. To think professionally as an engineer entails having command of these standards. While there are a number of universal standards, we focus here on some of the most significant.

 

Clarity

    Specific clarity questions in engineering include:
  • Are the market/mission requirements clearly stated?
  • Have terms and symbols been clearly defined?
  • Have the assumptions been clearly stated?
  • Do drawings/graphs/photos and supporting annotations clearly portray important relationships?

Accuracy

    Specific accuracy questions include:
  • What is your confidence in that data?
  • Has the test equipment been calibrated? How/when?
  • How have simulation models been validated?
  • Have assumptions been challenged for legitimacy?

Precision

    Specific precision questions include:
  • What are acceptable tolerances for diverse pieces of information?
  • Has the test equipment been calibrated? How/when?
  • What are the error bars or confidence bounds on experimental, handbook or analytical data?

Relevance

    Engineers might ask questions of relevance:
  • Have all relevant factors been weighed (e.g.- environmental, or marketplace)?
  • Are there unnecessary details obscuring the dominant factors?
  • Has irrelevant data been included?
  • Have important interrelationships been identified and studied?
  • Have features and capabilities (and hence cost) been included which the customer neither needs nor wants?

Depth

    Specific depth questions include:
  • Do models have adequate complexity and detail?
  • At what threshold does detail or additional features stop adding value?

Breadth

    For the engineer, specific breadth questions include:
  • Have the full range of options been explored?
  • Have interactions with other systems been fully considered?
  • What if the environment is other than we had expected (e.g.- hotter, colder, dusty, humid)?

Logical Validity

    For the engineer, specific logic questions include:
  • Are the design decisions supported by good analysis?
  • Are there hidden or unstated assumptions which should be challenged?

Fairness

    Appropriate fairness questions include:
  • Have other points of view been considered (stock holders, manufacturing, sales, customers, public citizens, community interests, etc.)?
  • Are vested interests inappropriately influencing the design?
  • Are divergent views given due consideration?
  • Have the environmental/safety impacts been appropriately weighed?

THE MODEL IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION

The following critical thinking exercises can employ the Engineering Reasoning Mini-Guide [5] as an in class supplement (suggested). 

 

Fostering Intellectual Traits

Engineering students are likely puzzled at first by the suggestion that personal virtues relate to their success as engineers. The criticality of these traits becomes prominent in their interactions as members of teams. Consequently, introducing the standards and using them to foster development, is most effectively done in the context of their efforts to make their teams succeed.

As an introduction to the standards, and prior to commencing team efforts, students should read the descriptions and then discuss ensemble the value of these diverse traits. The questions they specifically want to discuss are why any of these traits will be beneficial to their team’s success, and why the absence of these traits will likely hinder the team’s performance.

 

At the conclusion of team projects, or coincident with major milestones (long duration projects), team members can be assigned to write a paragraph in which they identify a vignette in which they saw one of the intellectual traits exhibited in a way that benefited the team, and a second example identifying a vignette in which an individual or team deficit in the intellectual traits hampered team performance. The faculty member or team manager should then collate the vignettes stripping contributors’ names (recognizing the team manager may be the subject of either positive or negative vignettes). A group discussion of the results should be included as part of technical debrief.

Employing the Elements of Reasoning

The real power in this taxonomy of thinking is its scalability. A topic as large as an entire course or as small as an editorial in the newspaper or a single lecture can be decomposed using the elements. The student can be asked to decompose a journal article, course topic, textbook chapter or technical report using this framework. Opportunities abound for using the eight elements both in class and outside course-work.

The eight elements can be introduced to the students in several ways. The guide includes a number of templates and examples. The most effective way for the students to become comfortable working with the elements is to review an example and then immediately apply the template to some subject area.

On the opening day of a class, the entire class can be asked to identify the eight elements associated with the prerequisite course, e.g.- "Identify the eight elements associated with the class you finished last semester in Aerodynamics. What was the purpose of Aerodynamics? What question was it trying to answer? What was the point of view? What assumptions were commonly made? What information was brought to bear? What concepts were key? What conclusions were formed? What were the implications of the material you learned?" Once students were given 6-8 minutes to do this individually, they could then share their answers either in small groups, or as a class. They could then be assigned to skim their new text’s Table of Contents and decompose the new course according to the same template.

The faculty member is indispensable in keeping the elements close to the surface of the students thinking. This is best done by Socratic interaction in which the questions posed by professor apply to one of the eight elements: "What were the assumptions constraining this approach?" "What implications follow from this development?" "When we started to derive this relationship, what question are we trying to answer?" "What’s the source of this insight? Was it theoretical or experimental? What empirical support do we have for this theoretical result?"

At the end of any course segment or at the end of the entire course, the students can be tasked to decompose that chapter’s content or the entire course using the 8 elements. At any point during the course, the content of a relevant article can be decomposed.

The value of this practice is helping the student to provide a context for that segment or course. It provides a framework for recalling the importance of assumptions, recalling the big picture question at hand, and moving beyond the direct content to wrestling with its implications.

Teaching the Intellectual Standards

An effective means of introducing the intellectual standards is by means of reciprocal teaching. Using the Engineering Reasoning guide, students should be assigned in pairs to read the descriptions and example questions associated with Clarity and Accuracy (one student assigned to each). They should be given 3-4 minutes to prepare to explain their assigned standard to their partner, including both examples of representative questions from the guide, as well as an example they’ve created themselves.

In class, the standards provide a template for developing good questions to be posed in Socratic fashion. In doing so, the professor is modelling the thinking of mature engineers through the questions they pose.

Many of us struggled as new faculty trying to identify the most valuable feedback we could provide our students. On technical reports, for example, many of us wonder, "What comments can I provide a student that will best promote their learning from this experience?" The standards provide a ready vocabulary for identifying the weaknesses in student work. Moreover, if the professor’s feedback consistently appeals to the standards either explicitly or implicitly, and holds students to those standards, students will be more inclined to embrace the standards as the goal they are striving to achieve.

Ancillary Material

Vignettes in the back of the guide are intended to illustrate both successes and failures in engineering in our critical thinking vocabulary. They are included to foster discussion portraying the results of both excellent and deficit engineering reasoning. Students can be encouraged to research other historical examples and specifically evaluate how the success or failure of a technical enterprise turned on the quality of thought. While we commonly dissect accidents for their technical and organizational flaws, it is also illuminating to evaluate the thinking present in these episodes.

CONCLUSIONS

Our students’ critical thinking implicitly undergirds all the desired skills found in any engineering syllabus. As with other engineering endeavours, models are invaluable in understanding and articulating the connections and interactions of systems and environments. This paper applied a model of critical thinking to the mind of the mature engineer, with the goal of helping us understand how to describe our own thinking and hence better develop the thinking of engineering students. It also provided a brief list of ideas for directly applying the content to the engineering classroom.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I must necessarily thank Richard Paul and Linda Elder for their decades of work as champions of critical thinking in education. It's been a delight to learn from them and collaborate in the preparation of the Engineering Reasoning guide from which this paper has been adapted.

 

REFERENCES

  1. Paul, R.W. and Elder, L., Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle, NJ, 2002

     

  2. Paul, R.W. and Elder, L., Critical Thinking: How To Prepare Students For A Rapidly Changing World, Foundation for Critical Thinking, Sonoma, CA, 1995.

     

  3. www.criticalthinking.org/resources [cited 10 May 2006]

     

  4. Paul, R.W. and Elder, L., A Miniature Guide to Scientific Thinking, Foundation for Critical Thinking, Sonoma, CA, 2003.

     

  5. Paul, R.W., Niewoehner, R.J., and Elder, L., A Miniature Guide to Engineering Reasoning, Foundation for Critical Thinking, Sonoma, CA, 2006.

     

  6. Elder, L. "The State of Critical Thinking Today: The Need for a Substantive Concept of Critical Thinking" The State of Critical Thinking Today [cited 10 May 2006]

Much of this article is a summary of what is included in the Thinker's Guide to Engineering Reasoning, which is under the copyright of the Foundation For Critical Thinking. Any remainder is declared to be a work of the U.S. Federal Government, and is therefore public domain and may not be copyrighted.

 

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{"id":"378","title":"","author":"","content":"<h4><span style=\"color: #0044aa; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif;\">APPLYING INTELLECTUAL STANDARDS</span></h4>\r\n<p>Universal intellectual standards must be applied to thinking whenever one is interested in checking the quality of reasoning about a problem, issue, or situation. The standards are not unique to engineering, but are universal to all domains of thinking. To think professionally as an engineer entails having command of these standards. While there are a number of universal standards, we focus here on some of the most significant.</p>\r\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\r\n<p><strong><span><span style=\"color: #666666;\"><em>Clarity</em> </span></span></strong></p>\r\n<ul>\r\n<strong>Specific clarity questions in engineering include:</strong>\r\n<li>Are the market/mission requirements clearly stated? </li>\r\n<li>Have terms and symbols been clearly defined? </li>\r\n<li>Have the assumptions been clearly stated? </li>\r\n<li>Do drawings/graphs/photos and supporting annotations clearly portray important relationships? </li>\r\n</ul>\r\n<p><strong><span><span style=\"color: #666666;\"><em>Accuracy</em> </span></span></strong></p>\r\n<ul>\r\n<strong>Specific accuracy questions include:</strong>\r\n<li>What is your confidence in that data? </li>\r\n<li>Has the test equipment been calibrated? How/when? </li>\r\n<li>How have simulation models been validated? </li>\r\n<li>Have assumptions been challenged for legitimacy? </li>\r\n</ul>\r\n<p><span><strong><span style=\"color: #666666;\"><em>Precision</em> </span></strong></span></p>\r\n<ul>\r\n<strong>Specific precision questions include:</strong>\r\n<li>What are acceptable tolerances for diverse pieces of information? </li>\r\n<li>Has the test equipment been calibrated? How/when? </li>\r\n<li>What are the error bars or confidence bounds on experimental, handbook or analytical data? </li>\r\n</ul>\r\n<p><strong><span><span style=\"color: #666666;\"><em>Relevance</em> </span></span></strong></p>\r\n<ul>\r\n<strong>Engineers might ask questions of relevance:</strong>\r\n<li>Have all relevant factors been weighed (e.g.- environmental, or marketplace)? </li>\r\n<li>Are there unnecessary details obscuring the dominant factors? </li>\r\n<li>Has irrelevant data been included? </li>\r\n<li>Have important interrelationships been identified and studied? </li>\r\n<li>Have features and capabilities (and hence cost) been included which the customer neither needs nor wants? </li>\r\n</ul>\r\n<p><em><strong><span style=\"color: #666666;\">Depth</span></strong></em></p>\r\n<ul>\r\n<strong>Specific depth questions include:</strong>\r\n<li>Do models have adequate complexity and detail? </li>\r\n<li>At what threshold does detail or additional features stop adding value? </li>\r\n</ul>\r\n<p><strong><span><span style=\"color: #666666;\"><em>Breadth</em> </span></span></strong></p>\r\n<ul>\r\n<strong>For the engineer, specific breadth questions include:</strong>\r\n<li>Have the full range of options been explored? </li>\r\n<li>Have interactions with other systems been fully considered? </li>\r\n<li>What if the environment is other than we had expected (e.g.- hotter, colder, dusty, humid)? </li>\r\n</ul>\r\n<p><em><strong><span style=\"color: #666666;\">Logical Validity</span></strong></em></p>\r\n<ul>\r\n<strong>For the engineer, specific logic questions include:</strong>\r\n<li>Are the design decisions supported by good analysis? </li>\r\n<li>Are there hidden or unstated assumptions which should be challenged? </li>\r\n</ul>\r\n<p><strong><span><span style=\"color: #666666;\"><em>Fairness</em> </span></span></strong></p>\r\n<ul>\r\n<strong>Appropriate fairness questions include:</strong>\r\n<li>Have other points of view been considered (stock holders, manufacturing, sales, customers, public citizens, community interests, etc.)? </li>\r\n<li>Are vested interests inappropriately influencing the design? </li>\r\n<li>Are divergent views given due consideration? </li>\r\n<li>Have the environmental/safety impacts been appropriately weighed? </li>\r\n</ul>\r\n<h4><span style=\"color: #000099; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif;\">THE MODEL IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION</span></h4>\r\n<p>The following critical thinking exercises can employ the <em>Engineering Reasoning Mini-Guide</em> [5] as an in class supplement (suggested).&nbsp;</p>\r\n&nbsp;\r\n<p><strong><span style=\"color: #000099;\">Fostering Intellectual Traits</span></strong></p>\r\n<p>Engineering students are likely puzzled at first by the suggestion that personal virtues relate to their success as engineers. The criticality of these traits becomes prominent in their interactions as members of teams. Consequently, introducing the standards and using them to foster development, is most effectively done in the context of their efforts to make their teams succeed.</p>\r\n<p>As an introduction to the standards, and prior to commencing team efforts, students should read the descriptions and then discuss ensemble the value of these diverse traits. The questions they specifically want to discuss are why any of these traits will be beneficial to their team&rsquo;s success, and why the absence of these traits will likely hinder the team&rsquo;s performance.</p>\r\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\r\n<p>At the conclusion of team projects, or coincident with major milestones (long duration projects), team members can be assigned to write a paragraph in which they identify a vignette in which they saw one of the intellectual traits exhibited in a way that benefited the team, and a second example identifying a vignette in which an individual or team deficit in the intellectual traits hampered team performance. The faculty member or team manager should then collate the vignettes stripping contributors&rsquo; names (recognizing the team manager may be the subject of either positive or negative vignettes). A group discussion of the results should be included as part of technical debrief.</p>\r\n<p><strong><span style=\"color: #000099;\">Employing the Elements of Reasoning</span></strong></p>\r\n<p>The real power in this taxonomy of thinking is its scalability. A topic as large as an entire course or as small as an editorial in the newspaper or a single lecture can be decomposed using the elements. The student can be asked to decompose a journal article, course topic, textbook chapter or technical report using this framework. Opportunities abound for using the eight elements both in class and outside course-work.</p>\r\n<p>The eight elements can be introduced to the students in several ways. The guide includes a number of templates and examples. The most effective way for the students to become comfortable working with the elements is to review an example and then immediately apply the template to some subject area.</p>\r\n<p>On the opening day of a class, the entire class can be asked to identify the eight elements associated with the prerequisite course, e.g.- \"Identify the eight elements associated with the class you finished last semester in Aerodynamics. What was the purpose of Aerodynamics? What question was it trying to answer? What was the point of view? What assumptions were commonly made? What information was brought to bear? What concepts were key? What conclusions were formed? What were the implications of the material you learned?\" Once students were given 6-8 minutes to do this individually, they could then share their answers either in small groups, or as a class. They could then be assigned to skim their new text&rsquo;s Table of Contents and decompose the new course according to the same template.</p>\r\n<p>The faculty member is indispensable in keeping the elements close to the surface of the students thinking. This is best done by Socratic interaction in which the questions posed by professor apply to one of the eight elements: \"What were the assumptions constraining this approach?\" \"What implications follow from this development?\" \"When we started to derive this relationship, what question are we trying to answer?\" \"What&rsquo;s the source of this insight? Was it theoretical or experimental? What empirical support do we have for this theoretical result?\"</p>\r\n<p>At the end of any course segment or at the end of the entire course, the students can be tasked to decompose that chapter&rsquo;s content or the entire course using the 8 elements. At any point during the course, the content of a relevant article can be decomposed.</p>\r\n<p>The value of this practice is helping the student to provide a context for that segment or course. It provides a framework for recalling the importance of assumptions, recalling the big picture question at hand, and moving beyond the direct content to wrestling with its implications.</p>\r\n<p><strong><span style=\"color: #000099;\">Teaching the Intellectual Standards</span></strong></p>\r\n<p>An effective means of introducing the intellectual standards is by means of reciprocal teaching. Using the <em>Engineering Reasoning</em> guide, students should be assigned in pairs to read the descriptions and example questions associated with <em>Clarity and Accuracy</em> (one student assigned to each). They should be given 3-4 minutes to prepare to explain their assigned standard to their partner, including both examples of representative questions from the guide, as well as an example they&rsquo;ve created themselves.</p>\r\n<p>In class, the standards provide a template for developing good questions to be posed in Socratic fashion. In doing so, the professor is modelling the thinking of mature engineers through the questions they pose.</p>\r\n<p>Many of us struggled as new faculty trying to identify the most valuable feedback we could provide our students. On technical reports, for example, many of us wonder, \"What comments can I provide a student that will best promote their learning from this experience?\" The standards provide a ready vocabulary for identifying the weaknesses in student work. Moreover, if the professor&rsquo;s feedback consistently appeals to the standards either explicitly or implicitly, and holds students to those standards, students will be more inclined to embrace the standards as the goal they are striving to achieve.</p>\r\n<p><strong><span style=\"color: #666666;\"><em>Ancillary Material</em></span></strong></p>\r\n<p>Vignettes in the back of the guide are intended to illustrate both successes and failures in engineering in our critical thinking vocabulary. They are included to foster discussion portraying the results of both excellent and deficit engineering reasoning. Students can be encouraged to research other historical examples and specifically evaluate how the success or failure of a technical enterprise turned on the quality of thought. While we commonly dissect accidents for their technical and organizational flaws, it is also illuminating to evaluate the thinking present in these episodes.</p>\r\n<h4><span style=\"color: #666666; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif;\"><em>CONCLUSIONS</em></span></h4>\r\n<p>Our students&rsquo; critical thinking implicitly undergirds all the desired skills found in any engineering syllabus. As with other engineering endeavours, models are invaluable in understanding and articulating the connections and interactions of systems and environments. This paper applied a model of critical thinking to the mind of the mature engineer, with the goal of helping us understand how to describe our own thinking and hence better develop the thinking of engineering students. It also provided a brief list of ideas for directly applying the content to the engineering classroom.</p>\r\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\r\n<h4><span style=\"color: #666666; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif;\"><em>ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS </em></span></h4>\r\n<p>I must necessarily thank Richard Paul and Linda Elder for their decades of work as champions of critical thinking in education. It's been a delight to learn from them and collaborate in the preparation of the <em>Engineering Reasoning</em> guide from which this paper has been adapted.</p>\r\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\r\n<h4><span style=\"color: #0044aa; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif;\"><em><span style=\"color: #666666;\">REFERENCES</span></em> </span></h4>\r\n<ol>\r\n<li>Paul, R.W. and Elder, L., <em>Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life</em>, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle, NJ, 2002\r\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\r\n</li>\r\n<li>Paul, R.W. and Elder, L., <em>Critical Thinking: How To Prepare Students For A Rapidly Changing World</em>, Foundation for Critical Thinking, Sonoma, CA, 1995.\r\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\r\n</li>\r\n<li><a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/resources\" target=\"_new\">www.criticalthinking.org/resources</a> [cited 10 May 2006]\r\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\r\n</li>\r\n<li>Paul, R.W. and Elder, L., <em>A Miniature Guide to Scientific Thinking</em>, Foundation for Critical Thinking, Sonoma, CA, 2003.\r\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\r\n</li>\r\n<li>Paul, R.W., Niewoehner, R.J., and Elder, L., <em>A Miniature Guide to Engineering Reasoning</em>, Foundation for Critical Thinking, Sonoma, CA, 2006.\r\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\r\n</li>\r\n<li>Elder, L. \"<em>The State of Critical Thinking Today: The Need for a Substantive Concept of Critical Thinking</em>\" <a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/articles/the-state-ct-today.cfm\" target=\"_new\"><em>The State of Critical Thinking Today</em></a> [cited 10 May 2006] </li>\r\n</ol>\r\n<p><span style=\"color: #666666;\"><em><strong>Much of this article is a summary of what is included in the Thinker's Guide to Engineering Reasoning, which is under the copyright of the Foundation For Critical Thinking. Any remainder is declared to be a work of the U.S. Federal Government, and is therefore public domain and may not be copyrighted.</strong></em></span></p>\r\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\r\n<p><a href=\"#top\"><span style=\"font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif;\">Go to top</span></a></p>\r\n<p><br style=\"clear: both;\" /></p>","public_access":"1","public_downloads":"1","sku":"","files":{},"images":{}}


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