Critical thinking

I attended a useful lunchtime session this week at the University of Lancaster (UK)  on the subject of criticial thinking – how to introduce it to students and how to recognise it.

The session was led by Jenny Moon, Centre for Excellence in Media Practice, Bournemouth University, UK, who is also very well known for her work on Reflective Learning.

The critical thinking workshop was based on her book ‘Critical thinking, an exploration in theory and practice‘ which she published in 2008. It was a very interactive session in which we were required to work through an exercise designed to introduce and improve the quality of critical thinking. The exercise that we worked through and others are freely available online at her website. Clicking on ‘Critical Thinking’ takes you to a document full of activities to work on with students. We worked on Resource 5 – ‘The incident on a walk’.

The idea of the activity was to take us through four written accounts of the same incident, each one showing progressively increased critical thinking. We read each account in turn, discussing in a group after reading each account the extent to which the account demonstrated critical thinking. This is a useful exercise as the comparison between accounts highlights the elements of critical thinking and how writing can shift from superficial critical thinking to deep critical thinking. The identification of these shifts then leads to a framework for critical thinking and its representations.

What was interesting about the workshop was how little talking Jenny Moon did, yet on leaving the workshop I could hear people all around me saying how much they had learned.  Of course each person would have learned something different. As Jenny Moon said at the beginning of the session ‘Critical thinking is a different thing to different people’.

Critical thinking

I attempted to attend the synchronous session today with Grainne Conole (on the Critical Literacies online course) – but I’m afraid I abandoned it when the audio kept cutting out and it was clear that I was not get the return on investment of my time that I needed. Shame – because I think it would have been very useful and Slideshare without the speaker never quite does it for me.

So I’ll move on.

I’ve done the description post (previous one) and now will try to do more of a  ‘take what you have and move beyond it’  type of post – as Carmen has done so eloquently (as always) in her post.

The reading list for this week is not completely unfamiliar to me: how to be persuasive (I scanned this but it didn’t grab me) critical thinking (I read this, but noted it’s date and know that there is more recent ‘stuff’ out there – will come back to this) studentguide to Freakonomics: rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything (Another quick scan but it didn’t grab me) How scientific peer review works (Haven’t even looked at this) The critical thinking community (Already know of this)

I’m sure this is very telling of my level of critical literacy! So to return to the Alec Fisher article which I did read – I felt it did not distinguish clearly enough between critical thinking and reflective thinking. I know of course that it’s not as simple as that and that there is overlap – but I like the work of Jenny Moon, which is more recent. She has written extensively about reflective learning. Two wonderfully helpful books are:

  • Moon J (2006) Learning Journals. Routledge Falmer
  • Moon J (2005) A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning. Routledge Falmer
  • And she has also written about critical thinking and tried to unravel the differences between them.

    Moon J (2005) We seek it here…a new perspective on the elusive activity of critical thinking. Escalate Discussion Series  See

    This is how she thinks about critical thinking and reflection

    We said above that deep reflection is similar to
    critical thinking but tends to be more often associated
    with thinking about the self and personal activities
    and critical thinking tends to be more associated with
    the need to arrive at a conclusion or judgement. (p.21)

    I can relate to this. I see reflection as internally oriented  and critical thinking as externally oriented and I also see them as being interdependent.

    So what has all this to do with critical literacies? And I’m wondering if in this course critical literacies is going to be confused with digital literacy or one of the other literacies that Grainne mentioned in the very first part of her presentation that I was able to pick up.

    I think we might need to start being clear about what kind of literacy we are talking about.