What about Geography? The Geography Curriculum, Young People, Critical Thinking and Active Learning

Critical Thinking in Geography Education

Critical thinking is a term that has a great deal of popular appeal with many governments, and can be found in several education policy documents around the globe. However a quick internet and literature search reveals that there is little consensus over what critical thinking means.  To illustrate this point, Figure 1 includes a range of definitions of critical thinking. The reader may wish to consider how their own understanding of critical thinking corresponds with these definitions, and indeed what they consider to be the common or core components of critical thinking?

Table 1. Definitions of critical thinking

"Critical thinking is the process of thinking that questions assumptions.” 

~ Brookfield, S.D. (2000). "Contesting criticality: Epistemological and practical contradictions in critical reflection" in Proceedings of the 41st Annual Adult Education Research Conference.

Critical thinking has also been described as:

"thinking about thinking."

~ Raiskums, B.W., (2008). An Analysis of the Concept Criticality in Adult Education.  

 “reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do.” 

~ Ennis, R.H., (2003). "Critical Thinking Assessment" in Fasko, Critical Thinking and Reasoning: Current Research, Theory, and Practice. ISBN 978-1-57273-460-9

"the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action".  

~ Scriven, M., and Paul, R.W., (1987). Critical Thinking as Defined by the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking

"the process of purposeful, self-regulatory judgment, which uses reasoned consideration to evidence, context, conceptualizations, methods, and criteria." 

~ Facione, Peter A. Critical Thinking: What It is and Why It Counts, Insightassessment.com

“Within the critical social theory philosophical frame, critical thinking is commonly understood to involve commitment to the social and political practice of participatory democracy, willingness to imagine or remain open to considering alternative perspectives, willingness to integrate new or revised perspectives into our ways of thinking and acting, and willingness to foster criticality in others.” 

~ Raiskums, B.W., (2008). An Analysis of the Concept Criticality in Adult Education

Critical thinkers demonstrate:

  • Rationality – rely on reason rather than emotion
  • Self-awareness – weigh the influences of motives and bias
  • Honesty – recognise emotional impulses, selfish motives, nefarious purposes or other modes of self-deception
  • Open-mindedness – consider a variety of possible viewpoints or perspectives
  • Discipline – avoid snap judgments
  • Judgement – recognise the relevance of alternative perspectives

From: CriticalReading.com

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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