Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines

Volume 27, Issue 3, Fall 2012

Martin Davies
Pages 16-28

Computer-Aided Argument Mapping and the Teaching of Critical Thinking
Part II

Part I of this paper outlined the three standard approaches to the teaching of critical thinking: the normative (or philosophical), cognitive psychology, and educational taxonomy approaches. The paper contrasted these with the visualisation approach; in particular, computer-aided argument mapping (CAAM), and presented a detailed account of the CAAM methodology and a theoretical justification for its use. This part develops further support for CAAM. A case is made that CAAM improves critical thinking because it minimises the cognitive burden of prose and the demands that arguments in prose typically place on memory. CAAM also has greater usability, complements the imperfect human cognitive system, and adopts a logic of semi-formality which is both natural and intuitive. The paper claims that CAAM is an important advance given that traditional stand-alone critical thinking courses do not teach critical thinking as well as they as they are assumed to do. It is also important given that tertiary education fails to deliver improvements in critical thinking gains for too many students. The paper outlines results from a number of empirical studies that demonstrate that CAAM yields robust gains in critical thinking as measured by independent tests. Students themselves also believe CAAM to be beneficial as noted in coded responses to surveys. I conclude the paper by comparing the traditional approaches to the teaching of critical thinking to the visualisation approach. I argue that CAAM should taken seriously in the context of contemporary educational practices.