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Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines

Volume 28, Issue 2, Summer 2013

Robert Ennis
Pages 25-45

Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum
The Wisdom CTAC Program

Discussions of critical thinking across the curriculum typically make and explain points and distinctions that bear on one or a few standard issues. In this article Robert Ennis takes a different approach, starting with a fairly comprehensive concrete proposal (called “The Wisdom CTAC Program”) for a four-year higher-education curriculum incorporating critical-thinking at hypothetical Wisdom University. Aspects of the Program include a one-year critical thinking freshman course with practical everyday-life and academic critical thinking goals; extensive infusion of critical thinking in other courses; a senior project; attention to both critical thinking dispositions and skills; a glossary of critical thinking terms; emphasis on teaching (interactive discussion, using multiple varied examples, teaching for transfer, and making principles explicit); communication at all levels; and last, but definitely not least, assessment. Advantages and disadvantages will be noted. Subsequently, Ennis takes and defends a position on each of several relevant controversial issues, including: 1) having a separate critical thinking course, or embedding critical thinking in existing subject matter courses, or doing both (the last being the position he takes here); 2) the meaning of “critical thinking”; 3) the importance of teaching critical thinking because of its role in our everyday vocational, civic, and personal lives, as well as in our academic experiences; 4) the degree of subject-specificity of critical thinking; 5) the importance of making critical thinking principles explicit; and 6) the possible threat to subject matter coverage from the addition of critical thinking to the curriculum.

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