Critical Thinking in Higher Education

I believe Critical thinking is the ability to break down and conceptualize an idea through multiple lenses. It is the ability to focus on a topic or problem and approach it from multiple perspectives of understanding and tactical concept breakdown. Colleges try to teach this development in thinking, but it is often difficult to implement this form of understanding into every student, considering that students often have a large range of learning and a variety of levels of understanding and retention.
Lately colleges have been failing to meet the standards of critical thinking they have taught in the past. Many of the students “enter college with attitudes, norms, values, and behaviors that are often at odds with academic commitment” (pg. 3). High schools have taught them out of being committed and motivated to learn. Many High schools are ineffective at creating students who are intrigued by knowledge and who value learning not because it will provide them with a more competitive standing later in life, but because they just have an urge to learn more. Curiosity and complex thought have been taught out of students and it is easy for those students to stay in that simple mind set of complacency. Part of this problem is due to the administration of colleges and High schools. Administrators have become “less certain than they once were as to what students ought to be or become, and are reluctant to go to the mat with the young for principles in which they themselves only half believe” (pg. 14). Schools themselves have lost track of the importance of providing every student with a thorough understanding of every concept they teach. There is little motivation left in many administrations to create students who are well learned in multiple subjects and who can think with multiple levels of analysis and focus.
Part of the struggle with this flawed goal to teach critical thought, is due to the difficulty of measuring that type of thought. Gaging student learning and thinking is an intricate and expansive process with a variety of factors to take into consideration. Since many colleges teach different curriculums and have varied focuses, a multi pronged approach must be implemented in order to measure their students development. “Longitudinal measurement of test score performance, coursework, institutional characteristics, social background, and college experience is needed to build our knowledge of the processes and mechanisms associated with student learning” (pg. 19). Although this list of features is important in measuring the level of student learning, the true gauging of retention is much more complex than this since each one of these categories has multiple features beneath its name. When considering each of these features of a student’s education in college one must break down how each feature is implemented and with what difficulty as well as importance.
Critical thinking is a major feature which often defines college learning, but as of right now, our society is becoming less effective at implementing that type of thinking into our students. With administrators being confused about their priorities for their students and having difficulty measuring the level of student learning at each college, many kids are not becoming true, in depth critical thinkers who can focus on a variety of concepts with multiple lenses and perspectives.

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