The Significance and Strategies of Cultivating College Students’ Critical Thinking

Feng Xiaoyun

China West Normal University

Published: 15 April 2019 Copyright © Xiaoyun.

Cite this article: Xiaoyun, F. (2019). The Significance and Strategies of Cultivating College Students’ Critical Thinking. International Journal of Liberal Arts and Social Science, 7(3), 38-44.

Abstract The 21st century is an era of innovation and information explosion. Critical thinking is regarded as the core competence of talents in the 21st century and the basic competence of citizens in the 21st century. Educational circles all over the world attach great importance to the cultivation of students’ critical thinking. Nowadays, the globalization of economy, the diversification of culture and the networking of information have brought great impact on the thinking of college students in our country. At present, the development of our country also needs innovative talents. Critical thinking is the quality that innovative talents must possess. However, school education in China lacks in the teaching of students’ critical thinking. Thinking is also the root of building a strong country. What kind of thinking a person has, what kind of achievements he has and what kind of life he has. Similarly, what kind of collective thinking a country has, what kind of development it will have. The cultivation of critical thinking should start with children, so basic education should shoulder this important mission without hesitation. Based on basic education, this paper explores the significance and ways of cultivating students’ critical thinking.

Keywords: critical thinking cultivation education

1.1 Definition of Critical Thinking The word “critical” comes from Greek and, etymologically, implies the development of “standard-based, discernible judgment”. The concept of critical thinking as a skill can be traced back to Deweys’ “reflective thinking”. There are many kinds of thinking, such as image thinking, abstract thinking, logical thinking and so on. Among many ways of thinking, critical thinking is of great significance. Critical thinking is a kind of willingness and ability of objective evaluation and theoretical evaluation based on rational analysis of objective facts. It refers to the rational and reflective thinking that improves thinking through certain standard evaluation thinking. It is not only thinking skills, but also thinking tendencies. Critical thinking requires people to have the basic skills of interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation and self-calibration. Critical thinking refers to skills and attitudes. There is no disciplinary boundary. Any topic involving intelligence or imagination can be examined from the perspective of critical thinking. Critical thinking is not only a kind of thinking skills, but also a kind of personality or temperament. It can not only reflect the level of thinking, but also highlight the modern humanistic spirit. Critical thinking is to evaluate thinking through certain criteria, and then improve thinking. It is rational and reflective thinking. It is not only thinking skills, but also thinking tendencies. The original origin can be traced back to Socrates. Nowadays, the cultivation of critical thinking has become a topic of concern to the educational circles at home and abroad. Since 1991, the United States has made the cultivation of students’ critical thinking ability an important goal of all levels of school education. In 1998, the UNESCO World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-first Century: Concepts and Action mentioned the importance of “cultivating critical and independent attitudes”. In modern society, critical thinking is generally established as one of the goals of education, especially higher education.

1.2 The Development of Critical Thinking The concept of critical thinking first appeared in Socrates’ educational idea. He put forward the educational thought of “midwifery”. Later, the theory and practice of critical thinking have been greatly developed through the exploration and research of ancient Greek skeptics, a large number of Renaissance thinkers and many subsequent politicians and economists. In 1910, American educator Dewey put forward the concept of “reflective thinking”, which was regarded as the original embryonic form of critical thinking. Since the 1930s, the United States began to focus on training students to form critical awareness, and made a series of attempts in the teaching process. Thereafter, in 1942, after a long-term study, Glazer published The Experimental Study of Critical Thinking Development. In this book, the concept of critical thinking is formally put forward. In the book, he studies and analyses the cultivation of critical thinking in childhood. Since then, in 1962, Ennis’s “What is Critical Thinking” has attracted wide attention in the western educational circles, and more and more educators have joined the research. Scholars in this period have studied more about the concept and content of critical thinking, but they have not reached the stage of in-depth study. In the 1980s, Siegel, Ennis and other educators have supplemented and improved their research on critical thinking. The enthusiasm of the western educational circles to explore this kind of thinking has brought it into a prosperous period of development, especially in the 1990s. This kind of thinking has entered a peak period. It has not only made a lot of theoretical research, but also made a lot of breakthroughs in practice. In ancient China, there were also buds of critical thinking. For example, criticism and debate among schools of thought in the Warring States Period, Lu Jiuyuan’s“big suspicion makes great progress, little suspicion makes small progress” in the Southern Song Dynasty and Zhu Xi’s “interrogation, careful thinking, clear discrimination” and other thoughts all flash with the wisdom spark of critical thinking.

1.3 The Significance of Cultivating Critical Thinking In modern society, critical thinking is generally established as one of the goals of education, especially higher education. The world is constantly changing. If we want to go further, we must constantly improve. Stagnation can not keep pace with the times. In short, critical thinking is to be skeptical and ask yourself why, rather than trusting what others say. In life, people often float on the surface, unable to recognize the essence of things, easy to become tools for others and be used by others. In real life, there are many examples of lack of independent thinking and critical thinking, up to numerous. However, independent thinking and critical thinking are so important. The importance of critical thinking is reflected in “doubts”. If we have doubts about anything, we may open up a new situation. We can see that people who first put forward different views have created different worlds in history. It is precisely because they have a critical spirit in everything that they can break the limitations of that era and make continuous progress in human history. It can be said that if human beings lack critical thinking, they will not make significant progress in many aspects, and many inventions will not be born. Although critical thinking is only a beginning, its emergence is decisive, hopeful and possible. In ancient times in the West, there were corresponding speculations about the original appearance of the world. They were subversive conclusions one after another, but they were getting closer and closer to the truth. Of course, critical thinking is very important, but it also needs to be combined with rational thinking, and need to find enough supporting empirical evidence to prove, so as to carry out a good cycle, not to get farther and farther away from reality. Because our people lack critical thinking and innovative spirit, they lack excellent innovative achievements. Especially in manufacturing industry, many core technologies come from abroad. China has always been called a “big manufacturing country” rather than a “big innovative country”. Therefore, the state proposes to transform from a “big manufacturing country” to a “big wise manufacturing country”. In this context, the cultivation of critical thinking is particularly valuable. Teenagers are the hope of the country and the nation. Therefore, it is very important to cultivate the critical thinking of primary and secondary school students, which is related to the future of the country and the nation.

1.4 Strategies for Cultivating Critical Thinking In China’s education system, which pays attention to standardized answers, critical thinking belongs to a very shortage things. To cultivate critical thinking, students must believe that thinking is interesting and hope to get a way of thinking. In some foreign schools, teachers guide children to think critically from the beginning of teaching children how to ask questions. Critical thinking is a universal human phenomenon. It is not an immutable constant, but a learned variable. The ability of critical thinking can be improved through the teaching of special critical thinking courses and the training penetrating into the teaching of various subjects. This is also the factual basis for us to call for and advocate the improvement of our students’ critical thinking ability, which provides the possibility for the improvement of our students’ critical thinking ability. Based on the basic situation of education in China and the main practices of developed countries, the author puts forward the following suggestions: 1. The cultivation of critical thinking can be practiced and achieved good results. The key is whether the teaching environment is suitable for the implementation of students’ critical thinking education and teaching. Every school will design curriculum plan and training goal for its specialty, but at present few schools explicitly arrange critical thinking as teaching content in teaching arrangement; this way also directly indicates learning. The cultivation of proofreading critical thinking is still lack of guidance, which directly affects teachers’ wavering attitude towards the cultivation of critical thinking. Therefore, in the education and cultivation of students’ critical thinking, schools, on the one hand, change ambiguous attitudes, give specific teaching staff a clear signal, let critical thinking teaching can be arranged practically; on the other hand, critical thinking teaching content can be added to the teaching on a pilot basis, exploration and research can be carried out, teaching rules can be summarized, and then promoted in various disciplines. 2. In the process of teaching, teachers are the most critical factor. In the process of cultivating students’ critical thinking, teachers’ teaching strategies and arrangements are more important. Reasonable and scientific teaching design can enable students to quickly understand and understand the help of critical thinking to themselves. Therefore, first of all, teachers are required to have the right and wrong. Practical experience of constant clarity and critical thinking, with excellent critical thinking ability and quality, can be skillfully used in teaching practice. From the perspective of specific teaching methods, teachers need to master the interactive rhythm of teaching and learning in the training of students’ critical thinking. Ensuring Relative Active Development and Interaction in Classroom On the premise of communication, after asking questions, guide students to find more problems, in-depth analysis and explore new solutions or views. In this process, to make students understand that their views need to be supported by arguments. The arguments can be derived from life practice or from various information channels, and they must be authentic and reliable. All these require teachers to innovate and improve teaching strategies and ideas in the process of critical thinking teaching. Changing the teaching methods of traditional disciplines can establish a good teaching interaction with students with open thinking and open mind, and show good critical qualities and skills. All these require teachers to change their role orientation, change their teaching ideas and thinking, and achieve the goal of cultivating critical thinking. 3. Introduce the websites and books of critical thinking to students, and try our best to create an environment conducive to students’ self-study. Generally speaking, materials such as English original critical thinking books and websites are preferred, because foreign research on critical thinking is more mature than domestic research. But when looking for cases, try to select domestic hot spots and typical cases for analysis. 4. If conditions permit, we can consider organizing speeches and debates, allowing participants to make in-depth analysis around the theme, and choose appropriate ways of argumentation and expression, so that bystanders can use logical knowledge to analyze the experience and lessons in speeches and debates. In this way, we can not only mobilize the enthusiasm of students to participate in a large area, but also be more realistic and targeted. Debate and communication are timeliness. Through face-to-face language use, it is undoubtedly helpful to effectively improve and exercise students’ critical thinking ability.

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