Are Our Students Evolving into Critical Thinkers? Darwin Forbid!

By Ira Konstantinou and Michele Cohen.

Published by The International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: August 6, 2014 $US5.00

As educators, we are all concerned with ensuring that students become independent, creative, and critical thinkers. But with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) publishing a new guidance chapter on deliberate steps UK higher education providers should take to enable students to develop into such thinkers, the need to reconceptualise critical thinking becomes evident. This paper proposes a neurodevelopmental model of critical thinking, where the developmental process of becoming a critical thinker is framed on the assumption that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny in the evolution of the scientific mind. This is an extension of the existing developmental model of metaknowing. Four phases are proposed for the development of critical thinking in undergraduates, each reflecting evolutionary phases linked to the human mind. The cognitive neuroscience concept of phase transitions is applied to explain how students move from earlier to later phases of critical thinking and which brain areas need to develop to allow for advanced critical or epistemological thinking. The paper addresses how teaching and assessment practices can foster the transition through the phases and identify the limitations placed on the development of critical thinking by various factors, including the phase the educators have themselves achieved.

Keywords: Critical Thinking, Neurodevelopmental Model, Mental Phase Transitions

The International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum, Volume 21, Issue 1, August 2014, pp.27-36. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: August 6, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 373.634KB)).

Dr. Ira Konstantinou

Associate Professor in Psychology, School of Communications, Arts, and Social Sciences, Richmond University--The American International University in London, London, UK

Ira is a specialist in the cognitive processes of memory and awareness. Her recent research investigates the cognitive processes that mediate intergroup bias and conflict by using a memory paradigm instead of the conventional social psychology approaches. In her most recent publication she looked at race bias in recognition memory and how this bias disadvantages Black people leading to false convictions when a White eyewitness is asked to identify the perpetrator of a crime. She is currently investigating infrahumanisation and cross-race recognition memory. She is also researching ways to implement evidence-based teaching approaches to critical thinking in undergraduates.

Prof. Michele Cohen

Professor, Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK

Michèle currently holds a Visiting Fellowship at the Institute of Education, University of London. Her main research area is education, language, gender and national character in the long eighteenth century. Her publications include Fashioning Masculinity: National identities and language in the eighteenth century and English Masculinities as well as many articles and book chapters (in French as well as English publications),lately focusing on conversation and sociability in relation to domestic education. She has held Research Fellowships at the European University Institute (EUI ) in Florence, Cambridge University,the Centre for Research in the Arts,Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH ) in Cambridge, the Yale Centre for British Art, the Walpole Library Yale University, and several Visiting Fellowships at the Institute of Education, University of London. She is working on a monograph on the Cultural History of Education in the Long Eighteenth Century.