Critical Thinking - Literature Review

12815 Words Oct 15th, 2011 52 Pages
Critical Thinking: A Literature Review

Research Report

Emily R. Lai June 2011

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Definition of Critical Thinking Theoretical Background The literature on critical thinking has roots in two primary academic disciplines: philosophy and psychology (Lewis & Smith, 1993). Sternberg (1986) has also noted a third critical thinking strand within the field of education. These separate academic strands have developed different approaches to defining critical thinking that reflect their respective concerns. Each of these approaches is explored more fully below.

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The philosophical approach. The writings of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and more recently, Matthew Lipman and Richard Paul, exemplify the philosophical approach. This approach focuses on the hypothetical critical thinker, enumerating the qualities and characteristics of this person rather than the behaviors or actions the critical thinker can perform (Lewis & Smith, 1993; Thayer-Bacon, 2000). Sternberg (1986) has noted that this school of thought approaches the critical thinker as an ideal type, focusing on what people are capable of doing under the best of circumstances. Accordingly, Richard Paul (1992) discusses critical thinking in the context of “perfections of thought” (p. 9). This preoccupation with the ideal critical thinker is evident in the American Philosophical Association’s consensus portrait of the ideal critical thinker as someone who is inquisitive in nature, open-minded, flexible,

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