Not all Pain is Gain: Lessons From Teaching Critical Thinking Online

Not All Pain is Gain: Lessons From Teaching Critical Thinking Online

By John LaForest Phillips, Austin Peay State University

Those who teach political science—especially those like me who teach political theory—overwhelmingly see critical thinking (CT) as one of their priority learning outcomes (Moore 2011). Much of the conversation about stimulating CT in the virtual classroom focuses on discussion boards and interaction more broadly. Nearly everyone agrees that discussion, properly conducted, can help students develop CT (Williams and Lahman 2011). But is there any more that can be done?

Discussions can disappoint. It does not always seem like students make connections between—or inferences from—the assigned materials. There are two possible but conflicting responses to this state of affairs. Instructors can try to add material and assignments to stimulate CT, or they can scale back and try to focus student attention on a narrower range of materials and assignments.

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