Monday, December 11, 2006

Critical Thinking in the Social Studies

Critical Thinking in the Social Studies. This article from 1986 does not directly discuss history. However, it does examine ways to teach critical thinking skills in the social studies classroom which is certainly helpful for history teachers. The author is John J. Patrick.

The age of this article makes it of interest to me. How were people teaching this topic before the advent of the World Wide Web? People have always been interested in teaching critical thinking skills. However, did it have the same sense of urgency before students could type in any word and find something online which may appear to answer the question?

From the site:

Critical thinking has been a long-standing major goal of education in the social studies. It was the theme of the 1942 Yearbook of the National Council for the Social Studies. It is highlighted today in various statements and publications of state education departments, local school districts, and professional associations. Research and commentary on critical thinking have increased greatly during the last ten years. But it has not been taught extensively or satisfactorily in most social studies classrooms. Goodlad's nationwide study of schooling found little evidence of critical thinking and concluded that "preoccupation with the lower intellectual processes pervades social studies and science as well" (1984, 236).

Current efforts to promote critical thinking in the social studies will fail unless teachers know what it is, why it is important, and how to use it in the classroom. This ERIC digest treats the (1) meaning of critical thinking, (2) primacy of critical thinking as a social studies goal, (3) inclusion of critical thinking in the social studies curriculum, and (4) means of teaching critical thinking to social studies students.


Dr. Brad M. Maguth said...


Having just presented a paper at CUFA this year in San Diego on Critical Thinking in the Social Studies I find this conversation real fascinating. In an age of 'information glut' and partisan sound bites, the need for critical thinking is huge. However, I'm a little bit dismayed at to what degree we can teach critical thinking versus the intellectual resources that empower students to think critically. This is a reference to Bailin, Case, Coombs, and Daniels in Conceptualizing Critical Thinking. Do you think educators are making an attempt to get students thinking critically?

M said...

"Do you think educators are making an attempt to get students thinking critically?"

Yes, I just am not sure how effective it has been. I see lots of papers on the topic. I see librarians and teachers making real efforts to give students tools to critically think. And then that well educated student decides to believe that the Apollo Moon Landing is a hoax because of a slick web site...What can you do?

There have always been gullible students. The Web has changed nothing. However, I think students are growing up a bit more sophisticated. Teaching how to critically think lets the students build on this.


Anonymous said...

I agree with this article. Looking back at my High school experience with regard to social studies, Most of my teachers did not stress critical thinking or the deeper importance to social Studies. As an education major and future social studies teacher I will work hard to change the paradigm about social studies as a blow off class/subject.

Katie said...

When I was in high school, critical thinking was something that was mentioned in my history classes. I don't remember the teachers actually teaching how to critically think though. I just was able to analyze the material and make a judgment. I was wondering if you have any ideas that might be good for teaching critical thinking skillsin a social studies class. Also, do you think that critical thinking should be taught in the younger grades in order to inform children to think critically of what they are reading about online?

Ahmad Shilleh said...

In response to the question posed about educators making an attempt to get students thinking critically, I believe that new teachers that are coming into the profession are being taught in graduate school, the importance of higher level questions. rather than the old listen and repeat, teachers are using the higher points of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Arianna Matos said...

Critical Thinking is essential to a Social Studies class and must be taught to the students. I agree that in the past teachers have focused on dates and facts and not on critical thinking skills. New teachers have a better grasp on these skills and are better equipping our students with these skills. Critical Thinking can be infused into the lessons but must be taught to the students throughout their school experience, so when they get to high school, they are experts at this skill. Some of the activities I use to infuse critical thinking, are primary sources. I find them very useful in the classroom and encourage students to participate in deep thought.