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The Best Science Publications to Follow
Whether you’re browsing science articles online or reading an in-depth interview in a glossy magazine, following science publications is a great way to continue your education, learn about new technology or even study an exciting subject. Check out this guide to the best science publications to follow.
Available online or delivered right to your mailbox, “Discover Magazine” is filled with news articles about science, colorful photos and interesting interviews. Read about health and medicine, the mind and body, technology, space, physics and even the environment in a format designed to entertain and enlighten. “Discover Magazine” offers a large variety of short science articles for readers to enjoy.
Filled with science news, cutting-edge research and scientific articles, “Science Magazine” offers both online and printed options. View the latest technological journals, learn about robotics and space exploration and pick up tips to stay healthy throughout your life. Science articles are divided into categories that include climate issues, biology, medicine and ecology.
Designed to explore the inner workings of anything that involves technology, “Wired” is known for its cutting-edge articles on computers, business and the world of technological discoveries. Check out articles on innovation in the auto industry, gene editing and viral videos, or explore the excitement of new tech gear, both online and in print format. “Wired” offers short science articles that dip into anything that affects technology in today’s market.
Unmistakable bright yellow borders give “National Geographic” a look that collectors cherish. Known for its incredible wildlife photography, “National Geographic’s” online and print magazines also feature scientific articles designed to shine a light on the natural world (including animals, plants and people across the entire planet). Check out the children’s version of the magazine for younger readers who love science.
Follow “Popular Mechanics” to pick up practical advice on projects that you can accomplish on your own. This science magazine is made for those who love DIY projects, with short scientific articles and insights on everything from modern industry trends to technology. Read opinions from experts in robotics, automotive engineering and inventing, or check out article about the military, space, tools and gadgets, both online and in a printed format. “Popular Mechanics” is a science magazine for anyone who wants to keep up with the world today.
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Teaching critical thinking in science – the key to students’ future success
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A national survey of business and nonprofit leaders in America found that a resounding 93% of respondents believe that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major”.
If you are made to think, you’ll learn John Dewey, Approaches to learning and teaching Science p.14
In education, critical thinking has long been established as an important transferrable skill. At a Cambridge Assessment seminar in the UK in 2010 Richard Wainer, Head of Education and Skills at CBI, said:
The ability to think, reason and make sound decisions is a vital skill for the workplace – and crucial for employees who want to do well and advance…yet many firms have expressed concerns about the lack of problem-solving skills they are seeing in school leavers.
It is clear critical thinking is an important skill for life. Students will become confident analytical thinkers who can interrogate sources and evaluate claims, helping them in their future studies, lives and careers.
How then do we integrate critical thinking effectively into the science classroom?
Critical thinking is at the heart of scientific inquiry. A good scientist is one who never stops asking why things happen, or how things happen. Science makes progress when we find data that contradicts our current scientific ideas.
Scientific inquiry includes three key areas:
1. Identifying a problem and asking questions about that problem 2. Selecting information to respond to the problem and evaluating it 3. Drawing conclusions from the evidence
Critical thinking can be developed through focussed learning activities. Students not only need to receive information but also benefit from being encouraged to think about and attach the information to their existing understanding. Inquiry does this effectively.
How to build inquiry-based learning into lessons – Top tips
Speak to a history teacher about how they introduce inquiry and evidence in their lessons. Gaining perspective from a different subject which focuses on evidence can help you think about your own practice.
Think about misconceptions
Students frequently hold misconceptions about scientific ideas. Design an inquiry to enable students to discover their own misconceptions. This helps motivate them to think about and accept the scientific ideas you want them to learn.
Set a problem
Set a problem for students to solve, such as a task where students are asked to get a small ball from a table top to the floor as slowly as possible. Students can apply knowledge about friction, rotational movement and levers. They can see the phenomena at first hand and build up their own questions. It triggers their creativity and gives them ownership of their learning.
Create an atmosphere where they can ask you for help, but don’t give them solutions. Instead, ask them questions to help them come up with their own solutions. Get students to work together so they can help each other.
Without understanding how scientific knowledge is generated, through critical evaluation of evidence, students risk being restricted to learning a set of pre-formed facts. Inquiry-based learning in science helps students understand how to test ideas systematically, and how to seek and interpret evidence for scientific claims. It gives them the opportunity to experience science, to become confident, critical thinkers and the scientists of tomorrow.
This blog post contains ideas from Mark Winterbottom author of Approaches to learning and teaching Science. The Approaches to learning and teaching series provides highly practical ideas and guidance on teaching approaches in the context of the subject.
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3. Critical Thinking in Science: How to Foster Scientific Reasoning Skills
Critical thinking in science is important largely because a lot of students have developed expectations about science that can prove to be counter-productive.
After various experiences — both in school and out — students often perceive science to be primarily about learning “authoritative” content knowledge: this is how the solar system works; that is how diffusion works; this is the right answer and that is not.
This perception allows little room for critical thinking in science, in spite of the fact that argument, reasoning, and critical thinking lie at the very core of scientific practice.
Argument, reasoning, and critical thinking lie at the very core of scientific practice.
In this article, we outline two of the best approaches to be most effective in fostering scientific reasoning. Both try to put students in a scientist’s frame of mind more than is typical in science education:
- First, we look at small-group inquiry , where students formulate questions and investigate them in small groups. This approach is geared more toward younger students but has applications at higher levels too.
- We also look science labs . Too often, science labs too often involve students simply following recipes or replicating standard results. Here, we offer tips to turn labs into spaces for independent inquiry and scientific reasoning.
I. Critical Thinking in Science and Scientific Inquiry
Even very young students can “think scientifically” under the right instructional support. A series of experiments , for instance, established that preschoolers can make statistically valid inferences about unknown variables. Through observation they are also capable of distinguishing actions that cause certain outcomes from actions that don’t. These innate capacities, however, have to be developed for students to grow up into rigorous scientific critical thinkers.
Even very young students can “think scientifically” under the right instructional support.
Although there are many techniques to get young children involved in scientific inquiry — encouraging them to ask and answer “why” questions, for instance — teachers can provide structured scientific inquiry experiences that are deeper than students can experience on their own.
Goals for Teaching Critical Thinking Through Scientific Inquiry
When it comes to teaching critical thinking via science, the learning goals may vary, but students should learn that:
- Failure to agree is okay, as long as you have reasons for why you disagree about something.
- The logic of scientific inquiry is iterative. Scientists always have to consider how they might improve your methods next time. This includes addressing sources of uncertainty.
- Claims to knowledge usually require multiple lines of evidence and a “match” or “fit” between our explanations and the evidence we have.
- Collaboration, argument, and discussion are central features of scientific reasoning.
- Visualization, analysis, and presentation are central features of scientific reasoning.
- Overarching concepts in scientific practice — such as uncertainty, measurement, and meaningful experimental contrasts — manifest themselves somewhat differently in different scientific domains.
How to Teaching Critical Thinking in Science Via Inquiry
Sometimes we think of science education as being either a “direct” approach, where we tell students about a concept, or an “inquiry-based” approach, where students explore a concept themselves.
But, especially, at the earliest grades, integrating both approaches can inform students of their options (i.e., generate and extend their ideas), while also letting students make decisions about what to do.
Like a lot of projects targeting critical thinking, limited classroom time is a challenge. Although the latest content standards, such as the Next Generation Science Standards , emphasize teaching scientific practices, many standardized tests still emphasize assessing scientific content knowledge.
The concept of uncertainty comes up in every scientific domain.
Creating a lesson that targets the right content is also an important aspect of developing authentic scientific experiences. It’s now more widely acknowledged that effective science instruction involves the interaction between domain-specific knowledge and domain-general knowledge, and that linking an inquiry experience to appropriate target content is vital.
For instance, the concept of uncertainty comes up in every scientific domain. But the sources of uncertainty coming from any given measurement vary tremendously by discipline. It requires content knowledge to know how to wisely apply the concept of uncertainty.
Tips and Challenges for teaching critical thinking in science
Teachers need to grapple with student misconceptions. Student intuition about how the world works — the way living things grow and behave, the way that objects fall and interact — often conflicts with scientific explanations. As part of the inquiry experience, teachers can help students to articulate these intuitions and revise them through argument and evidence.
Group composition is another challenge. Teachers will want to avoid situations where one member of the group will simply “take charge” of the decision-making, while other member(s) disengage. In some cases, grouping students by current ability level can make the group work more productive.
Another approach is to establish group norms that help prevent unproductive group interactions. A third tactic is to have each group member learn an essential piece of the puzzle prior to the group work, so that each member is bringing something valuable to the table (which other group members don’t yet know).
It’s critical to ask students about how certain they are in their observations and explanations and what they could do better next time. When disagreements arise about what to do next or how to interpret evidence, the instructor should model good scientific practice by, for instance, getting students to think about what kind of evidence would help resolve the disagreement or whether there’s a compromise that might satisfy both groups.
The subjects of the inquiry experience and the tools at students’ disposal will depend upon the class and the grade level. Older students may be asked to create mathematical models, more sophisticated visualizations, and give fuller presentations of their results.
Lesson Plan Outline
This lesson plan takes a small-group inquiry approach to critical thinking in science. It asks students to collaboratively explore a scientific question, or perhaps a series of related questions, within a scientific domain.
Suppose students are exploring insect behavior. Groups may decide what questions to ask about insect behavior; how to observe, define, and record insect behavior; how to design an experiment that generates evidence related to their research questions; and how to interpret and present their results.
An in-depth inquiry experience usually takes place over the course of several classroom sessions, and includes classroom-wide instruction, small-group work, and potentially some individual work as well.
Students, especially younger students, will typically need some background knowledge that can inform more independent decision-making. So providing classroom-wide instruction and discussion before individual group work is a good idea.
For instance, Kathleen Metz had students observe insect behavior, explore the anatomy of insects, draw habitat maps, and collaboratively formulate (and categorize) research questions before students began to work more independently.
The subjects of a science inquiry experience can vary tremendously: local weather patterns, plant growth, pollution, bridge-building. The point is to engage students in multiple aspects of scientific practice: observing, formulating research questions, making predictions, gathering data, analyzing and interpreting data, refining and iterating the process.
As student groups take responsibility for their own investigation, teachers act as facilitators. They can circulate around the room, providing advice and guidance to individual groups. If classroom-wide misconceptions arise, they can pause group work to address those misconceptions directly and re-orient the class toward a more productive way of thinking.
Throughout the process, teachers can also ask questions like:
- What are your assumptions about what’s going on? How can you check your assumptions?
- Suppose that your results show X, what would you conclude?
- If you had to do the process over again, what would you change? Why?
II. Rethinking Science Labs
Beyond changing how students approach scientific inquiry, we also need to rethink science labs. After all, science lab activities are ubiquitous in science classrooms and they are a great opportunity to teach critical thinking skills.
Often, however, science labs are merely recipes that students follow to verify standard values (such as the force of acceleration due to gravity) or relationships between variables (such as the relationship between force, mass, and acceleration) known to the students beforehand.
This approach does not usually involve critical thinking: students are not making many decisions during the process, and they do not reflect on what they’ve done except to see whether their experimental data matches the expected values.
With some small tweaks, however, science labs can involve more critical thinking. Science lab activities that give students not only the opportunity to design, analyze, and interpret the experiment, but re -design, re -analyze, and re -interpret the experiment provides ample opportunity for grappling with evidence and evidence-model relationships, particularly if students don’t know what answer they should be expecting beforehand.
Such activities improve scientific reasoning skills, such as:
- Evaluating quantitative data
- Plausible scientific explanations for observed patterns
And also broader critical thinking skills, like:
- Comparing models to data, and comparing models to each other
- Thinking about what kind of evidence supports one model or another
- Being open to changing your beliefs based on evidence
Traditional science lab experiences bear little resemblance to actual scientific practice. Actual practice involves decision-making under uncertainty, trial-and-error, tweaking experimental methods over time, testing instruments, and resolving conflicts among different kinds of evidence. Traditional in-school science labs rarely involve these things.
Traditional science lab experiences bear little resemblance to actual scientific practice.
When teachers use science labs as opportunities to engage students in the kinds of dilemmas that scientists actually face during research, students make more decisions and exhibit more sophisticated reasoning.
In the lesson plan below, students are asked to evaluate two models of drag forces on a falling object. One model assumes that drag increases linearly with the velocity of the falling object. Another model assumes that drag increases quadratically (e.g., with the square of the velocity). Students use a motion detector and computer software to create a plot of the position of a disposable paper coffee filter as it falls to the ground. Among other variables, students can vary the number of coffee filters they drop at once, the height at which they drop them, how they drop them, and how they clean their data. This is an approach to scaffolding critical thinking: a way to get students to ask the right kinds of questions and think in the way that scientists tend to think.
Design an experiment to test which model best characterizes the motion of the coffee filters.
Things to think about in your design:
- What are the relevant variables to control and which ones do you need to explore?
- What are some logistical issues associated with the data collection that may cause unnecessary variability (either random or systematic) or mistakes?
- How can you control or measure these?
- What ways can you graph your data and which ones will help you figure out which model better describes your data?
Discuss your design with other groups and modify as you see fit.
Initial data collection
Conduct a quick trial-run of your experiment so that you can evaluate your methods.
- Do your graphs provide evidence of which model is the best?
- What ways can you improve your methods, data, or graphs to make your case more convincing?
- Do you need to change how you’re collecting data?
- Do you need to take data at different regions?
- Do you just need more data?
- Do you need to reduce your uncertainty?
After this initial evaluation of your data and methods, conduct the desired improvements, changes, or additions and re-evaluate at the end.
In your lab notes, make sure to keep track of your progress and process as you go. As always, your final product is less important than how you get there.
How to Make Science Labs Run Smoothly
Managing student expectations . As with many other lesson plans that incorporate critical thinking, students are not used to having so much freedom. As with the example lesson plan above, it’s important to scaffold student decision-making by pointing out what decisions have to be made, especially as students are transitioning to this approach.
Supporting student reasoning . Another challenge is to provide guidance to student groups without telling them how to do something. Too much “telling” diminishes student decision-making, but not enough support may leave students simply not knowing what to do.
There are several key strategies teachers can try out here:
- Point out an issue with their data collection process without specifying exactly how to solve it.
- Ask a lab group how they would improve their approach.
- Ask two groups with conflicting results to compare their results, methods, and analyses.
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Sources and Resources
Lehrer, R., & Schauble, L. (2007). Scientific thinking and scientific literacy . Handbook of child psychology , Vol. 4. Wiley. A review of research on scientific thinking and experiments on teaching scientific thinking in the classroom.
Metz, K. (2004). Children’s understanding of scientific inquiry: Their conceptualizations of uncertainty in investigations of their own design . Cognition and Instruction 22(2). An example of a scientific inquiry experience for elementary school students.
The Next Generation Science Standards . The latest U.S. science content standards.
Concepts of Evidence A collection of important concepts related to evidence that cut across scientific disciplines.
Scienceblind A book about children’s science misconceptions and how to correct them.
Holmes, N. G., Keep, B., & Wieman, C. E. (2020). Developing scientific decision making by structuring and supporting student agency. Physical Review Physics Education Research , 16 (1), 010109. A research study on minimally altering traditional lab approaches to incorporate more critical thinking. The drag example was taken from this piece.
ISLE , led by E. Etkina. A platform that helps teachers incorporate more critical thinking in physics labs.
Holmes, N. G., Wieman, C. E., & Bonn, D. A. (2015). Teaching critical thinking . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 112 (36), 11199-11204. An approach to improving critical thinking and reflection in science labs. Walker, J. P., Sampson, V., Grooms, J., Anderson, B., & Zimmerman, C. O. (2012). Argument-driven inquiry in undergraduate chemistry labs: The impact on students’ conceptual understanding, argument skills, and attitudes toward science . Journal of College Science Teaching , 41 (4), 74-81. A large-scale research study on transforming chemistry labs to be more inquiry-based.
8 Science-Based Strategies For Critical Thinking
What Are The Best Science-Based Strategies For Critical Thinking?
contributed by Lee Carroll , PhD and Terry Heick
Scientific argumentation and critical thought are difficult to argue against.
However, as qualities and mindsets, they are often the hardest to teach to students. Einstein himself said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.”
But how? What can science and critical thinking do for students? And further, what can teachers learn from these approaches and take to their classrooms?
Outside of science, people are quick to label those who question currently accepted theories as contrarians, trolls, and quacks. This is, in part, because people are sometimes not aware of how science moves forward.
Interestingly, professional teaching journals point out that a common myth students bring to school is that science is already all discovered and carved in stone–a fixed collection of knowledge–rather than the simple approach to thinking and knowledge it actually represents.
Below are 8 science-based strategies for critical thinking.
1. Challenge all assumptions
And that means all assumptions.
As a teacher, I’ve done my best to nurture the students’ explorative questions by modeling the objective scientific mindset. Regardless of our goals in the teaching and learning process, I never want to squelch the curiosity of students . One way I accomplish this is by almost always refraining from giving them my personal opinion when they’ve asked, encouraging them instead to tackle the research in order to develop their own ideas.
Students are not used to this approach and might rather be told what to think. But wouldn’t that be a disservice to their development, knowing we need analytical minds to create progress? And knowing how fast technology converts science fiction into fact? Concepts that were pure imagination when I grew up, like time travel, have now been simulated with photons in Australia. Could this happen if we never challenged our assumptions?
Question everything. In that regards, questions are more important than answers.
2. Suspending judgment
If a student shows curiosity in a subject, it may challenge our own comfort zone. Along these lines, Malcolm Forbes—balloonist, yachtsman, and publisher of Forbes magazine—famously declared, “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”
Although it’s human nature to fill a void with assumptions, it would halt the progress of science and thus is something to guard against. Admittedly, it requires bravery to suspend judgment and fearlessly acquire unbiased data. But who knows, that data may cause us to look at things in a new light.
3. Revising conclusions based on new evidence
In adopting student-centered learning, the Next Generation Science Standards feature scientific argumentation . Can we agree that change based on new evidence may be useful in creating a healthier world?
Resisting confirmation bias, scientists are required to revise conclusions–and thus beliefs–in the presence of new data.
4. Emphasizing data over beliefs
In science, ‘beliefs’ matter less than facts, data, and what can be supported and proven. The development of beliefs based on critical reasoning and quality data is much closer to a science-based approach to critical thinking.
While scientists certainly do ‘argue’ amongst themselves, helping students frame that disagreement as being between data rather than people is a very simple way to teach critical thinking through science. Seeing people and beliefs and data as separate is not only rational, but central to this process.
5. The neverending testing of ideas
At worst, new tests are designed to again test those new conclusions. Theories are wonderful starting points for a process that never stops!
6. The perspective that mistakes are data
Viewing mistakes as data and data as leading to new conclusions and progress is part and parcel to the scientific process.
Just so, one of the fallouts of teaching critical thinking skills is that students may bring home misunderstandings. But exploring controversy in science is the very method that scientists use to propel the field forward.
Otherwise, we would still be riding horses and using typewriters. Did you know that it was once considered controversial to put erasers on pencils? People thought it would encourage students to make mistakes.
7. The earnest consideration of possibilities and ideas without (always) accepting them
However valuable it has proven to explore controversy in science, some students may not be able to wrap their heads around (one of) Aristotle’s famous quote about education: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Without teachers and parents together supporting students through this, children may lose the context of why they should challenge their own assumptions via evidence and analytical reasoning inside and outside of the classroom.
8. Looking for what others have missed
Looking over old studies and data–whether to draw new conclusions or design new theories and tests for those theories–is how a lot of ‘science’ happens. Even thinking of a new way to consider or frame an old problem–to consider what others may have missed–is a wonderful critical thinking approach to learning.
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Developing Critical Thinking through Science
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The fun, hands-on physical science lessons/experiments in these books teach science principles found in state and national science standards. Students also learn and practice critical thinking through the application of the scientific method of investigation. Each activity is a 10- to 30-minute guided experiment in which students are prompted to verbalize their step-by-step observations, predictions, and conclusions. Reproducible pictures or charts are included when needed, but the focus is inquiry-based, hands-on science. Preparation time is short, and most materials can be found around the classroom. Step-by-step procedures, questions, answer guidelines, and clear illustrations are provided. Practical applications at the end of each activity relate science concepts to real-life experiences. These activities can be used successfully with a minimum of science knowledge, preparation time, and science equipment. The lessons/experiments teach science following these four important educational themes:
- Science can and should motivate students toward learning and toward developing curiosity about the world in which they live.
- Science is viewed as an active process of developing ideas, or "storybuilding," rather than as static bodies of already-existing knowledge to be passed on to students. Instead of merely describing what is taking place, the teacher guides the students through an inquiry process by asking pertinent, open-ended questions and by encouraging investigative process through demonstration, hands-on opportunities, and extension of experiments.
- Students are encouraged to observe and describe their observations accurately and completely using scientific terminology. Scientific terms are defined, demonstrated with concrete examples, then applied and reinforced throughout the activities.
- An open, interactive atmosphere in the classroom is essential. Students and their teacher actively investigate ideas together (compared to a passive learning situation in which students are merely told the problem, given the answers, and expected to memorize the information.) Through observation, hands-on participation, and verbalization of the physical and thought processes, students build a more concrete understanding of the concepts taught in the activities. With the teacher's help, students can learn to apply these same analytic and problem-solving skills to their other studies and to any classroom or social problems that might arise.
Book 1 (Grades 1-3) Units: • Observing • Water • Buoyancy and Surface Tension • Air • Moving Air—Air Pressure • Force • Space, Light, and Shadows Book 2 (Grades 4-8) Units: • Process Skills • Force, Movement, Work, Systems, and Weight • States of Matter • Mass, Volume, and Density • Air Pressure & Pressure of the Atmosphere • Heat, Expansion, and the Movement of Molecules • Transfer of Heat • Flight and Aerodynamics • The Speed of Falling Bodies • Variables • The Flight of Rockets • Inertia and the Flight of Satellites • Surface Tension and Bubbles • Sound • Reflection and Refraction of Light • Magnetism and Electricity
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Opinion article, redefining critical thinking: teaching students to think like scientists.
- Department of Psychology, MacEwan University, Edmonton, AB, Canada
From primary to post-secondary school, critical thinking (CT) is an oft cited focus or key competency (e.g., DeAngelo et al., 2009 ; California Department of Education, 2014 ; Alberta Education, 2015 ; Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, n.d. ). Unfortunately, the definition of CT has become so broad that it can encompass nearly anything and everything (e.g., Hatcher, 2000 ; Johnson and Hamby, 2015 ). From discussion of Foucault, critique and the self ( Foucault, 1984 ) to Lawson's (1999) definition of CT as the ability to evaluate claims using psychological science, the term critical thinking has come to refer to an ever-widening range of skills and abilities. We propose that educators need to clearly define CT, and that in addition to teaching CT, a strong focus should be placed on teaching students how to think like scientists. Scientific thinking is the ability to generate, test, and evaluate claims, data, and theories (e.g., Bullock et al., 2009 ; Koerber et al., 2015 ). Simply stated, the basic tenets of scientific thinking provide students with the tools to distinguish good information from bad. Students have access to nearly limitless information, and the skills to understand what is misinformation or a questionable scientific claim is crucially important ( Smith, 2011 ), and these skills may not necessarily be included in the general teaching of critical thinking ( Wright, 2001 ).
This is an issue of more than semantics. While some definitions of CT include key elements of the scientific method (e.g., Lawson, 1999 ; Lawson et al., 2015 ), this emphasis is not consistent across all interpretations of CT ( Huber and Kuncel, 2016 ). In an attempt to provide a comprehensive, detailed definition of CT, the American Philosophical Association (APA), outlined six CT skills, 16 subskills, and 19 dispositions ( Facione, 1990 ). Skills include interpretation, analysis, and inference; dispositions include inquisitiveness and open-mindedness. 1 From our perspective, definitions of CT such as those provided by the APA or operationally defined by researchers in the context of a scholarly article (e.g., Forawi, 2016 ) are not problematic—the authors clearly define what they are referring to as CT. Potential problems arise when educators are using different definitions of CT, or when the banner of CT is applied to nearly any topic or pedagogical activity. Definitions such as those provided by the APA provide a comprehensive framework for understanding the multi-faceted nature of CT, however the definition is complex and may be difficult to work with at a policy level for educators, especially those who work primarily with younger students.
The need to develop scientific thinking skills is evident in studies showing that 55% of undergraduate students believe that a full moon causes people to behave oddly, and an estimated 67% of students believe creatures such as Bigfoot and Chupacabra exist, despite the lack of scientific evidence supporting these claims ( Lobato et al., 2014 ). Additionally, despite overwhelming evidence supporting the existence of anthropogenic climate change, and the dire need to mitigate its effects, many people still remain skeptical of climate change and its impact ( Feygina et al., 2010 ; Lewandowsky et al., 2013 ). One of the goals of education is to help students foster the skills necessary to be informed consumers of information ( DeAngelo et al., 2009 ), and providing students with the tools to think scientifically is a crucial component of reaching this goal. By focusing on scientific thinking in conjunction with CT, educators may be better able design specific policies that aim to facilitate the necessary skills students should have when they enter post-secondary training or the workforce. In other words, students should leave secondary school with the ability to rule out rival hypotheses, understand that correlation does not equal causation, the importance of falsifiability and replicability, the ability to recognize extraordinary claims, and use the principle of parsimony (e.g., Lett, 1990 ; Bartz, 2002 ).
Teaching scientific thinking is challenging, as people are vulnerable to trusting their intuitions and subjective observations and tend to prioritize them over objective scientific findings (e.g., Lilienfeld et al., 2012 ). Students and the public at large are prone to naïve realism, or the tendency to believe that our experiences and observations constitute objective reality ( Ross and Ward, 1996 ), when in fact our experiences and observations are subjective and prone to error (e.g., Kahneman, 2011 ). Educators at the post-secondary level tend to prioritize scientific thinking ( Lilienfeld, 2010 ), however many students do not continue on to a post-secondary program after they have completed high school. Further, students who are told they are learning critical thinking may believe they possess the skills to accurately assess the world around them. However, if they are not taught the specific skills needed to be scientifically literate, they may still fall prey to logical fallacies and biases. People tend to underestimate or not understand fallacies that can prevent them from making sound decisions ( Lilienfeld et al., 2001 ; Pronin et al., 2004 ; Lilienfeld, 2010 ). Thus, it is reasonable to think that a person who has not been adequately trained in scientific thinking would nonetheless consider themselves a strong critical thinker, and therefore would be even less likely consider his or her own personal biases. Another concern is that when teaching scientific thinking there is always the risk that students become overly critical or cynical (e.g., Mercier et al., 2017 ). By this, a student may be skeptical of nearly all findings, regardless of the supporting evidence. By incorporating and focusing on cognitive biases, instructors can help students understand their own biases, and demonstrate how the rigor of the scientific method can, at least partially, control for these biases.
Teaching CT remains controversial and confusing for many instructors ( Bensley and Murtagh, 2012 ). This is partly due to the lack of clarity in the definition of CT and the wide range of methods proposed to best teach CT ( Abrami et al., 2008 ; Bensley and Murtagh, 2012 ). For instance, Bensley and Spero (2014) found evidence for the effectiveness of direct approaches to teaching CT, a claim echoed in earlier research ( Abrami et al., 2008 ; Marin and Halpern, 2011 ). Despite their positive findings, some studies have failed to find support for measures of CT ( Burke et al., 2014 ) and others have found variable, yet positive, support for instructional methods ( Dochy et al., 2003 ). Unfortunately, there is a lack of research demonstrating the best pedagogical approaches to teaching scientific thinking at different grade levels. More research is needed to provide an empirically grounded approach to teach scientific thinking, and there is also a need to develop evidence based measures of scientific thinking that are grade and age appropriate. One approach to teaching scientific thinking may be to frame the topic in its simplest terms—the ability to “detect baloney” ( Sagan, 1995 ).
Sagan (1995) has promoted the tools necessary to recognize poor arguments, fallacies to avoid, and how to approach claims using the scientific method. The basic tenets of Sagan's argument apply to most claims, and have the potential to be an effective teaching tool across a range of abilities and ages. Sagan discusses the idea of a baloney detection kit, which contains the “tools” for skeptical thinking. The development of “baloney detection kits” which include age-appropriate scientific thinking skills may be an effective approach to teaching scientific thinking. These kits could include the style of exercises that are typically found under the banner of CT training (e.g., group discussions, evaluations of arguments) with a focus on teaching scientific thinking. An empirically validated kit does not yet exist, though there is much to draw from in the literature on pedagogical approaches to correcting cognitive biases, combatting pseudoscience, and teaching methodology (e.g., Smith, 2011 ). Further research is needed in this area to ensure that the correct, and age-appropriate, tools are part of any baloney detection kit.
Teaching Sagan's idea of baloney detection in conjunction with CT provides educators with a clear focus—to employ a pedagogical approach that helps students create sound and cogent arguments while avoiding falling prey to “baloney”. This is not to say that all of the information taught under the current banner of “critical thinking” is without value. In fact, many of the topics taught under the current approach of CT are important, even though they would not fit within the framework of some definitions of critical thinking. If educators want to ensure that students have the ability to be accurate consumers of information, a focus should be placed on including scientific thinking as a component of the science curriculum, as well as part of the broader teaching of CT.
Educators need to be provided with evidence-based approaches to teach the principles of scientific thinking. These principles should be taught in conjunction with evidence-based methods that mitigate the potential for fallacious reasoning and false beliefs. At a minimum, when students first learn about science, there should also be an introduction to the basics tenets of scientific thinking. Courses dedicated to promoting scientific thinking may also be effective. A course focused on cognitive biases, logical fallacies, and the hallmarks of scientific thinking adapted for each grade level may provide students with the foundation of solid scientific thinking skills to produce and evaluate arguments, and allow expansion of scientific thinking into other scholastic areas and classes. Evaluations of the efficacy of these courses would be essential, along with research to determine the best approach to incorporate scientific thinking into the curriculum.
If instructors know that students have at least some familiarity with the fundamental tenets of scientific thinking, the ability to expand and build upon these ideas in a variety of subject specific areas would further foster and promote these skills. For example, when discussing climate change, an instructor could add a brief discussion of why some people reject the science of climate change by relating this back to the information students will be familiar with from their scientific thinking courses. In terms of an issue like climate change, many students may have heard in political debates or popular culture that global warming trends are not real, or a “hoax” ( Lewandowsky et al., 2013 ). In this case, only teaching the data and facts may not be sufficient to change a student's mind about the reality of climate change ( Lewandowsky et al., 2012 ). Instructors would have more success by presenting students with the data on global warming trends as well as information on the biases that could lead some people reject the data ( Kowalski and Taylor, 2009 ; Lewandowsky et al., 2012 ). This type of instruction helps educators create informed citizens who are better able to guide future decision making and ensure that students enter the job market with the skills needed to be valuable members of the workforce and society as a whole.
By promoting scientific thinking, educators can ensure that students are at least exposed to the basic tenets of what makes a good argument, how to create their own arguments, recognize their own biases and those of others, and how to think like a scientist. There is still work to be done, as there is a need to put in place educational programs built on empirical evidence, as well as research investigating specific techniques to promote scientific thinking for children in earlier grade levels and develop measures to test if students have acquired the necessary scientific thinking skills. By using an evidence based approach to implement strategies to promote scientific thinking, and encouraging researchers to further explore the ideal methods for doing so, educators can better serve their students. When students are provided with the core ideas of how to detect baloney, and provided with examples of how baloney detection relates to the real world (e.g., Schmaltz and Lilienfeld, 2014 ), we are confident that they will be better able to navigate through the oceans of information available and choose the right path when deciding if information is valid.
RS was the lead author and this paper, and both EJ and NW contributed equally.
Conflict of Interest Statement
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
1. ^ There is some debate about the role of dispositional factors in the ability for a person to engage in critical thinking, specifically that dispositional factors may mitigate any attempt to learn CT. The general consensus is that while dispositional traits may play a role in the ability to think critically, the general skills to be a critical thinker can be taught ( Niu et al., 2013 ; Abrami et al., 2015 ).
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Keywords: scientific thinking, critical thinking, teaching resources, skepticism, education policy
Citation: Schmaltz RM, Jansen E and Wenckowski N (2017) Redefining Critical Thinking: Teaching Students to Think like Scientists. Front. Psychol . 8:459. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00459
Received: 13 December 2016; Accepted: 13 March 2017; Published: 29 March 2017.
Copyright © 2017 Schmaltz, Jansen and Wenckowski. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
*Correspondence: Rodney M. Schmaltz, [email protected]
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Developing Critical Thinking in a VISIBLE Way
February 16, 2022 creedero Making Thinking Visible , Misc 4
No matter the subject in school, students should be challenged to thinking critically and deeply about concepts. But what a lot of teachers forget is that students have to be taught how to critically think and problem solve. Students don’t come into our classrooms as blank slates. They have prior knowledge they can pull from, but may need specific scaffolds and supports to help pull out what they already know and make connections to new material. How do we make students thought processes visible and collaborative in the classroom?
The book, “Making Thinking Visible,” by Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison provides teachers with detailed, applicable strategies for promoting student engagement and understanding in any subject. These skills and strategies can be taught to students and they can hopefully take them with them for their future learning! We’re going to check out 3 specific Making Thinking Visible (MTV) strategies and apply them to the science classroom.
The 4 C’s
What are the 4 C’s? This thinking strategy could be used in any context, but specifically provides learners with a structure for a text-based or content-based discussion.
- Connections: what connections do you draw between the text/video/content and your own life or your other learning?
- Challenge: what ideas, positions, or assumptions do you want to challenge or argue with in the text/video/content?
- Concepts: what key concepts or ideas do you think are important and worth holding on to from the test/video/content?
- Changes: what changes in attitudes, thinking, or action are suggested by the text, either for you or others?
How do we use it? First, this strategy is most effective when used with texts that incorporate complex ideas and concepts that can be considered from more than one perspective, or require students to grapple with the ideas. So, choosing texts like opinion papers or articles, scientific and scholarly articles, or scientific reports would be useful for this strategy. If you’re hoping to incorporate more text into the classroom, the 4C’s provides a great framework for challenging students to think deeper and elicit a rich discussion.
Science Classroom Connection: To use this framework in a science class, I think that this would be helpful for guiding students to think about the content in a new way. I would differentiate the typical questions in a new way to use it after synthesizing new content or notes. Students could making connections between the new concept they are learning to their prior knowledge, challenge what they learned with questions they have or preconceived thoughts, identify the key ideas and concepts from the material or chapter, and instead, brainstorm changes they could make in their study habits or practices to learn this new concept.
Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate: Concept Maps
What is the Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate strategy when using concept maps? This is a guided way to engage students in creating their own concept map, which is a great tool for helping them make meaningful connections in the content. Concept maps help uncover a learner’s mental models of a topic in a nonlinear way!
- Generate a list of ideas and initial thoughts that come to mind when you think about this topic of issue
- Sort your ideas according to how central or tangential they are. Place central ideas near the center and more tangential ideas toward the outside of the page.
- Connect your ideas by drawing connecting lines between the ideas that have something in common. Explain and write on the line in a short sentence how the ideas are connected.
- Elaborate on any of the ideas or thoughts you have written so far by adding new ideas that expand, extend, or add to your initial ideas.
How do we use it? Select larger scope concepts for students to make their concept maps with, so that it can be as open-ended as possible. Guide students through the 4 steps, and explain what a concept map is before they start if they are unfamiliar. After each individual or group makes their concept map, share them as a class or in groups! It’s interesting and important for students to see the connections their peers are making. Sometimes, it helps students if you provide them with a topic or vocab list, and they can build the connections and map from there.
Science Classroom Connection: Concept maps are so beneficial in the science classroom, especially because concepts can be interrelated and connected to each other. This activity challenges students to connect concepts that are similar, but distinguish them by their differences, and rank and organize the concepts in their own way. For example, after a unit on thermodynamics, I would have students make a concept map by first, generating a list of all the concepts they can think of related to thermodynamics, then, sort the terms into categories or orders of importance and put thermodynamics in the center, draw connections and connection phrases between the words, and then elaborate by adding definitions, equations, and details to the map. This strategy can be a great way to help students summarize the content in a way that makes sense to them, and it shows teachers where they are making valuable connections!
What is Claim-Support Question? This strategy is a fantastic way for teaching students how develop strong claims, support them with evidence, but critically examine claims and raise questions about them. Because science is driven by claims and supporting them with research, this is an important skill for students to develop.
- Make a claim about the topic, issue, or idea being explored. A claim is an explanation or interpretation of some aspect of what is being examined.
- Identify support for your claim. What things do you see, feel, or know that lend evidence to your claim?
- Raise a question about your claim. What may make you doubt the claim? What seems left hanging? What isn’t fully explained? What further ideas or issues does your claim raise?
How do we use it? Similar to the claim, evidence, reasoning (CER) strategy, this strategy can be used to have students think creatively of claims that could be backed by scientific evidence that they have learned about or could research. Then, they can take notice of the claims presented and see if they hold up to scrutiny. Choose content to pair with this activity that could be debated, or students could think of it in different ways, such as scientific theories, or providing students with a diagram or figure where they need to draw conclusions from. Guide students with questions as they analyze their claims, too.
Science Classroom Connection: Science is based upon research and findings that were once claims that were then backed up with evidence and reasoning. By teaching students this strategy, they learn about scientific literacy and can be more thoughtful before they make claims about certain topics. I would use this strategy in a science classroom by presenting students with a graph showing the relationship between temperature and pressure of gases. Then, students would form individual claims about gas laws or ideal gases from their interpretation of the graph, support their claim with evidence from the figure or their prior, knowledge, and then raise questions to their peers about the claims they made about the graph.
A final note…
Make sure that BEFORE using each of these strategies in your own classroom, set them up for your students! Model the strategy yourself with an example as you walk them through what the strategy is and how they use it. Part of the set up may include explaining or reinforcing certain concepts they are using, or reviewing content or what a concept map is. It is important that they know why the strategy is useful and beneficial for their learning and that we equip them to be able to put the strategy to work!
Implementing MTV strategies in your science is a great way to encourage students' metacognition, but teachers must set them up for success by explaining the strategy FIRST and modeling it! @NSTA @ScienceNews @BillNye #MakingThinkingVisible 👩🏫🤓 — Rachel Creeden (@misscreedenchem) February 17, 2022
Thanks for reading! Hopefully these strategies are useful for you and your students and transform the ways they can make their thinking VISIBLE!
- critical thinking
- science education
- Science teaching
Hey Rachel, Awesome Points that you brought up about the importance of making thinking visible. I think it’s important that as teachers we are constantly monitoring the learning progression of our students and their learning. This will allow us to give immediate feedback and be able to ADAPT to make the best change for our students and their learning. My question for you is at what point in the learning cycle should you start observing the learning? I would say start in the very beginning.
Nice Post Rachel,
I liked how you pointed out that with all the strategies that we should be modeling them for the students. That’s a great way to get your classroom to engage with the system they’ll be using. Your strategies seemed to have a lot in common and I think if you decide to use these three in your classroom then it’ll be easier for students to go from strategy to strategy, so that’s a great concept. I liked the 4 C’s strategy but do you think there could be a way to use it without just articles?
Hey Rachel! Great post about Making Thinking Visible! I thought the strategies that you chose would all be very helpful in the science classroom! I also appreciated how you implored teachers to use scaffolding when setting up one of these strategies because a lot of them are very unfamiliar to students, so it’s very important they are coached through, especially on their first attempt. I also think modeling the strategies is really important, so that students can see how you are constructing ideas and in turn construct their own. How might you connect the 4 Cs strategy with the book unit we are preparing in literacy?
Loved your post and Making Thinking Visible strategies, totally excited to use these in my future classrooms! I especially love how you stressed the importance of taking the time to set these strategies up rather than letting students just dive into them head first, we really want to make sure students are making the most out of these strategies. What would you suggest doing for students who are eager to get thinking and want to skip right through the setup process?
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- Published: July 2002
Critical Thinking and Science Education
- Sharon Bailin 1
Science & Education volume 11 , pages 361–375 ( 2002 ) Cite this article
It is widely held that developing critical thinking is one of thegoals of science education. Although there is much valuable work in the area, the field lacksa coherent and defensible conception of critical thinking. As a result, many efforts to foster criticalthinking in science rest on misconceptions about the nature of critical thinking. This paper examines some of themisconceptions, in particular the characterization of critical thinking in terms of processes orskills and the separation of critical thinking and knowledge. It offers a more philosophically sound and justifiableconception of critical thinking, and demonstrates how this conception could be used to ground scienceeducation practice.
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Bailin, S. Critical Thinking and Science Education. Science & Education 11 , 361–375 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1016042608621
Issue Date : July 2002
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1016042608621
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