1. Why Do You Think Applied Critical Thinking is Important in Your Domain?
As scientists, one of the most important skills we teach students is critical thinking. Einstein once said, "Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of minds to think." I take this quote to heart when it comes to my job as an educator. Knowledge and facts are not useful without the ability to synthesize and apply them to your particular problem, task, or career. In addition, the self-efficacy that comes with strong critical thinking skills allows students to have the confidence to take on unfamiliar and tough jobs and persevere, think independently, and excel.
2. HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE COLLEAGUES TO TEACH APPLIED CRITICAL THINKING, REGARDLESS OF COURSE MODALITY?
A main way that I have encouraged my colleagues to teach applied critical thinking is to really evaluate the effectiveness of their assessments. Knowledge-based assessments are often the norm, but that can send the wrong message to students with regards to important course outcomes. Having course assessments that incorporate (or solely focus on) applied critical thinking can transform an entire course.
3. CAN YOU SHARE AN EXAMPLE WHERE CRITICAL THINKING HAS HELPED YOU OR YOUR COLLEAGUES DEVELOP TEACHING STRATEGIES, ESPECIALLY DURING COVID?
By far, I think the most relevant aspect of applied critical thinking to COVID teaching is that it gives us the ability to think flexibly. Flexible thinking has been critical to teaching success in this crisis. We have to adapt what we know to fit what we need. We are literally problem-solving every day in a way that we never have before in our particular jobs. Having the critical thinking skills to take on a problem (big or small) and find a solution based on our previous knowledge and experience really has been at the heart of what we are all doing as educators during this pandemic.
4. HOW DO YOU USE CRITICAL THINKING AS A TOOL TO HELP STUDENTS PREPARE FOR LIFE?
As I have been saying, I believe that critical thinking really is the heart and soul of an education. Students not only gain the ability to solve problems, but they gain the confidence to know that they can solve the problem. I believe that reinforcing the importance of critical thinking to students throughout their education helps them develop this confidence. This allows them to succeed in the career of their choice. On a larger scale, it will also help them cope and succeed when life throws curveballs (such as a worldwide pandemic).
5. ANY LAST CRITICAL THOUGHTS YOU WISH TO SHARE ABOUT ENGAGING THE ENTIRE RIT COMMUNITY IN CRITICAL THINKING?
Here at RIT, we have students with some of the strongest work ethic I have ever seen in my years as an educator. As a whole, our students are dedicated and focused. They show a lot of respect for their professors as educators, and they are eager to learn. The more that we, as a community, can emphasize critical thinking, the more the students will benefit. It should permeate every aspect of their experience here at RIT. In my ideal world, there would be entire courses devoted only to critical thinking as the only learning outcome! It really is that important to all aspects of life.