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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Teaching Thinking

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Thinking through Writing

Many have recognized the inter-relationships of thinking and writing. Often, "writing problems" turn out to be, on closer examination, "thinking problems." Lack of clarity or organization in a paper reflects a lack of clear thought. It is often in the struggle to explain clearly or to argue cogently in writing that we clarify our thoughts. The sites below offer several approaches and strategies for helping students clarify their thinking. See also Teaching Reading for further ideas and information.

Identifying and Inter-relating Elements of Critical Thinking (Dartmouth)

The Dartmouth Writing Program has a very clear discussion of elements of critical thinking that helps to sort out some elements that our students will recognize as outcomes of their thinking activities: These elements (observations, facts, inferences, assumptions, opinions, arguments, and critical analysis) are explained, inter-related, differentiated, and then discussed in terms of writing assignments. A very thoughtful, interesting site.

Using Bloom's Taxonomy (UMUC)

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom and others categorized kinds of thinking that students typically are asked to do. His taxonomy has since helped teachers more easily extend their students' thinking from simple recall and comprehension to the more complex cognitive operations of sythesis, analysis, and evaluation. Among writing teachers, the verbs associated with these levels are useful in helping define more clearly what writing tasks students are expected to undertake and lists of them often appear in Creating Effective Writing Assignment sites.

This University of Maryland University College website succinctly discusses Bloom's Taxonomy and includes a selection of verbs associated with each thinking skill: This list might be useful for teachers (as well as students) in identifying the kind of thinking skills that could be targeted or employed in an assignment. It's also helpful to use in thinking about "raising the ante," making assignments emphasize more thinking in complex modes as the semester progresses. The site discusses the relationships among these various thinking modes.

Using Writing as Thinking: Question - Hypothesis - Question (WWU)

In the Writing Resources section of Western Washington University's Center for Instructional Innovation site, this brief article on critical thinking and writing is titled "Using Writing as Thinking: QHQ: Question - Hypothesis - Question." This practical article advocates and models a process whereby students ask questions of a piece of reading/argumentation and, as they do, open up more questions as well as their understanding about it.

Getting Students to Think (UH)

Another piece from UHawaii-Manoa's writing-intensive newsletter, Writing Matters, is titled "Getting Students to Think." The article discusses the use of concept maps, lists of "advantages and disadvantages," and detailed outlines to help students think critically toward identifying the complex aspects of discipline-specific readings.

A Critical Thinking Rubric (WSU)

This rubric was developed by faculty from across the curriculum at Washington State University. It describes features of effective critical and integrative thinking and communication. As with many rubrics, it is helpful in identifying and articulating aspects of thinking and writing that seem elusive.

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