Archive for the ‘ Critical Thinking ’ Category

Critical Thinking, MetaCognition, Creative Thinking: What’s the Diff?

I was recently asked by a colleague what the difference is between the three types of thinking discussed in this blog thus far:

  • Critical Thinking
  • MetaCognition
  • Creative Thinking

Although I go in depth about each one in previous entries here, here, and here, defining them here in one post can give us clarity.

This the way I see it is outline briefly below.

Free images from

Critical Thinking

This type of thinking requires that students objectively judge new information for its credibility and integrity. This skill is used to piece together information from multiple sources and to make sense of a concept.


An educator provides an article to students and asks them to evaluate the credibility of the source and to identify any bias. They are also asked to identify how the content of the article fits in with their frame of reference…and to be objective about their own stance.


This type of thinking, is “thinking about thinking”. It’s an awareness of the approach one takes towards a task or problem. I see it as a closed loop. A student develops an approach, implements it, and then evaluates it for effectiveness. Metacognition plays a large role in Learning to Learn.


An educator asks the students to take a quiz about their learning styles and to identify their approach to a certain project based on the quiz and their previous experiences. The students implement a strategy and then are asked to review how it worked for them.

Creative Thinking

This type of thinking is about coming up with new ideas/solutions with no judgements of whether they are good or bad.


An educator provides students with a problem. For example, “How to solve poverty” and students come up with solutions. Instructional strategies that foster creative thinking would be used.



Using Multiple Instructional Strategies to enhance Critical Thinking

An instructional strategy for critical thinking would involve the elements discussed in the table in the last post. You will likely find that many instructional strategies incorporate critical thinking.Consider the strategies found here:

You may even combine instructional strategies for a single activity to maximize the use of critical thinking.

For example,

  1. pose a multi-logical question to the class.
  2. Ask students to start a journal entry and to jot down their initial stance. You may even ask them to incorporate a statement related to reflective self-criticism.
  3. Place students in groups and have them research articles, academic journals, and other information sources on the subject matter. Give them time outside of class to conduct this task. Ask them to find articles that opposes and supports their stance.
  4. Ask students to trade articles with one another group and have them go through an activity of analyzing bias in the information sources. You may even provide them with a worksheet like this one to help with the activity:
  5. In their groups, ask students to discuss the many perspectives and what sources support or oppose the views. Encourage Socratic questioning, and reasoning emphatically.
  6. Ask students to write a follow-up journal entry about their stance after being exposed to more information and after the group activity. Also ask them how their perspective has changed whether it has grown stronger or weaker and why. Ask them to document their thought process during the activity.

This activity incorporates the following instructional strategies:  discussion, Group work (collaborative learning), and journaling.

It also satisfy the criteria of critical thinking discussed in the last post:

  • Socratic Questioning: Present in groupwork where students are asked to discuss and probe the differing perspectives.
  • Co-operative Learning: Groupwork!
  • Multi-logical issues: The question posed at the beginning of the activity.
  • Reasoned Judgement: In the journaling activity and can also be expected in the groupwork.
  • Reflective Self-Criticism: Present in the journaling activity.
  • Recognizing Bias in Media: Present where information sources are analyzed for credibility.
  • Reasoning Empathetically: Present in groupwork.

If you may have noticed, these activities also promote active learning and contain elements of intrinsic motivation (Mastery, Purpose, and Autonomy).

Want to learn more about journaling? Check out this digital presentation created by one of my classmates:

by: Richard1.Leach

The Jigsaw Method discussed earlier also has the ability to satisfy the factors for critical thinking! As an educator we would need to pose a multi-logical question for the activity, and to provide each expert group with different perspectives to be researched. In their expert groups, students would analyze their sources for bias. When in the Jigsaw Groups, students would engage in Socratic questioning, Reasoned Judgement, and Reasoning Empathetically.

Click on the Critical Thinking category in the sidebar for more posts about this topic!

Critical Thinking: What’s its Place in Adult Learning?

What is Critical Thinking?

This website ( provides a digestible overview of what critical thinking is.

To summarize, critical thinking is a complex combination of skills characterized by the attribute below. While reading the following, think of activities that would encourage these factors of critical thinking in students:

  • Rationality: reason over emotions, require evidence and analyze credibility of evidence, seek best explanations, analyze confusion, ask questions.
  • Self-Awareness: recognize influences and biases in ourselves and in the source.
  • Honesty: recognize emotional impulses, selfish motives, and other modes of self-deception.
  • Open-mindedness: consider a variety of viewpoints, accept new explanations because it explains evidences better, remain open to alternative explanations, etc.
  • Discipline: when we are precise, meticulous, comprehensive, and exhaustive.
  • Judgement: recognize the relevance and/or merit of alternative assumptions and perspectives

From the website:

  • Critical thinkers are by nature skeptical. They approach texts with the same skepticism and suspicion as they approach spoken remarks.
  • Critical thinkers are active, not passive.  They ask  questions and analyze. They consciously apply tactics and strategies to uncover meaning or assure their understanding. 
  • Critical thinkers do not take an egotistical view of the world. They are open to new ideas and perspectives.  They are willing to challenge their beliefs and investigate competing evidence.

In contrast, passive non-critical thinkers have a simplistic view of the world (issues are very black and white) and non-critical thinkers are very egotistical about their views.

What is the Place of Critical Thinking in Adult Learning?

What is the importance of Adult Learners possessing Critical Thinking Skills? Brufee (as quoted in Elizabeth Barkley’s book, Student Engagement Techniques 2010), “We construct and maintain knowledge not by examining the world but by negotiating with one another in communities of knowledgeable peers (p.28).” This important aspect of learning is not made possible without critical thinking.

Adult learners need critical thinking in order to analyze and negotiate new information in relation to what they already know.  In the digital age, learners are constantly bombarded with information. Critical thinking enables them to analyze the information not only for content but for credibility and relevance.This skill helps propel them forward in learning more about a subject matter. The activity of processing and analyzing information is a form of Active Learning.

How can it be Promoted by Adult Educators?

As cited on the The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT) website, “Richard Paul in Critical Thinking: What Every Person Needs to Survive in a Rapidly Changing World, argues that students learn best in dialogical and dialectical situations and advises educators to use the following strategies (Paul 1990:245).” I’ve listed some of strategies on the left side of the table and the definitions on the right (from various sources). Later posts will discuss instructional strategies that encourage critical thinking in adult learners.

Strategy Definition
Socratic Questioning Teaching by asking rather than telling. (Source:
Co-operative learning Small teams, each with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. (Source:
Multilogical issues Use any question that is complex enough to generate several ways of looking at it. (Source:
Reflective self-criticism Think about a proposition you believe as true. what would it take to convince you that your belief is wrong?(
Recognizing bias (in media) Recognizing when a writer’s personal opinions come through in a story or news report; he or she is revealing a bias. (source)

Keep reading the blog for instructional strategies that encompass the elements listed in the left column of the table above. To see all posts about Critical Thinking, click the Critical Thinking category in the sidebar.