The task became one of celebrating extrinsic needs at the same time as luring the students into intrinsic learning experiences.
A learning strategy was set up where students were part of a pass/fail course. There were no formal assignments or assessment, thereby minimising perceptions of normative judgements of one student's ability against another. The topics to be presented were opportunistic so that ideas could be given across a range of areas. There was an element of challenge in that each group had to submit its issue to the rest of the class and defend it as being plausible across the critical thinking dimensions.
A typical session would be introduced by the lecturer, the presenter going ahead as though it were an ordinary presentation, leaving before the critical thinking session. The critical thinking component would be facilitated by the lecturer. There would be three distinct sets of activities, individual, small group and plenary.
Figure 1: The P.A.T.P. Model
Splitter celebrates Ennis, below, and Lipman (1988a:39) "critical thinking is skilful, responsible thinking that facilitates good judgement because it: a) relies on criteria, (b) is self-correcting; and (c) is sensitive to context". Ennis (1985:1) shows the nature of 'general critical thinking' education via the test of critical thinking ability which he developed at Cornell University:
A general critical thinking test might cover induction, deduction, evaluation, observation, credibility (of statements made by others) assumption identification and meaning. Ideally, it would also cover attitudes of a critical thinker such as open-mindedness, caution and valuing being well-informed.General or 'hard logic' critical thinking in this didactic sense is characterised by the teaching of logic, formal and informal. Traditional philosophy supported the search for a universal "theory of reason". This was a belief in the absolute power of logic to explain the world, logic which was not dependent upon particular contextual rules and semantics. The validity of the general critical thinking model is approach is not a discussion point for this paper except to point out that work practices in the nineteenth/twentieth centuries indicate that logic was used to order the world of work, including the human aspects. The logical/rational rather than affective/emotional needs and motivations of workers were the only ones considered to be reasonable. (The language and complexity of the rules of logic meant that the ordinary worker may not have been adept at critical thinking other than in untutored, intuitive way. 'He' would probably, therefore be ill-equipped to see this flow in management thinking. The language of logic itself rose above the day-to-day language of the workplace and used formalisation as a form of control over thinking (Toulmin 1972).
Paul (1990:109) informs the future use of the P.A.T.P. model by warning against weak sense critical thinking, such as "considering multilogical issues with a monological bias, leading to egocentric thinking which is reluctant to critique its own fundamental categories of thought". Haynes (1991:140) outlines Paul's strong sense critical thinking in a way that makes a good working definition:
(a) an ability to question deeply one's own framework of thought, (b) an ability to reconstruct sympathetically and imaginatively the strongest versions of points of view and frameworks of thought opposed to one's own, and (c) an ability to reason dialectically (multilogically) to determine when one's own point of view is weakest and when an opposing point of view is strongest" (Paul 1990:109).Siegel (1988) finds agreement between critical thinking theorists that critical thinking has (at least) two central components: a reason assessment component, which involves abilities and skills relevant to the proper understanding and assessment of reasons, claims and arguments; and a critical spirit component, which is understood as a complex of dispositions habits of mind and character traits.
McPeck (1981:8,13) defines thinking through the concept of 'reflective scepticism':
I have already said that the core meaning of critical thinking is the propensity to engage in an activity with reflective scepticism... the disposition to do X in such a way that E ( the available evidence from a field) is suspended (or temporarily rejected) as sufficient to establish the truth or viability of P (some proposition or action within X).This paper adopts a critical thinking view closer to natural language and specific context (McPeck 1981). This does not undervalue general critical thinking or systematic analysis and logic, far from it, but it recognises Siegel's point that "content knowledge" is frequently necessary for thinking critically within a subject.
Few would deny that the workplace has a language of its own. "Them and Us" has a special meaning. It also has a recognisable set of shared conventions, value-systems and belief structures that inform and direct patterns of thinking. It seems sensible here to consider critical thinking as context specific. This does not imply that Ennis's (1962,1989) dedication to "clear and critical thinking where-ever it appears" is not accepted. Rather that the P.A.T.P. model presented in this paper is not proposed as a general model. (although generalisability seems to be already happening to some extent as users transfer the model to other activities. As the model becomes robust through repeated use and refinement, then the issue of generality would become part of a future research agenda).
Two major paradigms are presented in the critical thinking literature.
In a sense, Human Resource managers are the 'interpreters' of the organisation. Visions, missions and strategies are abstract concepts whose meaning needs to be interpreted and shared between workers and management.
Learning about meaning will be the management challenge of the future, with the emphasis on learning. Learning about thinking will be the key to learning about meaning. De Geus (1988) talks about institutional learning as the process whereby management teams change their shared mental models of their company, their markets, their competitors and their competitors.
The employee is (1) a constant in the production equation, (2) an inert adjust of the machine prone to inefficiency and waste unless properly programmed, (3) by nature lazy, and (4) his main concern is self-interest. Secondly, the truth as Taylor saw it was that humans at work are basically rational/economic beings." (ibid)
Taylor's philosophical stance might reject assumptions that intrinsically humans are the authors of their own destiny. It might assume that humans will give up their desire to help each other and seek interdependent relationships, even be 'comrades in adversity' (Revans 1980). The mechanistic paradigm to which organisational allegiance must be paid would assume that workers would embrace efficiency, human structures and systems that were logical rather than emotional. Strictly differentiated functional relationships would be arranged around the needs of machinery and control mechanisms between humans would be correspondingly mechanistic and impersonal.
P.A.T.P. begins with a preparatory session at which consideration of issues such as the ones in this paper would be discussed:
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De Geus, A. P. (1988). Planning as Learning. Harvard Business Review, March/April, 70-74.
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Schlecht, L. (1989). Critical Thinking Courses: Their Value and Their Limits. Teaching Philosophy, 131-140. In L. J. Splitter, (1991), Op. cit. p 90.
Scriven, M. (1980). The Philosophical and Pragmatic Significance of Informal Logic. In J. A. Blair and R. A. Johnson (eds), Informal Logic. The First International Symposium. California: Edgecliff Press.
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|Please cite as: Whiteley, A. (1996). Critical thinking/questioning skills. In Abbott, J. and Willcoxson, L. (Eds), Teaching and Learning Within and Across Disciplines, p165-170. Proceedings of the 5th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Murdoch University, February 1996. Perth: Murdoch University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1996/whiteley.html|