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Teaching Critical Thinking - Some Lessons from Cognitive Science

van Gelder, T. J. (2005). Teaching critical thinking: some lessons from cognitive science. College Teaching, 53, 41-6.


This article draws six key lessons from cognitive science for teachers of critical thinking. The lessons are: acquiring expertise in critical thinking is hard; practice in critical thinking skills themselves enhances skills; the transfer of skills must be practiced; some theoretical knowledge is required; diagramming arguments ("argument mapping") promotes skill; and students are prone to belief preservation. The article provides some guidelines for teaching practice in light of these lessons.


This paper has been surprisingly popular; I have been contacted about it by numerous college teachers, particularly in the US.  It was originally commissioned by Dr. Joe Lau at Hong Kong University as part of a major critical thinking project he directed there.  


p.45, first column, second paragraph:  The sentence "The passage expresses in a verbal stream an argument about the origin of some unusual waves."  should be "The passage expresses in a verbal stream an argument about compensation for loss of life."  

Spanish translation

The article has appeared as 

van Gelder, T.J. Ensenár a pensar críticamente.  Algunas lecciones de la ciencia cognitiva. in Carretero, F.M.L, Gonzáles, C.F.R., & Vega, V.M.F. Introducción a la Teoría de la Argumentación.  Editorial Universitaria Universidad de Guadalajara, pp.97-112.  Translation by Fernando Leal Carretero. 

Tim van Gelder,
Jan 18, 2009, 5:32 PM