Critical Thinking: Maybe Today Isn’t the Day Your World Changes

Hi, friends– If you haven’t seen me, it’s probably because I’ve been hacking away at my dissertation data. Right now I’m working my way through writing samples that students shared with me, evaluating them in terms of critical thinking and information literacy performance, based on the AAC&U VALUE Rubrics.

Here’s something that struck me as I was working on critical thinking components: part of what interests me (as a researcher, a teacher, and a human) is identifying places where students challenged their own thinking. AND instances where you challenged your own thinking — those can be pivotal moments in your life!

On a train ride after working with the rubric, I started thinking–how likely is it that I’ll see major shifts in students’ opinions or beliefs reflected in these papers? I’ve seen a couple of instances in which students mention thoughtfully considering new viewpoints in a much more internalized way than simply responding to others’ writing. And that’s important in and of itself.

I remember one major shift in belief that I had an an undergraduate. It was the first time that I was eligible to vote and, after primary elections, a close friend told me that he was surprised at my political affiliation since it didn’t seem to align with my beliefs. I was somewhat taken aback at the time–for my teenage self, my sense of politics were still rooted in my small-town upbringing. The exchange stayed in my mind, though, and a few weeks later, I officially changed political parties. It was a massive shift in mindset.

So, here’s hoping that I may be privy to a few major changes reflected in students’ writing! I do, however, understand that, for many students, this may be the day when you thoughtfully consider a few outside sources and opinions and write a carefully crafted essay. I respect that as a teacher and a fellow student. This may not be the day your world changes. Or it might.

Teachers & librarians who teach, I’m interested in your reactions! What signs of real, powerful critical thinking can we hope to see in student writing? What are some [anonymous] examples that you’ve seen?

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