How are critical thinking skills acquired? Five perspectives

by matt1 min read22nd Oct 20105 comments

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Link to sourcehttp://timvangelder.com/2010/10/20/how-are-critical-thinking-skills-acquired-five-perspectives/
Previous LW discussion of argument mappingArgument Maps Improve Critical ThinkingDebate tools: an experience report

How are critical thinking skills acquired? Five perspectivesTim van Gelder discusses acquisition of critical thinking skills, suggesting several theories of skill acquisition that don't work, and one with which he and hundreds of his students have had significant success.

In our work in the Reason Project at the University of Melbourne we refined the Practice perspective into what we called the Quality (or Deliberate) Practice Hypothesis.   This was based on the foundational work of Ericsson and others who have shown that skill acquisition in general depends on extensive quality practice.  We conjectured that this would also be true of critical thinking; i.e. critical thinking skills would be (best) acquired by doing lots and lots of good-quality practice on a wide range of real (or realistic) critical thinking problems.   To improve the quality of practice we developed a training program based around the use of argument mapping, resulting in what has been called the LAMP (Lots of Argument Mapping) approach.   In a series of rigorous (or rather, as-rigorous-as-possible-under-the-circumstances) studies involving pre-, post- and follow-up testing using a variety of tests, and setting our results in the context of a meta-analysis of hundreds of other studies of critical thinking gains, we were able to establish that critical thinking skills gains could be dramatically accelerated, with students reliably improving 7-8 times faster, over one semester, than they would otherwise have done just as university students.   (For some of the detail on the Quality Practice hypothesis and our studies, see this paper, and this chapter.)

LW has been introduced to argument mapping before

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More like this!

In particular, does anyone know of any other studies of education on critical thinking, resourcefulness, problem solving ability, or other skills bordering on rationality? I'm trying to get a grip on what's actually known about learning and education. Since I don't have much background in cognitive science, yet, this is a little daunting. In particular, jumping in and just reading papers without some sort of conceptual framework in which to place the research seems like really a slow road.

So: does anyone know any good places to start learning about learning?

Sorry for the bump, but what have you found out about learning about learning since this comment?

Practically anything written for a lay audience is going to be worse than useless. Most of what's written about education for a general audience is motivated by politics, rather than by a search for truth. Worse, much (most?) of the academic community studying education has picked up a lot of what I deem anti-epistemology, especially the primacy of stories over statistics.

My enthusiasm for this project waned, and I never did get to much sound research. In reflection, though, I'm sure such research exists. If I was to try again, I'd start by considering the ways that various research disciplines in educational psychology reach their conclusions; and then read in those disciplines that seem sane.

Thanks for the heads up. Do you think you could write up you experiences in a discussion post and ask people what they've tried? Are there other wikis for IA that you know about? This thread talks mostly about nootropics. I've researched those a bit and am now more interested in cognitive science techniques like anki, dual-n-back, etc. (though I've heard the evidence for n-backing is spotty).

Thanks for your help!

van Gelder's claims seem confirmed by Ortiz 2007's meta-analysis: http://lesswrong.com/lw/dhe/to_learn_critical_thinking_study_critical_thinking/