The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills Essay

The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills Essay

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This action research paper addresses the importance of critical thinking skills rather than memorization in teaching for historical understanding. Students generally perceive that history is a boring subject in which they have to memorise massive amount of information about the past and recall it during examinations in order to pass the subject. They find that history bears no relevance to everyday life. Educators play an important role in helping students to shed some light that history is not about the past, but rather about our ways of creating meanings from and about it (Kellner, 1989, p.10). Foster and Padgett (1999) emphasized authentic historical inquiry, focusing on critical thinking skills, to counter the transmission mode and rote memorization approach in teaching history (Foster & Padgett, 1999).
Critical thinking is often described as sets of competencies (Pithers & Soden, 2000). For example, Ennis (1987,1993) offers a taxonomy of critical thinking skills and dispositions to be applied in identifying a problem and its assumptions, and making inferences. Broad dispositions such as a spirit of inquiry, open-mindedness and weighing the credibility of evidence are also very important (Ennis, 1993; Perkins, Jay, & Tishman, 1993) and considered transferable over various domains.
The ability to think critically depends on having adequate knowledge as it is not possible to think critically on topics that you have limited knowledge or execute the type of solutions to a problem that you know little about. Critical thinking is dependent on domain knowledge and practice.
Historians consider the actions, motivations, beliefs, customs and values of a time period, and this involves empathizing with the people living in those circums...


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...t and Brooks advocate that exercises in historical empathy help students understand the complexity of idea formation, decision-making and acting (Doppen, 2000; Endacott, 2010; Foster, 1999). For example, teacher can elicit class discussion, ‘Do you believe that Truman was right in deciding to drop two atomic bombs? Why or why not?’ Students are encouraged to form opinions and make moral judgments. By doing so, students have the opportunity to consider the ways in which individual perspectives are rooted in the social, political, economic and cultural context of the time.
Thus in conclusion, critical thinking skill can be achieved through historical empathy and thinking critically should be taught in the context of subject matter. Teachers should adopt historical empathy as one of critical thinking strategies, make them explicit and allow students to practise them.

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