Critical Thinking as a Set of Dispositions
Dispositions represent the willingness to think. Critical thinking as dispositions grew out of thought research between the 1980s and 1990s with leaders such as Ennis, Paul and Perkins. As early as the 1930s, Dewey, “the father of the field” (Harpaz, 2007, p. 1849) spoke of three attitudes (dispositions): open-mindedness, wholeheartedness, and responsibility. Learners must possess the dispositions, mental character traits, or attitudes to think critically before they will be motivated to develop critical thinking skills (Ennis 1996; Facione, 2007; Halpern, 1999). According to the Delphi Report “Educating good critical thinkers…combines developing critical thinking skills with nurturing those dispositions which consistently yield useful insights and which are the basis of a rational and democratic society” (Facione, 1990, p. 2). The Delphi Report also points out that “critical thinking is essential as a tool of inquiry. As such, critical thinking is a liberating force in education and a powerful resource in one's personal and civic life” (Facione, 1990, p. 2). According to the Delphi Report,
The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused on inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit. (Facione, 1990, p. 2)
Paul and Elder (2005) propose that the goal in developing critical thinking skills is to improve the ability to be fair-minded. “If learners do not develop the attitude of fair-mindedness”, they state, “critical thinking loses the thinking and can become just critical” (p. 7). Facione, Facione, and Giancarlo (2001) identified seven critical thinking dispositions as part of the California.
Rather than dispositions, Costa (1991) refers to "passions of mind identified as efficacy, flexibility, craftsmanship, consciousness, interdependence” (p. 62). Tishman, Jay, and Perkins (1993) share that instruction should cultivate dispositions. As a result, learners will: 1) be broad and adventurous, 2) possess sustained intellectual curiosity, 3) clarify and seek understanding, 4) be planful and strategic, 5) be intellectually careful, 6) seek and evaluate reasons, and 7) be metacognitive (p. 148).
Ennis (1987) provides a taxonomy of critical thinking dispositions that outlines three categories of the ‘caring’ critical thinker. Critical thinkers possess three caring attributes which mean that they “care that their beliefs be true, and that their decisions be justified…care to present a position honestly and clearly…care about the dignity and worth of every person” (¶ 3). In The Disposition to Care chart I have aligned Facione et al. (2001) and Tishman et al. (1993) with the Ennis definition of the three caring attributes.
A teacher, interested in developing the disposition to “care to present a position honestly” can use the chart as a guide for what qualities to encourage in students: A person who cares to present a position honestly will be intellectually honest, will seek the truth, will be analytical and will be alert to solving problems. As teachers remind students of the importance of these dispositions and model the dispositions themselves students can be encouraged to reflect on their own growth and areas needing growth in dispositions.
Harpaz (2007) states that “thinking dispositions stem from opinions, positions, values, and decisions that the individual has formed” (p. 1850) and goes on to speak of a “pattern of cultivation” (p. 1852) and that teachers must embody the dispositions they desire in their learners through personal example. To cultivate requires three steps: 1) embody by personal example, 2) provide cultivating activities, and 3) deal explicitly with dispositions (Harpaz, 2007). By utilizing the three caring attributes (Ennis, 1985), teachers can represent dispositions in a simple and profound way to cultivate student growth in dispositions.
According to Brabeck (1983) dispositions can be cultivated in learners. The literature suggests strategies for cultivating the dispositions to think critically: a) analysis of real-world problems, b) performance based problem solving, c) verbalizing evidence supporting arguments or decisions, d) extensive writing, e) attention to classroom environment and, f) use of group work in and out of the classroom (Brookfield, 1995; Burge, 1988; Miller and King, 2003).
One caution that should be kept in mind is that the development of critical thinking will take time and results may not be evident during the time frame of one course (Paul & Elder, 2005; van Gelder, 2005)
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