Engaging Critical Thinking: Teaching Christian University Students How To Improve Their Thinking
Students in Christian university classrooms across North America largely lack the valuable skill of critical thinking. Such a skill can often appear as a daunting and lofty task that is reserved for scholars or those with a high IQ. Both faculty and students may feel uncertain of what it is, thereby avoiding it altogether. The primary intent of this dissertation study is to explore and explain critical thinking concepts that faculty can use to help their students improve their thinking about academics and about life. This study is secondarily designed to address the institution’s role in encouraging this process. It presents a workable definition of critical thinking that is useful in the undergraduate classroom and across the disciplines for enhancing student and faculty engagement during their time of dialogue and interaction as a learning community. It explains the process of critical thinking and seeks to awaken the desire to practice it regularly, both inside and outside of the classroom. Ultimately, critical thinking is intended to be a learned life skill that students will implement for a lifetime.
Chapter one provides a survey of some of the primary historical influences of the critical thinking movement in higher education in the United States. It features Stephen Brookfield’s process of critical thinking and targets the initial step and life skill of identifying one’s assumptions in order to examine their validity. Chapter two explains critical thinking in light of interpreting ideas, particularly those found in Scripture. It employs the use of layered thinking through the hermeneutical process and discusses a select number of biblical passages. Chapter three moves on to identify barriers that prevent students from thinking critically thinking and expresses the value of university professors working to create buy-in by communicating a vision for its use and exploring its advantages. Chapter four then offers examples of critical thinking exercises for students to use in the classroom so that they can engage in both learning and doing. Lastly, chapter five reveals critical thinking at work in society by exploring past and present efforts toward social change. It sheds light on the challenging variables that can be involved when seeking to implement an informed action plan.