Writing Science Through Critical Thinking

Writing Science Through Critical Thinking-41
For their 2009 book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Richard Arum and Josipsa Rocksa followed a little over 2,300 college students through their first two years of school.They found “a barely noticeable impact on students’ skills in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing” and “no statistically significant gains [in these skills] for at least 45 percent of the students.”These students may be learning things, but they’re not becoming better thinkers or writers.Like most educators, one of my central aims is to impart critical thinking skills— to help students make sound decisions in a confusing world of conflicting information, sales pitches, and smooth-talking politicians.

For their 2009 book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Richard Arum and Josipsa Rocksa followed a little over 2,300 college students through their first two years of school.They found “a barely noticeable impact on students’ skills in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing” and “no statistically significant gains [in these skills] for at least 45 percent of the students.”These students may be learning things, but they’re not becoming better thinkers or writers.Like most educators, one of my central aims is to impart critical thinking skills— to help students make sound decisions in a confusing world of conflicting information, sales pitches, and smooth-talking politicians.

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GS21 1061 Critical Thinking in Science Mattox, William. Class sessions will emphasize student discussion and debate of topics including experimental design, the logical interpretation of results, scientific fraud, controversial results, dogma, and effective critique.

In this course students will develop skills for critically and professionally evaluating the significance, logic and presentation of scientific studies.

Where standalone critical thinking courses exist, however, they are mostly found within the humanities and social sciences.

Those courses often center on argumentation and literary criticism, or instead on the philosophy of logic, but there are opportunities to expand this— particularly by giving science a larger presence.

For decades, there have been pushes to teach these skills formally, which have ebbed and flowed with the educational tides.

The Association for Informal Logic & Critical Thinking and the Foundation for Critical Thinking, for example, have long been advocating for better critical thinking instruction.The expectations of writing at the University level are very different from High School and having someone experienced in academic writing give you feedback can be very helpful.The Writing Centre is available to work with students from all disciplines and at any phase in the writing process.Each of these types of writing follows specific conventions and demands a range of writing skills.I got good grades in high school and I think I am a pretty good writer. Although this may be true to some extent, all writers benefit from reviewing their work with a writing tutor.With topics that are publicly contentious, those difficulties rarely arise from a simple lack of understanding. A student once said to me, “Well, I’m a conservative, so I don’t believe in climate change.” The frankness of that statement opens up a window into the obstacles science faces in the public sphere.(If only those who post internet comments were as honest with themselves…)The combination of science writing and education has influenced my approach to both, which share a common, overarching goal: to reach out to people and present them with the power, wonder, and relevance of science.There are larger points, like the nature of science and scientific thinking, and the perspective brought on by an appreciation of the complexity of Earth systems and the mind-numbing scale of the universe.In the face of this balancing act, the traditional approach is often to simply focus on the details of a particular science (to build that foundation for prospective majors) and assume that the students will absorb the other stuff in the process.There are many great reasons for students to experience various fields of science, but why not address critical thinking directly, as well?This is hardly a radical thought, and I’m far from the first to think it.

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