Development of Critical Thinking in Higher Education: A didactic approach to the challenge of developing students’ critical thinking skills

Helle Mathiasen, Hanne Leth Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Critical thinking (CT) is among the so-called 21st century skills. This paper aims to discuss the specific conditions and didactical approaches under which university students may CT skills. To this end, the paper includes approaches from literature to supporting students’ development of CT skills in higher education from a didactic perspective.

Student activities calling for CT are pivotal, since knowledge in itself is far from sufficient to handle the complexity of the modern world. We examine, from a didactic perspective, conditions that support the development of CT competencies in higher education and conditions that may impede their development. CT refers to understanding and thinking in an autonomous and independent way. CT requires knowledge and the ability to connect with knowledge and theory in a critical way. It requires higher-order skills and engagement, and a will to participate in teaching activities in a constructive and reflective way. However, the students’ learning outcomes are often measured based on predefined objectives, and there is a general agreement that current performance management in education measures success as speed and effectiveness in achieving learning objectives, and that this may strongly impede critical thinking. In combination with high stakes exams, the development of critical thinking is under pressure and must be considered from an Academic Bildung perspective.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of European Education
Volume10
Issue number1-2
Pages (from-to)38-52
ISSN2146-2674
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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