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Critical thinking is the application of appropriate skills and strategies in order to obtain the desired outcome. It involves monitoring thinking processes, checking whether progress is being made towards the desired goal, and ensuring accuracy.
In order to learn critical thinking, learners can be taught metacognitive strategies that help them to control their thinking processes (1). Unsurprisingly, most employers want their employees to be able to think critically for themselves, and this is recognised at a country level in vocational frameworks across the world, which often call for the skills of critical thinking. But the pedagogy for cultivating such skills is all too often underdeveloped (2). Ellen Langer has shown how teaching content ‘mindfully’, consciously teaching from multiple perspectives, and inviting an open-endedness to complex problems and an awareness of the importance of context is important (3).
Critical thinking would seem to be a complex and under-explored area of vocational pedagogy. Yet, most writers in the field seem to be agreed on the point that to promote critical thinking the students must learn to teach themselves to reflect and refine the strategies, to develop their metacognitive knowledge and skills (eg weigh evidence, look for interrelatedness or interrelationships, develop stable hypotheses) (2).
Critical Thinking for Deeper Levels of Thoughtfulness
Turning to a specific example linking the pedagogy of sewing to that of learning to write, Liz Rohan (4) demonstrates how early domestic arts (sewing) educators ‘emphasised what is now lauded as contemporary pedagogical initiatives such as an emphasis on visual literacy, the production of multimodal texts, critical thinking, discussion, and sequenced courses focused on the production as well as the consumption of knowledge’ (4).
Before the ‘ready-made’ clothing industry took over, early domestic arts educators:
- Believed in curricula that emphasised creativity over the mere demonstration of skill.
- Focused on learning through sequenced activities and assignments that promoted the production of knowledge rather than its passive absorption. (4)
In today’s economic context where creativity is paramount (5), a vocational pedagogy that promotes deeper levels of thoughtfulness and inventiveness is to be desired.
- Ku, K. & Ho, I. (2010). Metacognitive Strategies that Enhance Critical Thinking. Metacognition Learning, 5, 251-267.
- Pithers, R. T. & Soden, R. (2000). Critical Thinking in Education: A review. Educational Research, 42(3), 237-249.
- Langer, E. (1997). The Power of Mindful Learning. New York: Addison-Wesley.
- Rohan, L. (2006). A Material Pedagogy: Lessons from early-twentieth-century domestic arts curricula. Pedagogy, 6(1), 79-101.
- Spencer, E., Lucas, B. & Claxton, G. (2012). Progression in Creativity – Developing New Forms of Assessment: A literature review. Newcastle: CCE.
Lucubrate Magazine August 2019
The article is from the report “How to teach vocational education: A theory of vocational pedagogy” by Bill Lucas, Ellen Spencer and Guy Claxton, The City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (December 2012)