Creative thinking and critical thinking

Disclosure statement Rachel Grieve creative thinking and critical thinking not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

University of Tasmania provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU. MATHS AND SCIENCE EDUCATION: We’ve asked our authors about the state of maths and science education in Australia and its future direction. Today, Rachel Grieve discusses why we need to spread science-specific skills into the wider curriculum. When we think of science and maths, stereotypical visions of lab coats, test-tubes, and formulae often spring to mind.

A key part of this is critical thinking. It’s a skill that often feels in short supply these days, but you don’t necessarily need to study science or maths in order gain it. It’s time to take critical thinking out of the realm of maths and science and broaden it into students’ general education. Critical thinking is a reflective and analytical style of thinking, with its basis in logic, rationality, and synthesis. It means delving deeper and asking questions like: why is that so? Critical thinking moves us beyond mere description and into the realms of scientific inference and reasoning.

Critical is what enables discoveries and thinking made and innovations to be thinking. Unfortunately, educators are unable to deposit this information directly into their students’ heads. While the theory of critical thinking can be taught, critical thinking itself needs to be experienced first-hand. So what does this mean for educators trying to creative critical thinking within their curricula?

Critical thinking appraisal

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We can teach students the theoretical elements of critical thinking. In a 1,000-person study, four people said their favourite series was Star Trek and 996 said Days of Our Lives. Jeremy is a randomly chosen participant in this study, is 26, and is doing graduate studies in physics. He stays at home most of the time and likes to play videogames. Some critical thought applied to this problem allows us to know that Jeremy is most likely to prefer Days of Our Lives.

It’s well established that statistical training is associated with improved decision-making. Thus, it is not surprising that student engagement with the critical thinking process itself is what pays the dividends for students. As such, educators try to connect students with the subject matter outside the lecture theatre or classroom. For example, problem based learning is now widely used in the health sciences, whereby students must figure out the key issues related to a case and direct their own learning to solve that problem.

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Education is the very foundation in which we as individuals grow, and formulate the knowledge we gain through life into meaningful ways of adapting to the world.

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