Inquiry - Critical Thinking Across Disciplines - Sam Houston State University


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INQUIRY is a peer-reviewed journal.

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Current Articles

INQUIRY Vol. 31 No. 2 (Summer 2016)
Table of Contents

  • Fostering the Disposition to Think Critically and a Positive Attitude toward Science: The Results of a Successful Six-Year Study of an Innovative, General Education Integrated Science Course
    -Marcus Gillespie, Steven D. Koether, Michelle L. Lewis
  • Targeted Instruction in Critical Thinking Improves Dispositions
    -John D. Eigenauer
  • Critical Thinking Anxiety: Neurobiology of Pain and Cognitive Avoidance in Ethics
    -Izaak L Williams
  • Review of The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education Part VII “Social Perspectives on Critical Thinking”
    -Maria Sanders


From the Editor's Desk
David Wright

Welcome! This is David Wright, the new Managing Editor of this journal. I want to begin by thanking Frank Fair, the previous Managing Editor, for his inspiring and tireless efforts on the journal’s behalf. As it turns out, this particular issue features ample discussion of issues closely related to Frank’s interests in the field of critical thinking, including the importance of student attitudes and dispositions related to critical thinking and the importance of using sound empirical measures to improve critical thinking instruction.

In the first article from Marcus Gillespie, Steven Koether, and Michelle Lewis, the authors guide readers through recent discussions about the challenges of critical thinking education in general and the importance of critical thinking education in the sciences in particular. The authors review evidence suggesting that having students passively absorb the methods and information of a particular discipline is not the best way to improve students’ critical thinking skills. Instead, research suggests that there must be some explicit instruction in critical thinking skills as such in addition to reviewing and applying lessons from the course material. The authors also detail a six-year study of a general education science course aimed at improving students’ critical thinking skills and altering their dispositions and motivations regarding both scientific inquiry and scientific findings. Instructors for this course relate prominent theories used in the sciences (e.g. the Big Bang Theory, the Theory of Evolution, global climate change, etc.) and require students to practice various critical thinking skills such as formal argument analysis. The authors review the evidence that, in many respects, the class alters students’ attitudes and dispositions toward critical thinking and scientific inquiry, including the finding that students are more likely to use scientific methods in their decision making processes as a result of taking the course.

Following in a similar line of thinking, the second article, from John D. Eigenauer, discusses the author’s recent attempt to improve students’ critical thinking dispositions through classroom instruction in a critical thinking course. Measuring the outcomes of the course using a standard measure of critical thinking dispositions (The California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory), Eigenauer details his methods (including argument mapping and discussion of cognitive science research on heuristics and biases) and successes in raising students’ dispositions in four aspects of critical thinking including Truth Seeking, Open-mindedness, Maturity of Judgment, and Analyticity. Consistent with the thinking of many critical thinking theorists, Eigenauer suggests that students’ improvement as critical thinkers is connected to shifting some of their dispositions given that mere possession of critical thinking skills is not sufficient for one to be a critical thinker in the full sense of the term—one must also have a disposition and an inclination toward actually using one’s skills.

The third article of this issue features Izaak Williams analyzing a phenomenon that many instructors may be familiar with in practice if not in name: critical thinking anxiety. While math anxiety is a challenge that is widely recognized and discussed by instructors and researchers at various levels of education, much less is understood about what Williams calls ethical-critical thinking anxiety, which concerns the anxiety many people feel when confronted with situations requiring critical thinking skills and/or ethical deliberation. By reviewing the physiological background behind the better-understood concept of math anxiety, Williams shows some striking conceptual and neurobiological parallels between math anxiety and ethical-critical thinking anxiety. With this understanding in hand, Williams suggests some potential implications for various instructors and mental health professionals.

The final piece is a part of an ongoing review in this publication of The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education . In this review, Maria Sanders discusses five articles from the section of the Handbook concerning “Social Perspectives on Critical Thinking.” Sanders provides a helpful summary and critical commentary on each article, while also drawing attention to the idea that there is a need for more attention and research on social perspectives in critical thinking. Sanders also includes a final discussion of the relevance and importance of social technologies for writers on critical thinking.

David Wright
Department of Psychology and Philosophy
Sam Houston State University
Huntsville, TX 77341-2447
Phone: 936-294-1943