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Current Articles

INQUIRY: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines Vol. 29 No. 3 (Fall 2014)
ISSN 1093-1082
Table of Contents

  • The Competent Layperson: Re-envisioning the Ideal of the Educated Person
    -Mark Battersby
  • The Challenge of Introducing Critical Thinking in the Business Curriculum
    -Joseph Castellano, Susan Lightle, and Bud Baker
  • Dental Education and Making A Commitment to The Teaching of Critical Thought
    -Linda Behar-Horenstein
  • Truth as Lighthouse: A Review of Mark Weinstein’s Logic, Truth, and Inquiry
    -Paul Wagner


From the Editor's Desk
Frank Fair

In the first piece in this issue, Mark Battersby provokes us to meditate on what should be the goal of critical thinking instruction and practice. Mark begins with an arresting true story of a relative’s diagnosis with a grave illness and of how she and other members of the family reacted. The story has a happy ending, in large part because, as Mark says, “By dealing thoughtfully and carefully with expert advice, by bringing in disparate sources of knowledge, by understanding the structure of evidence and claims, and by having the confidence to raise questions, we were able to intervene in empowered, freeing, and life preserving ways.” The story serves to dramatize Mark’s argument that we should aim to equip our graduates to be “competent laypersons”—persons who are liberated by being able to make thoughtful and critical use of expert knowledge.

Then three professors who teach business students, Joseph Castellano, Susan Lightle, and Bud Baker explain how they combine Stephen Brookfield’s account of critical thinking with the “Ultratec” case study to overcome an instance of the “Lake Wobegon effect” made famous by Garrison Keillor—in this case the idea held by the business students that they, the business students, are all above average in their critical thinking abilities. The authors challenge the students by first asking them to analyze the case, then, after the students present their analyses, the professors present Brookfield’s model of critical thinking and invite the students to re-visit their case analyses with Brookfield’s model in mind. The resulting challenge can have a profound effect.

There is no shortage of pleas for critical thinking skills to feature prominently in professional education, but, as Linda Behar-Horenstein documents, there continue to be issues about how best of conceive of critical thinking and how best to teach it. Her focus is on the context of educating future dental health professionals, and, with the guidance of Diane Halpern’s conception of critical thinking, she gives us a broad survey of efforts in this regard. While she acknowledges the demand for covering a vast amount of scientific content in the dental health curriculum, she supports the idea that “Professors need to develop a curriculum that moves towards an integrated contextualized delivery of content that embeds basic science as well as patient treatment planning and patient-centered communication. With enough problem-solving activities and opportunities to reason aloud, students can learn to emulate professors' process of critical thought, unlearn poor problem-solving skills, learn appropriate problem-solving skills, self-monitor, and learn how to diagnose and treat patients’ oral health problems.”

Finally, Paul Wagner reviews Mark Weinstein’s Logic, Truth, and Inquiry. In his review Wagner, invoking Nelson Goodman among others, gives us a tour d’horizon of efforts to characterize the concept of truth. He favors an understanding of truth “as a representation that maps onto the world without evident error,” and he compares and contrasts this understanding with Mark Weinstein’s “Method of Emerging Truth” (MET). While he finds points of disagreement, in the end Wagner is able to heartily recommend the book to “every reader, especially those interested in critical thinking.”

Frank Fair
Professor of Philosophy
Department of Psychology and Philosophy
Sam Houston State University
Huntsville, TX 77341-2447
Phone: 936-294-1059