Critical Thinking across the Curriculum: A Brief Edition of Thought and Knowledge

Critical Thinking across the Curriculum: A Brief Edition of Thought and Knowledge

Critical Thinking across the Curriculum: A Brief Edition of Thought and Knowledge

Critical Thinking across the Curriculum: A Brief Edition of Thought and Knowledge


Consider that many of the people who are alive today will be working at jobs that do not currently exist and that the explosion of information means that today's knowledge will quickly become outdated. As a result, two goals for education clearly emerge -- learning how to learn and how to think critically about information that changes at a rapid rate. We face a multitude of new challenges to our natural environment, difficult dilemmas concerning the use of weapons of mass destruction, political agendas for the distribution of scarce commodities and wealth, psychological problems of loneliness and depression, escalating violence, and an expanding elderly population. International in scope and in magnitude, these new problems strain resources and threaten the continuance of life on earth. To creatively and effectively attack these imminent problems, a well educated, thinking populace is essential.

An abridged edition of Halpern's best-selling text, Critical Thinking Across the Curriculumis designed to help students enhance their thinking skills in every class. The skills discussed are needed in every academic area and setting -- both in and out of class. They are:

  • determining cause;
  • assessing likelihood and uncertainty;
  • comprehending complex text;
  • solving novel problems;
  • making good decisions;
  • evaluating claims and evidence; and
  • thinking creatively.

In this adaptation of her best-selling text, Diane Halpern applies the theories and research of cognitive psychology to the development of critical thinking and learning skills needed in the increasingly complex world in which we work and live. The book is distinguished by its clear writing style, humorous tone, many practical examples and anecdotes, and rigorous academic grounding. Everyday examples and exercises promote the transfer of critical thinking skills and dispositions to real-world settings and problems. The goal is to help readers recognize when and how to apply the thinking skills needed to analyze arguments, reason clearly, identify and solve problems, and make sound decisions. Also of importance, a general thinking skills framework ties the chapters together, but each is written so that it can "stand alone." This organization allows for maximum flexibility in the selection of topics and the order in which they are covered. This book is intended for use in any course emphasizing critical thinking as an approach to excellence in thinking and learning.


There are times when we have all wished that we could remember better, comprehend complex information more fully, or solve problems more quickly and more easily. Various "miracle" products, including bogus "memory" pills, past-life regression experiences, genius diets, and "thinking with both halves of the brain" (what else would we be using?) have promised to make us better thinkers, but these ludicrous claims are directed at those who most need to improve their ability to examine evidence and think more critically. In fact, there is good evidence showing that it is possible to become a better thinker, but the strategies for improvement are gathered from studies in cognitive psychology and cannot be consumed as easily as a pill. As the comedians like to say, "There's good news and there's bad news." The bad news is that developing the disposition and skills of a critical thinker will require patience and hard work. The good news is that it can be done.

I invite you, the reader, to work through the exercises in this book and learn to recognize and apply the principles of critical thinking. I wish that I could honestly say the "Sally, a student in Oshkosh, did all of the exercises in this book and then received a perfect score on the test used for law school admissions." Perhaps you'll believe that after "only a few hours of reading, Mrs. H., a homemaker in Houston, won the lottery." How about, "after just looking at the cover in a book store, a middle-aged accountant felt younger and more confident and had more dates than any accountant could handle." I suppose that if you are reading this preface, you won't be impressed by ad-like tales like these. The more modest, but true, claims that we can all improve how we think and remember, and the strategies and ideas presented here can help, will never make "good copy," but it could help to make you a better student, bettor investor, better all-around decision maker and problem solver, which, after all, is not so bad.

This is a brief version of the third edition of my text by the same title. The brief version was written as a companion text that can be used in virtually any course where critical thinking is valued. It can also stand alone for use by anyone who wants to know what cognitive psychologists and educators have found that "works" to improve learning, remembering, thinking, and knowing. Enjoy this text. Think well and prosper.


I have been fortunate in having the benefit of the opinions and thoughts of some of the finest minds in psychology. First and foremost, I thank all of the marvelous students who used the first two editions. Their questions and comments shaped the third edition in several ways by pointing out those sections that needed to be clarified, suggesting where I should cut material, and convincing me of the need to write a separate exercise . . .

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