Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Critical Thinking Skills in Family and Consumer Sciences Education

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Critical Thinking Skills in Family and Consumer Sciences Education

Article excerpt

The reauthorization of the Perkins Act in 2006 resulted in FCS career and technical education courses being classified into one of 16 career clusters and programs of study (Brand, Valent, & Browning, 2013; US States' Career Cluster Initiate for CTE, n.d.). These programs of study are aligned to specific career goals within the courses, which are reviewed for critical thinking, problem-solving, relevancy, and rigor (Brand et al., 2013). This results in the profession of FCS education being aligned with 21st Century Skills (NASAFCS, 2008) and illustrates the necessity of improving higher order thinking in FCS education. Given the importance of critical thinking skills in FCS education, there is a need to understand how to improve these skills in FCS educational settings. This paper defines critical thinking, relates critical thinking to FCS content, identifies strategies to incorporate skills of critical thinking, clarifies how FCS uses critical thinking in modern society, identifies barriers to critical thinking, and presents ways to overcome barriers.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking goes beyond rote learning and memorization. It incorporates the advanced levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001), which encourages abstract thinking. For learning to occur, the learner must first have acquisition to content, then have opportunities to maintain the content, and finally participate in activities that allow the learner to generalize the content. Generalization of content is when true learning occurs, as learned content is applied to a new situation (Swafford & Dainty, 2009). Critical thinking also involves metacognition (knowledge of how one obtains knowledge) and the cognitive skills of listening, reading, evaluating posit, finding hidden assumptions, and acknowledging consequences (Wright, 2002). Deliberate critical thinking results in in-depth reasoning and understanding of concepts, enabling the learner to solve real-world problems, including those related to health and wellness, family relationships, child guidance, interpersonal communication, consumer economics, and career goals.

FCS and Critical Thinking

The FCS classroom is a natural setting to incorporate critical thinking skills, and adolescence is a prime time to introduce it due to brain development (Laster & Johnson, 2001). Moreover, the content taught in the FCS classroom and the knowledge provided to the learner is regarded by many FCS educators as preventative. Such content includes sound nutrition practices, principles of personal finance, job skills, family interaction, and relationships (Zehr, 1998). Incorporating critical thinking allows the learner to dig deeper and go beyond the surface to understand cause and effect, implications of an action, as well as identify bias toward a situation. For example, when teaching moral and ethical values, such as personal and social responsibility, respect for all people is openly discussed (rather than assumed) as well as how problems with social and personal responsibility affect family and community members.

Rather than accepting information at face value, critical thinkers are able to evaluate thoroughly the content of an issue (Pescatore, 2007) and reflect on a probable action. FCS educators help individuals use critical thinking to make informed decisions about daily life occurrences. These authentic experiences help the learner make connections beyond the classroom and help prepare the learner for post-secondary education, employment, and life events (Brand et al., 2013).

Incorporating Critical Thinking Strategies in FCS

FCS instructors can incorporate a variety of critical thinking strategies into their educational approaches. For example, an educator could plan a lecture addressing obesity that includes a PowerPoint over portion control along with an activity on MyPlate, which is the current nutritional guide established by the United States Department of Agriculture (U. …

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