Helping students make sound judgments is a common
teaching goal for faculty members. This chapter explains
how students’ approaches to making judgments are
grounded in their assumptions about knowledge and
how it is gained.
Learning to Make Reflective Judgments
Patricia M. King
Professors take great pride in encouraging students to think in more informed, subtle, and sophisticated ways. Cultivating good thinking is one of the most rewarding and important outcomes of teaching, for good thinking is a truly generalizable skill that students can use in many contexts beyond the confines of one course, one field of study, or one major decision. This is also a challenging undertaking. For example, consider the following exchange, which was overheard between a professor and a student in a history class.
PROFESSOR: Class, today we continue our discussion of the Renaissance.
This was such a remarkable era! It’s sustained my scholarly interest for my
whole career, and I hope you will find it equally stimulating and reward-
ing to study. Before we begin, are there any questions from our last class?
STUDENT: Yes, I think I followed everything from last time, but I just can’t
seem to find in my notes when the Renaissance started.
PROFESSOR: Oh, that is a very good question! You see, the Renaissance in
northern Italy really took hold at a different time and in a different con-
text than the Renaissance in the south. This is important because—
STUDENT (interrupting): Sir, I was hoping you could answer my question
before you got started today.
PROFESSOR: Yes. In determining when the Renaissance got started, it’s also
important to recognize that this “awakening” covered many aspects of
people’s lives. Why, the scientific Renaissance and the ideas of Leonardo
da Vinci had such tremendous potential, made ever richer by the emer-
gence of the artistic Renaissance and artists such as Michelangelo and
STUDENT (interrupting and now irritated): Sir! Before you start today’s lec-
ture, could you please just state when the Renaissance began?