Reading, Writing, and Critical Thinking
J. F. O'Flahavan University of Maryland, College Park
Robert J. Tierney The Ohio State University
In this chapter, we make the case that reading and writing are powerful ways to promote critical thinking. In doing so, we adopt a view of critical thinking that entails a commitment to the following: (a) self-initiated and self-directed exploration of ideas; (b) critical examination of one's own ideas; (c) the pursuit of multiple perspectives, including a perspective on these perspectives; (d) the creation of appropriate environments in which to orchestrate such examinations; and (e) the ongoing consideration of the quality of these examinations.
Our view of critical thinking is not unique. For example, we view the end goals of critical thinking (i. e., the products of learning) as consistent with Ennis' ( 1987) definition: "Critical thinking is reasonable reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do" (p. 10). Our commitment to the scrutiny of ideas from multiple perspectives is consistent with the need to adopt a variety of dispositions toward ideas ( Ennis, 1987; Norris, 1985; Paul, 1984; Siegel, 1980; Sternberg, 1985; see also chapter 1, this volume). Our belief in the attainment of a perspective on perspectives is consistent with the idea of production that Norris ( 1985) has discussed:
One must also be productive, in the sense of conceiving of alternative courses of action and candidates for belief, before critically appraising which alternative to choose. People must be able to produce reliable observations, make sound inferences, and offer reasonable hypotheses. (p. 40)
Though others have not designated it as a requisite component of critical thinking, we believe that one's reasoning ability is best developed