As this is my very first blog on any topic, let alone Critical Thinking, I think it’s appropriate and worthwhile writing about how I arrived at the point of actually sitting down to write a blog! In December 2011, I finished my PhD in Psychology. After a well needed rest over the holiday season, my days had begun to be plagued by a single idea: What do I do now?!?!

In between periods of applying for jobs, I found myself revisting my doctoral thesis: The Evaluation of Argument Mapping as a Learning Tool. For some background, my doctoral research examined the effects of argument maps (i.e. hierarchically structured visual representations of arguments) on memory, comprehension and critical thinking. Three large scale experimental studies were conducted with results indicating that argument maps can significantly facilitate memory performance beyond that of more traditional study methods (e.g. text reading and text summarisation); and that the provision of argument mapping-infused training in critical thinking can significantly enhance critical thinking performance (Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2010; 2011; 2012; 2013).

Whereas some ‘post’ doctoral researchers feel the need to lock their thesis in chains, throw away the key and bury it in the back garden, never to be engaged again, I found myself the complete opposite - still enamoured by the topics within, particularly critical thinking. By the time 2012 was in full swing, I found myself loading up on more and more lecturing hours. I was teaching critical thinking in wide array of contexts: undergraduate, post-graduate, adult distance learning and Return to Learning (i.e. adults over 23 who had left education, but have returned).

Coupled with what I learned during my PhD, I observed many things things about critical thinking through my teaching. Two of my favourite things that I learned were that: (1) even though they claim to, students really don’t know what you mean by ‘critical thinking’ (but hey, no one wants to look foolish); and (2) students, especially more mature students, think they’re pretty good at it (even when they’re not). Though these two points will be further discussed in my upcoming posts, the broader gist of what I learned was that regardless of how old you are or how educated you are, we all need training in critical thinking!

So, back to the point of What do I do now?!?!  In my times outside of teaching and looking for full-time work, the topic of critical thinking continued to run through my head. I had so many thoughts on it. I began taking notes and developing outlines, searching for answers to my questions and re-engaging my thesis for potential solutions. I started writing. Much of my writing turned into academic journal articles; but... Maybe I could turn this into a book.

I recall my PhD supervisor, Dr Michael Hogan, who also writes a blog for Psychology Today, telling me about the process of writing his book, The Culture of our Thinking in Relation to Spirituality. He had been writing for a while and only when on his well-earned sabbatical, did he find the time to finish it. He told me that if I ever had the desire to write a book, I too would need to find time to myself. In between teaching and applying for jobs, all I had was time to myself. Though my girlfriend at the time, Lisa (now my wife), didn’t quite agree with this perspective and would have liked to see me do more around the house, she was supportive in my pursuit (don’t worry, I dedicated the book to her).   

I had only completed my PhD a few months before I took pen to paper. I finished the first draft of the book in early 2013, just around the time I landed my first academic job. As is the nature of getting a book published (many of the academics out there who have written a book will know), it takes time. You have to shop around the idea, get reviews, revise, get accepted, make amendments, perhaps write another chapter, agree on a cover, get a foreword written and all that jazz. Before I knew it, years had passed. But, for me, it was worth the wait. In May 2017, my book, Critical Thinking: Conceptual Perspectives and Practical Guidelines, was published.

Not long after, the fine folks at Psychology Today contacted me and asked me to write a blog on the subject. I figured that because I’m now technically a writer, why shouldn’t I write a blog on my topic of interest? Why shouldn’t I have an opportunity to keep sharing my thoughts on critical thinking, without having to wait years for a second edition? Why shouldn’t we have a means of discussing critical thinking on a regular basis? I’m doing it because no one has yet given me a reason not to (not even Lisa); and because critical thinking is necessary, especially in this age of information bombardment and the new knowledge economy (Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2014). It allows students to gain a better understanding of complex information (Dwyer, Hogan, & Stewart, 2012; 2014; Gambrill, 2006; Halpern, 2014); it allows them to achieve higher grades and become more employable, informed and active citizens (Barton & McCully, 2007; Holmes & Clizbe, 1997; National Academy of Sciences, 2005); it facilitates good decision-making and problem-solving in social and interpersonal contexts (Ku, 2009); and it decreases the effects of cognitive biases and heuristic thinking (Facione & Facione, 2001; McGuinness, 2013). In my coming posts, I aim to show you how and why this is all so important. 

Don’t worry Lisa, I’ll get the housework done. 

References

Barton, K., & McCully, A. (2007). Teaching controversial issues where controversial issues really matter. Teaching History, 127, 13–19.

Dwyer, C. P. (2011). The evaluation of argument mapping as a learning tool. Doctoral Thesis. Galway: National University of Ireland.

Dwyer, C.P. (2017). Critical thinking: Conceptual perspectives and practical guidelines. UK: Cambridge University Press.

Dwyer, C.P., Hogan, M.J., & Stewart, I. (2010). The evaluation of argument mapping as a learning tool: Comparing the effects of map reading versus text reading on comprehension and recall of arguments. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 5, 1, 16-22.

Dwyer, C. P., Hogan, M. J., & Stewart, I. (2011). The promotion of critical thinking skills through argument mapping. In C. P. Horvart, & J. M. Forte (Eds.), Critical thinking. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Dwyer, C. P., Hogan, M. J., & Stewart, I. (2012). An evaluation of argument mapping as a method of enhancing critical thinking performance in e-learningenvironments. Metacognition and Learning, 7, 219–244.

Dwyer, C.P., Hogan, M.J., & Stewart, I. (2013). An examination of the effects of argument mapping on students’ memory and comprehension performance. Thinking Skills & Creativity, 8, 11-24.

Dwyer, C.P., Hogan, M.J. & Stewart, I. (2014). An integrated critical thinking framework for the 21st century. Thinking Skills & Creativity, 12, 43-52. 

Facione, P. A., & Facione, N. C. (2001). Analyzing explanations for seemingly irrational choices: Linking argument analysis and cognitive science. International Journal of Applied Philosophy, 15(2), 267–286.

Gambrill, E. (2006). Evidence-based practice and policy: Choices ahead. Research on Social Work Practice, 16(3), 338–357.

Halpern, D.F. (2014). Though and knowledge. UK: Psychology Press.

Hogan, M.J. (2009). The culture of our thinking in relation to spirituality. Nova Science Publishers.

Holmes, J., & Clizbe, E. (1997). Facing the 21st century. Business Education Forum, 52(1), 33–35.

Ku, K. Y. L. (2009). Assessing students’ critical thinking performance: Urging for measurements using multi-response format. Thinking Skills and Creativity,4(1), 70–76.

McGuinness, C. (2013). Teaching thinking: Learning how to think. Presented at the Psychological Society of Ireland and British Psychological Association’s Public Lecture Series. Galway, Ireland, 6th March.

National Academy of Sciences. (2005). National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine Rising above the gathering storm: Energising and employingAmerica for a brighter economic future. Committee on prospering in the global economy for the 21st century. Washington, DC.

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