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Consider two paths: the first taken by a student for whom facts exist independently of reality, and for whom all facts (as long as they fit into an existing world view) have equal merit.
Critical thinking is one of the top-requested skills employers look for in job applicants, but is higher ed doing enough to help students develop this skill?
Fifty-nine percent of surveyed adults ages 18-31 who attend or attended a college or university say they are very confident in their soft skills, including critical thinking—but that same survey also shows a decrease in that group’s ability to distinguish between false and factual information.
One way they can do that is by giving them real-world problems to solve on their own; giving students the freedom to do their own research and draw their own conclusions is good preparation for the challenges of life outside the classroom.
That’s not to say that educators should simply sit back and take a hands-off approach.
Educators need to provide students with the critical thinking skills they will need in college and to navigate the garden of the forking paths that is their—and our—future.
While the CLA illustrates the difficulty in preparing students for this path, it should also serve as a clarion call to action for America’s educators.Obviously, when a student’s proposed solution is based on false information or faulty logic, the instructor needs to step in to provide corrections and guidance.Indeed, providing appropriate guidance in critical thinking needs to become a central part of the college value proposition.Students in the course were also asked to design a class to teach how to create résumés and cover letters.In courses like these, students are forced to think not just about the subject matter, but also about how to find relevant information, how to organize and consider that information, and how to structure and present what they find—all important critical thinking skills.Pair that with confirmation bias (the tendency to seek out and believe information that maps to one’s own beliefs) and you have a recipe for trouble.Today’s educators need to do a lot more to help students understand how to evaluate information.This is a serious problem that educators need to understand and address.But before diving into the potential solutions, it’s worth spending a few moments digging deeper into the results and the test itself.They blame a “Google It” mentality that encourages young people to rely on the Internet, rather than their own memories, for basic information.In an environment rife with fake news and “alternative facts,” over-reliance on Google and other search engines poses obvious problems.