Science & Education

, Volume 26, Issue 1–2, pp 93–105 | Cite as

Explicitly Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in a History Course

  • Anne Collins McLaughlinEmail author
  • Alicia Ebbitt McGill


Critical thinking skills are often assessed via student beliefs in non-scientific ways of thinking, (e.g, pseudoscience). Courses aimed at reducing such beliefs have been studied in the STEM fields with the most successful focusing on skeptical thinking. However, critical thinking is not unique to the sciences; it is crucial in the humanities and to historical thinking and analysis. We investigated the effects of a history course on epistemically unwarranted beliefs in two class sections. Beliefs were measured pre- and post-semester. Beliefs declined for history students compared to a control class and the effect was strongest for the honors section. This study provides evidence that a humanities education engenders critical thinking. Further, there may be individual differences in ability or preparedness in developing such skills, suggesting different foci for critical thinking coursework.


Critical Thinking Demand Characteristic Belief Change Critical Thinking Skill Conspiracy Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Compliance with Ethical Standards

This research was approved by the North Carolina State University IRB and informed consent was obtained from all participants.

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no conflict of interest regarding this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Collins McLaughlin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alicia Ebbitt McGill
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Department of HistoryNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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