The Scope of Debiasing in the Classroom


Critical thinking is often taught with some emphasis on categories and operations of cognitive biases. The underlying thought is that knowledge of biases equips students to reduce them. The empirical evidence, however, doesn’t provide much support for this thought. We have previously argued that the emphasis on debiasing in critical thinking education is worth preserving, but in light of a more explicit and broader conception of debiasing. We now argue that this broader conception of debiasing strategies obliges critical thinking instructors and curriculum designers to reflect on the teaching approaches that might facilitate the use of those strategies. We propose some teaching techniques to expand the scope of debiasing in the classroom—some untested, some only rarely and recently characterized as critical thinking strategies, rather than as pragmatic considerations in, e.g., design, engineering, marketing. These methods and others like them, we suggest, broaden the prospects for teaching a range of effective critical thinking techniques for debiasing.

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  1. 1.

    In practice, we noted, actual cases may have elements falling into more than one level (2014, p. 355). As with many taxonomies, the categories here are intended to be diagnostic rather than exhaustive and mutually exclusive.

  2. 2.

    Madva (2015) too argues persuasively that “individual changes are integral to the success of structural changes,” rather than the two perspectives being in strict competition.

  3. 3.

    Perhaps an analogy here would be to imagine a wilderness emergency survival course that teaches participants how to hunt with a bow and arrows, but not how to make a bow and arrows in the wilderness.

  4. 4.

    Of course this is also a problem for IA, and for any approach to critical thinking that takes debiasing seriously.

  5. 5.

    From prudence épistémique (p. 65).


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We are grateful to Tomás Magalhães Carneiro, Jennifer Saul, two anonymous referees for this journal, and the organizers and participants of the Reasoning, Argumentation, and Critical Thinking Instruction conference, held at Lund University in February 2015. This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Correspondence to Tim Kenyon.

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Beaulac, G., Kenyon, T. The Scope of Debiasing in the Classroom. Topoi 37, 93–102 (2018).

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  • Critical thinking
  • Education
  • Bias
  • Debiasing
  • Nudges