The task of improving critical thinking skills in students at American universities has typically been addressed by offering a stand-alone course in critical thinking, often taught by philosophy or psychology departments. In this paper I argue that critical thinking courses of this type need to be substantially redesigned before they can meet the appropriate critical thinking learning goals for their students. I begin my argument by noting that students in American higher education are currently not improving their critical thinking skills. The solution, I argue, will not lie in better pedagogy; even in the best-taught classes students will not achieve the level of critical thinking that is necessary. Instead, we must redesign our courses to help students become lifelong learners who can then continue the task of improving their critical thinking skills long after the course ends. I discuss in some detail some of the more significant ways courses will need to be redesigned to achieve these student learning outcomes.


Critical Thinking Intrinsic Motivation Lifelong Learner Extrinsic Motivation Metacognitive Skill 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., and Norman, M. K. 2010. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principle for Smart Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  2. Arum, R., and Roksa, J. 2011. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  3. Doyle, T. 2008. Helping Students Learn in a Learner-Centered Environment: A Guide to Facilitating Learning in Higher Education. Sterling, VA: Stylus Press.Google Scholar
  4. Ennis, R. H. 1962. “A Concept of Critical Thinking.” Harvard Educational Review 32 (1): 81–111.Google Scholar
  5. Ennis, R. H. 1991. “Critical Thinking: A Streamlined Conception.” Teaching Philosophy 14 (1): 5–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gladwell, M. 2005. Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. New York: Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  7. Hatcher, D. 2013. Critical Thinking: A New Definition and Defense 2000 [Web Page 2013]. Available from Scholar
  8. Hatcher, D., and Spencer, L. A. 2000. Reasoning and Writing: From Critical Thinking to Composition. Boston: American Press.Google Scholar
  9. Kahneman, D. 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  10. Lepper, M. P., Greene, D., and Nisbett, R. E. 1973. “Undermining Children’s Intrinsic Interest with Extrinsic Reward: A Test of the ‘Overjustification’ Hypothesis.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 28 (1): 129–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lipman, M. 1988. “Critical Thinking: What Can It Be?” Educational Leadership 46 (1): 38–43.Google Scholar
  12. Lipman, M. 2003. Thinking in Education. (second edition) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. London, M. 2011. “Introduction.” In The Oxford Handbook of Lifelong Learning, edited by M. London. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Marzano, R. 2001. Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.Google Scholar
  15. Marzano, R. What Is an Effect Size? nd. Available from
  16. McPeck, J. 1981. Critical Thinking and Education. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  17. Nilson, L. B. 2003. Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors. Vol. 2. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.Google Scholar
  18. Paul, R. 2004. The State of Critical Thinking Today: The Need for a Substantive Concept of Critical Thinking. Available from Scholar
  19. Pink, D. H. 2009. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead Books.Google Scholar
  20. Possin, K. 2008. “A Field Guide to Critical Thinking Assessment.” Teaching Philosophy 31 (3): 201–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Siegel, H. 1988. Educating Reason: Rationality, Critical Thinking, and Education. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Simons, D. J., and Chabris, C. F. 1999. “Gorillas in Our Midst: Sustained Inattentional Blindness for Dynamic Events.” Perception 28: 1059–1074.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Simons, D. J. “Selective Attention Test.” Available from
  24. Willingham, D. T. 2009. Why Don’t Students Like School? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martin Davies and Ronald Barnett 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Green

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations