According to National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, critical thinking is “the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”
Everyone endorses the teaching of critical thinking and every teacher try to build their teaching philosophy. But critical thinking taught in what fashion? And how to evaluate teaching effectiveness for critical thinking?
In the field of Geography, there is a growing need for software training, especially for GIS and remote sensing. I think the best way to learn software is a question-driven approach or a project-oriented approach. Most of GIS and remote sensing courses use computer labs and customized class projects to help students to get familiar with software packages, and more importantly, to improve their skills in computer-aided problem-solving. Based on my experience as a teaching assistant and an instructor, two types of strategies are used mostly for computer labs. The first one is providing students with detailed step-by-step lab instructions. Students only need to follow the instructions and click the button even without thinking. There are less simple questions from students because they have all the information. But at the end of the courses, many students still know little about the software techniques. The second one is providing students with problems, goals and plenty of data. Students need to select their methods and data to support their analysis. It encourages students to think critically to solve the problems. Some students will find multiple ways to reach the goals and bring good ideas for their class projects, but many others, especially undergrads, still rely on instructors and teaching assistants to tell them step by step. They complain the second method is too hard and time consuming. They suggest instructors should provide step-by-step instructions from their evaluation. In such cases, evaluation is not effective. How to solve this mismatch problem?