Writing Reflectively and Effectively: Developing the Skills of Critical Thinking, Reasoning and Argument in Higher Education

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Costello, Patrick J
  • Publisher: Glyndŵr University Research Online
  • Subject: critical thinking | Teacher Education and Professional Development | Education | writing reflectively | reasoning | argument skills | indoctrinati | on

Learning to argue is one of the central objectives in education. Whether it is conducting a formal debate, participating in a group discussion, writing an essay, a critique or a persuasive appeal, the ability of the student to employ argument and to anticipate and evaluate the arguments of others will generally be an important measure of achievement. My purpose in this paper is to outline some key issues involved in teaching, learning and assessing critical thinking, reasoning and argument skills in higher education (HE). When examining arguments for teaching and learning such skills, with undergraduate and postgraduate students, I focus on two issues. The first concerns the view articulated by Garner (2006, p.2) that ‘… many students with top grade A-level passes… had been coached to answer the questions they would face but had little knowledge or understanding [of how] to develop an argument’. The second issue concerns the concept of ‘indoctrination’. I argue that, to some extent, indoctrination is an essential and unavoidable part of the educational process. Having made a distinction between justifiable and unjustifiable indoctrination and offered the view that indoctrination is, in some sense, an ‘illness’ which pervades educational institutions, I suggest that teaching students the skills of thinking, reasoning and argument provides an ‘antidote’ to it.
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