Let’s Get Critical Thinking!



Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 2.15.20 PM.pngPhoto: A.Mckenzie

I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.” Socrates

For a good overview of critical thinking, check out the great little video below.


Critical thinking = knowing how to think.

Since the 1950’s, educators have used Bloom’s Taxonomy to develop learning goals that would promote critical thinking. I have noticed that learning goals for the curriculums and train the trainer workshops that I have taken are peppered with action words like implement, devise, apply, analyze and develop. Interestingly, aside from this course, I cannot ever recall having to critically think for much except for the occasional paper. Quite honestly, I feel like all I’ve been trained to do is simply reword course information.

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Image retrieved from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/

Recently, I had the opportunity to review the course content of an online nursing program. Not surprisingly, the learning goals language matched Bloom’s taxonomy to the tee. The only problem was that the content did not meet these lofty goals; with the exception of a couple of case studies and one paper, it only contained instructor written and textbook readings. The content alone would not stimulate critical thinking in the student.

Even though “(t)eaching students to become skilled thinkers is a goal of education . . . Some studies purport that students exhibit an insufficient level of skill in critical or creative thinking” (Critical Thinking Educator Wheel, 2016, para 4). It seems that educators are failing in translating the goal of engaging higher cognitive domains into the actual learning.


I think part of the problem is that some educators do not know how or are unwilling to educate beyond using the pedagolical approach. If I can apply what I have seen in nursing education I surmise it is from the belief that important information will be missed. I find this ironic, as retention from verbal processing (reading) is 4% (Barkley, 2010).

In the acute care setting, the nurse must respond to changing patient conditions, new technologies and new medications, unexpected emergencies, unclear orders and or directions from physicians, patient questions, patient education as well as multiple demands on his time. In other words, a nurse requires critical thinking skills. The way to develop these is through the critical analysis of educational content and case studies.

Armed with my budding understanding of critical thinking I suggest that the program developer for the online course I reviewed take the time to integrate learning activities that foster critical thinking. These could include: SET 17, Variations (Barkley, 2010) where alternative situations to case studies could be developed by students; SET 22 (WebQuests) where students could research parenting web sites and blogs critically analyze them; SET 24 (Think Again!) where students agree or disagree with a common misconception in maternity care. I would also suggest the use of formative tools like matching games and mini quizzes. Case studies could also be integrated throughout the course.

For the sake of the student, for the sake of the educator and for the sake of the patient, let’s start critical thinking!


Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques – A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Critical Thinking Educator Wheel, (2016) MentoringMinds Critical Thinking for Life. Retrieved from https://www.mentoringminds.com/research/critical-thinking-educator-wheel



One thought on “Let’s Get Critical Thinking!

  1. Pingback: The Teaching Perspectives Inventory – teachingadventuressite

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