Cultivating Critical Thinking Amongst University Graduate Students

Cultivating Critical Thinking Amongst University Graduate Students

David Onen (Makerere University, Uganda)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6331-0.ch013

Abstract

The importance of critical thinking in 21st century knowledge economy is no longer disputable. Yet, its cultivation amongst learners remains a challenge - even to the most accomplished teachers. This chapter examines the perceptions of critical thinking held by faculty members of a university's college of education in Uganda. The study findings reveal that faculty members have different perceptions of what critical thinking is, its importance, and how it is cultivated amongst graduate students. Additionally, the faculty reported several challenges while cultivating critical thinking among students. It was thus concluded that the differences in faculty members' perceptions of critical thinking were responsible for its inadequate cultivation amongst students, other factors notwithstanding. Therefore, the study recommends for the formal inclusion of critical thinking in the curricula of graduate programs in order to strengthen its cultivation among students.
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Introduction

The demand for critical thinking (CT) among policy-makers, practitioners as well as scholars is today on the rise, world over. This growing desire for critical thinking is underpinned by different factors. First, critical thinking is aptly considered not only “among the first causes for change” (Teachthought, 2017, para 1), but also “a liberating force in education and a powerful resource in one's personal and civic life. While not synonymous with good thinking, CT is a pervasive and self-rectifying human phenomenon” (Facione, 1990, p.ii). Second,

Outside of university study, employers seek graduate employees who are able to transfer their critical thinking abilities to the workplace (Tapper, 2004). Other scholars such as Elander et al. (2006) believe that critical thinking skills are not merely transferable to other areas of our lives, but also personally transformative, inducing individuals to develop from passive recipients of knowledge to active, participants in society. (Vyncke, 2012, p.12)

It is common to hear conversation about teachers preferring to work with learners who exhibit more critical thinking skills than others. Thus, the demand for critical thinking implies more pressure is being mounted on teachers (or educators) at all levels of education to enable their learners not only to learn but also to learn to think critically. The case of graduate students pursuing masters and doctoral programs in education is not any exception. However, numerous studies conducted over the years have shown that the cultivation of critical thinking skills amongst learners is no easy feat – not even for the most talented teacher.

In this study, the researcher explores the perceptions of critical thinking held by faculty members of a university’s college of education in Uganda. Specifically, the study delves into the faculty’s perceptions of what critical thinking is; its importance; how it is cultivated; and the challenges and coping strategies used by faculty members for cultivating critical thinking among their graduate students. In the next section, the author presents the background to the study problem which is divided into four parts, namely: the historical, theoretical, conceptual, and contextual perspectives.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Formal Training Theory: The belief that critical thinking skills are acquired by training someone to think.

Importance: The state or fact of being of great significance or value.

Critical Thinking: The ability to think clearly and rationally about something or an issue.

Conceptualization: The process of defining a word or term in order to gain a common understanding of its meaning.

Practice Theory: The belief that critical thinking skills are acquired by someone through practicing to think as often as possible.

Challenge: A task or situation that tests someone’s abilities.

Concept: A word, symbol or figure that depicts an idea about something or situation.

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