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Education

An FSU project is teaching students to think critically and recognize misinformation

The office shows students how to think critically in their majors — and in the world.

As misinformation has become the norm on social media, Florida State University’s Office of Critical Thinking Initiatives has undergone a change. The time has ended for the 5-year project, and the office has now morphed into a network of faculty teaching students how to think critically in their majors — and subsequently in the world.

“(The office) was a seed project that was put in place as part of our Quality Enhancement Review,” says FSU assistant provost Lynn Hogan, “that is necessary for the reaffirmation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.”

Hogan says faculty members are publishing and doing national presentations on their work. He directed the office and has overseen its recent transition.

Lynn Hogan: We did not develop a centralized definition or approach to how to teach critical thinking because we wanted it to flow from disciplinary practices. We know that faculty members across campus are continuing to infuse critical thinking within their particular disciplines. So, how the interior architecture and design student thinks about critical thinking may be different from how the nursing student thinks about it, how the engineer thinks about it.

Our hope in embedding it within the discipline is, one, it's a framework that faculty could work in. They could draw upon the resources they know, but ultimately, it's hopeful and nice to think that the skills you learn within a discipline begin to bleed over into your everyday life.

Also, the University Libraries, who we partnered with for a couple of years to do the critical thinking symposium, they are now creating a two-part program that's going to begin this year. In the fall, the idea is to concentrate on bias, and I believe in the spring the topic is going to be on privacy. So the office has succeeded in doing what we needed it to do.

WFSU News: 44 faculty grants were handed out. Do you have any examples of how that funding was used? (Note: There were two grant programs, and the funding was used primarily to weave critical thinking concepts into existing courses.)

Lynn Hogan: Yes, I do. Marlo Ransdell, who is Interior Architecture and Design, she took the opportunity in the grant time to examine rubrics around the idea of creative design thinking, which is how her discipline characterized critical thinking. Her story is she spent about all summer with about 80 rubrics covering her back porch, and then she constructed a rubric that talked about the various parts of critical or design thinking. They shared that with the students … and it was not part of the grading process. It was more as a development opportunity for students to reflect and to think. It became integrated into their conversation. So students in that program really had critical thinking infused from the time they hit their major until they graduated.

Another example is Richard Morris, who's in communication disorders. He created his own version of a critical thinking assessment test for his profession that he used with his students to help them understand where they might need to work to improve their critical thinking skills. They would take the assessment, and then they would discuss it and figure out how in curriculum they might need to make modifications … so that students would grow along the areas that he had identified for critical thinking within communication disorders.

WFSU News: We've got so much misinformation out there. Some of the blame goes to social media. Some of it goes to just politics in general, but can we blame a lack of critical thinking skills for some of this misinformation that's out there?

Lynn Hogan: I don't want to place the blame because there are so many things as you point out that are contributing to the misinformation. I think part of it is there's just such a flood with social media - some of it’s good, some of it’s bad – and what our goal has been is to teach people how to look at information, look at the source of it, see if it’s quality, and make your own determination about how you will or you will not use it.

Some of our faculty members worked to make sure that students heard different conversations and process those. We do know that exposing them to those different arguments may have an impact, and at least our goal was to help them develop the skills to analyze the information that they receive and to use it as appropriate.

Copyright 2021 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

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