Course Activities & Learner Interaction – Incorporate Critical Thinking

Critical thinking, as defined by the Critical Thinking Community, 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.” Critical thinking can be used to evaluate and explore information in virtually all academic disciplines. Critical thinking methods enhance learning through active involvement and reflection.

Following are three ways to implement critical thinking in an online course:

1. Creating an Environment that Supports Critical Thinking

An environment that supports critical thinking includes structuring of interactions to foster critical thinking, feedback that focuses awareness on the student’s own thinking processes, and use of questioning to obtain and process information. It is also important to help students understand the purpose and benefits of critical thinking so that they can be open to the opportunity to learn and use critical thinking.


2. Using Questioning to Develop Higher-Order Thinking

Every thought can be explored in more depth by considering:

  • The origin of the thought (e.g., How did I come to believe this?)
  • Support for the thought (e.g., Why do I believe this?)
  • Conflict with other views (e.g., What are possible objections and how would I respond?)
  • Possible implications and consequences (e.g., What follows from this view?)
  • The learner’s thinking processes (e.g., What have I learned? What’s working well?)

3. Incorporating Critical Thinking Assessments

Continuous monitoring and practice throughout the course is important in the development of critical thinking skills. Various classroom assessment techniques (CATs) can be used to evaluate critical thinking. Most CATs involve student reflection on or explanation of their learning, usually through brief, anonymous responses to simple questions or prompts. Here is a brief resource on CATs.

Additional Resources