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Essential Element: Critical Thinking

As defined by the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking (1987), critical thinking 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.” At its best, it “transcends subject matter divisions” by being interdisciplinary and multifaceted. In addition, critical thinking is often best prompted by real-life, hands on, experiential learning.

Students entering college are expected to think critically, understand non-linear assignments, and grapple with questions that may not have answers. Too often, however, first-year students have not been taught to think in these ways, and thus struggle to acclimate to their new learning environment. The Signature Courses were designed to address these issues and to turn high school students into successful college scholars.

The first in a series featuring the Signature Course Essential Elements, the following videos highlight Signature Course faculty members discussing how they teach critical thinking in their courses.

Michael Starbird

Chiu-Mi Lai

Juan Dominguez

Lori Holleran Steiker