Why Focus on Critical Thinking?
Advancing knowledge and enhancing programs
At the heart of i2a is a central focus on fostering critical thinking.
Critical thinking is also known as "complex thinking" and "higher-order thinking." The ability to think critically calls for a higher order thinking than simply the ability to recall information. Our goals as educators should be to aid students in advancing from knowledge of concepts to application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. We can do this by providing opportunities for the application of critical thinking within courses and by promoting culminating experiences that will further allow students to use and refine their skills in problem solving.
For students to be prepared for practical application of knowledge beyond the university, their critical thinking skills have to be regularly exercised in day-to-day classroom experience, even when course content appears to be remote from real-world problems.
In the most recent (2002) revision of the General Education Program, faculties of all units of the university endorsed three overarching goals for the program: critical thinking, effective communication, and the understanding of cultural diversity. The choice of critical thinking as central focus on i2a indicates a recognition by university faculty of critical thinking's centrality both in general education and in undergraduate education as a whole. The 34-credit hour General Education Program thus lays a foundation of critical thinking that will enhance the programs in the major and pave the way for students' successful culminating experiences.
In 2001, a presidential committee was appointed (composed of representatives from faculty, administration, advising, and student government) to make recommendations for improving the learning environment at UofL. The recommendations of that committee, which can be found in UofL's Vision*Focus*Action report, included a strong call for "the use of inquiry-based teaching methods in more undergraduate courses". The i2a focus on critical thinking efforts clearly supports that recommendation.