Critical thinking skills are a foundation of a college education. Objective reasoning, sound decision making and the ability to articulate complex ideas are skills that professors and future employers alike expect from well-educated individuals. When writing college papers, be sure to choose an approach that displays your ability to critique, create, compare and contrast.
Getting to the root of an issue and determining cause and effect is an important critical thinking skill. Consider analyzing a current societal issue, such as the level of homelessness in a particular metropolitan area. Then, analyze and articulate your views on the contributing factors. Has there been a large, local employer that has gone out of business in the last decade? Does the city depend on tourism or another industry that is seasonal or could experience a downturn? Choose a topic complex enough to have more than one root cause.
Compare and Contrast
Explain the similarities and differences between two somewhat related things. For instance, look at two Shakespearean couples, one from a comedy and one from a tragedy. Analyze the development of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with "Romeo and Juliet." Compare Hermia and Lysander with Romeo and Juliet. Both plays end very differently and offer good opportunities to draw contrasts between the two. How might either play have turned out differently given a few minor changes? Could "Romeo and Juliet" easily become a comedy with a few plot changes and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" delved into tragedy with a couple of tweaks?
Show your ability to use newly learned knowledge. For example, if you've recently learned about differentiation theories -- ways of teaching content that challenges students at a wide range of skill levels -- be prepared to exhibit how you would apply this skill. In an education class, consider writing a paper that explains how you would teach a single skill, such as spelling, to a group of 30 students at various levels. Be sure to include special strategies for students with specific learning disabilities. It's critical that you can articulate how you would use a newly learned skill or theory in order to show that you can become a critical practitioner of knowledge, rather than a passive learner.
Take what you've learned and put it all together! Creating is possibly the highest form of critical thinking. It requires you to synthesize learned information from several sources into something your own. As a cumulative assessment in a college course, consider writing a proposal that incorporates most of the information learned throughout the course. Pull thoughts and ideas from several sources on the required reading list, concepts that both reinforce one another and others that may offer different perspectives on a topic. If you agree or disagree with various writers, clearly explain your reasoning. Finally, offer your own perspective by adding your unique voice to the conversation. It's fine to reiterate thoughts from others here, but push yourself to add new insights to the topic based on your own thoughts and research.
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