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Professional Development Model - Colleges and Universities that Foster Critical Thinking

Note: The Foundation for Critical Thinking now offers customized webinars and six-week customized online courses, all tailored to your institution's needs and goals!  Read More Here

by Linda Elder

Critical thinking, deeply understood, provides a rich set of concepts that enable us to think our way through any subject or discipline, through any problem or issue. With a substantive concept of critical thinking clearly in mind, we begin to see the pressing need for a staff development program that fosters critical thinking within and across the curriculum. In a related article, Richard Paul details a substantive, deep concept of critical thinking. The concept as he presents it, and that is only briefly outlined here, must be built into any high quality educational program, and therefore into any professional development program.

As we come to understand a substantive concept of critical thinking, we are able to follow-out its implications in designing a professional development program. By means of it, we begin to see important implications for every part of the college –redesigning policies, providing administrative support for critical thinking, rethinking the college mission, coordinating and providing faculty workshops in critical thinking, redefining faculty as learners as well as teachers, assessing students, faculty, and the college as a whole in terms of critical thinking abilities and traits. We realize that robust critical thinking should be the guiding force for all of our educational efforts.

Critical thinking is foundational to the effective teaching of any subject. Whenever we think through any subject whatsoever, we can do so only through our own capacity to reason and make sense of things. We can think through any subject well only when we reason our way effectively through problems and issues within the discipline.

Critical thinking, rightly understood then, is not one of many possible “angles” for professional development. Rather it should be the guiding force behind any and all professional development. It reminds us that:

  • Content is a product of thinking and can be learned only through thinking
  • All subjects exist only as modes of thinking
  • There are essential structures in all reasoning within all subjects (that enable us to understand those subjects)
  • There are intellectual standards that must be used to assess reasoning within all subjects
  • There are traits of mind that must be fostered if one is to become a disciplined thinker, able to reason well within multiple, and even conflicting, viewpoints
  • The only way to learn a subject is to construct the ideas in the subject in one’s thinking using one’s thinking.

Key Components of a Professional Development Program

Throughout the 30 years of its existence, the Center for Critical Thinking has designed critical thinking staff development programs and workshops for more than 60,000 college faculty from the U.S. and abroad. In this chapter, I focus on the insights gained throughout these 30 years. I lay out essential components of any effective professional development program.

1. Identify the Gap Between the Ideal and the Real

In designing a practical professional development program, we should first articulate what is entailed in the ideal college and then compare this ideal to actual practices on our own campuses. Until we have clearly in mind what we are shooting for, what the ideal learning college would look like, we can’t hope to achieve it. Thus, prior to designing a professional development program, it is important to first think through questions that illuminate the ideal college and learning environment, questions like these:

  • What is an educated person?
  • What are the skills and abilities of educated persons?
  • What are the dispositions of educated persons?
  • What are educated persons able to do in their thinking that uneducated persons cannot do?
  • What is an ideal college?
  • What is an ideal learning environment?
  • What intellectual skills, abilities and traits would we like to see all of our graduates have when they leave the college?

Having thought through these questions, we then need to assess where the college is with respect to the ideal. Specifically, we need to determine the following:

  • What are the standard teaching practices at the college?
  • How do these practices aid or hinder intellectual development?
  • What can we do as a college to bridge the gap between the ideal and the real (what we would ideally like to see happen and what is actually happening)?
  • What political realities affect the college’s ability to place thinking at the center of teaching? How can we best take these realities into account as we move toward the ideal?
  • What skills do our faculty now lack (which they need if they are to foster disciplined reasoning)?

With a substantive concept of critical thinking guiding our thinking, we have an integrated and deep approach for answering both sets of questions.

2. Foster a Critical Thinking Climate

It is entirely possible, and often happens, that one or two, or even a handful of faculty at any given college is using a rich idea of critical thinking in designing instruction. But this is not enough to foster disciplined reasoning in the thinking of most students.

At the outset of any professional development program, we need to consider how we can foster a climate throughout the college focused on the development of thinking abilities. We cannot force faculty to place thinking at the center of their teaching. But we can create an atmosphere that places thinking at the focal point of the college’s philosophy, mission and goals. We can provide support for faculty to learn the foundations of critical thinking, so that they can begin to integrate it into their teaching. We can tie assessment of the faculty and the college as a whole to the fostering of critical thinking within and throughout the curriculum. We can provide incentives for faculty to foster intellectual development. These are necessary conditions if thinking is to play a primary role in learning across the campus.

3. Understand the importance of
Administrative Commitment to Critical Thinking

To create a college climate that places thinking at the heart of teaching, requires, not only administrative support, but administrative commitment. Initially, this commitment might come from only one key administrator. But the commitment must be based on a substantive concept of critical thinking, and become deep and lasting in the mind of the administrator(s) hoping to spearhead the process. As Richard Paul has said, Critical thinking is not something to be devoured in a single sitting nor yet in a couple of workshops. It is to be savored and reflected upon. It is something to live and grow with, over years, over a lifetime.

Unfortunately, many administrators form a passing interest in critical thinking. Very few demonstrate a deep interest. To become effective instructional leaders, administrators must work their way slowly and methodically through the theory of critical thinking and apply it in their work and in their lives. Only then do they see it as the heart of teaching and learning. Only then can they begin to persuade others to take a similar interest in it.

Though at least one administrator committed to critical thinking is a necessary condition for effective professional development, it is not a sufficient condition. A professional development program cannot, in the long run, be dependent on one person. In the end, critical thinking must become the defining concept for the college so that as administrators come and go, critical thinking remains. Commitment to critical thinking must begin to permeate the dominant philosophy within the college. This commitment must be seen through both financial and personnel support if the commitment is to be sustained.

4. Establish an Advisory Team to Guide the Process

In addition to at least one key administrator, a leadership team of administrators and key faculty must be established to guide the reform process. This team must be in a position to positively influence faculty and staff across the campus.

5. Take a Long-Term Approach

A professional development program can succeed only through a long-term approach. The fact is that a commitment to critical thinking is a commitment to continual improvement. It is not something you do and are done with. We can always improve as a college. We can always improve how we teach. We can always do a better job of fostering intellectual discipline. We can always improve our abilities to reason through problems and issues within our various work dimensions. A quality professional development program is never ending and ever evolving from a deep base in foundational insights.

Having said this, the initial stages will nevertheless involve more intense focus, particularly in providing the resources and creating the needed support to faculty as they develop their understanding of critical thinking. This initial process will involve somewhere between five and seven years of workshops and consultation with experts in fostering critical thinking across the curriculum.

A long-term approach is not possible if the program is vulnerable to the whims of new administrators. As new presidents and other key administrators are appointed, the commitment to critical thinking must remain. It is vitally important, therefore, to include the entire campus community in change from the start and tie the commitment into accreditation. As the campus community deepens its understanding of critical thinking, it is better able to weather the storms of administrative change.

6. Provide Ongoing Faculty and Staff Workshops

Once administrative and key faculty support is in place, the next important step is to introduce faculty at large to critical thinking. At the Center for Critical Thinking, we have found that the only effective way for doing this is through workshops in critical thinking conducted by experts. These workshops should be systematically conducted (with a clear design in mind), and throughout a five to seven-year period, if not longer.

The best workshop design is one that begins with an introduction to the foundations of critical thinking and then is systematically followed up by contextualizations of these foundations throughout curricular areas and college-wide policies and practices.

Though there is no one “right way" to design faculty workshops in critical thinking, there are some essential guidelines that should be followed.

Before any workshops are conducted, or as soon as the first workshop is conducted, a leadership team should be identified. The primary purpose of the leadership team is to continually deepen its understanding of critical thinking so as to eventually (after several years) provide introductory workshops in critical thinking to faculty on campus. This team should be chosen by the advisory group, and should include only those faculty and staff who have demonstrated commitment to long-term development as teachers, learners, and thinkers. This team, if well-chosen, will serve as an internal mechanism for keeping the process going as top-level administrators come and go.

An effective design for faculty workshops conducted by experts in critical thinking would include at its base 10 days of workshops per year in the following pattern:

First Year

Fall Semester: Two days of critical thinking training in which all faculty are required to attend. Three additional days of training for the Leadership Team (for 5 days in all for the Leadership Team).
Content focus: Foundations of Critical Thinking.
Spring Semester: Two days of critical thinking training for all faculty who wish to attend. Three additional days of training for the Leadership Team (for 5 days in all for the Leadership Team). Content focus: Applying the Foundations of Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum.

Second Year

Fall Semester: Two days of critical thinking training for all faculty who wish to attend. Three additional days of training for the Leadership Team (for 5 days in all for the Leadership Team). Content focus: Understanding Content as a Mode of Thinking.
Spring Semester: Two days of critical thinking Training for all faculty who wish to attend. Three additional days of training for the Leadership Team (for 5 days in all for the Leadership Team). Content focus: Fostering Students’ Abilities to Read Closely and Write Substantively.

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Years

The same structure as in the Second Year, with some combinations of the following possible topics (or others in keeping with faculty/staff interests):

  • Socratic Questioning Through Critical Thinking
  • Learning How to Analyze Thinking Within Any Discipline
  • Learning How to Assess Thinking Within Any Discipline
  • Understanding the Traits of the Disciplined Mind and How to Foster Them In Students
  • Ethical Reasoning
  • Scientific Reasoning
  • Reasoning Within the Social Sciences
  • Historical Reasoning
  • Mathematical Reasoning
  • Professional Reasoning (in a variety of fields)
  • How to Detect Bias and Propaganda
  • How to Read Closely
  • How to Write Substantively
  • Teaching Students to Assess Their Own Reasoning
  • Teaching Students to Take Command of Their Emotional Lives

You might ask whether it is possible for a staff development program to proceed without the guidance of experts in critical thinking. The answer is this: theoretically, yes, but practically speaking, unlikely. The fact is that mistakes are part of learning. Feedback from experts is always helpful in facilitating effective self-assessment. Routinely revisiting the concept with expert help, thereby taking one’s understanding to greater and greater depths, will correct for predictable misunderstandings and misapplications. It will enable faculty to continually to up-grade their knowledge and success in the classroom. Moreover, it will foster the faculty’s ability to take critical thinking and contextualize it, more and more successfully, in multiple domains.

7. Provide Activities and Opportunities Throughout the Year that Foster Critical Thinking

In addition to workshops led by critical thinking experts, it is vital to provide faculty and staff with opportunities to continue developing as thinkers and to share ideas they are learning and testing in the classroom. The plan for these activities should take into account insights provided by the college’s expert(s) in critical thinking so an effective plan can be established. These activities might include any of the following:

  1. A monthly newsletter inviting faculty and staff to share thoughts and insights about critical thinking (including ways to teach for it in a variety of subject fields)

  2. A web forum wherein faculty and staff can routinely engage in dialogue with colleagues on critical thinking

  3. Regularly scheduled round table discussions that all faculty and staff can attend, with ever-evolving topics on critical thinking and interrelated subjects

  4. Pre-designed foundational seminars for new faculty facilitated by the leadership team, but designed by experts in critical thinking (after the first year)

  5. Faculty access to publications and other resources in critical thinking that dovetail with their subjects and interests.

8. Link Critical Thinking to Assessment, Accreditation, and the College Mission

It is important to place critical thinking at the center of all official objectives of the college, as well as the college’s mission. Critical thinking must also be tied to the assessment of faculty, students, the college as a whole, and the accreditation processes. This can be done in multiple ways, but the important thing is that it is done. As accrediting agencies begin to understand what it takes to foster the learning college, tying critical thinking to the quality of instruction becomes more obvious and more imperative.

One effective way of measuring faculty knowledge of critical thinking, and the extent to which faculty are effectively teaching it, is by using the interview protocol found in a study conducted by the Center for Critical Thinking. This protocol can be used both in pre and post assessment of faculty knowledge of critical thinking. Moreover, The International Critical Thinking Test (Paul & Elder, 2003) can be used to assess student reasoning abilities, also in pre and post assessment format. An additional measure, now commonly used in community colleges, is the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE). To assess the extent to which critical thinking is being fostered in the college as a whole, random samples of student work can be obtained from across the curriculum, and then assessed for critical thinking.

9. Fund the Program

An effective staff development program cannot occur without adequate funding. Early in the process, a budget must be established to fund workshops, materials, faculty incentives, newsletters, staff support, etc. This will often, if not usually, entail identifying grant possibilities.

10. Keep the Focus on a
Substantive Concept of Critical Thinking

One of the pitfalls in creating a professional development program focused on thinking is the tendency to pick and choose from multiple theories of thinking, some of which may lack rigor or breadth. Never assume that any one subject has the needed expertise or model for critical thinking across the curriculum.

No matter what else is true about teaching and learning, it is vitally important that students learn the cognitive skills to think their way through content. This can only be done when they are encouraged to use their thinking in a disciplined way throughout their college experience. Everything within the staff development program must assist in achieving this end. This can happen only when a deep and lasting understanding of critical thinking guides the change process.

11. Avoid Political Problems

Every college has a political dimension. If we ignore it, we are bound to fail. Prudently work within it, doing your best to take into account its most significant features, without betraying the principles to which you are committed.

12. Beware of Intellectual Arrogance

Through a large research study (see endnote), The Center For Critical Thinking found a significant gap between what faculty think they know about critical thinking and what classroom practices actually reveal (about what they know). Much of that gap is traceable to inadvertent intellectual arrogance.

And, as we begin to introduce critical thinking to faculty, we must anticipate and respond to problems that may result when faculty misteach what they mislearn about critical thinking. This is a potential problem in faculty teaching students. It is also a problem when the Leadership Team begins to “teach” colleagues critical thinking. For this reason, it is best to have the Leadership Team follow seminars predesigned by critical thinking experts. The Leadership Team will not be “teaching” so much as facilitating learning, using publications and other resources provided by critical thinking experts.

13. Avoid Elitism,
Be Inclusive From the Start

Another potential danger in creating an effective staff development program is the appearance of those heading up the program as an “elite group.” The rest of the faculty then defines itself as in opposition. Certainly some faculty will resist any change in their thinking regarding critical thinking. And such nay-sayers may create an illusion that there is an elite group of “critical thinkers” on campus. Therefore, the program should be, from the beginning, as inclusive as possible, with the primary focus on helping faculty foster intellectual discipline and deep learning. It must encourage and challenge, but not threaten or invalidate.

Surry Community College: A Work In Progress

There is no better way to imagine an effective professional development program than to see an actual example. For the past two years, Surry Community College in Dobson, NC, has been creating such a program. I will now give the outlines of this relatively new and evolving program, including a brief history and key components.

The Initial Impetus for Change at Surry Community College

In the fall of 2002, Surry CC began to think about how to place learning at the center of instruction. It did not, at the outset, identify critical thinking as the key to the process. Rather as it pursued the idea of “the Learning College,” college administrators and faculty began to see critical thinking as essential to such a college. The initial impetus for change resulted from two unrelated events:

  1. A major revision by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) that affected the accreditation process for Surry CC.
  2. Surry’s participation in the first open administration of the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE).

In December 2002, SACS’ Commission on Colleges adopted a major revision of its accreditation process, a Quality Enhancement component. This component requires colleges to “enhance the quality of their programs and services within the context of their missions, resources, and capacities and create an environment in which teaching, research and learning occurs (Atkins & Wolfe, Spring 2003).”

At the same time that Surry was faced with developing a Quality Enhancement plan for the college, the college agreed to participate as one of 48 colleges in the first open administration of the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE). This survey asked students, among other things, to respond to questions about the quality of their college learning experiences.

Before Surry received results from the student survey, Surry CC faculty were asked by the administration to indicate how they would ideally like students to respond to questions on the survey, in other words, how they would expect students to respond “if Surry Community College were exactly as you would like it to be (Atkins, S. & Wolfe, C., Spring 2003).”

According to Atkins and Wolfe (Sept. 2003), when the Surry CC student survey results were compared with faculty objectives for students, “the comparison depicted a discrepancy between student reports and faculty perceptions regarding our students’ engagement in higher order/critical thinking skills. Overall results indicated that faculty believe students should be engaged in critical thinking skills to a much greater extent than levels reported by students.

During special CCSSE focus-group sessions, faculty identified areas they considered critical for enhancing student learning and recommended strategies for improvement. Faculty wanted students to be more active in the classroom and more involved in projects requiring integration of ideas and information. Critical thinking activities were consistently mentioned, as well as cross-discipline projects, capstone course projects, and writing across the curriculum. These issues would soon be transformed into major project objectives for improving student learning at Surry.”

Prior to the events I have already described, Surry had been introduced, through the League for Innovations in the Community College, to the notion of the Learning College. This idea of a Learning College has been the focus of work by Terry O’Banion, the President of the League for Innovation in the Community College, and is now influencing community colleges across the country. According to Cynthia Wilson (2002), “in defining learning-centered education, O’Banion [A Learning College for the 21st Century, 1997], explains that an educational institution that ‘places learning first . . . creates substantive change in individual learners by providing multiple options for learning, enabling students to take responsibility for their own choices, and basing its staffing on student needs. The ‘learning college’ succeeds only when it can document that its students have acquired ‘improved and expanded learning.’”

Creating a Culture for Change and Organizing the Change Process

After reviewing the literature, Surry CC (Atkins & Wolfe, Spring 2003) identified the following facets of the Learning College:

  • The recognized mission of the college is student learning
  • The institution accepts responsibility for student learning
  • Supporting and promoting student learning is everyone’s job
  • Planning and operational decisions are made with consideration to their potential impact on student learning
  • Transforming a college into a learning institution requires a systematic and systemic review of the organization and its people, structure, policies, and processes.

In organizing the change process, Surry developed the Surry Community College Initiative, an evolving, multi-faceted approach to long-term change. The Learning Initiative aims to establish structures, policies, leadership practices, professional development, and curriculum initiatives designed to improve the educational outcomes of all students. During initial planning stages, the following expected outcomes were identified in reforming organizational culture:

  1. The college will thoroughly assess its organizational culture to determine features that support or hinder the move to a more learning-centered college
  2. College leaders, both academic and administrative, will substantively support learning-centered initiatives
  3. The College will provide academic policies to reflect an emphasis on learning
  4. The College will create decision-making structures to ensure involvement of all key stakeholders
  5. The College will revise the language in all appropriate documents (e.g. mission statements, program descriptions, job descriptions) to reflect the new emphasis on learning.

The College Establishes a Guiding Council and Primary Objectives

At this point in the process, Surry CC establishing its own Council on Innovation and Student Learning at the college, a steering committee responsible for guiding the change process. This council is comprised of all Division Chairs, the Vice President for Instruction and Chief Academic Officer, and the President of the college, as well as representatives from all student support departments, involving “the entire SCC community in choosing specific strategies for improving learning (Atkins and Wolfe, Spring 2003).”

In 2003, as Surry CC was beginning the process of change at the college, the council established the following key objectives:

  1. Improve Student Engagement Through Critical Thinking
  2. Assess Learning Outcomes
  3. Reform Organizational Culture

Critical Thinking Becomes the Keystone of the Learning College

Though early in the change process, critical thinking was listed as one of several primary objectives by faculty, it was not initially the keystone of the process. According to Connie Wolfe, “we discussed the fact that we couldn't focus on all 8 outcomes at once, that we'd have to introduce them slowly. We decided that critical thinking would be a good place to start—perhaps critical thinking and communication, since those were at the top of the faculty list …One of our first goals, then, was to investigate critical thinking models and professional development opportunities.”

As Surry began to formulate a rigorous concept of critical thinking, it became clear that the only way to create a substantive Learning College, with true emphasis on developing intellectual skills, was through critical thinking. Conversely, it also became clear that without critical thinking the Learning College would be void of substance and depth. I recently asked Connie Wolfe, [Director, Academic Support Center], to comment on how the professional development plan at Surry CC has evolved in the past two years. According to Wolfe, as Surry began to learn understand critical thinking:

“many things fell into place. We began to see how critical thinking was important for all the QEP objectives--improving student engagement, improving student learning and evaluating that learning, and reforming college culture… Our rubric development [for institutional assessment] found a clear focus--we used critical thinking to evaluate writing, reading, etc. We are now using critical thinking as the substantive concept that guides instruction and improves learning.

We now realize that we can do group work, we can increase student engagement, we can focus on learning over instruction--but do those objectives fundamentally improve the quality of student learning? Not necessarily. Adding the critical thinking focus means we're holding learning to clear standards.

After receiving critical thinking training, I felt that the learning college model didn't give us the whole picture. In fact, I've been surprised that other colleges haven't connected critical thinking to the learning college more often. Everyone talks about improving critical thinking, and many colleges see value in the learning paradigm, but putting the two together into a coherent plan for improvement hasn't been a major focus (that I know of). I look at the list [of the Learning College Project] and wonder if we could do all those things and STILL not fundamentally improve the quality of student learning! The fundamental question is this: How are we actually changing what we're doing in the classroom (day-to-day strategies as well as projects and assignments) to improve student learning? Critical thinking has become our vehicle for doing just that.

The deeper we get into this plan, the more we find ourselves focusing on critical thinking. We have just now realized the extent to which we're going to have to do professional development, the extent to which we're still critical thinking neophytes (even after advanced training!). From the start, we have conceptualized this plan as (1) ongoing and (2) dynamic. It's not something to chisel in stone and carry down from the mountain to the masses. We recognize we must constantly assess what we're doing and make changes as a result, and that the entire college community (all employees and students) must participate and own it for themselves, or we won't see real change.

Since critical thinking is now at the front and center of what we are doing at Surry, we are now considering changing the title of our QEP to: A Learning College Built on Critical Thinking.

The College Coordinates and Provides Faculty Workshops In Critical Thinking

An ongoing part of Surry’s professional development plan is faculty workshops in critical thinking. A long-term in-service program in critical thinking has been developed with workshops being conducted over a three-year period. These workshops will focus on the following:

  • How to teach all content as a powerful mode of thinking
  • How to integrate Socratic questioning into instruction
  • How to teach students to assess their own thinking using fundamental intellectual criteria
  • How to teach students to work effectively with basic dimensions of thought
  • How to teach students to read, write, speak, and listen critically, that is, with intellectual command of the processes in which they are engaged.
  • How to teach so that students transfer what they learn from one context to another, as well as to the problems in everyday life.
  • How to teach so that students take increasing responsibility for their learning
  • How to teach so that students master the fundamental concepts and principles of a subject
  • How to teach so that students take charge of their emotional lives
  • How to organize programs, majors, and curricula so that critical thinking is emphasized throughout
  • How to design an assessment program around critical thinking

In addition to these workshops presented by experts in critical thinking, Surry’s Team for the Advancement of Critical Thinking is conducting introductory workshops to faculty throughout the year. Experts in critical thinking will assist Surry CC in pre-designing and assessing these workshops. This fall, the Student Engagement Teach is offering workshops for all faculty, as well as for support staff, focused on the following topics:

  • Using Critical Thinking as a Tool for Teaching Concepts
  • Remodeling Assignments for Critical Thinking
  • Students’ Abilities to Self-Assess: Fostering an Important Critical Thinking Skill
  • Promoting Critical Thinking in the Learning-Centered Classroom
  • Fundamentals of Critical Thinking
  • Integrating Critical Thinking on a Daily Basis

A Summary of the Program’s Components

Let me then summarize the key components of the Surry CC approach:

  1. The program began with the commitment of the President and the Vice President for Instruction and Chief Academic Officer
  2. The Vice President for Instruction and Chief Academic Officer has not only spearheaded the project, but has taken time to learn critical thinking (having, at present, participated as a learner in 14 days of training in critical thinking). Moreover, he is taking a lead role as a facilitator in the pre-designed workshops for faculty and staff
  3. The top-level administrators at Surry have committed significant resources and time to the process
  4. An advisory council was formed to guide and integrate the process
  5. Early in the process, faculty were asked to identify important learning outcomes for students
  6. Faculty and staff work together on the various committees Surry has established to bring critical thinking into every part of the campus culture
  7. Experts in critical thinking are providing workshops in critical thinking over several years
  8. A leadership team is learning critical thinking to serve as facilitators in pre-designed workshops for faculty and staff throughout the year
  9. Critical thinking is tied to assessment through an Institutional Portfolio. This includes randomly selecting student papers from across the campus, and then assessing the papers using critical thinking concepts and principles
  10. Faculty assessments are tied to critical thinking. Faculty are required to submit sample assignments demonstrating that they are fostering critical thinking in their classes. These assignments are then evaluated, and faculty are given feedback from the Teach for the Advancement of Critical Thinking (with suggestions for improvement where necessary)
  11. A series of roundtable discussions are offered throughout the year which focus on critical thinking theory and classroom application
  12. A newsletter has been developed which highlights progress in critical thinking
  13. A website has been developed which provides a forum for updates and discussions


No college will ever reach the ideal. Some faculty will go further than others in fostering intellectual skills. And, certainly, some faculty teaching for deep acquisition of knowledge is better than none. Several is better than a few. Many is better than several. And most is better than many. Only in an ideal college will we ever see all the faculty teaching critical thinking for deep learning.

The extent to which critical thinking is a pervasive philosophy of any college depends on many interrelated and dynamic variables. Nevertheless, through an effective professional development program, we can create a learning college that fosters intellectual discipline. This can only be done with a well-designed plan that evolves as it is carried out, a plan that presupposes a substantive concept of critical thinking, with true and lasting administrative commitment and support, and a sufficient dose of intellectual humility.


Wilson, C. (2002). The Learning College Journey, in Basic Education Online Edition - February 2002, Vol. 46, No. 6.

Atkins, A. & Wolfe, C. (Spring, 2003). The Surry Community College Learning Initiative: Creating a Learning-Centered College by Improving Student Engagement Through Critical Thinking, Assessing Learning Outcomes, and Reforming Organizational Culture. Dobson, North Carolina: Surry Community College.

Atkins, S. & Wolfe, C., (Sept. 2003). Toward a New Way of Thinking and Learning: Becoming a Learning College, League for Innovations in Community Colleges Learning Abstracts, World Wide Web Edition, Vol. 6, No. 9.

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