Facilitating critical thinking in an online environment

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Quality Conversations Vol. 25

July, 2002, 794 pages
Published by
Tony Herrington
ISBN
0 908557 54 X
Abstract 

One of the problems faced in teaching critical thinking in an online environment, is how to foster an active engagement with materials. Without the interaction of face to face teaching, it appears to be easy for students working in an online environment, to accept materials passively – responding rather than actively engaging. Such learning is particularly counter-productive when it comes to developing skills in critical thinking, insofar as it is imperative that students not only engage actively and critically with unit materials, but interactively with other students. Furthermore, it is imperative that students recognise that such skills are not only applicable in the context of the particular unit and its requirements, but exemplify a tool of critical analysis important in both their further studies and everyday lives. The challenge as an online tutor is thus to foster in students such an active and critical engagement, with the desired outcomes being firstly students developing and honing skills in critical thinking, and secondly being able to transfer and practise these skills across a wide range of contexts.This paper documents my attempts to promote and facilitate such engagement by students in the online environment. Drawing on my experience as a successful online tutor at Curtin University, teaching the OLA unit REA11 Applied Reasoning, I will outline both some of the issues needing to be considered when teaching critical thinking skills in an online environment, and some of the strategies I have developed to best achieve the outcomes outlined above.

Keywords: online teaching, critical thinking, problems and strategies

Facilitating critical thinking in an online environment

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Mummery, J.