'Critical Thinking' is 'Expert Thinking'
At one point cognitive scientists thought reasoning and problem solving must come down to some set of general-purpose strategies or steps that, once learned, could be applied to any situation. If so, it would be easy to teach students those tactics and make them “sound thinkers” and “creative problem solvers.” Indeed, programs designed to teach abstract thinking skills sprang up around this belief, and many of those are still in use today.
But it turns out that assumption was mistaken. Experiments showed that reasoning and problem solving are not generic skills like being able to ride a bike or being able to divide fractions. Instead, as the National Research Council summarized, “Research on expertise in areas such as chess, history, science, and mathematics demonstrate that experts’ abilities to think and solve problems depend strongly on a rich body of knowledge about subject matter.” That is why Levy and Murnane used the term “expert thinking” rather than words like “critical thinking” and “problem solving” to describe the kinds of work tasks humans can do and computers cannot.
Experts, by definition, know a lot about a subject, and it is that knowledge which helps them think critically and solve problems in their area of expertise. In fact, for anyone who wants to help students reason and solve problems more effectively, it is absolutely essential to understand what research has discovered about expert thinking.Jerald also prepared a set of Powerpoint slides to convey the above ideas at a more concrete level, and I am taking the liberty of sharing some of his slides. Answering the question of what skills and knowledge do young people need in the 21st century, Jerald's response is "math". Here are some of Jerald's slides:
One of the five big takeaways from his presentation is the following: