In 1956, Benjamin Bloom led a group of educators who developed a way of describing thinking skills, which became known as Bloom’s Taxonomy. The categories have been updated to include verbs that describe cognitive actions associated with each level of thinking. Beginning with knowledge, the first level of thinking, and moving through to create, the highest order of thinking, these skills are helpful in identifying and evaluating the degree of difficulty and the depth of critical thinking.
For example, if your instructor asks you to evaluate a concept in an assignment, first you will have to understand and remember the material, describe or explain the details, apply that information to an example, analyze its components, and finally critique the concept.
The power of your thinking reflects the level of learning you have achieved. Before you begin to write, you need to think about and learn the material at several different levels.
Critical Thinking Skills
How much do you know about your own critical thinking skills? The next time you have an assignment, take a few minutes to ask yourself these questions to determine which critical thinking skills you have and can demonstrate in your work.
Can I repeat this information? Did I memorize it?
Can I explain what it means? Does it make sense to me? Do I know why this is important?
Is there an example I can give to tie this idea to a real-life situation? How does this information/theory/idea relate to my professional experiences?
Can I describe the components or sides to this issue or topic? Can I categorize the elements that relate to each side of this argument?
Can I critique this information on its intellectual merit? Do I know what is important and what is not important related to this topic?
Is there another way to think about or interpret this information? Can I generate a new idea by combining elements of the topic or applying the information to a new problem?
Critical thinking does not develop because you have been accepted to graduate school. It does not suddenly appear in your repertoire because you are older or more experienced. You have to be open minded, reflective, curious, and engaged in your work to be able to develop these thinking skills.
Critical Thinking Skills in Writing
Writing is a discipline that uses a complex set of skills, including critical thinking skills. Your instructors expect your work to reflect critical thinking and demonstrate your mastery of the content.
Ask yourself these questions during the development of your written assignments:
1. What is the purpose of my writing? Why am I writing this paper?
2. How can I organize my ideas to best communicate my thinking? Do the topics of my paper make sense for this assignment?
3. What important connections between ideas and real-world examples can I include in my paper?
4. Is there another way to interpret or think about this topic?
5. Have I organized my ideas with a logical beginning, middle, and conclusion?
Once you have written your first draft, review your work for evidence of critical thinking skills by asking the questions below. If you are lucky enough to find another person willing to read your work, ask him or her these questions:
1. Is it clear what the main ideas are in my paper?
2. Does the information in my paper develop in a logical way?
3. Do the words I use in my writing exemplify accuracy and precision?
4. Is my writing clear and concise?
5. Are my conclusions supported by information, facts, research, and theory?
6. Is there something missing from this paper that should be included?
Have you ever received a paper back from your instructor with a grade lower than you think you deserved?
Do you wonder what to do when you lose points for critical thinking in discussions or assignments?
These are the top reasons student work does not meet graduate level thinking expectations.
TIME: Beginning an assignment within hours of the due date is a sure way to sabotage your success. It takes time to read the preparatory material, think critically about the information, plan and write your first draft, and edit and polish your work. Leaving yourself without enough time makes it impossible to do your best work.
ORGANIZATION: Have a place where you can file your materials. As you find scholarly articles, keep them in an electronic or paper file clearly labeled. Make sure you have the assignment information including description, rubric or grading scale, and any other information your instructor has provided about the assignment. Create an outline for your work that serves as the guideline for your ideas and their logical development. Review your final paper with the grading expectations to make sure you did not leave out any important elements.
WRITING: If your writing contains too many errors, including grammar, language, and formatting errors, it will be difficult for an instructor to evaluate your ideas. Take note of the edits made on your papers each week. If you are still making the same errors in Week 7 that you made in Week 1, you appear to be unconcerned about improving your work. Consult grammar and writing sites and books for assistance.
DEPTH: Does your work barely scratch the surface of understanding and thinking about the topic? Is there too much general information and not enough critical evidence to demonstrate deep thinking? Evaluate your work for original interpretations based on the research and texts you have read. Demonstrate that you have something unique to contribute in your writing.
HONESTY: All graduate level work should be properly cited and referenced. It is important to know when to summarize, when to paraphrase, and when to quote to support your ideas. Once you have accounted for the work of others, make sure you include your own ideas, your own analysis, and your own evaluation of the information. Your written work should represent you and your thinking to anyone who reads your discussions and assignments.
Making an Appointment – Instructions
Online Consultations with the Writing & Critical Thinking Center
To make an appointment:
1. Navigate to http://mywco.com/uprovidence. You can also find the link to our scheduler by going to the university homepage www.uprovidence.edu and selecting Academics.Academic Resources.Writing & Critical Thinking Center. The first time you visit our online scheduler, you will have to click “register for an account.”
Fill out the form that pops up. You must use your University of Providence student email address to create this account but may choose any password you wish.
2. Once you have created an account and logged in, be sure to select “Writing & Critical Thinking Center” from the first dropdown menu at the top of the schedule.
3. Choose “Available for distance students” from the “Limit to” menu.
Any white box on the schedule is an open appointment. Remember that appointment times are for the Mountain Time zone.
4. Click on the white box you want and fill out the information fields in the box that pops up. Choose “Yes—Schedule online appointment” for a synchronous (live) appointment or “Yes—Schedule e-Tutoring” appointment for an asynchronous appointment. (See the end of this document for some guidance on which kind of appointment will best serve your needs.)
You must fill out the required questions for distance students included on the form. Be sure to click “save” at the bottom of the box to finish making your appointment.
5. After you clicking “save,” you will have the opportunity to attach multiple files (your paper and your assignment instructions) to the appointment.
If you have trouble attaching a file, you are also welcome to send your paper and your assignment instructions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you do not see a separate window appear after clicking at any point during this process, ensure your pop-up blocker is disabled; you should also minimize and check behind your main internet browser window as sometimes the appointment box appears behind it.
To begin your synchronous online appointment:
1. When your appointment is scheduled to begin, log back on at http://mywco.com/uprovidence, remembering that Great Falls is in the Mountain Time Zone.
2. Click on the colored box that represents the online appointment you booked.
3. The appointment form will open up. If it does not, see note above about pop-up blockers and checking behind your main browser window.
4. Click the red link that reads “Start or Join Online Consultation.”
5. The online tutoring platform will open. You should see a whiteboard space that contains text explaining the different tools available to you during the consultation. To the right of the whiteboard, you should see a chat space which you can use to converse with your consultant. If you wish to use the audio/video function, click on the video icon, and then allow the program to access your webcam and microphone.
NOTE: If you are having trouble with the video/audio function, never fear! We have successfully conducted many consultations using only the chat box.
6. Your consultant will ask if it is important to revise your paper in Microsoft Word. (The whiteboard function does not maintain the formatting of your paper or have all the functionality of Word. This limitation doesn’t always matter if you are primarily focused on your content but becomes difficult if you are trying to discuss formatting.) If you do want to work in Word, you should login to your University of Providence email, and the consultant will guide you through the steps of creating a shared document on office.com.
7. Enjoy your consultation! (Note that the consultant will begin to wrap up at the 45-minute mark. Although the scheduling system shows hour increments, consultants need time to write up session notes and have a quick breather before the next appointment.)
If you encounter any difficulties in setting up your online appointment, please email the Writing & Critical Thinking Center:email@example.com
About the University of Providence Writing & Critical Thinking Center
How can the Writing & Critical Thinking Center help me?
Writing is a complex process. The Writing & Critical Thinking Center is here to help you engage successfully in that process throughout your time at the university. Writers of all abilities benefit from the opportunity to discuss their work, so we invite you to visit us often. Students from any course, graduate or undergraduate, are welcome. Our trained consultants can collaborate with you at any stage of the writing process, from initial planning to final revision. We provide a comfortable, non-evaluative environment, encouraging clients to maintain ownership of their work and progress as writers. Because our goal is to help you develop of a writer, we focus during particular session on understanding concepts. We also prioritize making concrete plans for improvement, both to the work at hand and to your writing processes more generally.
How do I choose between a synchronous and an asynchronous (e-Tutoring) online appointment?
Synchronous appointments most closely approximate our in-person appointments here on campus. They allow you to look at and discuss your work with a consultant in real time.
Asynchronous appointments are a new service beginning in the 2017-2018 year. We recognize that time differences and work schedules sometimes make it difficult to participate in a synchronous appointment. A consultant will use the time you blocked off on the schedule to read and provide feedback on your work. You will receive an email notifying you when the consultant has attached that feedback to your appointment. Because you are not there to converse with the consultant, it is very important that you 1) provide context for your work by including assignment instructions, describing where you are in the process, etc. and 2) identify your top priorities for feedback on the appointment information form.
Whether you choose an E-tutoring or Online appointment, you should not expect a session to eliminate every single error from a piece of writing. You should expect thoughtful feedback from a consultant trained to help writers develop the habits and skills necessary to write well in a variety of situations.