Teaching Critical Thinking in Psychology: A Handbook of Best Practices

Teaching Critical Thinking in Psychology: A Handbook of Best Practices

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Edited by D. S. Dunn, J. S. Halonen, and R. A. Smith

This edition first published 2008

1. Critical thinking–Study and teaching. 2. Thought and thinking–Study and teaching. 3. Psychology–Study and teaching.

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Book Details
 295 p
 File Size 
 2,127 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd 

About the Editors
Dana S. Dunn, a social psychologist, is professor of psychology and director of the Learning
in Common Curriculum at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. He received his PhD
from the University of Virginia, having graduated previously with a BA in psychology
from Carnegie Mellon University. A Fellow of the American Psychological Association,
Dunn is active in the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, and served as the Chair of
Moravian’s Department of Psychology from 1995 to 2001. He writes frequently about his
areas of research interest: the teaching of psychology, social psychology, and rehabilitation
psychology. Dunn is the author of five previous books—The Practical Researcher: A Student
Guide to Conducting Psychological Research, Statistics and Data Analysis for the Behavioral
Sciences, A Short Guide to Writing about Psychology, Research Methods for Social Psychology,
and Psychology Applied to Modern Life (with Wayne Weiten, Margaret Lloyd, and Elizabeth
Y. Hammer)—and the coeditor of three others—Measuring Up: Educational Assessment
Challenges and Practices for Psychology (with Chandra M. Mehrotra and Jane S. Halonen),
Best Practices for Teaching Introduction to Psychology (with Stephen L. Chew), and Best
Practices for Teaching Statistics and Research Methods in the Behavioral Sciences (with
Randolph Smith and Bernard C. Beins).

Jane S. Halonen, a clinical psychologist by training, is Dean of Arts and Sciences at the
University of West Florida. Jane began her career at Alverno College, an institution widely
recognized as a leader in higher education assessment. She served as Director of the School
of Psychology at James Madison University from 1998 to 2002. She received her bachelor’s
degree from Butler University and her advanced degrees from the University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A Fellow of the American Psychological Association’s Division 2
(Teaching), she has served as both president of the division and associate editor of its
journal, Teaching of Psychology. Named an Eminent Woman in Psychology by the APA in
2002, her service contributions to the teaching community have been recognized by
Division 2, which named its Early Career Achievement award in her honor. The award is
given annually to the most compelling national candidate in the first five years of an
academic career. Jane has been an academic consultant to universities on critical thinking
and faculty development as well as a department reviewer for nearly two dozen psychology
departments. She served on the steering committees of both the St. Mary’s Conference
and the Psychology Partnerships Project, both national forums to address quality in undergraduate
programs. She has been involved with every project undertaken by the American
Psychological Association to help establish student performance standards since the initial
project on high school student learning outcomes. She has authored and collaborated on
a variety of publications, including Your Guide to College Success, a first year experience
textbook coauthored with John Santrock, which is going into its seventh edition. She
codirects the annual international Improving University Teaching Conference with Peter
Seldin. Jane is completing her final year as Chief Reader in managing the Advanced
Placement Psychology Reading.

Randolph A. Smith is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at
Lamar University. He taught at Kennesaw State University from 2003 to 2007; prior to
that time, he spent 26 years at Ouachita Baptist University (Arkadelphia, AR). Randy is a
Fellow of the American Psychological Association (Divisions 1 and 2) and has filled a
variety of positions within the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. Currently, he is
editor of Teaching of Psychology, a post he has held since 1997. He is coauthor (with Steve
Davis) of a research methods textbook (The Psychologist as Detective: An Introduction to
Conducting Research in Psychology) and a combined statistics/research methods text (An
Introduction to Statistics and Research Methods: Becoming a Psychological Detective). In addition,
he has authored a critical thinking book (Challenging Your Preconceptions: Thinking
Critically About Psychology) and has edited the Instructor’s Manual for Wayne Weiten’s
introductory psychology text. Randy has more than 50 publications, including books,
journal articles, and book chapters. In addition, he has given over 100 presentations and
has supervised almost 150 undergraduate conference presentations. Randy’s interests and
research revolve around the scholarship of teaching of psychology. He was a cofounder of
the Southwestern Conference for Teachers of Psychology and the Arkansas Symposium for
Psychology Students, a student research conference that has existed for more than 20
years. He was a participant in the St. Mary’s Conference in 1991 and on the Steering
Committee for the Psychology Partnerships Project in 1999. Randy is also a member of
the American Psychological Society, Psi Chi, and the Southwestern Psychological
Association (where he served as President in 1990–91). He earned his bachelor’s degree
from the University of Houston and his doctorate from Texas Tech University.

Critical thinking is not one activity; rather, the term refers to a collection of thinking skills
that advance intellectual focus, motivation, and engagement with new ideas (Halonen &
Gray, 2000). These thinking skills include the ability to recognize patterns; to solve problems
in practical, creative, or scientific ways; to engage in psychological reasoning; and to
adopt different perspectives when evaluating ideas or issues. Teaching students to think
critically in or outside the classroom improves their abilities to observe, infer, question,
decide, develop new ideas, and analyze arguments.
The goal of teaching critical thinking to psychology students is to refine their abilities
to describe, predict, explain, and control behavior. Teachers need relevant tools and classroom
strategies for enhancing students’ critical thinking abilities in psychology. Our handbook
contains a variety of scholarly perspectives aimed at teaching faculty how to teach
critical thinking to students regardless of the course level or content area in psychology. As
well as asking our authors to provide strategies and ideas for improving critical thinking
pedagogy in the discipline, we asked them to discuss how to assess critical thinking within
the context covered in their contributions.
This edited handbook is a scholarly yet pedagogically practical attempt to teach critical
thinking skills in the context of the discipline of psychology. Our authors provide a showcase
for best practices for teaching critical thinking issues in psychology courses taught at
four-year colleges and universities, two-year colleges, and high schools. The chapters and
short reports in this book grew out of professional presentations delivered at the September
30–October 1, 2005 conference, Engaging Minds: Best Practices in Teaching Critical
Thinking Across the Psychology Curriculum, which was held in Atlanta, GA. The conference
was sponsored by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP), the National Institute
on the Teaching of Psychology (NIToP), and the Kennesaw State University Center for
Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL).
What’s new about teaching critical thinking? The chapters and reports herein reveal
innovations on various pedagogical fronts, including:
1 New materials and perspectives. The book offers novel, nontraditional approaches to
teaching critical thinking, including strategies, tactics, diversity issues, service
learning, and the use of case studies.
2 New course delivery formats. Faculty can create online course materials to foster
critical thinking within a diverse student audience.
3 A focus on assessment. Authors place specific emphasis on how to both teach and
assess critical thinking in the classroom. Discussion also focuses on issues of wider
program assessment.
4 Critical thinking in course contexts. Contributors discuss ways to use critical thinking
in the psychology classroom from the introductory psychology course into mid
and upper level course offerings, including statistics and research methods courses,
cognitive psychology, and capstone offerings.
5 Developmental perspectives on critical thinking. Students’ stages of social and
intellectual development—their “readiness”—for learning different types of critical
thinking are explored.
6 Teaching critical thinking through student-generated research. Critical thinking has a
purpose, especially the practice of creating, conducting, and evaluating empirical
research in psychology.

7 Critical thinking and scientific literacy. How can critical thinking help our students
become more scientifically aware and literate?
8 Writing and critical thinking. The role of critical thinking in learning and using
APA-style writing, as well as improving writing generally, is considered.
Who will benefit from using this book? This book is aimed at educators—teachers,
researchers, and graduate students—who teach critical thinking in psychology or who
want to insert critical thinking activities into their teaching of the discipline. The added
value found in this handbook is the diversity of approaches to teaching critical thinking found within it.
Dana S. Dunn, Jane S. Halonen,
and Randolph A. Smith

Table of Contents
List of Contributors xi
About the Editors xiii
Foreword xv
Diane F. Halpern
Preface xvii
Dana S. Dunn, Jane S. Halonen, and Randolph A. Smith
Acknowledgments xix
1 Engaging Minds: Introducing Best Practices in
Teaching Critical Thinking in Psychology 1
Dana S. Dunn, Jane S. Halonen, and Randolph A. Smith
Part I The Case for Teaching Critical Thinking in Psychology 9
2 Critical Thinking: Needed Now More Than Ever 11
Carole Wade
3 Have We Demystified Critical Thinking? 23
Natalie Kerr Lawrence, Sherry L. Serdikoff, Tracy E. Zinn,
and Suzanne C. Baker
4 Are They Ready Yet? Developmental Issues in Teaching Thinking 35
Laird R. O. Edman
5 Simple Strategies for Teaching Your Students to Think Critically 49
William Buskist and Jessica G. Irons
Part II Assessing Critical Thinking 59
6 Measure for Measure: The Challenge of Assessing Critical Thinking 61
Jane S. Halonen
7 Programmatic Assessment of Critical Thinking 77
Kevin J. Apple, Sherry L. Serdikoff, Monica J. Reis-Bergan,
and Kenneth E. Barron
8 A Process Approach to Thinking Critically About Complex Concepts 89
Stacie M. Spencer and Marin Gillis
Part III Critical Thinking in Critical Psychology Courses 99
9 Integrating Critical Thinking with Course Content 101
David W. Carroll, Allen H. Keniston, and Blaine F. Peden
10 Critical Thinking on Contemporary Issues 117
Susan L. O’Donnell, Alisha L. Francis, and Sherrie L. Mahurin
11 The Repertory Grid as a Heuristic Tool in Teaching
Undergraduate Psychology 127
Joseph A. Mayo
12 Critical Thinking in Critical Courses: Principles and Applications 137
Janet E. Kuebli, Richard D. Harvey, and James H. Korn
13 Teaching Critical Thinking in Statistics and Research Methods 149
Bryan K. Saville, Tracy E. Zinn, Natalie Kerr Lawrence,
Kenneth E. Barron, and Jeffrey Andre
Part IV Integrating Critical Thinking Across the Psychology Curriculum 161
14 Writing as Critical Thinking 163
Dana S. Dunn and Randolph A. Smith
15 Using Service Learning to Promote Critical Thinking
in the Psychology Curriculum 175
Elizabeth Yost Hammer
16 Beyond Standard Lectures: Supporting the Development
of Critical Thinking in Cognitive Psychology Courses 183
Jordan P. Lippman, Trina C. Kershaw,
James W. Pellegrino, and Stellan Ohlsson
17 Why We Believe: Fostering Critical Thought
and Scientific Literacy in Research Methods 199
Bernard C. Beins
18 Teaching Critical Thinking About Difficult Topics 211
Paul C. Smith and Kris Vasquez
Part V Thinking Critical Beyond the Classroom 223
19 Thinking Critically About Careers in Psychology 225
Deborah S. Briihl, Claudia J. Stanny, Kiersten A. Jarvis,
Maria Darcy, and Ronald W. Belter
Part VI Critical Briefings: Short Reports on Critical Thinking 235
1 Best and Worst: Learning to Think Like a Psychologist 237
Dana Gross
2 Personal Mission Statements as Tools for Developing
Writing and Reflection Skills 241
Lawrence Benjamin Lewis and Elizabeth Yost Hammer
3 A Module-Based Research Project: Modeling Critical
Thinking in Psychology 247
Nina Lamson and Katherine Kipp
4 Effectively Using Literature Circles in the Psychology Classroom 251
Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler
5 Introducing Controversial Issues in Psychology
Through Debate and Reflection 257
Sherri B. Lantinga
6 The Critical Thinking Lab: Developing Student Skills
Through Practical Application 263
Todd J. Wilkinson, Bryan J. Dik, and Andrew P. Tix
7 Encouraging Students to Think Critically About Psychotherapy:
Overcoming Naïve Realism 267
Scott O. Lilienfeld, Jeffrey M. Lohr, and Bunmi O. Olatunji
8 Effectiveness of a Web-Based Critical Thinking Module 273
Beth Dietz-Uhler
9 An Introductory Exercise for Promoting Critical
Thinking About Psychological Measurement 277
Jeffrey D. Holmes
Author Index 281
Subject Index 290


A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Set in 10.5/12.5pt Adobe Garamond by SPi Publisher Services, Pondicherry, India
Printed in Singapore by Markono Print Media Pte Ltd
1 2008