HKS Authors

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Academic Dean for Teaching and Curriculum
Edith M. Stokey Senior Lecturer in Public Policy


Introduction Critical thinking (CT) is an essential set of skills and dispositions for professionals. While viewed as an important part of professional education, approaches to teaching and assessing critical thinking have been siloed within disciplines and there are limited data on whether student perceptions of learning align with faculty perceptions of teaching. Materials and methods The authors used a convergent mixed methods approach in required core courses in schools of education, government, and medicine at one university in the Northeast United States. Faculty surveys and student focus groups (FG) addressed definitions, strategies, and barriers to teaching CT. Results and conclusions Sixty-four (51.6%) faculty completed the survey, and 34 students participated in FGs. Among faculty, 54.0% (34/63) reported explicitly teaching CT; but students suggested teaching CT was predominantly implicit. Faculty-reported strategies differed among schools. Faculty defined CT in process terms such as ‘analyzing’; students defined CT in terms of viewpoints and biases. Our results reveal a lack of explicit, shared CT mental models between faculty and students and across professional schools. Explicit teaching of CT may help develop a shared language and lead to better understanding and application of the skills and dispositions necessary to succeed in professional life.


Sullivan, Amy M., Margaret M. Hayes, Christine P. Beltran, Amy P. Cohen, Morgan Soffler, Suzanne Cooper, William Wisser, and Richard M. Schwartzstein. "Do we teach critical thinking? A mixed methods study of faculty and student perceptions of teaching and learning critical thinking at three professional schools." Medical Teacher (21 February 2024).