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Critical thinking is clear, reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do. You find that the author has a limited scope of research focused only on a particular group within a population. Who are critical thinkers, and what characteristics do they have in common? They like to explore and probe new areas and seek knowledge, clarification, and new solutions.

They ask pertinent questions, evaluate statements and arguments, and they distinguish between facts and opinion. They are also willing to examine their own beliefs, possessing a manner of humility that allows them to admit lack of knowledge or understanding when needed. They are open to changing their mind. Perhaps most of all, they actively enjoy learning, and seeking new knowledge is a lifelong pursuit.

No matter where you are on the road to being a critical thinker, you can always more fully develop and finely tune your skills. Doing so will help you develop more balanced arguments, express yourself clearly, read critically, and glean important information efficiently. Critical thinking skills will help you in any profession or any circumstance of life, from science to art to business to teaching.

With critical thinking, you become a clearer thinker and problem solver. The following video, from Lawrence Bland, presents the major concepts and benefits of critical thinking. Critical thinking is fundamentally a process of questioning information and data. You may question the information you read in a textbook, or you may question what a politician or a professor or a classmate says.

You can also question a commonly-held belief or a new idea. With critical thinking, anything and everything is subject to question and examination for the purpose of logically constructing reasoned perspectives. The word logic comes from the Ancient Greek logike , referring to the science or art of reasoning. In this hypothetical scenario, a man has a PhD in political science, and he works as a professor at a local college. His wife works at the college, too. They have three young children in the local school system, and their family is well known in the community.

The man is now running for political office. Are his credentials and experience sufficient for entering public office? Will he be effective in the political office? Some voters might believe that his personal life and current job, on the surface, suggest he will do well in the position, and they will vote for him. What else might you want to know? How about whether the man had already held a political office and done a good job? For most people, a typical day is filled with critical thinking and problem-solving challenges. In fact, critical thinking and problem-solving go hand-in-hand. They both refer to using knowledge, facts, and data to solve problems effectively.

But with problem-solving, you are specifically identifying, selecting, and defending your solution. Remember, too, to assume the attributes of a good critical thinker. Evaluating information can be one of the most complex tasks you will be faced with in college. When you read and take notes, use the text coding strategy. It entails marking the text and recording what you are thinking either in the margins or perhaps on Post-it notes.

With text coding, mark important arguments and key facts. Indicate where you agree and disagree or have further questions. Feel free to develop your own shorthand style when reading or taking notes. The following are a few options to consider using while coding text. When you examine arguments or claims that an author, speaker, or other source is making, your goal is to identify and examine the hard facts.

You can use the spectrum of authority strategy for this purpose. The following video explains this strategy. When you use critical thinking to evaluate information, you need to clarify your thinking to yourself and likely to others. What is the purpose? What question are we trying to answer?

What point of view is being expressed? What assumptions are we or others making? What are the facts and data we know, and how do we know them? What are the conclusions, and do they make sense? What are the implications? Consider your intellectual commitments, values, and standards. Do you approach problems with an open mind, a respect for truth, and an inquiring attitude? Try to work these qualities into your daily life. Critical thinking is a desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and hatred for every kind of imposture.

Critical thinking is a fundamental skill for college students, but it should also be a lifelong pursuit. The e-portfolio learning process and subsequent product can play a significant role in terms of employability and continuous professional development, whereby the career development process and not particular learning outcomes become the driving aspect of portfolio development Garis, Thus, an opportunity is created to align academic and professional learning outcomes and achievements in formal education closely with the world of work Jimoyiannis, The current study therefore aims to explore the current alignment and tensions between existing pre-service teacher school visit expectations regarding the development of a portfolio of evidence and the suggested pedagogical approaches associated in the literature regarding the development of e-portfolios as reflective tools.

Forming part of the Teaching and Learning module Teaching Practice in the Post Graduate Certificate in Education PGCE programme, students are expected to develop a paper-based portfolio during their teaching practice at schools, which requires them to write a weekly reflection about teaching, learning and assessment practices, and a reflective essay of the whole school visit at the end of the school practicum. Students are encouraged to use different forms of documentation and artefacts as evidence, but are not allowed to use mobile devices in the classroom Rhodes, Although students enrolled in the programme, a self-selected sample of 11 students participated in the project due to our aim to gain in-depth insight into the chosen phenomenon, namely, the use of e-portfolios as reflective tools during teacher practice.

As students could volunteer to participate in the project, we had no control over how representative the cohort would be with regard to race, gender and personal attributes. As it turned out, of the 11 participants, there were nine females three Coloured students and two White male students, who all received a tablet as well as data bundles to ensure connectivity. For the purpose of the study, the participating students were familiarised with the devices, introduced to the notion of e-portfolios, assisted in creating blogs to serve as e-portfolio platforms, guided in how to collect artefacts and how to reflect appropriately on the learning experience, as well as to comment on those of others.

The investigation was undertaken by means of a case study approach within a qualitative research paradigm, as we wanted to interpret and understand the students' experiences in a real-life and specific context. According to Cohen, Manion and Morrison a case study "provides a unique example of real people in real situations enabling readers to understand ideas more clearly". A case study also helps one to observe effects in real contexts and are thus strong on reality Cohen et al.

Due to the nature of a case study and the non-probability sample Denscombe, , results are not generalisable, but, we make the case for transferability to an audience, identifying links between aspects of this study and their own experiences. Two semi-structured focus group interviews, where participants were selected not to be representative, but rather purposive Rabiee, , were conducted to gain feedback on participants' experiences and opinions Cohen et al.

Such a data collection approach can "provide a window into the complexities and richness" of a chosen phenomenon Liamputtong, Guided by literature Barrett, ; Challis, ; Garrett, , the requirements of the above-mentioned module, and the aim of the project, the interview schedule covered aspects such as reflections, training, professional development and the social dimensions of the e-portfolio. Results and Discussion. Themes related to digital literacy, reflection and the potential value of the e-portfolio as a tool within teacher practice, emerged.

Sub-themes associated with digital literacy highlighted the purpose and quality of training, the varying levels of mobile literacy skills of participants and the ubiquitous nature of the tablet during school visits. Related to the notion of reflection, participants commented on their own level of preparation in terms of writing reflectively, the need to receive real-time feedback from facilitators during the school visit period, as well as the personal emphasis placed on the value of reflection by the participants.

Finally, in terms of the value of the e-portfolio as reflective tool, sub-themes related to the value of access to peers' blogs e-portfolios , as well as the value of this approach in terms of supporting the novice teacher, emerged. Participants had varying levels of digital literacy skills and therefore their experiences in using the tablets also varied. Purpose and quality of training.

Account Options

The overall impression was that the facilitators tried to do too much in one session and this created cognitive overload. One respondent commented:. It was a whole new thing for me, even though I had my own tablet. I'm still playing around and discovering new things. So it was an overload of information. Another respondent suggested that this overload could be prevented by using a step-by-step approach:. I would definitely recommend that like when we had that first training session, then you'd send us all to go and complete our blogs and then when we come back to say okay, this is how wanted to invite people.

There was a general view that the follow-up support also needed to be addressed as the students wanted more support from the facilitators. This is evident in the following extract:. I think a good idea would be after the first week of having the tablets and of blogging, we have another session, training session and we then can ask questions that have arisen from that experience. I think it would have been nice if we had a session after the first three weeks as well, four weeks as well, just to recap on what it means to be a critical friend.

It is clear that the participating students valued the importance of the training session, but that such training should be well-planned in terms of sus-tainability and continuous support during the school visit period as well. This of courses raises interesting questions regarding continuous support of large student cohorts adopting an e-portfolio approach. To simplify complexities, it remains imperative that the selected tools and platforms selected can be used intuitively and are easy to maintain Challis, ; Jimoyiannis, Although it is important to provide students with the necessary technical skills, special care should be taken to prevent technologies from dominating their time and attention, but rather that the learning processes ought to be carefully explained and scaffolded Challis, Varying mobile literacy skills.

There were varying skills levels in the use of technology, ranging from not very literate, to being very able and technically skilled. Some of the students initially lacked mobile literacy skills, but they improved their skills through being involved in the project:. Some students struggled with blog creation:.

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But the whole thing is we didn't know what was going on. So you literally just tried and failed and tried and failed and then hopefully, you succeeded after a while" [all sic]. Others, however, were able to do it quite easily:. I thought it was going to be worse. I didn't encounter too many difficulties" [all sic]. One of the challenges of such an initiative is not to make assumptions regarding student digital literacy skills Brown, , but to take care in establishing the current skills levels of students before such a project is implemented. By considering differentiated training and support, facilitators can address such issues.

Also of note in the current study remains the fact that students are, in general, not allowed to use mobile devices during classroom visits or observations. This poses the necessity to not only pay attention to mobile literacy skills, but also to clarify the role of mobile devices during school visits, it's appropriateness of use, and also the guidance and training of student teachers to use such resources appropriately within the school context.

Ubiquitous role of the tablet. The ubiquitous nature of the tablet was highly valued. In this regard, one respondent's comment was representative of the whole group:. I could carry it everywhere. When I think of something or I see something happening at school, then I don't have to go write it down because sometimes you don't have the time to go write something or you don't have a pen and paper. So you can just take out your tablet, and just type" [all sic]. The classroom use, i. I would be presenting in class and I'd have the tablet open next to me.

If somebody asked me a question, in English for example, very easy, very quick to define a word - the tablet itself enriches your ability to teach. It gives your learners a better experience by enabling you to give them more content and that really helped me. I used it a lot for when something was written on the board and I know that the teacher would wipe it off.

Chapter 12. Learning Through Reflection

I would take a picture of it and then plan a lesson or write a reflection and think about the stuff that happened in the lesson. I would just take a picture" [all sic]. In order for students to use these devices optimally and sensibly in work-integrated learning opportunities, both digital literacies and mobile learning literacies need to be developed Ng, , where students are enabled to develop an advanced level of criticality in terms of the socio-emotional, cognitive and technical use of such devices within the workplace.

Within this context, it is important to establish current institutional requirements regarding the use of mobile devices during lesson observations. In the context of the current study, students are discouraged to access mobile devices during observations, which suggest tension and the necessity of further discussions regarding approaches whereby students could continuously observe lessons in a professional and sensible way, whilst being allowed to use such mobile devices for learning.

In terms of reflection, participants made reference to the preparation and training they received in terms of reflective writing, the importance of continuous facilitator feedback, and the personal value they attributed to the reflective practices. Student preparation in reflective practice. There were varying responses regarding the students' preparedness and ability to write reflections.

Initially, the participants had difficulty in writing reflections - they were more inclined to write diaries:.

I think, we got messaged that it's not meant to be a journal. You 're meant to actually think about what you've learnt. Then everyone was like oh right. So it might have been nice to have one or two more examples and say this is what it is, this is what it's not" [all sic]. To complicate matters further, it seemed as if students were confused with academic writing styles and using a blog to reflect. This suggests that care should be taken in clearly explaining to students the purpose of a blog as a chosen online platform, and not creating an expectation of "blogging" as reflected within the social media context:.

It needs to have this structure, where in a blog - a blog is a lot more conversational. It's a lot more informal. So while I was writing my blog I kept on wondering [. So, also that question I was unsure of [all sic]. What was evident from the investigation was the fact that some students found it challenging to comment on reflections, due to the often personal nature of experiences during school practice.

This poses interesting questions regarding the notion of collaboration and social interaction within an e-portfolio paradigm, as well as the means by which students are prepared in commenting on reflections:. Like if you say you've had a bad day, it's hard to say: 'well, maybe if you did this and this and this and this and this, you will have a better day. How do you really comment on that to say, ' you know, that's a bad reflection and this is a good one?

In terms of supporting students in reflective writing practices, Parsons and Stephenson makes the case for structured support in guiding students on how to reflect. It is argued that reflection is not merely a process of deciding whether a learning encounter was successful, but rather also a process of exploring possible reasons for such an outcome.

The true nature of reflection, and the purpose of enhancing practice, should not be overwhelmed by mechanisms of bureaucracy. Of particular interest remains the challenges students experience in commenting on peers' reflections. As mentioned previously, one of the key criteria of an e-portfolio remains the opportunity of peers to comment on and the prospect of the user to be able to react to feedback, and amend posts accordingly Barrett, Real-time feedback from facilitators.

The participating students indicated that more realtime feedback from the facilitators would have been helpful:. Because, I never thought about going back to those papers and thinking about what it means to be a critical friend, I would have liked a comment from you guys, because I got comments from the other students [all sic]. The importance of continuous support mentioned earlier is further emphasised here. Students expect facilitators to provide technical assistance, as well as continuous professional feedback, so that they know they are on the right track.

In addition, it is crucial that facilitators become active members of the online community of practice and contribute regularly to the online discussions and feedback.


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Personal value of reflection practice. Although the students found it challenging to reflect in the true sense of the word, they did, at a conceptual level, appreciate the practice of reflection. The following comment supports this statement:. I just wanted to say reflection like the weekly reflections were really helpful especially when you 're setting up your final reflection and not having to write your weekly reflection at the end of the practice.

But I do believe reflection is an amazing thing; and like I say, you can't grow and you can't push yourself or challenge yourself if you don't think back. I could write that down for me to learn from again, when I go back to teaching. So it made me see the process how I grew. That was good about doing weekly reflections" [all sic]. One participant said: " It really helps you to see your own personal growth as a teacher [.

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Students realised that reflection is not merely the act of keeping a diary, but creates an opportunity to observe personal growth through the process of reflective practices. The development of such reflective skills are often attributed to the ability to "learn how to learn", whereby students' real-life experiences are transformed into learning Bourner, Value of E-Portfolio during Teaching Practice E-portfolios were generally viewed as valuable in terms of having access to peers' blogs reflections , as well as the value, in terms of professional development for the novice teacher.

Impact of peers' blogs. Peers' reflections proved a valuable resource which provided students with the opportunity to learn from each other, as well as not to feel alienated by being placed individually in certain schools:. Well, when I saw people doing things, like I saw you adding photos and I saw your sound clip, I was like, 'oh, I can actually do that! I actually came home; I didn't go home for two months. So I didn't see anybody for that time and it was nice to read everybody's blogs because you know that you 're on the right track.

You 're doing what you're supposed to do. By reading the descriptions and reflections on experiences of participants at other schools, they gained insight into other contexts, which they normally would not have had the opportunity to experience:. It helped me a lot to realise what type of school I wanted to chase [unclear], because I was quite jealous of some of the other peoples' experiences.

Whereas I find a lot of my reflections were really negative, which I'm quite - spyt my sorry - and when I read the other peoples' blogs, I was quite jealous of their experience because they had like sports day, inter-schools and school spirit and you know, it was easy. They had whiteboards in every class and access to internet in the class and whatever. I didn't have that so it basically helped me to realise that I don't want to be in a school like this is [all sic].

Reflective practice

Another participant commented: "It doesn't matter where you are, some struggles stay the same" [all sic]. An added value to the e-portfolio experience was the notion of peer support within the online community. Twenty-first century students often prefer working in groups, where peer collaboration is encouraged, and where they can draw their own conclusions Barnstable, ; Rodgers et al.

Group work suggests a learning context where students are provided with the opportunity to develop metacognitive skills and attributes, to collaborate within different contexts and communicate in a sensible way Jimoyiannis, As mentioned previously, this approach, however, poses interesting challenges to the monitoring and standardisation practices of institutions, as well as the overall planning and implementation, where larger cohorts of students participate in teacher practice simultaneously.

Supportive value for the novice teacher. Integrating the use of reflective practices and mobile devices contributed to the value placed on the use of such a learning approach by novice teachers. Overall, the participants found the use of e-portfolios most valuable, as the following extract confirms:. This demonstrates the possibility of an integrated learning approach that could be sustainable and used in later years. Challis argues that the mature e-portfolio ought to evolve over time, in terms of the refinement, redevelopment and design, as well as responses to personal growth and feedback.

In this regard, one respondent commented:. Conclusion and Suggestions. Institutional expectations play a significant role in the future success of the use of e-portfolios as potential reflective tools during teacher practice. Requirements regarding the use of mobile devices during lesson observations and class visits, as well as common understanding and implementation of the theoretical underpinnings of an e-portfolio pedagogical approach, serve as the basis for future debates and conversations regarding the appropriateness of such a learning approach in the current teacher training context.

Furthermore, the notion of online collaboration Barrett, and the development of an online community of practice suggest a reconceptualisation and understanding of what is truly valued during teaching practice, and which ways are most appropriate to achieving such outcomes.

Finally, especially within the South African context, the level of digital skills of students can neither be assumed nor ignored. For learning practices aiming to integrate learning technologies to succeed, it remains the responsibility of institutions to provide students with appropriate training, continuous technical support, as well as the design of innovative sustainable learning opportunities for students, whilst participating in teacher practice.

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence. Anwaruddin SM Teacher professional learning in online communities: toward existentially reflective practice. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 16 6 Generating, deepening, and documenting learning: The power of critical reflection in applied learning. Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education, Accessed 28 January Barnstable K Accessed 21 July Barrett HC Accessed 23 July Balancing the two faces of e-portfolios.

Education for a digital world: innovations in education 2nd ed. Accessed 18 June Bolton G Reflective practice: Writing and professional development 4th ed. Reflection: Turning experience into learning. London, UK: Kogan Page. Bourner T Assessing reflective learning. University students as digital migrants [Special issue].

Factors confounding the assessment of reflection: a critical review

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