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Evaluating evidence and drawing appropriate conclusions along with other skills, such as distinguishing arguments from nonarguments and finding assumptions, are collectively called argument analysis skills.
Psychology students need argument analysis skills to evaluate psychological claims in their work and in everyday discourse.
Some instructors expect their students will improve CT skills like argument analysis skills by simply immersing them in challenging course work.
In my first year of college teaching, a student approached me one day after class and politely asked, “What did you mean by the word ‘evidence’?
” I tried to hide my shock at what I took to be a very naive question.
One virtue of this definition is it can be applied to many thinking tasks in psychology.
The claims and conclusions psychological scientists make include hypotheses, theoretical statements, interpretation of research findings, or diagnoses of mental disorders.Our research on acquisition of argument analysis skills in psychology (Bensley, Crowe, Bernhardt, Buchner, & Allman, in press) and on critical reading skills (Bensley & Haynes, 1995; Spero & Bensley, 2009) suggests that more explicit, direct instruction of CT skills is necessary.These results concur with results of an earlier review of CT programs by Chance (1986) and a recent meta-analysis by Abrami et al., (2008).Others expect improvement because they use a textbook with special CT questions or modules, give lectures that critically review the literature, or have students complete written assignments.While these and other traditional techniques may help, a growing body of research suggests they are not sufficient to efficiently produce measurable changes in CT skills.More importantly, the techniques and approach described below are ones that are supported by scientific research.Classroom examples illustrate the use of the guidelines and how assessment can be integrated into CT skill instruction.Directly infusing CT skill instruction can also enrich content instruction without sacrificing learning of subject matter (Solon, 2003).The following seven guidelines, illustrated by CT lessons and assessments, explicate this process.They also resemble approaches to teaching CT proposed by Angelo (1995), Beyer (1997), and Halpern (1998).Importantly, this approach has been successful in teaching CT skills in psychology (e.g., Bensley, et al., in press; Bensley & Haynes, 1995; Nieto & Saiz, 2008; Penningroth, Despain, & Gray, 2007).