Critical Thinking

Facilitator - Ray Hall

Dr. Hall is the chair of  the Department of Physics at California State University, Fresno where, since 1999 he teaches courses in engineering physics, quantum mechanics, particle physics, critical thinking, and the philosophy of science.

He holds a PhD in Experimental High Energy Particle Physics from the University of California, Riverside, and he has 16 years experience as a researcher with the D-Zero Collaboration. During his participation in the construction and operation of the D-Zero Detector at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, he was part of the research team that discovered the fundamental particle known as the top quark.

Dr. Hall has developed and taught general education courses in critical thinking for more than 10 years, including an enhanced section for the Fresno State Smittcamp Family Honors College. He also teaches a related upper division GE course on the philosophy of science to honors students in their senior year.

Goals of the Critical Thinking FLC

Assemble a group of faculty who teach GE critical thinking courses and faculty who believe critical thinking is important to explore ways to improve, create measures to assess, andcreate rubrics by which to grade critical thinking within all disciplines across the University.This group will review ETS's Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) data (see below) for our Fresno State freshmen and seniors for the past two years; explore different ways of promoting critical thinking from various disciplinary perspectives; and develop solutions to
improve our students' critical thinking skills both inside and outside the classroom.Continue and expand upon the ProACT series (AY 2008-09) that focused on classroom techniques that encourage active learning which is found to be related to critical thinking.

According to the Literature . . .

Extracurricular involvement, faculty interaction, peer interaction, and employment improve critical thinking in college students.Competence in critical thinking improves from freshmen to seniors, however the level of competency is lower at every stage of schooling than it should be. Even graduate students perform at a level lower than expected in terms of critical thinking.Multiple aspects of pedagogy increase critical thinking skills: faculty praise, encouragement, and use of student ideas; increased amount and cognitive level of student participation in class; in-class student interaction; student classroom involvement; professor critiqued
writing; independent research conducted by students; class presentations; group projects; and essay exams.Most college and university faculty believe critical thinking to be a primary objective of a college education.

For more information, contact Ray Hall.