Why *Did* the Chicken Cross the Road?

Historians in the News
tags: pedagogy, teaching history, Critical Thinking

John Warner is the author of Why They Can't Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities and The Writer's Practice: Building Confidence in Your Nonfiction Writing.

Professor Kathleen Belew, a leading historian of the white power movement and author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, wanted to illustrate different historical methodologies to her students, and so she asked historians on Twitter a question—essentially, how would different methodologies approach answering the classic “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

This got me thinking about thinking.

I think just about everyone in higher ed thinks that helping students improve their critical thinking is a core part of the educational experience, but thinking about critical thinking can be tough, because it often has an “I know it when I see it” quality.

But how do we see it? How do we know it? Belew’s question can help us answer those questions.

Critical thinking can take the form of a kind of logic problem. Everybody’s current favorite daily obsession, Wordle, requires a systematic critical thinking process to determine the correct answer. Critical thinking can also be manifest in the creation of knowledge, or if that’s too bold a term, the creation of an insight.[1]

These insights need not be new to the entire world to be the product of critical thinking. In my text The Writer’s Practice, I describe the experiences as exercises in solving writing-related problems. The goal of each exercise is to force students to think critically by writing. I tell students that a good check if they’re doing it right is if they themselves learned something during the writing process.

I’ve found it pretty easy to get students thinking on the page. In my experience, they’re eager to do so but are not always confident if original thinking, as opposed to information regurgitation, is actually welcome.

Also, they sometimes don’t have a lot of practice in how to think in academic contexts, mostly because that kind of thinking is not actually incentivized in our current system of schooling.

Read entire article at Inside Higher Ed

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