I often see people from different educational institutions talk about using and applying critical thinking. They usually mention incorporating critical thinking into different disciplines. It may be not so good compared to a separate critical thinking course, but it is still better than a common course in this discipline without critical thinking.
But an article by Kane and Otto I found recently1 shows that educators may have different definitions of critical thinking and some of these definitions may lack important skills. The authors investigate critical thinking in sociology, but I suspect that educators in other disciplines have similar issues.
The authors mention two definitions, critical sociological thinking and higher-level thinking. Critical sociological thinking is basically a domain-specific thinking in sociology. Higher-level thinking is a cognitive work that emphasizes abstract thinking, logic, and argumentation. Also it isn’t a domain-specific process. But in both cases I haven’t found mentions of metacognitive processes. Even higher-level thinking isn’t directed at other cognitive processes.
I consider the metacognitive aspect of critical thinking the most important, because it can help to regulate other mental processes and make them more efficient. Of course people can develop metacognitive skills without explicit instructions, but it can be only a small number of them. Explicit mention and instructions should be more efficient and useful for students.
The authors report that even critical thinking as they define it could be helpful for students, especially as higher-level thinking. The term itself may nudge students to look for other sources about critical thinking and discover other skill sets. Still the article shows that there is room for improvement, because people can update their definition of critical thinking and study other useful skills from a broader skill set. For example a skill of focusing attention on different thoughts or events around can be very helpful, because it can improve attention and decrease time of doing some tasks. It is also a metacognitive skill.
1. ^ : Critical Sociological Thinking and Higher-level Thinking: A Study of Sociologists’ Teaching Goals and Assignments, D Kane, K Otto—Teaching Sociology, 2018.