It has long been a central aim of American postsecondary education to foster students' critical thinking skills. There are various definitions of critical thinking, but there seems to be a consensus that a constituent set of cognitive skills involves some or all of the following: making correct inferences from data, identifying central issues or assumptions in an argument, deducing conclusions from information or data provided, interpreting whether [End Page 265] conclusions are warranted on the basis of data given, and evaluating the validity of an argument (Brabeck & Wood, 1990; Furedy & Furedy, 1985; McMillan, 1987; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). One needs only to peruse recent college catalogs or bulletins to see "critical thinking" or a closely related term employed as one of the desired outcomes of an undergraduate education at a wide range of institutions. Moreover, as McMillan (1987) points out, two influential national reports published in the mid-1980s, Involvement in Learning (National Institute, 1984) and Integrity in the College Curriculum (Association of American Colleges, 1985) have underscored the enhancement of critical thinking as one of the essential impacts of an undergraduate education. More recently the salience of critical thinking as an outcome of undergraduate education was also made explicit by the National Education Goals Panel (1991).
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