Students quickly recognize that crisp behavioral descriptions are typically consistent from observer to observer, but inferences vary wildly.
They recognize that their interpretations are highly personal and sometimes biased by their own values and preferences.
Students will develop and execute their own research designs in their capstone methodology courses.
Asking students to conduct their own independent research, whether a comprehensive survey on parental attitudes, a naturalistic study of museum patrons’ behavior, or a well-designed experiment on paired associate learning, prompts students to integrate their critical thinking skills and gives them practice with conventional writing forms in psychology.
Collaboration in my department and with other colleagues over the years has persuaded me that we need to approach critical thinking skills in a purposeful, systematic, and developmental manner from the introductory course through the capstone experience, propose that we need to teach critical thinking skills in three domains of psychology: practical (the “jerk avoidance” function), theoretical (developing scientific explanations for behavior), and methodological (testing scientific ideas).
I will explore each of these areas and then offer some general suggestions about how psychology teachers can improve their purposeful pursuit of critical thinking objectives.
This challenge requires them to synthesize and integrate existing theory as well as devise new insights into the behavior.
Methodological Domain Most departments offer many opportunities for students to develop their methodological critical thinking abilities by applying different research methods in psychology.
They are likely to fare better if given examples of bad design so they can build their critical abilities and confidence in order to tackle more sophisticated designs.
(Examples of bad design can be found in or they can be easily constructed with a little time and imagination).