By Matt Doran
Barry Beyer’s works on thinking skills from the 1980s and 1990s still speak to the epistemological challenges of the 21st century. Although the context and application have changed in the social media age, the skills are enduring. Beyer notes that critical thinking involves both cognitive operations and a set of dispositions. These dispositions include an awareness of the need to evaluate information, a willingness to suspend judgement, respect for reason and evidence, and a desire to consider multiple perspectives.
These dispositions are essential to information literacy and democratic participation in the present era. A disposition for fact-checking is a necessary precondition for engaging in this practice. We must first be committed to embracing the weight of evidence, regardless of whether it supports our presuppositions. We must be willing to overcome the draw of confirmation bias to arrive at reasoned conclusions.
This understanding of critical thinking has important implications for civic education. Learning targets that emphasize knowledge and skills must be accompanied by those that cultivate the necessary dispositions for critical thinking.