Collaboration and Critical Thinking

Researchers who study critical thinking in elementary school, high school, and college find that critical thinking and collaboration go hand in hand. Students at all levels are more likely to exercise their critical-thinking abilities when they are confronted by the experiences and opinions of others than when they are not.

Having more than one student involved in the learning process generates a greater number of ideas than just one person can generate. People think more clearly when they talk as well as listen (which is a very good reason to participate actively in your classes). Creative brainstorming and group discussion encourage original thought. These habits also teach participants to consider alternative points of view carefully and express and defend their own ideas clearly. As a group negotiates ideas and learns to agree on the most reliable thoughts, it moves closer to a surer solution.

Collaboration occurs not only face to face, but also over the Internet. Christopher P. Sessums, creator of an award-winning blog, writes the following:

Web logs offer several key features that I believe can support a constructive, collaborative, reflective environment. For one, it’s convenient. The medium supports self-expression and “voice.” Collaboration and connectivity can be conducted efficiently, especially in terms of participants’ time or place. Publishing your thoughts online forces you to concretize your thoughts.

“Collaborative Web logs,” Sessums concludes, “promote the idea of learners as creators of knowledge, not merely consumers of information.”2 So do online discussion groups, wikis (which allow users to add, update, and otherwise improve material that others have posted), and, of course, face-to-face collaboration.

Whether in person or through electronic communication, teamwork improves your ability to think critically. As you leave college and enter the world of work, you will find that collaboration is essential in almost any career you pursue, not only with people in your work setting, but also with others around the globe.