RIP®~ing @ Critical Thinking

Scientific inquiry (and the scientific practices that it contains) is a process of thinking and doing followed by scientists as they investigate and test hypotheses about the natural world. It involves many of the same features commonly found in approaches to critical thinking. Some of these include observing, questioning, weighing of assumptions arising from multiple perspectives, gathering and considering evidence in hypothesis testing, assessing the quality of thinking, logical argument and critique, and ethical application [Bowell, T. and Kemp, G. (2002). Critical Thinking: A Concise Guide. New York, NY: Routledge; Costa, A.L. (1991). The School as a Home for the Mind. Palatine, IL: IRI/Skylight Training and Publishing, Inc.; Halpern, D.F. (2003). Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, Inc.; and Paul, R. and Elder, L. (2001). Critical Thinking. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall].

For example, throughout the process of scientific inquiry, the investigator must observe objectively, ask questions based on observations, check assumptions, critically evaluate previously generated knowledge, collect and weigh evidence, and test hypotheses. During these tasks, the understanding of content as well as process is continually assessed by the investigator.

Students who use the RIP in their learning of science develop and use all of these critical thinking attributes. Beginning with the initial observation, logical connections bridge each component of the RIP. The student learns to practice the various skills of critical thinking while addressing the criteria that define each of the components of RIP-based inquiry. Within the components, the RIP employs a number of strategies and activities that facilitate assessment of science content learned and the thinking that occurs while students progress through the steps of the inquiry process.

Ethics play a major role in scientific inquiry for both scientists and your students. Ethical issues surround them in the research environment. They are constantly confronted with the challenge of making ethical decisions and must rely on their skills of critical thinking. Such decisions relate to the care and use of living subjects, responsibility for safety of themselves and others, accuracy of data collection and recording, integrity regarding their research findings, acknowledgement of others’ contributions to the research investigation, and a multitude of other concerns.

Engaging in scientific inquiry invites learners to foster critical thinking attributes that extend beyond the academic arena. This results in citizens who are ethical, creative, adept at decision making, and critical consumers of information in society about topics such as health, medicine, safety, and finance. Regardless of the future path pursued by your students, this process of thinking is perhaps the single most important tool they will carry with them and apply in making decisions throughout their lives.

You will encounter various applications of the critical thinking attributes mentioned in this brief summary on inquiry and thinking throughout the chapters of this book.


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Watch the Video

View video featuring Chapter 4 author Wendy Gonsalves’s third grade students reflecting on their use of the RIP® to learn science and other standards-based content.