How do students learn critical thinking? Challenging the osmosis model

Sebastian Bartos, Adrian Banks

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


In teaching Conceptual and Historical Issues in Psychology (CHIP), it is often assumed that students learn critical thinking by being exposed to it, as if absorbing it through osmosis. Moreover, assessment guidelines
tend to consider this ability only for higher marks. The authors of this paper believe, however, that critical thinking should be trained as a central skill: in this contribution, they share their experiences in teaching critical thinking directly. Specifically, they lecture on critical thinking and argumentative writing in a secondyear module that also includes research methods training. Several journal articles are discussed in class, and the exam itself consists of critiquing two research reports. In this course, quantitative and qualitative research are discussed by two different lecturers. However, co-teaching is not framed as a debate: the lecturers aim to avoid both providing a stale compromise and presenting the two approaches as irreconcilable. The authors’ experience with this module supported their initial worries about the osmosis model. Most
students were capable of pertinent critical observations on research, arguably because they absorbed this skill from their previous courses. However, integrating isolated comments into a coherent critique was challenging
to many, and it took much effort and guidance from the lecturers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-40
Number of pages5
JournalHistory and Philosophy of Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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