Problem Statement: Teaching a student critical - thinking skills has always been an important mission of social studies education. Over the years, literature and scholarly interest in critical-thinking in social studies have grown sporadically. Nevertheless, growing interest in the literature and commitment among the scholars did not ensure successful teaching of critical-thinking in classrooms. In fact, research evidence clearly indicates that the teaching of critical-thinking skills in a social studies classroom has been problematic and unsuccessful.
Purpose of study:The purpose of this study was to identify approaches that social studies scholars believed or suggested to be more likely and predictive of success in the teaching of critical-thinking in social studies classrooms. A corollary purpose of this study is to provide a comprehensive resource for social studies scholars concerning ways to promote critical-thinking in classrooms.
Methodology:In this study, historical analysis method was used. Journal articles published between 1977 and 2006 in three major journals of NCSS, namely, Social Education, Social Studies and the Young Learner, and Middle Level Learning were examined and analyzed. A total of one hundred thirty two (132) articles were identified and used to answer the following research questions: Over the years what method(s) have social studies scholars identified or suggested as beneficial for promoting critical-thinking in classrooms? What methods have they emphasized? Is there a commonality or divergence among the suggested method(s) for promoting critical-thinking? How have scholars’ approaches for promoting critical-thinking changed, (if at all)?
Findings:Analysis of the data indicated that to foster critical-thinking, three patterns – the use of classroom discussions, writing activities, and questions – persisted in the literature and were believed to be essential. Scholars highlighted the role of technological developments and inquiry into methods of the teaching of critical-thinking as well. However, it was also found that the role of classroom context or classroom atmosphere did not receive much scholarly attention. Overall, social studies scholars’ views on promoting critical-thinking have shown more commonality than divergence.
Conclusion: The result of this study revealed that the use of classroom discussions, writing activities, and questions should be utilized more in social studies classrooms to promote critical-thinking. However, more studies are needed to examine the effects of discussions, writing activities, and questions on the development of critical-thinking skills. Additionally, the role of classroom context or classroom atmosphere should also be investigated.
Keywords: Critical-thinking, ways to promote critical-thinking, social studies education, and NCSS journals.