The goal of post-secondary education at the community college level has primarily been to equip students with the skills that they need for the workforce. Offering courses of study that allow students to be workforce ready, not only helps to increase completion rates but it also helps to boost economic development in the communities in which the graduates are hired. For this process to work effectively, college administrators, educators, and business leaders must share similar goals. While workforce readiness is important, students should also be able to think critically and problem solve as an everyday life skill.
Critical thinking is the process of evaluating information and making decisions based on effective observation, reasoning, and analysis. A key feature of thinking critically is the communication process, which can provide the necessary clarity for individuals to ask in-depth questions that lead to sound conclusions. Critical thinking promotes rationality because thinkers are able to raise important questions, identify problems, evaluate information, think open-mindedly, and communicate with others in order solve problems effectively. In addition, critical thinking promotes accountability, responsibility, and organization for making decisions since students must be actively engaged in the process.
Educators can emulate the process in the classroom through effective questioning and experiential learning. Using Socratic methods of questioning, action-oriented learning, and an inside out approach (flipped classroom) to teaching, educators can transform their classroom into critical thinking labs. When educators ask the right questions, students will become more engaged and learning will become more an experience as well as a process. Using a flipped classroom approach, is one of many ways that educators can place the responsibility of learning in the hands of the student in order to allow more time for hands on learning and more engaging classroom discussions.
The flipped classroom may not be effective for every learning objective, but pre-recording lectures with the expectations students will have listened to assigned lectures, completed readings, and assignments prior to coming to class also teaches accountability. Assessing students on their level of accountability can be done through in-class assignments which require them to apply the knowledge acquired outside of the classroom.
Changing the traditional approach to teaching can enhance life-skills such as accountability, responsibility, organization, communication, and problem solving skills which are important components of the critical thinking process. Critical thinking as a life skill means that students will be prepared to make decisions beyond simply learning skills to function in the workforce.