According to constructivist theories of learning, an individual learns concepts by interpreting and developing meanings of things, such as their experiences or information encountered, based on their existing knowledge. (Newhouse, Trinidad, & Clarkson, 2002, p.7; Richardson, 2003, p. 1625) Accordingly, individual learning occurs in two ways: first, by acquiring knowledge from his or her interaction with his or her immediate environment; and second, by gaining knowledge from formal settings and instruction. (Newhouse, Trinidad, & Clarkson, 2002, p. 7) Thus, an individual learns from his or her active participation in making sense of new information and experience obtained from either an informal or formal setting.
Critical thinking is a form of a higher order thinking skill or metacognitive process that involves collecting, sorting, analyzing, and concluding from information to meet a goal or objective. (Wilson, 2000, p. 7) Critical thinking goes beyond mere knowledge and concept acquisition. (ibid) It involves being able to judge the relevance of the knowledge acquired and knowing how to apply knowledge to varying areas or domains of learning.
Improving thinking skills necessitate approaches that stimulate the learner’s interest and provide opportunities for the individual to relate his or her existing knowledge to new realities and experiences. For instance, Newhouse, Trinidad, & Clarkson (2002) suggest the use of computer-based learning systems in the classroom as a strategy to teach higher order thinking skills and improve the learning of students. (p. 11) The authors argue that computer technologies have the potential to create learning environments that support the development of problem solving and critical thinking skills in students by exposing them to experiences that require “extending and challenging their ways of thinking and acting.” (p. 13) Hence, computers allow students to improve the way they think and use knowledge.
Newhouse, P.C., Trinidad, S., & B. Clarkson (2002). Quality pedagogy and effective learning with Information and Communications Technologies (ICT): a review of the literature. Perth, Western Australia: Specialist Educational Services.
Richardson, Virginia (2003). Constructivist pedagogy. Teachers College Record, 105(9): 1623-1640.
Wilson, Valerie (2000). Can thinking skills be taught? In Education Forum for Thinking Skills (appendix 3). Scottish Council for Research in Education. Retrieved April 27, 2008 from http://www.scre.ac.uk/scot-research/thinking/index.html