Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Encouraging Critical Thinking Thought by University Students

Dr Fiona Mueller, is presenting on "Content and Process in University Teaching" at the ANU Educational Research Conference. She explained how the ANU's international students (mostly from China) are provided with support by ANU College to adapt to university life. This includes encouraging critical thinking by the students, who may be used to just selecting and repeating materials from authoritative sources.

Dr. Mueller gave the example of showing the film "Animal Farm" to the students to provoke discussion, with one of the students seeing this as a attack on their government. This causes me some concern, as while students need to be helped to understand the ways of a western university, the ANU also needs to understand and respect the cultural context of their students. To simply brainwash the students to think the ANU's western view of thinking is correct and that all others are wrong is not teaching critical thinking.

The ANU and the students need to come to terms with a world where western dominance has reduced and other ways of thinking need to be understood. I suggest the ANU staff need to work to understand other points of view, so they can better teach the students how to express views in different contexts. This will benefit all ANU students, not just international ones. As an example, a government or corporate culture has aspects which can be as difficult to deal with for a graduate as that of a foreign country.

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