Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 118

achieve consensus on their definitions. Following research and collaborative discourse during faculty development sessions, the researchers adopted the definition used by Army Doctrine Reference Publication 5-0, The Operations Process: “Critical thinking is purposeful and reflective judgment about what to believe or what to do in response to observations, experience, verbal or written expressions, or arguments.”7 To determine the specific critical thinking skills most needed by the graduates, the researchers started with the results from the job-task analysis. Then, they drew upon doctrine and the input from deployed and experienced team members. Because any human terrain team’s research and analysis would be valuable only if they could be communicated in a manner that fit into the supported staff ’s battle rhythm, the researchers also drew heavily upon the staff ’s and faculty’s experiences working on Army staffs and teaching at the United States Military Academy and the School of Advanced Military Studies. The researchers also conducted an extensive review of the academic and professional literature. Through this process, they identified three main critical thinking skills: Verbal reasoning: the ability “to comprehend and defend against the persuasive techniques found in everyday language.”8 Argument analysis: the ability to judge how well reason and evidence support a given conclusion or assertion.9 Thinking as hypothesis testing: the ability to base hypotheses on and formulate beliefs effectively from observations while remaining open to new and possibly disconfirming information.10 Individuals combine these three skills using cognitive self-regulation so they can separate an argument from rhetoric (verbal reasoning), determine the validity and soundness of an argument (argument analysis), and remain open to—and even seek—new information that challenges their existing belief or conclusion (thinking as hypothesis testing). The researchers also learned early in the process that a person’s disposition to think critically was just as important as his or her critical thinking skills. Moreover, the more emotionally involved people were with a subject, the less they tended to use their critical thinking skills even if they were naturally inclined to think critically.11 The program managers • • • 112 accounted for this through the design of realistic training scenarios that would engage the students both cognitively and emotionally. Faculty Members Who Integrate Critical Thinking Instruction into All Classes and Effectively Model Critical Thinking Skills The fourth key is to ensure faculty members integrate and reinforce critical thinking skills instruction throughout all other classes and exercises. The entire faculty must be engaged. They need to view themselves as instructors of critical thinking skills in addition to their assigned subjects. Moreover, individual instructors need to see the relationships between their and other instructors’ subjects. Initially, the Human Terrain System was like many other military and civilian educational institutions in that the program taught critical thinking skills as stand-alone classes. During this time, the instructors enjoyed teaching critical thinking skills, and the students generally provided very favorable feedback on post-course surveys. However, although everyone was enjoying the instruction, reports from the field repeatedly indicated that graduates were failing to demonstrate the required critical thinking skills and behaviors where it mattered most—on the job. Made possible by the then-established organizational climate that embraced change, the Human Terrain System implemented a faculty development program focused on critical thinking skills, with three main purposes: (1) to ensure the entire faculty understood the specific critical thinking skills required of the graduates; (2) to identify where these critical thinking skills would be applied, reinforced, and assessed throughout the curriculum; and (3) to ensure the faculty were fully prepared to model F