A Thinking Skills Approach to the Humanities

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Patricia S. Davidson


Teachers are constantly seeking ways to improve their own teaching and thereby enhance the learning of their students. One method of doing this is to bring critical and creative thinking to the forefront in the curriculum. Specifically, this thesis shows how critical and creative thinking skills can be integrated into a high school curriculum. It focuses primarily on the teaching of Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World, although the book is meant to be a paradigm for other works. The novel is an example of one unit in a high school humanities course that was developed in a suburban high school in the l980s. This study explains the role that critical and creative thinking played in the development of a course called "Odyssey." It also delineates how integration/infusion emerged as the preferred method of teaching thinking skills. A brief history and overview of the course is presented to emphasize the fact that flexibility is one of Odyssey's chief hallmarks. Definitions for both critical and creative thinking are established, and the work of major theorists in both areas is considered. Those theorists reviewed in this study in the area of critical thinking are Ennis, Beyer, Lipman, Sternberg and Paul. The major influences presented in the field off creative thinking are Guilford, Torrance, Barron, Parnes, Treffinger and Feldhusen, as well as Shallcross, Gallo and Amabile. The relationship between critical and creative thinking as articulated by Guilford, Parnes, Swartz and Perkins is also explored. The infusion/integration method is considered with references to Perkins, Swartz, Costa and Paul. The importance of metacognition is discussed along with the significance of transference across the curriculum and into real-life situations. The major thrust of this thesis is the ten lesson plans which take a thinking skills approach to teaching Brave New World. Strategies and techniques such as role-playing, journal writing and brainstorming are delineated to illustrate the integrative mode. The final chapter discussed some of the implications of teaching critical and creative thinking in this manner. Examples of students' reactions are shared. While the theoretical base of this approach is provided by the experts, it is the affirmation of present and former students that attests to its effectiveness.


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