Critical Thinking in International Education Programs

In international education programs such as the IB and the GCE, the acquisition of critical thinking skills is highly valued. Central to the concept of critical thinking is the act of questioning. The notion that teachers should encourage students to question 'everything' is often uncritically endorsed. However, on closer inspection, philosophical and practical questions emerge. For example, in the area of Ethics, should teachers encourage students to question all moral and cultural positions? Should teachers encourage students to question whether slavery is wrong? Should teachers encourage students to question whether rape is wrong? While discussions around the reasons why rape is wrong should be fostered, should teachers also encourage students to question the evil of rape itself? Or should this "questioning" be "questioned?" Should teachers ever engage in explicit values teaching? Is this telling students what is right, and what to think? In the area of History, a critical thinking approach requires that students evaluate primary and secondary historical sources for their reliability, and for the presence of bias. But here, again, questions emerge. Is a 15 year-old equipped to judge whether the work of Noam Chomsky is reliable? Is a 15 year-old equipped to judge whether Jay Winter is "biased?" And yet, the idea that students should not interrogate the work of high profile intellectuals reeks of authoritarianism. This study explores conflicting visions and concerns around the critical thinking paradigm, suggesting ways forward by proposing concrete strategies for the development of discerning engagements.

International Education, Social Justice, Social Change, Critical Thinking, Teaching, Learners

2019 Special Focus: "Learning to Make a Social Difference"

Workshop Presentation

  • Dr. Ines Dunstan
    • PhD, Flinders University, Australia Australia
    • I am an academic, an IB high school teacher, and a journalist for an international newspaper. I have published numerous peer reviewed articles in academic journals, as well as book reviews, creative works, columns, and interview-based articles. My latest peer reviewed article was published in Gender & History, the major international journal for research on the history of gender relations. Last week, my proposal entitled 'International Mindedness: Frameworks for Appreciation and Action' (co-authored with Mr Adam Duus) was selected for presentation at an IB Conference in Hong Kong (2019). My work on the topic of international mindedness and social justice, most notably my article 'When did Human Rights become Racist', published on Campus Review and Education Review respectively, attracted national and international attention; was cited by Australian University Professors such as Paul Prenzler (CSU); and led to my intellectual collaboration with philosopher Stephen Green, author of 'The Coherent Past: A Guide to Truth in a Post-Truth World'. I am an IB languages teacher and an IB history examiner and EE supervisor who has worked at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels in Australia and Argentina since the mid 90s. I have been a topic convenor, lecturer and tutor for the first year Australian history courses 'Creating a Nation: A Brief History of Australia', and 'The Lucky Country: Australia and the World since 1939.' I have also created and delivered a lecture series in a combined Third Year/Honours course entitled 'Latin American History and Culture through Film and Literature'. I have also taught a course called 'Communication, Culture and Indigenous Australians' at the David Unaipon Centre at the University of South Australia. I have read widely on Critical Theory, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, Literary Studies, Epistemology, and Ethics. I have a strong interest in Relativism (Cognitive, Moral and Cultural) and on its impact on the understanding and teaching of Humanities in Australia. I was fortunate enough to receive a bilingual and cross cultural education between the ages of 4 and 18. Having a second language and living in different countries around the world has given me first hand experience of the intricacies of culture, and this is an area that continues to fascinate me. As well as a history, cultural studies and languages teacher, I am an English-Spanish translator: my latest work as an English-Spanish translator was commissioned by the University of Adelaide, and I have translated Australian poetry for Professor Nicholas Jose, author of the bestselling Paper Nautilus. My passion for social justice and international education for social change drives all my endeavors.