To teach and develop critical thinking skills is accomplished with the use of explanatory modeling, a form of reasoning used to derive explanatory phenomena hypotheses.
Students, after being given a description of a phenomenon, evaluate, construct and revise a model of a variables system that should produce that particular phenomenon. Involved are cycles of improvement until a model is achieved that is able to satisfy all constraints on relations of dependency among the system components. The constraints are then used on the temporal, spatial and active organization of mechanisms to generate alternative hypotheses. Empirical investigation methods choose among alternatives, revise and evaluate the hypothesis, continue the search for constraints, and use the results to modify the candidate model until a satisfactory model is achieved.
An example of this type of exceptional system is one provided by Dr. George L. Newsome, III, who founded GLN Consulting ten years ago. He designed the company to allow psychology teachers to complement their curriculum by using explanatory modeling activities to develop higher-order thinking skills in their students and to enhance the students’ proficiency. This understanding is necessary in order to think critically about psychology, is essential for conducting basic and applied research, and it analyzes, presents and evaluates sophisticated psychological arguments. Teachers are aided in developing the students’ cognitive skills that are necessary to think critically about the subject of psychology.
The benefits of engagement in explanatory modeling activities include being able to design investigation methods to choose between alternatives and enhance the students’ proficiency in coordinating the theory and the empirical evidence and to make counter-factual and real world inferences regarding phenomena. Students are presented with information and facts showing how scientific explanations provide an understanding of phenomena and also how scientists connect theories to the phenomena.
Students are also presented with strategies for carrying out the strategies and are given explanations on how to use the strategies to facilitate the process of scientific investigation. This type of activity contributes to a greater depth of understanding by the students about a conceptual innovation in science.