Online Weather Studies

Critical Thinking and Diversity Component



Week 1:


 Introduction to Critical Thinking


Science is a method or process of searching for fundamental and universal principles that govern the physical world.  Online Weather Studies provides opportunities for you to practice science and scientific thinking by employing the scientific method.  As noted in the Online Weather Studies textbook (page 21), the scientific method is “a systematic form of inquiry involving observation, interpretation, speculation, and reasoning.”  The scientific method is the scientist’s way of applying critical thinking to investigate nature.  Greek philosophers were the first to conceive of and develop critical thinking, but scientists brought it to public attention and encouraged its widespread use in modern society.  Critical thinking has powerful potential in problem solving, decision making, and learning.


Online Weather Studies is a science course; it is not a course about science.  In Online Weather Studies, you actually do science while investigating the atmosphere in near real-time.  As such, the course embodies key elements of critical thinking.  Each week, critical thinking elements will be highlighted and related to the week’s scientific content.  Additionally, critical thinking will be applied to diversity issues.


What are the benefits of being a critical thinker?


Just as an athlete must develop and apply skills to rise to the winner’s circle, a thinker must do the same to become accomplished in consistently seeking and employing reasoned pathways leading to optimal outcomes.  Courses in science by definition must implicitly or explicitly include critical thinking.


Research has shown that student participation in activities/investigations that develop critical thinking skills increases depth of understanding and promotes retention of knowledge.  A critical thinker becomes familiar with the objectivity, reasoning, and sound judgment practices that are at the heart of effective problem solving—a strength that is applicable to all aspects of life.  Furthermore, a critical thinker is better equipped for life-long learning, considered by many educators to be a key for long-term success in the information age.


What is critical thinking?


There are many definitions of critical thinking.  One listing of definitions compiled by Barbara Fowler of Longview Community College can be found at  Included among these definitions is one offered by the National Council of Teachers of English Committee on Critical Thinking and the Language Arts that characterizes critical thinking as

“a process which stresses an attitude of suspended judgment, incorporates logical inquiry and problem solving, and leads to an evaluative decision or action.”


This representative definition indicates that critical thinking is a combination of cognitive skills and affective attributes.  See “Critical Thinking:  What It Is and Why It Counts” by Peter A. Facione, at 


Each week Online Weather Studies will highlight a critical thinking cognitive skill and  an affective attribute.  These critical thinking dimensions will be keyed to some component of the week’s investigations.  Also, activities will be presented that promote critical thinking.  We begin with listings of cognitive skills and affective attributes that have been associated with critical thinking; many of these will be addressed as the semester progresses.


Cognitive skills                                                          Affective attributes


Interpretation                                                               Inquisitiveness

Analysis                                                                      Systematic

Evaluation                                                                   Analytical

Inference                                                                     Open-mindedness

Explanation                                                                 Fair-minded in evaluation

Self-regulation                                                            Judicious

Transfer insights to new contexts                                Truth-seeking

Exploring theories, arguments                                     Reasoning with confidence

Clarifying conclusions                                                Independent thinking

Developing criteria for evaluation                              Insightful

Evaluating data for credibility                                    Suspending judgment

Formulating significant questions                                Intellectual integrity

Generating solutions to problems                                Perseverance

Assessing solutions                                                     Intellectual humility

Making interdisciplinary connections                         Flexible

Questioning theories                                                    Prudent in judgment

Comparing interpretations or theories                         Focused in inquiry

Evaluating interpretations or theories

Designing models

Testing models




Suggested Critical Thinking Activity: Cognitive Skills and Affective Attributes


Simply stated, cognitive skills refer to thinking and affective attributes involve feelings and emotions.  Cognitive skills are used in the creation of knowledge and understanding whereas affective attributes concern personal interpretation or response to that knowledge or understanding.


Examine the list of cognitive skills and affective attributes (above) and assess your strength relative to each (weak, moderate, strong).  Retain this self-assessment and revisit it at the end of the course.  Identify those skills and attributes that you would most like to improve upon during the period of this course.  If brave, ask a friend whose judgment your respect to rate you on these skills and attributes.



Critical Thinking and Diversity


The latest U.S. Census confirms what we already know, “Never have we been so diverse.”  The diversity component of Online Weather Studies is directed towards all students, most of whom are enrolled in the course as a general education learning experience.  It is based on the assumption that it is in our collective best interest to utilize all our human capital in meeting the intellectual requirements of a modern, robust society.  It is also based on the realization that diversity benefits everyone, whether it is in the classroom, workplace, or community.


Online Weather Studies approaches diversity from the perspective of its potentially powerful contribution to the development and application of critical thinking.  Consequently, each week’s critical thinking component will include a diversity section that in some way relates to the application, enhancement, or demonstrated results of critical thinking cognitive skills and/or affective attributes.