Critical Thinking SIG • Origins and Precepts

David Gann and James Dunn

The Critical Thinking SIG was initially formed out of a sense of dissatisfaction with the watered down representations of critical thinking offered in most commercially produced textbooks. The co-founders, David Gann and Roehl Sybing, started the SIG in 2010 believing these representations conflated the more marketable critical dispositions with critical thinking skills. They saw critical thinking being increasingly used as a buzzword. The original focus of the SIG was on trying to help people distinguish instruction of critical thinking as a distinct discipline, dissociable from lessons focusing on global issues or sociopolitical problems. A need was seen to create a social space where these issues could be discussed for the promotion of pedagogically sound teaching methods based on a foundation representative of the tradition of critical thinking from Dewey through Watson and Glaser to the more recent works of Ennis, Elder and others. 

Rather than using a definition of CT to build walls, the CT SIG acts as a good guide for its members to help them understand critical thinking in a more comprehensible manner. In 2015, the SIG expanded its focus to include areas of overlap shared between critical thinking and the three other higher-order thinking skills: problem solving, decision making, and creative thinking. 


In the spring of 2014, the CT SIG core officers started collecting “best-of” articles from the CT SIG newsletter, CT Scan. This idea eventually morphed into a peer-reviewed journal that showcases member contributions. In November of 2014, the first issue of Critical Thinking and Language Learning (CTLL) was published. Since then, the CTLL has continued to grow. The third issue was published in November of 2016. 


With its present coordinator, James Dunn, the CT SIG also started to expand from its mainstay activities of forums at PanSIG and JALT International. In addition, the CT SIG held an event for JALT Yokohama Chapter members, co-sponsored an event in Nagoya with the Speech, Drama & Debate SIG in the summer of 2016, and kept a dedicated room for CT SIG members to present in during the ETJ Expo in Sendai. This year it is sponsoring a plenary speaker at Pan SIG 2017, and is holding a one-day event with the BRAIN SIG in Tokyo in September of 2017. 

The CT SIG hopes to continue to expand its activities and publications in order to help educators in Japan, and beyond, develop their definitions of critical thinking and learn how it can be utilized in the language learning classroom.