Medicine & Health

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  • (2012) Thompson, Rachel
    Conference Paper
    Critical thinking is an inherent element of the troublesome and metacognitive nature of the threshold concept as defined by Meyer and Land (2003; 2005) and also has been examined as a threshold concept in its own right, for instance within information research. Furthermore, research on the interdisciplinary nature of critical thinking highlights the importance of learning these skills within a specific discipline area in order to enable later transference to other disciplines (Entwistle, 2008; Perkins and Salamon, 1992). Thus, criticality appears to be key to academic disciplinary development and existence. Barnett (1997) takes this further and champions a more holistic view, namely that graduates should aim to become critical practitioners; a state of being he believes is necessary for students and indeed academics to achieve their full potential within the world. However, various social-cultural pressures (such as accrediting professional bodies) exert a strong influence on how students learn criticality in higher education. In this paper, I will argue that critical thinking is a major interdisciplinary threshold concept in its own right and hence can be defined as and at the same time be defining of a threshold concept. Furthermore, using a sociological perspective, I will explore the dynamics that influence a graduate’s learning path to becoming a critical practitioner and in particular, analyse the relationship between critical thinking and power within the higher education system. Consequently, I will show how this system creates and frames threshold concepts that in turn define the substance and boundaries of the disciplines, which, in their turn act to restrict the extent to which students control and extend their mastery of criticality, thus inhibiting the very skill that education claims to value above all others.