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4.0 out of 5 stars Moon (2008) Critical Thinking, 29 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Critical Thinking: An Exploration of Theory and Practice (Paperback)
Jennifer Moon has written extensively on reflective learning, learning outcomes, learning journals and critical thinking. This book explores the latter as the title `Critical Thinking, An exploration of theory and practice' reveals.

After the introduction, the second part of the book starts off from a somewhat personal journey by exploring common-sense notions of critical thinking, collected during seminar work. This results in a broad understanding of what might be related to critical thinking, how and where it might represent itself and in what activities it might occur. Moon (2008: 29) argues that critical thinking is not only represented in text, it could also include `cartoons, satire, critiques, some jokes and humour', although in this book she mainly deals with the written form.

The chapters that follow are more grounded in the literature and explore what critical thinking might be and what it relates to. Whereby various aspects are reviewed, such as the role of language, the notion of logic, the relation with skills and abilities and the pedagogical models to develop it is reviewed. Interesting is the notion of `ways of being' and the developmental aspects of critical thinking, which are taken forward in the later chapters. Moon (2008) signpost that a person's epistemological, or theoretical understanding what knowledge might be is important to recognise students' development of critical thinking, its level and quality.

In the third part, Moon (2008) explores the role of emotions, language and academic assertiveness. Although, these aspects might not be obvious relevant, Moon (2008) shows that these do besides the conceptual perception of knowledge influence students' development as critical thinkers.

The relationship between critical thinking, epistemology and its developmental stages is developed in chapter 8. The level of depth in a person's critical thinking is according to Moon (2008) related to one's epistemological position. Moon (2008) follows a common epistemological divide in the literature. At one end of the spectrum, knowledge is positioned as fixed and absolute; at the other it is seen as contextual and constructed. Students, according to Moon (2008), in their development of critical thinking, move gradually from the absolute end, towards a more relativistic perspective on knowledge. Teaching and learning should enable this development. Moon (2008) provides examples how lecturers can support students to develop sufficient depth and stimulate relativism in their thinking, by offering opposing views, real-life examples etc. The last part of the book is dedicated to the pedagogy of critical thinking which contains resources and suggestions to stimulate the development of critical thinking.

The strength of Moon (2008) is that she approaches critical thinking broadly, starting from common sense and including emotional aspects etc., before imbedding it in the academic literature. However, she is by times also somewhat ambiguous, and substitutes for example critical thinking for reflective learning, based on her earlier work.

It could be argued that Moon's (2008) epistemological position presupposes an implicit hierarchy, favouring constructivism and relativism, over a positivistic or idealistic understanding of knowledge. Moon (2008) argues that students move from surface and descriptive accounts (based on their understanding that knowledge is fixed and absolute), to deep reflections by including attention to justification and the context (whereby knowledge is understood as socially constructed). This seems to illustrate students' development of critical thinking quite strongly. However, Moon (2008) does not develop the different tendencies within the epistemology with too much depth. Further it might lack sufficient attention to e.g. different connotations and application of criticality used in other sciences to develop knowledge. Moreover, she seems to come from a social science perspective, with a strong emphasis on reflective thinking as a mean of knowledge construction. Moon (2008) provides a description of critical thinking and its semantics, how it might be used and how students can be supported in their development, derived from common sense, seminars, personal reflection and literature. However, it might be argued (to criticize from a positivism perspective) that Moon (2008) does not offer a theory of critical thinking. For example she makes no attempt to explain why the development of critical thinking of students goes through an epistemological continuum. And why humans seem to be innate with an absolute view and not born with a contextual view on knowledge in the first place? As such we might need to be careful with the surface-deep continuum in critical thinking and Moon's (2008) epistemological associations with it.

In all, the book is relevant for everybody who wants to deepen and develop its own understanding of critical thinking, or want to support the development of others.
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