What’s the use of STEM without critical thinking?

Written by: Rachel Minkin

Primary Source: Information Literacy Resources

Information literacy librarians often tie what we do in the classroom to the critical thinking skills required as part of higher education learning goals. (As an example, our unit is tied to the MSU Undergraduate Learning Goals.) Sometimes though, the push for discipline specific skills seems to overpower “the basics”.

As Michael Brooks states in his opinion piece for New Scientist, “Invest in minds not maths to boost the economy”,* students are learning a set of skills for specific tasks for specific jobs, but aren’t learning to think. I particularly liked his use of science policy analyst Colin Macilwain’s argument that our push for STEM skills is creating a market glut good only for the technology sector.**

What do you think? Are we pushing STEM skills over critical thinking? For those of you in STEM fields, does this strike you as a fair assessment? For those of you actively involved in teaching and learning (whether librarian or not!), how do you promote students’ critical thinking skills?

* Brooks, Michael. “Invest in Minds Not Maths to Boost the Economy.” New Scientist (23 December 2013)
** This article from Nature is not yet available electronically thought MSU Libraries electronic resources. However the abstract is available. Print is also available at this time. Macilwain, Colin. “Driving Students into Science is a Fool’s Errand.” Nature 497.7449 (2013): 289.

Lovingly written by Rachel Minkin

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Rachel Minkin
Rachel M. Minkin is an Information Literacy Librarian, responsible for leading information literacy sessions for the first-year students taking Tier One Writing class in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures. Prior to beginning at Michigan State in August 2011, Rachel was a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Lansing Community College (Lansing, MI) and the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, CA).