Scientific Critical Thinking

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“The discovery-based, unpredictable nature” of the antibiotics research, the authors speculate, “might engage student attention and curiosity more than standard labs, which may have contributed” to the positive result.

What is clear is that, if we want the next generation of young people to be able to think critically, the same old methods are not sufficient.

One that seems to be working: asking undergraduates to conduct actual scientific research.

It may seem implausible or impractical to expect college students to carry out authentic experiments—as opposed to “cookbook” lab exercises with a preordained result.

But if estimates of 250,000 to 400,000 deaths due to medical error are way too high, what is the real number? Cognitive Errors and Diagnostic Mistakes is a superb new guide to critical thinking in medicine written by Jonathan Howard.

It explains how our psychological foibles regularly bias and betray us, leading to diagnostic mistakes.But that’s exactly what Generally understood, CUREs have five defining characteristics.First, they contain an element of discovery: the student scientists are bringing brand-new data to light.The test required students to analyze and interpret information; to draw accurate and warranted inferences; and to evaluate inferences and explain why they represent strong reasoning or weak reasoning.Although other types of interventions have generated little or no improvement in student scores on this test, the Florida Atlantic researchers found that taking part in the antibiotic-finding CURE did significantly increase students’ critical-thinking scores—while the scores of students who were enrolled in a traditional cookbook-style lab stayed the same or actually declined.Other CUREs involve the study of genetic mutations—in the gene known as p53, for example.This is a tumor-suppressor gene that is mutated (and thereby rendered ineffective) in more than half of human cancer cases.It is a valuable companion to the Science-Based Medicine blog.The claim that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the US has always rested on very shaky evidence; yet it's become common wisdom that is cited as though everyone accepts it.Second, the experimentation in which they engage involves “iteration”: repeating a process a number of times, altering a single variable to find out what happens.Third, participants experience a significant degree of collaboration, with their peers and with the expert scientists who are their instructors.


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