Monday, September 13, 2010

Corporate Recruiters Demand Critical Thinking

The Wall Street Journal has published a fascinating new report titled, "Paths to Professions." In this report, Marisa Taylor wrote an article about how corporate recruiters are bemoaning the lack of critical thinking and problem-solving skills among college graduates. Here is an excerpt:

"While the ability to think critically is, well, critical in the workplace, employers have long complained that many of the young college graduates they hire seem to lack this skill. Now, universities are trying to fix the problem before their grads ever meet a recruiter. When asked which skills new college graduates needed to improve most, more than half of the respondents to the question on The Wall Street Journal's survey of 479 college recruiters named some combination of critical thinking, problem solving skills and the ability to think independently."

I think colleges and universities deserve a fair amount of blame for the lack of critical thinking and problem-solving skills among graduates. Far too many classes at many schools still involve large lectures with very little, if any, interaction among students. Far too many examinations require regurgitation rather than reasoning. Witness the large number of multiple choice exams which simply require a good memory to recall key facts from the book. Cold calls during class, oral exams, and other such didactic interactions between professor and student do not happen often enough. The bottom line: We need to change the way we teach. Some of us keep saying this, of course, but overall, universities have been slow to change.


David said...

I think you're on to something. Recently I made the shift from teaching in the traditional model to an adult learning model. Less lectures, more discussion. The thing that sticks out in my head is this: 20 year old undergrad students are adults...I think they want this model too. Not just to be lectured at.

Luke Bornheimer said...

I couldn't agree more with Professor Roberto and David's assertions that case-based, discussion-style classes are the key to increased student engagement as well as enhanced critical-thinking skills.

As a student in Professor Roberto's class last year, I was challenged to think for myself and answer difficult questions (in class and on exams) that didn't have multiple choice answers, or often times no "right answer." I would encourage ANY professor/teacher to explore the possibilities of case-based and student-engaged learning in their classroom.

As a side note regarding critical-thinking skills, I would HIGHLY recommend that all college students read "Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation". Though the book is extremely useful for case interview preparation, it also helps students begin to think beyond the yes-no and/or multiple choice answer mentality that they often become accustomed to in college. Professor Roberto suggested I read the book before I interviewed with Google, and not only did it help me get the job, but it also helped me prepare for my job.