Can you think critically in a domain in which you do not have a deep understanding?
Some in the edusphere think you can.
I think lack of domain knowledge will serious handicap your ability to think critically in that domain.
Instead of arguing and accomplishing nothing, why don't we collect some data.
And I urge everyone in the edusphere who has an opinion in this area to think up their own example.
Below is a simple physics problem that requires some domain knowledge in physics, algebra, and arithmetic to solve. And, unless you've seen a problem very similar to the one below, I think you'll need a somewhat deep understanding to come up with a solution.
At least before the 21st century and the internet.
I've taken 2 years of physics (one in high school and one in college) and a semester of dynamics. I have some domain knowledge in physics. But, I took these courses over 20 years ago and I haven't had much need to solve these kinds of problems since then. However, I still remember how to solve these problems with a little prompting because I solved a few hundred similar problems two decades ago. It's in long term memory at this point.
And, indeed, I was able to solve the problem in about five minutes with a pencil, paper, and a calculator with trigonometric capabilities.
Then I turned to the internet and tried to solve it using knowledge I could extract therefrom. Not unsurprisingly, the internet offered a cornucopia of information that greatly assisted me and made the job of solving the problem much easier. I didn't have to use any algebra nor did I have to do any manual computation. And, the tools I found had brief descriptions of the underlying physics, so I'm thinking a non-expert might be able to use them without really knowing or understanding the underlying physics all that well.
Again, I was able to solve the problem using the internet in about five minutes. But, again, I have domain knowledge.
In theory, the problem can be solved using general critical thinking skills and a basic understanding of how the world works if one has access to the internet.
Let's put that theory to the test.
Here is a simple physics problem that any high school student taking physics is capable of solving. You've probably taken high school physics, but you probably don't remember much of it if you didn't go on to take more physics in college.
See if you can use your critical thinking skills to solve it. Use your 21st century skills to help you solve it. Here it goes.
A ball is kicked from a point X m away from the crossbar, where X is a number between 38 and 39 that you select. The top of the crossbar is 3.05 m high. If the ball leaves the ground with a speed of 20.4 m/s at an angle of 52.2º to the horizontal? (The usual assumptions apply: uniform earth gravity, no drag or wind, the ball is a point)
a. By how much does the ball clear or fall short of clearing the crossbar?
b. What is the vertical velocity of the ball at the time it reaches the crossbar?
Just pick a random number between 38 and 39 and off you go. (I did this so that everyone would get a different answer).
It may be that I picked too simple of a problem. (I always underestimate the amount of math that non-science/engineering majors know and I didn't want to make the problem too hard.) But I think what the problem will demonstrate is that without domain knowledge in physics you will be overwhelmed by the problem and will have much difficulty in doing all the steps needed to answer the questions.
(I did not find any tools that allowed you merely to plug in the numbers and pop out and answer. That would not require any critical reasoning.)
Leave your answers and comments in the comments of this post. Don't forget to tell us what number you selected (between 38 and 39).
And for all of you edusphere bloggers why don't you use your specific domain knowledge and come up with your own critical thinking problems to test and challenge your readers and your own opinions on critical thinking and 21st century skills.
Update: No fair using the pre-21st century skills as asking someone else for help or a complete solution or to learn the specific domain knowledge needed. I wouldn't be able to have chosen such a simple problem if I allowed that and I can certainly have found a more difficult problem in which you could not have learned the domain knowledge in a reasonable amount of time.
Don't spend more than about 20 minutes or so solving the problem.
Also, don't give away too much information in your comments. We don't want other readers using your methodology to find their own solutions. But do tell us the amount of domain knowledge you think you possess. And do tell us if you can't solve the problem within the constraints.
I will make a new post in a few days where you'll be able to leave more detailed information as the discussion gets furthered.