Can critical thinking be taught?

A Deweyan perspective on the notion critical thinking applied to the Icelandic education


  • Rannveig Björk Thorkelsdóttir University of Iceland


critical thinking, John Dewey, Curriculum, arts education, drama


In this article, I will explore and discuss the meaning of the concept of critical thinking when applied to Icelandic education from a Deweyan perspective. I will explore the concept of critical thinking by referring to the Icelandic philosopher Páll Skúlason, Emeritus Professor Robert Ennis at the University of Illinois and Jennifer Moon, Associate Professor at Bournemouth University, who have all written about critical thinking from the viewpoint of education. My special question, to be discussed against the background of the central position the concept of critical thinking has acquired in the Icelandic national curriculum framework from 2011, is whether critical thinking is something that can be taught. Thus, the target group for my reflections are primary school students in Iceland, and my question is limited to the space a national curriculum framework provides for teaching critical thinking in a school context. I will discuss this issue mainly on the basis of John Dewey’s thought, bringing into the discussion some of the central concepts in Dewey’s pragmatic philosophy like inquiry-based learning, experience, and thinking. I base my analysis of Dewey‘s philosophy mainly on “Experience and Education” (1938), “How we Think” (1933) and “Art as Experience” (1938).