Designing Learning Experiences to Encourage Development of Critical Thinking Skills

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Today, various actors are exploiting and misusing online social media to spread disinformation and to create false narratives. This paper summarizes an education and training approach targeted to help people think more critically about potential disinformation.

The approach we outline emphasizes the development and maturation of general critical-thinking skills, in contrast to technical skills (e.g., social network analysis). However, it also offers opportunity to apply these skills in a scaffolded, adaptive environment that supports the learner in putting concepts into use. The approach draws on the situated-learning paradigm to support skill development and reflects empirically-based best practices for pedagogy for critical thinking. This analysis and review provides context to inform the design of a learning environment to enable targeted practice of critical thinking skills. The paper outlines the high-level design, describes several specific “experiential lessons” and overviews a few technical challenges that remain to be overcome to make the training feasible for wide-scale use.

Author Bios:

Lauren Massey is a Research Associate at Soar Technology Inc. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Modeling and Simulation at University of Central Florida. She has earned both a Master of Science in Software Engineering and Bachelor of Science in Human Factors Psychology from Embry – Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach.  

Roger Smith, Ph.D. has over 25 years of experience creating leading-edge simulators for the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. He is a Senior Scientist with SoarTech working on AI applications to cyber and social media training simulation problems. He was previously the Chief Engineer for the Army’s $100 million Synthetic Training Environment (STE) project; Chief Technology Officer for the U.S. Army PEO for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (STRI);  and VP and CTO for training systems at Titan Corp and BTG Inc.

Elizabeth Whitaker, Ph.D. (GTRI Principal Research Engineer and Fellow) whose primary research interest is applied artificial intelligence has over 25 years’ experience in artificial intelligence research for DoD, intelligence, and commercial applications. Her research is in intelligent tutoring, case-based reasoning, intelligent agents, agent-based modeling and simulation, and cognitive systems.

Robert Wray, Ph.D. is Principal Scientist at the Center for Integrated Cognition (CIC).  His research encompasses many areas of AI including knowledge representation and ontology, agent-based systems and agent architectures,  machine learning, and cognitive science. His research has resulted in successful transition and is in everyday use. At the CIC, Dr. Wray is researching and building next-generation AI capabilities with human-like learning at their core.

Massey, L., Smith, R., Whitaker, E. T., & Wray, R. E. (2021)
In Lecture Notes in Computer Science: Proceedings of the 2021
Human Computer Interaction International (HCII) Conference. (Virtual)

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