Teaching Students How to Think

Undergraduates practice how to field tough questions at the University of Maryland’s Critical Thinking Night.
Teaching Students How to Think

INCOMING UNDERGRADUATES at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business in College Park got a taste of what’s looming in job and internship interviews during Critical Thinking Night, a new workshop added to the school's Welcome Week events.

For instance, they heard examples of interview questions Smith students have fielded in real life. One interviewer asked students to detail the events leading to the economic recession and what they would have done to rejuvenate the markets if they’d been Fed Chair in 2009. Another challenged students to determine how they would plan an impactful team building event on a US$50 budget.

“Your business savvy and ability to think on your feet will be tested,” Smith senior Lindsay Weilminster warned freshmen. But she promised that such tough questions would be less daunting if students challenged themselves now to “analyze these kinds of scenarios at a high level.”

The idea for Critical Thinking Night came to Rebecca Ratner, marketing professor and assistant dean for academic affairs, after she attended a 2013 conference where business executives discussed the lack of critical thinking skills among business undergraduates. Back on campus, she designed the workshop with input from Smith upperclassmen, deans, and corporate partners. She aims to create a framework that requires students to develop three traits—curiosity, perseverance, and integrity—while producing ideas that share six characteristics: clarity, precision, relevance, accuracy, depth, and breadth.

Says Ratner, “Recruiters tell me, ‘We need people who can communicate clearly and think through a problem in a systematic way.’” With the workshop, she hopes to produce such thinkers.