Excellent article posted by @Zachary_Ardern:
Willingham’s reading of the research literature concludes that scientists are united in their belief that content knowledge is crucial to effective critical thinking.
To be sure, there are basic logic principles that are true across subjects, such as understanding that “A” and “not A” cannot simultaneously be true. But students typically fail to apply even generic principles like these in new situations. In one experiment described by Willingham, people read a passage about how rebels successfully attacked a dictator hiding in a fortress (they dispersed the forces to avoid collateral damage and then converged at the point of attack). Immediately afterwards, they were asked how to destroy a malignant tumor using a ray that could cause a lot of collateral damage to healthy tissue. The solution was identical to that of the military attack but the subjects in the experiment didn’t see the analogy. In a follow-up experiment, people were told that the military story might help them solve the cancer problem and almost everyone solved it. “Using the analogy was not hard; the problem was thinking to use it in the first place,” Willingham explained.
To help student see analogies, “show students two solved problems with different surface structures but the same deep structure and ask them to compare them,” Williingham advises teachers, citing a pedagogical technique proven to work by researchers in 2013.
And particularly relevant to science and engaging the public:
Willingham says that the scientific research shows that it’s very hard to evaluate an author’s claim if you don’t have background knowledge in the subject. “If you lack background knowledge about the topic, ample evidence from the last 40 years indicates you will not comprehend the author’s claims in the first place,” wrote Willingham, citing his own 2017 book.