This is the FIRST of FOUR posts on the subject of CRITICAL THINKING. In it, I have paid attention to five tenets:
- What is Critical Thinking?
- What Do You Want To Achieve?
- The Benefit of Foresight
- Critical Thinking Skills
- 10 Common Critical Thinking Skills
CRITICAL THINKING is the process of applying reasoned and disciplined thinking to a subject; that is thinking clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe.
Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work ― Adrienne Rich
To do well in your studies ALL High School students need to think ‘critically’ about the things they have read, seen or heard.
Acquiring critical thinking skills helps you to develop more reasoned arguments and draw out the inferences that you need to use in your assignments, projects and examination questions as well as in your general day to day living.
CRITICAL THINKING includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following:
- understands the logical connections between ideas
- identifies, constructs and evaluates arguments
- detects inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
- solves problems systematically
- identifies the relevance and importance of ideas
- reflects on the justification of one’s own beliefs and values
CRITICAL THINKING is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what one knows, and one knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform oneself.
In January 2016, the World Economic Forum issued a report on “The Future of Jobs” where it purports that the top three skills that are supposed to be the most relevant in future are THINKING SKILLS related to critical thinking, CREATIVITY, and their practical APPLICATION.
Critical Thinking is the analytical thinking which underlies all rational discourse and enquiry. It is characterised by a meticulous and rigorous approach.
As an academic discipline, CRITICAL THINKING is unique in that it explicitly focuses on the processes involved in being rational. These processes include:
- analysing arguments
- judging the relevance and significance of information
- evaluating claims, inferences, arguments and explanations
- constructing clear and coherent arguments
- forming well-reasoned judgements and decisions.
Being rational also requires an open-minded yet critical approach to one’s own thinking as well as that of others.
The study of CRITICAL THINKING equips candidates with reasoning skills to use in life, work and further academic study. It provides opportunities for candidates to think deeply, and in a structured way, about issues that are key to participating in society, eg: ethical questions, cultural issues and issues of personal responsibility. It enables candidates to make reasoned decisions that are based on evidence and argument rather than assumption and prejudice.
What Do You Want To Achieve?
One of the most important aspects of critical thinking is to decide what you are aiming to achieve and then make a decision based on a range of possibilities.
Once you have clarified that aim for yourself you should use it as the starting point in all future situations requiring thought and, possibly, further decision-making. Where needed, make your workmates, family or those around you aware of your intention to pursue this goal. You must then discipline yourself to keep on track until changing circumstances mean you have to revisit the start of the decision-making process.
The more clearly we are aware of ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, the more likely our critical thinking will be productive.
The Benefit of Foresight
Perhaps the most important element of thinking critically is foresight.
Almost all decisions we make and implement don’t prove disastrous if we find reasons to abandon them. However, our decision making will be infinitely better and more likely to lead to success if, when we reach a tentative conclusion, we pause and consider the impact on the people and activities around us.
The elements needing consideration are generally numerous and varied. In many cases, consideration of one element from a different perspective will reveal potential dangers in pursuing our decision. Hence, these different perspectives or sort of problems may arise from incomplete critical thinking, a demonstration perhaps of the critical importance of good CRITICAL THINKING.
CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS
Critical thinking is thinking about things in certain ways so as to arrive at the best possible solution in the circumstances that the thinker is aware of. In more everyday language, it is a way of thinking about whatever is presently occupying your mind so that you come to the best possible conclusion.
Experts have come up with a range of critical thinking skills. These skills are used concurrently and there is no one linear process or correct sequence of thinking. The skills are applied in accordance with the nature of the thinking task. Some may well be used in a self-determined sequence, but this requires that students, and adults alike, are independently familiar and confident in the selection and use of these skills.
10 Common Critical Thinking Skills
You may be using some of the core Critical Thinking Skills in your everyday life, but trying to develop and instill them in our students and children will make a huge difference in how they approach certain life situations.
Experts do not agree on a set of Core Critical Thinking Skills so what I have done here is to come up with common strands:
Skill #1: INTERPRETATION – This is having the ability to understand the information you are being presented with and being able to communicate the meaning of that information to others: categorize; decode the significance or clarify meaning eg:
- What does this mean?
- What’s happening?
- How can we make sense out of this (experience, feeling, or statement)?
Skill #2: ANALYSIS – It is having the ability to connect pieces of information together in order to determine what the intended meaning of the information was meant to represent: examining ideas; identifying arguments, reasons and claims eg:
- Why do you think that . . . ?
- What are the arguments for and against . . . ?
- What assumptions must we make to accept that conclusion . . . ?
Skill #3: INFERENCE – This is having the ability to understand and recognize what elements you will need in order to determine an accurate conclusion or hypothesis from the information you have at your disposal. The critical thinker will query evidence, conjecture alternatives, draw logically valid or justified conclusions eg:
- What are the consequences of doing things that way?
- What are some alternatives we haven’t yet explored?
- Let’s consider each option and see where it takes us.
- Are there any undesirable consequences that we can and should foresee?
Skill #4: EVALUATION – This is being able to evaluate the credibility of statements or descriptions of a person’s experience, judgment or opinion in order to measure the validity of the information being presented. The critical thinker also assesses quality of arguments that were made using inductive or deductive reasoning eg:
- How strong are those arguments?
- Do we have our facts right?
- How confident can we be in our conclusion, given what we now know?
Skill #5: EXPLANATION – It is having the ability to not only restate information, but add clarity and perspective to the information, justify procedures and present arguments so it can be fully understood by anyone you are sharing it with, eg:
- How did you come to that interpretation?
- Please take us through your reasoning one more time.
- How would you explain why this particular decision was made?
Skill #6: SELF-REGULATION – This is having the awareness of your own thinking abilities and the elements that you are using to find results: self-monitoring and self-correcting, eg:
- Our position on this issue is still too vague; can we be more precise?
- How good was our methodology, and how well did we follow it?
- Is there a way we can reconcile these two apparently conflicting conclusions?
- How good is our evidence?
Skill #7: LOGICAL REASONING – This is drawing inferences or conclusions that are supported or justified by evidence, eg:
- “I deduced from the information that . . . . “
- “My rationale for the conclusion was . . . .”
Skill #8: INFORMATION SEEKING – This is searching for evidence, facts, or knowledge by identifying relevant sources and gathering objective, subjective, historical, and current data from those sources.
Skill #9: APPLYING STANDARDS – This is judging according to established personal, professional, or social rules or criteria; eg: “I judged it according to . . .”
Skill #10: PREDICTING – This is envisioning a plan and its consequences; eg: “I envisioned the outcome would be . . .” or “I was prepared for . . .”
So, Dear Reader, the next time someone starts talking to you about developing critical thinking skills in your area, hopefully now, you will be able to tell them you know what they are, how they are used in the workplace, at school or at home; and how to go about continually developing them for the future.
Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, and empathically.
Dear Reader, Among your own folks, think of the people you believe to be critical thinkers. Do they have some or show some of these characteristics? My guess is YES. So, Dear Reader, EVALUATE YOURSELF – Do you have these critical thinking characteristics? How can our students and children alike, benefit from these? This is what my second post looks at:
How Can Critical Thinking Be Central And Beneficial To High School Students?
It is NEVER too late to learn and harness some of those Critical Thinking skills you feel short at. Just commit yourself and walk the talk.
Good luck in all you endeavours.
As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!