• What are these data based on? How were they developed? Is the con-clusion based on hard facts or soft data?
4. Inferences and conclusions.
All thought requires the making of infer-ences, the drawing of conclusions, the creation of meaning. Assume thatno thought is fully understood until one understands the inferences thathave shaped it. Questions that focus on inferences in thinking include:• How was the conclusion reached?• Can the reasoning used be explained?• Is there an alternative plausible conclusion?• Given all the facts, what is the best possible conclusion?
Concepts and ideas.
All thought involves the application of concepts.Assume that no thought can be fully understood until one understandsthe concepts that define and shape it. Questions that focus on concepts inthinking include:• What is the main idea used in this reasoning? Can the idea be explained?• Is the appropriate concept focused upon, or should the problem be re-conceptualized?• Are more facts or rethinking about how the facts are labeled necessary?• Is the question a legal, a theological, or an ethical one?6.
All thought rests upon assumptions. Assume that nothought can be fully understood until one understands what it takes forgranted. Questions that focus on assumptions in thinking include:• What exactly is taken for granted here?• Why is that assumption made? Shouldn't one rather assume that...?« What assumptions underlie the central point of view? What alternativeassumptions might be made?7.
Implications and consequences.
All thought is headed in a direction.It not only begins somewhere (in assumptions), it is also goes somewhere(has implications). Assume that no thought can be fully understood unlessone knows the most important implications and consequences that followfrom it. Questions that focus on implications in thinking include:• What is implied wben one says...?• If one does this, what is likely to happen as a result?• Are the implications that...?- Have the implications of this policy (or practice) been considered?8.
Viewpoints and perspectives.
All thought takes place within a pointof view or frame of reference, Assume that no thought can be fully under-stood until one understands the point of view tbat places it on an intellec-tual map. Questions that focus on point of view in thinking include:• What point of view is assumed?• Is there another point of view that should be considered?• Which of the possible viewpoints makes the most sense in the situation?
In the next few columns we will introduce additional foundational con-cepts in critical thinking and exemplify questions that are implied by un-derstanding and using those foundations. When teachers routinely use thetools of critical thinking in Socratic dialogue, discussions become moredisciplined and fruitful, and students learn the importance of questioningin learning, Iliey are then better able to formulate and pursue deep andsignificant questions in their other classes and in the numerous domainsof their lives.
Linda Elder is executive director of
and professional develop-ment and Richard Paul is director of the Center or Critical Thinking at So-noma State
CONTINUED FROM PAGE I7
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For further information call (863) 529-5206or visit our website at www.ntatutor.org
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