CRITICAL THINKING

A Written Report

normative statements. reflection. interpretation. alternative positions on public issues. Critical thinkers have a propensity to raise and explore questions about beliefs. defined narrowly. They would teach critical thinking only within conventional frames of reference of a society. Critical thinking. conclusions. skepticism. decides. which result when thinkers fail to appraise fundamental assumptions or standards. and actions. depth. policy decisions. or any other object of concern. evaluation. but is not synonymous with them. evaluates evidence. It can occur whenever one judges. by which they or their students make judgments. and rationality. claims. evidence. such as problem solving or decision making. and assesses conclusions. or solves a problem. In addition to possessing strong critical thinking skills. A more profound view encourages appraisal of frameworks or sets of criteria by which judgments are made. is an essential element of general cognitive processes. critical thinking is formulation and use of criteria to make warranted judgments about knowledge claims. or doctrinaire judgments. "Critical thinking is reflective and reasonable thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do. Critical thinking. Many proponents of critical thinking stop short of evaluating the most basic criteria. in general. Critical thinking employs not only logic but broad intellectual criteria such as clarity. This deeper level of critical thinking counteracts egocentric. significance and fairness. relevance. examines assumptions. whether conceived broadly or narrowly. breadth." Limited definitions focus on evaluation or appraisal. analysis. discerns hidden values. There is a reasonable level of consensus among experts that an individual or group engaged in strong critical thinking gives due consideration to: •Evidence through observation •Context of judgment •Relevant criteria for making the judgment well •Applicable methods or techniques for forming the judgment •Applicable theoretical constructs for understanding the problem and the question at hand . explanation and meta-cognition. ethnocentric. implies curiosity. precision. and do so in a reasonable and reflective way.Definition Critical thinking clarifies goals. inference. one must be disposed to engage problems and decisions using those skills. Skills The list of core critical thinking skills includes observation. definitions. accuracy. accomplishes actions. credibility. According to Robert H. whenever one must figure out what to believe or what to do. Ennis (1985). or values. methods of inquiry.

and discernment •Interpret data. Wade (1995) identifies 8 characteristics of critical thinking. Dealing with ambiguity is also seen by Strohm & Baukus (1995) as an essential part of critical thinking. An attitude of being disposed (state of mind regarding something) to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one's experiences 2. examining evidence. Critical thinking involves asking questions. More specifically. clarity. Knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning 3. "Ambiguity and doubt serve a critical-thinking function and are a necessary and even a productive part of the process. and tolerating ambiguity. considering other interpretations.Abilities Critical thinking calls for the ability to: •Recognize problems. avoiding emotional reasoning. defining a problem. Edward Glaser writes that the ability to think critically involves three things: 1. avoiding oversimplification. Some skill in applying those methods. to find workable means for meeting those problems •Understand the importance of prioritization and order of precedence in problem solving •Gather and marshal pertinent (relevant) information •Recognize unstated assumptions and values •Comprehend and use language with accuracy. to appraise evidence and evaluate arguments •Recognize the existence (or non-existence) of logical relationships between propositions •Draw warranted conclusions and generalizations •Put to test the conclusions and generalizations at which one arrives •Reconstruct one's patterns of beliefs on the basis of wider experience •Render accurate judgments about specific things and qualities in everyday life Characteristics of Critical Thinking In a seminal study on critical thinking and education in 1941." Another characteristic of critical thinking identified by many sources is metacognition. analyzing assumptions and biases. "metacognition is being . Metacognition is thinking about one's own thinking.

some standards apply to all subjects. This information explosion is likely to continue in the future. 1993) Beyer elaborately explains what he sees as essential aspects of critical thinking. be based on relevant. •Criteria: To think critically. the amount of information available today is massive.aware of one's thinking as one performs specific tasks and then using this awareness to control what one is doing" (Jones & Ratcliff. and strongly reasoned" (p. evaluating. value fair-mindedness. look at different points of view. In a search for understanding. logically consistent. respect evidence and reasoning. •Argument: Is a statement or proposition with supporting evidence.. critical thinkers view phenomena from many different points of view. to the complex problems that they will face. Through technology. and constructing arguments. 12). In schooling John Dewey is just one of many educational leaders who recognized that a curriculum aimed at building thinking skills would be a benefit not only to the individual learner. unbiased. Although the argument can be made that each subject area has different criteria. respect clarity and precision. making judgments. Oliver & Utermohlen (1995) see students as too often being passive receptors of information. Critical thinking involves identifying. Need to have conditions that must be met for something to be judged as believable.. These procedures include asking questions. •Reasoning: The ability to infer a conclusion from one or multiple premises. Critical thinking makes use of many procedures. free from logical fallacies. but to the community and to the entire democracy. Contemporary cognitive psychology regards human reasoning as a complex process which is both reactive and reflective. precise. an assertion must. Students need a guide to weed through the information and not just passively accept it.. and identifying assumptions. ". •Procedures for Applying Criteria: Other types of thinking use a general procedure. which shapes one's construction of meaning. must apply criteria. Students need to "develop and effectively apply critical thinking skills to their academic studies. •Point of View: The way one views the world. and will change positions when reason leads them to do so. based on credible sources. To do so requires examining logical relationships among statements or data. These are: •Dispositions: Critical thinkers are skeptical.. open-minded. and to the critical choices they will be forced to make as a result of the information explosion and other rapid technological changes" . accurate facts.

8). Critical thinking involves questioning. then they can use good thinking as the guide by which they live their lives. "In properly structured cooperative learning environments. He argues that to live successfully in a democracy. in order to continue the advancement of the very fields we are teaching. The teacher is a facilitator of a conference. The class . allowing students to construct a conclusion for the case..). Students must write questions about the lecture material.. •Cooperative Learning Strategies: Cooper (1995) argues that putting students in group learning situations is the best way to foster critical thinking. Then. critical thinking with continuous support and feedback from other students and the teacher" (p. If students learn to think critically. but also challenging. In small groups. Select a few of the questions as the impetus for class discussion. o Reader's Questions: Require students to write questions on assigned reading and turn them in at the beginning of class. "What are the strengths and weaknesses of. the teacher displays a list of question stems (such as. people must be able to think critically in order to make sound decisions about personal and civic affairs. •Conference Style Learning: The teacher does not "teach" the class in the sense of lecturing. the students ask each other the questions. •Using Questions: King (1995) identifies ways of using questions in the classroom: o Reciprocal Peer Questioning: Following lecture. It is important to teach students how to ask good questions. Using prepared questions. the teacher then leads students through a discussion. That is. the whole class discusses some of the questions from each small group. students perform more of the active. An example of a CAT is to ask students to write a "Minute Paper" responding to questions such as "What was the most important thing you learned in today's class? What question related to this session remains uppermost in your mind?" The teacher selects some of the papers and prepares responses for the next class meeting. •Case Study /Discussion Method: McDade (1995) describes this method as the teacher presenting a case (or story) to the class without a conclusion. to think critically.Beyer sees the teaching of critical thinking as important to the very state of our nation. Assigned readings should be in the zone of proximal development. Students must thoroughly read all required material before class. "Every field stays alive only to the extent that fresh questions are generated and taken seriously" (Center for Critical Thinking. 1996) Teaching Strategies to Help Promote Critical Thinking •CATS (Classroom Assessment Techniques): Angelo stresses the use of ongoing classroom assessment as a way to monitor and facilitate students' critical thinking. readings should be able to be understood by students.

each group acts out their dialogue and explains their analysis of it. and disagreer). Don't give students clear cut material. "With written assignments. presence or exclusion of important evidence. evaluating reasoning skills. ignore no known evidence. alternative interpretations. •require evidence. The teacher does not remain passive.consists of the students asking questions of each other and discussing these questions. 24). In small groups. Self-awareness We are thinking critically when we •weigh the influences of motives and bias. information giver. and errors in reasoning. After coming to a conclusion. helps "direct and mold discussions by posing strategic questions and helping students build on each others' ideas" (Underwood & Wald. opinion seeker. an instructor can encourage the development of dialectic reasoning by requiring students to argue both [or more] sides of an issue" (p. Give them conflicting information that they must think their way through. identifying biases and errors in thinking. misstatement of facts. p. •Use Writing Assignments: Wade sees the use of writing as fundamental to developing critical thinking skills. 18 ). and examining ethical implications of the content. Four observer groups are formed with the functions of determining what roles are being played by whom. and . Must look for biases. Characteristics of Critcal Thinkers Rationality We are thinking critically when we •rely on reason rather than emotion. and •are concerned more with finding the best explanation than being right analyzing apparent confusion and asking questions. students must identify the different viewpoints of each participant in the dialogue. Each group must decide which view is the most reasonable. •Ambiguity: Strohm & Baukus advocate producing much ambiguity in the classroom. and follow evidence where it leads. o Spontaneous Group Dialogue: One group of students are assigned roles to play in a discussion (such as leader. •Dialogues: Robertson and Rane-Szostak (1996) identify two methods of stimulating useful discussions in the classroom: o Written dialogues: Give students written dialogues to analyze. 1995. but rather.

or point of view. . Honesty We are thinking critically when we recognize emotional impulses. meticulous. comprehensive. not passive. •Critical thinkers are by nature skeptical. and •avoid snap judgments. Discipline We are thinking critically when we •are precise. Judgment We are thinking critically when we •recognize the relevance and/or merit of alternative assumptions and perspectives •recognize the extent and weight of evidence In sum.•recognize our own assumptions. is simpler. model. •Critical thinkers are active. and exhaustive •resist manipulation and irrational appeals. selfish motives. •remain open to alternative interpretations •accept a new explanation. nefarious purposes. prejudices. They ask questions and analyze. or has fewer inconsistencies or covers more data •accept new priorities in response to a reevaluation of the evidence or reassessment of our real interests. Open-mindedness We are thinking critically when we •evaluate all reasonable inferences •consider a variety of possible viewpoints or perspectives. or paradigm because it explains the evidence better. or other modes of self-deception. biases. They consciously apply tactics and strategies to uncover meaning or assure their understanding. They approach texts with the same skepticism and suspicion as they approach spoken remarks. and •do not reject unpopular views out of hand.

etc.•Critical thinkers do not take an egotistical view of the world. •They fail to see linkages and complexities. some educators believe that schools should focus on teaching their students critical thinking skills and cultivation of intellectual traits. explain. acting on. . Given research in cognitive psychology. •They take their own perspective as the only sensible one. •They see things in black and white. self-deception. By contrast. passive. •They see questions as yes or no with no subtleties. evaluate. thereby decreasing the risk of adopting. or thinking with. as either-or. distortion. and restructure their thinking. •They fail to recognize related elements. They are willing to challenge their beliefs and investigate competing evidence. bias. mistakes can happen due to a thinker's inability to apply the methods or because of character traits such as egocentrism. even with knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning. non-critical thinkers take a simplistic view of the world. •They take their goal as the only valid one. a false belief. Facts may be facts. Critical thinking includes identification of prejudice. Non-critical thinkers take an egotistical view of the world •They take their facts as the only relevant ones. rather than recognizing a variety of possible understanding. However. Critical thinking enables us to recognize a wide range of subjective analyses of otherwise objective data. and to evaluate how well each analysis might meet our needs. but how we interpret them may vary. misinformation. Importance Critical thinking is considered important in the academic fields because it enables one to analyze. They are open to new ideas and perspectives. propaganda.

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