A Guide to Critical Thinking


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The quality of our lives depends on the quality of our thoughts. Critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it. Excellence in thought can be cultivated and fertilized with creativity.

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A Guide to Critical Thinking

  1. 1. A Guide to Critical Thinking Olivier Serrat 2013 The views expressed in this presentation are the views of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank, or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this presentation and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. The countries listed in this presentation do not imply any view on ADB's part as to sovereignty or independent status or necessarily conform to ADB's terminology.
  2. 2. The Idea of Critical Thinking Critical thinking, by its very nature, demands recognition that all questioning • Stems from a point of view and occurs within a frame of reference; • Proceeds from some purpose—presumably, to answer a question or solve a problem; • Relies on concepts and ideas that rest in turn on assumptions; • Has an informational base that must be interpreted; and • Draws on basic inferences to make conclusions that have implications and consequences.
  3. 3. Some Definitions Critical thinking is • The purposeful, reflective, reasonable, and selfregulatory process of thinking out possible explanations for findings and outcomes and determining how compatible the explanations are, with attention to the evidential, conceptual, methodological, "criteriological," and contextual considerations upon which judgment is based. • The art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with the intention of improving it. • Discerning judgment. Knowledge will not come from teaching but from questioning. —Socrates
  4. 4. Dimensions of Critical Thinking Implications and Consequences Interpretation and Inference Question at Hand Dimensions of Critical Thinking Point of View and Frame of Reference Purpose of Thinking Concepts and Ideas Information Assumptions
  5. 5. Taking Charge of Life … A critical thinker • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely; • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively; • Thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing as need be assumptions as well as implications and consequences from interpretations and inferences; • Comes to well-reasoned conclusions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards; and • Communicates effectively with others to figure out solutions to problems.
  6. 6. … in Steps … The essential steps of the scientific method, each subject to peer review for possible mistakes, are to • Define the question or problem; • Conduct background research, including data and information gathering and literature review; • Form hypotheses ("educated guesses"); • Test the hypotheses through experimentation. • Analyze and interpret data and information to draw a conclusion; and • Verify and re-verify the conclusion (and then communicate results).
  7. 7. … and With Creativity Critical thinking is analytical, judgmental, and selective: when you are thinking critically, you are making choices. Creative (or lateral) thinking is generative, nonjudgmental, and expansive: when you are thinking creatively, you are generating ideas. Critical thinking is a quite valuable part of thinking but it is inadequate in the absence of the possibility systems that creative thinking generates. For superior outcomes, whole-brain thinking with multiple intelligences is needed.
  8. 8. Further Reading • ADB. 2009. Learning from Evaluation. Manila. Available: www.adb.org/publications/learning-evaluation • ADB. 2009. Asking Effective Questions. Manila. Available: www.adb.org/publications/asking-effective-questions • ADB. 2009. Harnessing Creativity and Innovation in the Workplace. Manila. Available: www.adb.org/publications/harnessing-creativity-andinnovation-workplace • ADB. 2011. Critical Thinking. Manila. Available: www.adb.org/publications/critical-thinking
  9. 9. Olivier Serrat Principal Knowledge Management Specialist Regional and Sustainable Development Department Asian Development Bank knowledge@adb.org www.adb.org/knowledge-management www.facebook.com/adbknowledgesolutions www.scribd.com/knowledge_solutions www.twitter.com/adbknowledge