What is Critical Thinking?There are several definitions of critical thinking: Wikipedia tells us, “Critical thinking is the process of thinking that questions assumptions. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is true, false; sometimes true, or partly true.” The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking says, “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” While the authors of the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, a psychological test of critical thinking ability, explains it as, “a composite of attitudes, knowledge and skills.”The definition that I like best comes from Dr. Joe Lau and Dr.Jonathan Chan on their OpenCourseWare website that states:
Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly andrationally. It includes the ability to engage inreflective and independent thinking. Someone withcritical thinking skills is able to do the following : understand the logical connections between ideas identify, construct and evaluate arguments detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning solve problems systematically identify the relevance and importance of ideas reflect on the justification of ones own beliefs and values How do we teach our students to think critically?
QuestionThe Greek philosopher Socrates (469 BC–399 BC) isgenerally credited as the father of Westernphilosophy and critical thinking. As a teacher, hepresented probing questions to his students todetermine whether claims to knowledge based onauthority could be rationally justified with clarityand logical consistency(Wikipedia). Using this Socratictradition of questioning in our classroomdiscussions provides a rich environment that willnurture critical thinking.
PredictEncouraging students to predict what will happen whenreading fiction or non-fiction material or working onmath or science problems will cultivate their capabilityto think critically. Having them defend their predictionswill foster their ability to find problems or discrepanciesin their thought process.Utilizing the components of scientific method of inquiry:Define a question; Gather information (observe); Forma hypothesis; Test the hypothesis by performing anexperiment and collecting data in a reproduciblemanner; Analyze the data; Interpret the data and drawconclusions that serve as a starting point for newhypothesis (Wikipedia) will lead to critical thinking.
PracticeCritical thinking is a skill we all have thecapacity for, yet many of us do not utilize thisability. It is easy and comfortable for us to letothers figure it out and tell us what to do. Aseducators it is our responsibility to ensure thatour students not only have the power to thinkcritically, but are comfortable doing so. Thistakes practice and should be practiced everyday. From simple discussions about literatureor classroom rules to complex scientifictheories, we should challenge our students toutilize critical thinking in all their activities.
Why is Critical Thinking Important? Critical thinking is a skill that will be required in almost any career path that our students may follow. We are preparing our students to be successful in careers that don’t even exist yet. The future technological, global workplace will need employees that have the ability to adapt to a changing environment, to resolve problems as they arise while considering long term effects. Critical thinking will be vital to succeed in this setting.
References OpenCourseWare on critical thinking, logic, and creativity. Retrieved from http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/critical/ct.php Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking#Classroom_applications