Critical thinking what it is and why it counts


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Critical thinking what it is and why it counts

  1. 1. Critical Thinking:What It Is and Why It Counts Peter A. Facione The late George Carlin worked weakness, public health problems, crime,“critical thinking” into one of his comedic and avoidable poverty? Perhaps thatmonologue rants on the perils of trusting our realization, along with its obviouslives and fortunes to the decision-making of advantages for high level strategic decisionpeople who were gullible, uninformed, and making, is what lead the Chairman of theunreflective. Had he lived to experience the Joint Chiefs of Staff to comment on criticaleconomic collapse of 2008 and 2009, he thinking in his commencement address to awould have surely added more to his graduating class of military officers.caustic but accurate assessments regardinghow failing to anticipate the consequencesof one’s decisions often leads to disastrousresults not only for the decision maker, butfor many other people as well. After years of viewing highereducation as more of a private good whichbenefits only the student, we are againbeginning to appreciate higher education asbeing also a public good which benefitssociety. Is it not a wiser social policy toinvest in the education of the futureworkforce, rather than to suffer the financial Teach people to make goodcosts and endure the fiscal and social decisions and you equip them to improveburdens associated with economic © 1992, 1998, 2004, 2006, 2011 Peter A. Facione, Measured Reasons and The California Academic Press, Millbrae, CA Permission to Reprint for Non-Commercial UsesThis essay is published by Insight Assessment. The original appeared in 1992 and has been updated many times over the years.Although the author and the publisher hold all copyrights, in the interests of advancing education and improving critical thinking,permission is hereby granted for paper, electronic, or digital copies to be made in unlimited amounts, provided that their distributionis free of charge provided that whenever material from this essay is cited or extracted in whole or in part that appropriate citation ismade by indicating this essay’s full title, author’s name, publisher’s name, year, and page or pages where it appears in this edition.For permission for reprints intended for sale contact Insight Assessment by phone at 650-697-5628 or by email ISBN 13: 978-1-891557-07-1.To support the expenses of making this essay available free for non-commercial uses, the publisher has inserted information aboutits critical thinking testing instruments. These tools assess the critical thinking skills and habits of mind described in this essay. Tobuild critical thinking skills and habits of mind use Dr. Facione’s newest book THINK_Critically, Pearson Education 2011.
  2. 2. their own futures and become contributing commonly used concept contains? Takemembers of society, rather than burdens on care, though, we would not want to makesociety. Becoming educated and practicing the definition so broad that all moviegood judgment does not absolutely violence would be automatically “offensive.”guarantee a life of happiness, virtue, or And check to be sure your way of definingeconomic success, but it surely offers a “offensive violence” fits with how the rest ofbetter chance at those things. And it is the people who know and use Englishclearly better than enduring the would understand the term. Otherwise theyconsequences of making bad decisions and will not be able to understand what youbetter than burdening friends, family, and all mean when you use that expression.the rest of us with the unwanted andavoidable consequences of those poor Did you come up with a definitionchoices. that works? How do you know?Defining “Critical Thinking” What you just did with the expression “offensive violence” is very much Yes, surely we have all heard the same as what had to be done with thebusiness executives, policy makers, civic expression “critical thinking.” At one levelleaders, and educators talking about critical we all know what “critical thinking” means —thinking. At times we found ourselves it means good thinking, almost the oppositewondering exactly what critical thinking was of illogical, irrational, thinking. But when weand why is it considered so useful and test our understanding further, we run intoimportant. This essay takes a deeper look at questions. For example, is critical thinkingthese questions. the same as creative thinking, are they different, or is one part of the other? How But, rather than beginning with an do critical thinking and native intelligence orabstract definition – as if critical thinking scholastic aptitude relate? Does criticalwere about memorization, which is not the thinking focus on the subject matter orcase – give this thought experiment a try: content that you know or on the process youImagine you have been invited to a movie use when you reason about that content?by a friend. But it’s not a movie you want tosee. So, your friend asks you why. You It might not hurt at all if you formedgive your honest reason. The movie some tentative preliminary ideas about theoffends your sense of decency. Your friend questions we just raised. We humans learnasks you to clarify your reason by explaining better when we stop frequently to reflect,what bothers you about the film. You reply rather than just plowing from the top of thethat it is not the language used or the page to the bottom without coming up forsexuality portrayed, but you find the air.violence in the film offensive. Fine. So how would you propose we go about defining “critical thinking.” You do Sure, that should be a good enough not really want a definition plopped on theanswer. But suppose your friend, perhaps page for you to memorize, do you? Thatbeing a bit philosophically inclined or simply would be silly, almost counterproductive.curious or argumentative, pursues the The goal here is to help you sharpen yourmatter further by asking you to define what critical thinking skills and cultivate youryou mean by “offensive violence.” critical thinking spirit. While memorization definitely has many valuable uses, fostering Take a minute and give it a try. critical thinking is not among them. So, let’sHow would you define “offensive violence” look back at what you might have done toas it applies to movies? Can you write a define “offensive violence” and see if wecharacterization which captures what this can learn from you. Did you think of someFacione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 2
  3. 3. scenes in movies that were offensively when a person or a group of people decidesviolent, and did you contrast them with other important matters without pausing first toscenes that were either not violent or not think things through.offensively violent? If you did, good. That isone (but not the only) way to approach theproblem. Technically it is called findingparadigm cases. Happily, like many thingsin life, you do not have to know its name todo it well. Back to critical thinking – let’s askourselves to come up with possibleexamples of strong critical thinking? How Expert Opinionabout the adroit and clever questioning ofSocrates or a good attorney or interviewer? An international group of expertsOr, what about the clever investigative was asked to try to form a consensus aboutapproaches used by police detectives and the meaning of critical thinking.1 One of thecrime scene analysts? Would we not want first things they did was to ask themselvesto also include people working together to the question: Who are the best criticalsolve a problem as they consider and thinkers we know and what is it about themdiscuss their options? How about someone that leads us to consider them the best?who is good at listening to all sides of a So, who are the best critical thinkers youdispute, considering all the facts, and then know? Why do you think they are strongdeciding what is relevant and what is not, critical thinkers? Can you draw from thoseand then rendering a thoughtful judgment? examples a description that is moreAnd maybe too, someone who is able to abstract? For example, consider effectivesummarize complex ideas clearly with trial lawyers, apart from how they conductfairness to all sides, or a person who can their personal lives or whether their client iscome up with the most coherent and really guilty or innocent, just look at how thejustifiable explanation of what a passage of lawyers develop their cases in court. Theywritten material means? Or the person who use reasons to try to convince the judge andcan readily devise sensible alternatives to jury of their client’s claim to guilt orexplore, but who does not become innocence. They offer evidence anddefensive about abandoning them if they do evaluate the significance of the evidencenot work? And also the person who can presented by the opposition lawyers. Theyexplain exactly how a particular conclusion interpret testimony. They analyze andwas reached, or why certain criteria apply? evaluate the arguments advanced by the other side. Or, considering the concept ofcritical thinking from the opposite direction,we might ask what the consequences of 1 Many useful characterizations of critical thinking by notedfailing to use our critical thinking might be. theorists and teachers are captured in Conversations with Critical Thinkers , John Esterle and Dan Clurman (Eds.).Imagine for a moment what could happen Whitman Institute. San Francisco, CA. 1993Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 3
  4. 4. Now, consider the example of the Good. What can we learn aboutteam of people trying to solve a problem. critical thinking from such a case? MaybeThe team members, unlike the courtroom’s more than we can learn from just looking atadversarial situation, try to collaborate. The the easy cases. For when a case is on themembers of an effective team do not borderline, it forces us to make importantcompete against each other. They work in distinctions. It confronts us and demands aconcert, like colleagues, for the common decision: In or Out! And not just that, butgoal. Unless they solve the problem, none why? So, our friend who is fair-mindedof them has won. When they find the way about some things, but close-minded aboutto solve the problem, they all have won. So, others, what to do? Let’s take the parts wefrom analyzing just two examples we can approve of because they seem to us togeneralize something very important: critical contribute to acting rationally and logicallythinking is thinking that has a purpose and include those in the concept of critical(proving a point, interpreting what thinking, and let’s take the parts that worksomething means, solving a problem), but against reason, that close the mind to thecritical thinking can be a collaborative, possibility of new and relevant information,noncompetitive endeavor. And, by the way, that blindly deny even the possibility that theeven lawyers collaborate. They can work other side might have merit, and call thosetogether on a common defense or a joint poor, counterproductive, or uncriticalprosecution, and they can also cooperate thinking.with each other to get at the truth so thatjustice is done. We will come to a more precisedefinition of critical thinking soon enough.But first, there is something else we canlearn from paradigm examples. When youwere thinking about “offensive violence” didyou come up with any examples that weretough to classify? Borderline cases, as itwere — an example that one person mightconsider offensive but another mightreasonably regard as non-offensive. Yes,well, so did we. This is going to happenwith all abstract concepts. It happens withthe concept of critical thinking as well. 2There are people of whom we would say, oncertain occasions this person is a good Now, formulate a list of cases —thinker, clear, logical, thoughtful, attentive to people that are clearly strong criticalthe facts, open to alternatives, but, wow, at thinkers and clearly weak critical thinkersother times, look out! When you get this and some who are on the borderline.person on such-and-such a topic, well it is Considering all those cases, what is it aboutall over then. You have pushed some kind them that led you to decide which wereof button and the person does not want to which? Suggestion: What can the stronghear what anybody else has to say. The critical thinkers do (what mental abilities doperson’s mind is made up ahead of time. they have), that the weak critical thinkersNew facts are pushed aside. No other point have trouble doing? What skills orof view is tolerated. approaches do the strong critical thinkers Do you know any people that might 2 Spoken by the Vampire Marius in Ann Rice’s book Thefit that general description? Vampire Lestat Ballantine Books. New York, NY. 1985.Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 4
  5. 5. habitually seem to exhibit which the weak includes the sub-skills of categorization,critical thinkers seem not to possess? decoding significance, and clarifying meaning. Can you think of examples of interpretation? How about recognizing a problem and describing it without bias? How about reading a person’s intentions in the expression on her face; distinguishing a main idea from subordinate ideas in a text; constructing a tentative categorization or way of organizing something you are studying; paraphrasing someone’s ideas in your own words; or, clarifying what a sign, chart or graph means? What about identifying an author’s purpose, theme, or point of view? How about what you did above when you clarified what “offensive violence” meant? Again from the experts: analysis isCore Critical Thinking Skills “to identify the intended and actual inferential relationships among statements, Above we suggested you look for a questions, concepts, descriptions, or otherlist of mental skills and habits of mind, the forms of representation intended to expressexperts, when faced with the same problem belief, judgment, experiences, reasons,you are working on, refer to their lists as information, or opinions.” The expertsincluding cognitive skills and dispositions. include examining ideas, detecting arguments, and analyzing arguments as As to the cognitive skills here is what sub-skills of analysis. Again, can you comethe experts include as being at the very core up with some examples of analysis? Whatof critical thinking: interpretation, analysis, about identifying the similarities andevaluation, inference, explanation, and self- differences between two approaches to theregulation. (We will get to the dispositions solution of a given problem? What aboutin just a second.) Did any of these words or picking out the main claim made in aideas come up when you tried to newspaper editorial and tracing back thecharacterize the cognitive skills — mental various reasons the editor offers in supportabilities — involved in critical thinking? of that claim? Or, what about identifying unstated assumptions; constructing a way Quoting from the consensus to represent a main conclusion and thestatement of the national panel of experts: various reasons given to support or criticizeinterpretation is “to comprehend and it; sketching the relationship of sentences orexpress the meaning or significance of a paragraphs to each other and to the mainwide variety of experiences, situations, data,events, judgments, conventions, beliefs, Education at The Pennsylvania State Universityrules, procedures, or criteria.”3 Interpretation undertook a study of 200 policy-makers, employers, and faculty members from two-year and four-year colleges to determine what this group took to be the3 The findings of expert consensus cited or reported core critical thinking skills and habits of mind. Thein this essay are published in Critical Thinking: A Pennsylvania State University Study, under theStatement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of direction of Dr. Elizabeth Jones, was funded by theEducational Assessment and Instruction. Peter A. US Department of Education Office of EducationalFacione, principle investigator, The California Research and Instruction. The Penn State studyAcademic Press, Millbrae, CA, 1990. (ERIC ED 315 findings, published in 1994, confirmed the expert423). In 1993/94 the Center for the Study of Higher consensus described in this paper.Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 5
  6. 6. purpose of the passage? What about statements, principles, evidence,graphically organizing this essay, in your judgments, beliefs, opinions, concepts,own way, knowing that its purpose is to give descriptions, questions, or other forms ofa preliminary idea about what critical representation.” As sub-skills of inferencethinking means? the experts list querying evidence, conjecturing alternatives, and drawing The experts define evaluation as conclusions. Can you think of somemeaning “to assess the credibility of examples of inference? You might suggeststatements or other representations which things like seeing the implications of theare accounts or descriptions of a person’s position someone is advocating, or drawingperception, experience, situation, judgment, out or constructing meaning from thebelief, or opinion; and to assess the logical elements in a reading. You may suggeststrength of the actual or intended inferential that predicting what will happen next basedrelationships among statements, what is known about the forces at work in adescriptions, questions or other forms of given situation, or formulating a synthesis ofrepresentation.” Your examples? How related ideas into a coherent perspective.about judging an author’s or speaker’s How about this: after judging that it wouldcredibility, comparing the strengths and be useful to you to resolve a givenweaknesses of alternative interpretations, uncertainty, developing a workable plan todetermining the credibility of a source of gather that information? Or, when facedinformation, judging if two statements with a problem, developing a set of optionscontradict each other, or judging if the for addressing it. What about, conducting aevidence at hand supports the conclusion controlled experiment scientifically andbeing drawn? Among the examples the applying the proper statistical methods toexperts propose are these: “recognizing the attempt to confirm or disconfirm anfactors which make a person a credible empirical hypothesis?witness regarding a given event or acredible authority with regard to a given Beyond being able to interpret,topic,” “judging if an argument’s conclusion analyze, evaluate and infer, strong criticalfollows either with certainty or with a high thinkers can do two more things. They canlevel of confidence from its premises,” explain what they think and how they“judging the logical strength of arguments arrived at that judgment. And, they canbased on hypothetical situations,” “judging if apply their powers of critical thinking toa given argument is relevant or applicable themselves and improve on their previousor has implications for the situation at hand.” opinions. These two skills are called “explanation” and “self-regulation.” Do the people you regard as strongcritical thinkers have the three cognitive The experts define explanation asskills described so far? Are they good at being able to present in a cogent andinterpretation, analysis, and evaluation? coherent way the results of one’s reasoning.What about the next three? And your This means to be able to give someone aexamples of weak critical thinkers, are they full look at the big picture: both “to state andlacking in these cognitive skills? All, or just to justify that reasoning in terms of thesome? evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, and contextual considerations To the experts inference means “to upon which one’s results were based; andidentify and secure elements needed to to present one’s reasoning in the form ofdraw reasonable conclusions; to form cogent arguments.” The sub-skills underconjectures and hypotheses; to consider explanation are describing methods andrelevant information and to educe the results, justifying procedures, proposing andconsequences flowing from data, defending with good reasons one’s causalFacione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 6
  7. 7. and conceptual explanations of events or The experts define self-regulationpoints of view, and presenting full and well- to mean “self-consciously to monitor one’sreasoned, arguments in the context of cognitive activities, the elements used inseeking the best understandings possible. those activities, and the results educed,Your examples first, please... Here are particularly by applying skills in analysis,some more: to construct a chart which and evaluation to one’s own inferentialorganizes one’s findings, to write down for judgments with a view toward questioning,future reference your current thinking on confirming, validating, or correcting eithersome important and complex matter, to cite one’s reasoning or one’s results.” The twothe standards and contextual factors used sub-skills here are self-examination andto judge the quality of an interpretation of a self-correction. Examples? Easy — totext, to state research results and describe examine your views on a controversial issuethe methods and criteria used to achieve with sensitivity to the possible influences ofthose results, to appeal to established your personal biases or self-interest, tocriteria as a way of showing the check yourself when listening to a speakerreasonableness of a given judgment, to in order to be sure you are understandingdesign a graphic display which accurately what the person is really saying withoutrepresents the subordinate and super- introducing your own ideas, to monitor howordinate relationship among concepts or well you seem to be understanding orideas, to cite the evidence that led you to comprehending what you are reading oraccept or reject an author’s position on an experiencing, to remind yourself to separateissue, to list the factors that were your personal opinions and assumptionsconsidered in assigning a final course from those of the author of a passage orgrade. text, to double check yourself by recalculating the figures, to vary your Maybe the most remarkable reading speed and method mindful of thecognitive skill of all, however, is this next type of material and your purpose forone. This one is remarkable because it reading, to reconsider your interpretation orallows strong critical thinkers to improve judgment in view of further analysis of thetheir own thinking. In a sense this is critical facts of the case, to revise your answers inthinking applied to itself. Because of that view of the errors you discovered in yoursome people want to call this “meta- work, to change your conclusion in view ofcognition,” meaning it raises thinking to the realization that you had misjudged theanother level. But “another level” really importance of certain factors when comingdoes not fully capture it, because at that to your earlier decision. 4next level up what self-regulation does islook back at all the dimensions of criticalthinking and double check itself. Self-regulation is like a recursive function inmathematical terms, which means it canapply to everything, including itself. Youcan monitor and correct an interpretation 4 The California Critical Thinking Skills Test, and theyou offered. You can examine and correct Test of Everyday Reasoning, the Health Sciencean inference you have drawn. You can Reasoning Test, the Military and Defense Reasoningreview and reformulate one of your own Profile, The Business Critical Thinking Skills Test,explanations. You can even examine and and the Legal Studies Reasoning Profile along withcorrect your ability to examine and correct other testing instruments authored by Dr. Facione andyourself! How? It is as simple as stepping his research team for people in K-12, college, and graduate / professional work target the core criticalback and saying to yourself, “How am I thinking skills identified here. These instruments aredoing? Have I missed anything important? published in English and several authorizedLet me double check before I go further.” translations exclusively by Insight Assessment.Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 7
  8. 8. The Delphi Research Method published under the title Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for The panel of experts we keep Purposes of Educational Assessment andreferring to included forty-six men and Instruction. (The California Academicwomen from throughout the United States Press, Millbrae, CA, 1990). You mayand Canada. They represented many download the executive summary of thatdifferent scholarly disciplines in the report free. Visithumanities, sciences, social sciences, andeducation. They participated in a research http://www.insightassessment.comproject that lasted two years and wasconducted on behalf of the American You might be wondering how such aPhilosophical Association. Their work was large group of people could collaborate onFacione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 8
  9. 9. this project over that long a period of time Wait a minute! These are all well-and at those distances and still come to known experts, so what do you do if peopleconsensus. Good question. Remember disagree? And what about the possiblewe’re talking the days before e-mail. influence of a big name person? Good points. First, the central investigator takes Not only did the group have to rely precautions to remove names so that theon snail mail during their two-year panelists are not told who said what. Theycollaboration; they also relied on a method know who is on the panel, of course. Butof interaction, known as the Delphi Method, that is as far as it goes. After that eachwhich was developed precisely to enable experts’ argument has to stand on its ownexperts to think effectively about something merits. Second, an expert is only as goodover large spans of distance and time. In as the arguments she or he gives. So, thethe Delphi Method a central investigator central investigator summarizes theorganizes the group and feeds them an arguments and lets the panelists decide ifinitial question. [In this case it had to do they accept them or not. When consensuswith how college level critical thinking appears to be at hand, the centralshould be defined so that people teaching at investigator proposes this and asks ifthat level would know which skills and people agree. If not, then points ofdispositions to cultivate in their students.] disagreement among the experts areThe central investigator receives all registered. We want to share with you oneresponses, summarizes them, and transmits important example of each of these. Firstthem back to all the panelists for reactions, we will describe the expert consensus viewreplies, and additional questions. of the dispositions which are absolutely vital to strong critical thinking. Then we will note a point of separation among the experts.Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 9
  10. 10. The Disposition Toward Critical them grow weak with lack of practice. ButThinking dancers get tired. And they surrender to the stiffness of age or the fear of injury. In the What kind of a person would be apt case of critical thinking skills, we mightto use their critical thinking skills? The argue that not using them once you haveexperts poetically describe such a person them is hard to imagine. It’s hard toas having “a critical spirit.” Having a critical imagine a person deciding not to think.spirit does not mean that the person isalways negative and hypercritical of Considered as a form of thoughtfuleveryone and everything. judgment or reflective decision-making, in a very real sense critical thinking is pervasive. There is hardly a time or a The experts use the metaphorical place where it would not seem to be ofphrase critical spirit in a positive sense. By potential value. As long as people haveit they mean “a probing inquisitiveness, a purposes in mind and wish to judge how tokeenness of mind, a zealous dedication accomplish them, as long as people wonderto reason, and a hunger or eagerness for what is true and what is not, what to believereliable information.” and what to reject, strong critical thinking is going to be necessary. Almost sounds like Supreme CourtJustice Sandra Day O’Connor or Sherlock And yet weird things happen, so it isHolmes The kind of person being described probably true that some people might lethere is the kind that always wants to ask their thinking skills grow dull. It is easier to“Why?” or “How?” or “What happens if?”. imagine times when people are just tooThe one key difference, however, is that in tired, too lax, or too frightened. But imaginefiction Sherlock always solves the mystery, it you can, Young Skywalker, so there haswhile in the real world there is no guarantee.Critical thinking is about how you approachproblems, questions, issues. It is the bestway we know of to get to the truth. But!There still are no guarantees — no answersin the back of the book of real life. Doesthis characterization, that strong criticalthinkers possess a “critical spirit, a probinginquisitiveness, a keenness of mind...” fitwith your examples of people you would callstrong critical thinkers? to be more to critical thinking than just the But, you might say, I know people list of cognitive skills. Human beings arewho have skills but do not use them. We more than thinking machines. And thiscannot call someone a strong critical thinker brings us back to those all-importantjust because she or he has these cognitive attitudes which the experts calledskills, however important they might be, “dispositions.”because what if they just do not bother toapply them? The experts were persuaded that critical thinking is a pervasive and One response is to say that it is hard purposeful human phenomenon. The idealto imagine an accomplished dancer who critical thinker can be characterized notnever dances. After working to develop merely by her or his cognitive skills but alsothose skills it seems such a shame to let by how she or he approaches life and living in general. This is a bold claim. CriticalFacione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 10
  11. 11. thinking goes way beyond the classroom. prudent people would want to ask toIn fact, many of the experts fear that some manage their investments!of the things people experience in schoolare actually harmful to the development and The experts went beyondcultivation of strong critical thinking. Critical approaches to life and living in general tothinking came before schooling was ever emphasize that strong critical thinkers caninvented, it lies at the very roots of also be described in terms of how theycivilization. It is a corner stone in the approach specific issues, questions, orjourney human kind is taking from beastly problems. The experts said you would findsavagery to global sensitivity. Consider these sorts of characteristics:what life would be like without the things onthis list and we think you will understand. * clarity in stating the question or concern,The approaches to life and living which * orderliness in working with complexity,characterize critical thinking include: * diligence in seeking relevant information, * reasonableness in selecting and applying criteria,* inquisitiveness with regard to a wide range of * care in focusing attention on the concern at hand, issues, * persistence though difficulties are encountered,* concern to become and remain well-informed, * precision to the degree permitted by the subject and* alertness to opportunities to use critical thinking, the circumstances.* trust in the processes of reasoned inquiry,* self-confidence in one’s own abilities to reason, So, how would a weak critical thinker* open-mindedness regarding divergent world views, approach specific problems or issues?* flexibility in considering alternatives and opinions Obviously, by being muddle-headed about* understanding of the opinions of other people, what he or she is doing, disorganized and* fair-mindedness in appraising reasoning, overly simplistic, spotty about getting the* honesty in facing one’s own biases, prejudices, facts, apt to apply unreasonable criteria, stereotypes, or egocentric tendencies, easily distracted, ready to give up at the* prudence in suspending, making or altering least hint of difficulty, intent on a solution judgments, that is more detailed than is possible, or* willingness to reconsider and revise views where being satisfied with an overly generalized honest reflection suggests that change is and uselessly vague response. Remind you warranted. of anyone you know? What would someone be like who Someone positively disposed towardlacked those dispositions? using critical thinking would probably agree with statements like these: It might be someone who does notcare about much of anything, is not “I hate talk shows where people shout theirinterested in the facts, prefers not to think, opinions but never give any reasons at all.”mistrusts reasoning as a way of finding “Figuring out what people really mean by what they say is important to me."things out or solving problems, holds his or “I always do better in jobs where Imher own reasoning abilities in low esteem, is expected to think things out for myself.”close-minded, inflexible, insensitive, cannot “I hold off making decisions until I haveunderstand what others think, is unfair when thought through my options.” “Rather than relying on someone elsesit comes to judging the quality of arguments, notes, I prefer to read the material myself.”denies his or her own biases, jumps to “I try to see the merit in another’s opinion,conclusions or delays too long in making even if I reject it later.”judgments, and never is willing to “Even if a problem is tougher than Ireconsider an opinion. Not someone expected, I will keep working on it.” “Making intelligent decisions is more important than winning arguments.”Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 11
  12. 12. place of “is a strong critical thinker” or “has A person disposed to be averse or strong critical thinking skills.” This is nothostile toward using critical thinking only a helpful conversational shortcut, itwould probably disagree with the suggests that to many people “criticalstatements above but be likely to agree with thinker” has a laudatory sense. The wordthese: can be used to praise someone at the same time that it identifies the person, as in “Look “I prefer jobs where the supervisor says at that play. That’s what I call a defender!”exactly what to do and exactly how to do it." “No matter how complex the problem, youcan bet there will be a simple solution.” “If we were compelled to make a "I dont waste time looking things up." choice between these personal “I hate when teachers discuss problems attributes and knowledge aboutinstead of just giving the answers.” “If my belief is truly sincere, evidence to the the principles of logicalcontrary is irrelevant." reasoning together with some “Selling an idea is like selling cars, you say degree of technical skill inwhatever works." manipulating special logical processes, we should decide for We used the expression “strong the former.”critical thinker” to contrast with theexpression “weak critical thinker.” But you John Dewey, How We Think, 1909. Republished aswill find people who drop the adjective How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educational Process. D. C.“strong” (or “good”) and just say that Heath Publishing. Lexington, MA. 1933.someone is a “critical thinker” or not. It islike saying that a soccer (European“football”) player is a “defender” or “not a We said the experts did not come todefender”, instead of saying the player’s full agreement on something. That thingskills at playing defense are strong or weak. has to do with the concept of a “strongPeople use the word “defender” in place of critical thinker.” This time the emphasis isthe phrase “is good at playing defense.” on the word “good” because of a crucialSimilarly, people use “critical thinker” inFacione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 12
  13. 13. ambiguity it contains. A person can be would prefer to think that critical thinking, bygood at critical thinking, meaning that the its very nature, is inconsistent with the kindsperson can have the appropriate of unethical and deliberatelydispositions and be adept at the cognitive counterproductive examples given. Theyprocesses, while still not being a good (in find it hard to imagine a person who wasthe moral sense) critical thinker. For good at critical thinking not also being goodexample, a person can be adept at in the broader personal and social sense.developing arguments and then, unethically, In other words, if a person were “really” ause this skill to mislead and exploit a gullible “strong critical thinker” in the proceduralperson, perpetrate a fraud, or deliberately sense and if the person had all theconfuse and confound, and frustrate a appropriate dispositions, then the personproject. simply would not do those kinds of exploitive and aggravating things. The experts were faced with aninteresting problem. Some, a minority,This self-rating form also appears in Chapter 3 of Think Critically, Pearson Education, 2011. For a fuller and morerobust measure of critical thinking dispositions see the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) byFacione and Facione, published in 1992, by Insight Assessment.Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 13
  14. 14. The large majority, however, hold “Thinking” in Popular Culturethe opposite judgment. They are firm in theview that strong critical thinking has nothing We have said so many good thingsto do with any given set of cultural beliefs, about critical thinking that you might havereligious tenants, ethical values, social the impression that “critical thinking” andmores, political orientations, or orthodoxies “good thinking” mean the same thing. Butof any kind. Rather, the commitment one that is not what the experts said. They seemakes as a strong critical thinker is to critical thinking as making up part of whatalways seek the truth with objectivity, we mean by good thinking, but not as beingintegrity, and fair-mindedness. The majority the only kind of good thinking. For example,of experts maintain that critical thinking they would have included creative thinkingconceived of as we have described it above, as part of good, regrettably, not inconsistent with abusingone’s knowledge, skills, or power. There Creative or innovative thinking is thehave been people with superior thinking kind of thinking that leads to new insights,skills and strong habits of mind who, novel approaches, fresh perspectives,unfortunately, have used their talents for whole new ways of understanding andruthless, horrific, and immoral purposes. conceiving of things. The products ofWould that it were not so! Would that creative thought include some obviousexperience, knowledge, mental horsepower, things like music, poetry, dance, dramaticand ethical virtue were all one and the literature, inventions, and technicalsame. But from the time of Socrates, if not innovations. But there are some not sothousands of years before that, humans obvious examples as well, such as ways ofhave known that many of us have one or putting a question that expand the horizonsmore of these without having the full set. of possible solutions, or ways of conceiving of relationships which challenge Any tool, any approach to situations, presuppositions and lead one to see thecan go either way, ethically speaking, world in imaginative and different ways.depending on the character, integrity, andprinciples of the persons who possess The experts working on the conceptthem. So, in the final analysis the majority of critical thinking wisely left open the entireof experts maintained that we cannot say a question of what the other forms goodperson is not thinking critically simply thinking might take. Creative thinking isbecause we disapprove ethically of what the only one example. There is a kind ofperson is doing. The majority concluded purposive, kinetic thinking that instantlythat, “what ‘critical thinking’ means, why it is coordinates movement and intention as, forof value, and the ethics of its use are best example, when an athlete dribbles a soccerregarded as three distinct concerns.” ball down the field during a match. There is a kind of meditative thinking which may Perhaps this realization forms part of lead to a sense of inner peace or tothe basis for why people these days are profound insights about human existence.demanding a broader range of learning In contrast, there is a kind of hyper-alert,outcomes from our schools and colleges. instinctive thinking needed by soldiers in“Knowledge and skills,” the staples of the battle. In the context of popular culture oneeducational philosophy of the mid-twentieth finds people proposing all kinds of thinkingcentury, are not sufficient. We must look to or this-kind of intelligence or that-kind ofa broader set of outcomes including habits intelligence. Some times it is hard to sort outof mind and dispositions, such as civic the science from the pseudo-science – theengagement, concern for the common kernel of enduring truth from the latestgood, and social responsibility. cocktail party banter.Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 14
  15. 15. “Thinking” in Cognitive Science precisely because drivers are able to see and react to dangerous situations soTheories emerging from more scientific quickly. Many good decisions which feelstudies of human thinking and decision- intuitive are really the fruit of expertise.making in recent years propose that thinking Decisions good drivers make in thoseis more integrated and less dualistic than moments of crisis, just like the decisionsthe notions in popular culture suggest. We which practiced athletes make in the flow ofshould be cautious about proposals a game or the decisions that a giftedsuggesting oversimplified ways of teacher makes as she or he interacts withunderstanding how humans think. We students, are borne of expertise, training,should avoid harsh, rigid dichotomies such and “reason vs. emotion,” “intuitive vs. linear,”“creativity vs. criticality,” “right brained vs. At the same time that we areleft brained,” “as on Mars vs. as on Venus.” immersed in the world around us and in our daily lives, constantly making decisions There is often a kernel of wisdom in unreflectively, we may also be thinking quitepopular beliefs, and perhaps that gem this reflectively about something. Perhaps we’retime is the realization that some times we worried about a decision which we have todecide things very quickly almost as make about an important project at work, orspontaneous, intuitive, reactions to the about a personal relationship, or about asituation at hand. Many accidents on the legal matter, whatever. We gatherfreeways of this nation are avoided information, consider our options, exploreFacione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 15
  16. 16. possibilities, formulate some thoughts about review and revise our work in the light ofwhat we propose to do and why this choice relevant guidelines or standards or rules ofis the right one. In other words, we make a procedure. While System 2 decisions arepurposeful, reflective judgment about what also influenced by the correct or incorrectto believe or what to do – precisely the kind application of heuristic maneuvers, this isof judgment which is the focus of critical the system which relies on well articulatedthinking. reasons and more fully developed evidence. It is reasoning based on what we have Recent integrative models of human learned through careful analysis, evaluation,decision-making propose that the thinking explanation, and self-correction. This is theprocesses of our species is not best system which values intellectual honesty,described as a conflictive duality as in analytically anticipating what happens next,“intuitive vs. reflective” but rather an maturity of judgment, fair-mindedness,integrative functioning of two mutually elimination of biases, and truth-seeking.supportive systems “intuitive and reflective.” This is the system which we rely on to thinkThese two systems of thinking are present carefully trough complex, novel, high-in all of us and can act in parallel to process stakes, and highly integrative problems.5cognitively the matters over which we aredeciding. Educators urge us to improve our critical thinking skills and to reinforce our One system is more intuitive, disposition to use those skills because thatreactive, quick and holistic. So as not to is perhaps the best way to develop andconfuse things with the notions of thinking in refine our System 2 reasoning.popular culture, cognitive scientists oftenname this system, “System 1.” The other System 1 and System 2 are both(yes, you can guess its name) is more believed to be vital decision-making toolsdeliberative, reflective, computational and when stakes are high and when uncertaintyrule governed. You are right, it is called is an issue. Each of these two cognitive“System 2.” systems are believed to be capable of functioning to monitor and potentially In System 1 thinking, one relies override the other. This is one of the waysheavily on a number of heuristics (cognitive our species reduces the chance of makingmaneuvers), key situational characteristics, foolish, sub-optimal or even dangerousreadily associated ideas, and vivid errors in judgment. Human thinking is farmemories to arrive quickly and confidently from perfect. Even a good thinker makesat a judgment. System 1 thinking is both System 1 and 2 errors. At times weparticularly helpful in familiar situations misinterpret things, or we get our factswhen time is short and immediate action is wrong, and we make mistakes as a result.required. 5 Chapters 9 and 10 of Think Critically, Pearson While System 1 is functioning, Education, 2011, locate critical thinking within thisanother powerful system is also at work, integrative model of thinking. The cognitive heuristics,that is, unless we shut it down by abusing which will be described next, and the human capacityalcohol or drugs, or with fear or indifference. to derive sustained confidence decisions (right orCalled “System 2,” this is our more wrong),-- known as “dominance structuring,” – are presented there too. There are lots of useful exercisesreflective thinking system. It is useful for and examples in that book. You may also wish tomaking judgments when you find yourself in consult the references listed at the end of this essay.unfamiliar situations and have more time to The material presented in this section is derived fromfigure things out. It allows us to process these books and related publications by many of these same authors and others working toabstract concepts, to deliberate, to plan scientifically explain how humans actually makeahead, to consider options carefully, to decisions.Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 16
  17. 17. But often our errors are directly related to negative reaction to some idea, proposal,the influences and misapplications of person, object, whatever. Sometimes calledcognitive heuristics. Because we share the a “gut reaction” this affective response setspropensity to use these heuristics as we up an initial orientation in us, positive ormake decisions, let’s examine how some of negative, toward the object. It takes a lot ofthem influence us. System 2 reasoning to overcome a powerful affective response to an idea, but it can be done. And at times it should be, because there is no guarantee that your gut reaction is always right. The Association heuristic is operating when one word or idea reminds us of something else. For example, some people associate the word “cancer” with “death.” Some associate “sunshine” with “happiness.” These kinds of associational reasoning responses can be helpful at times, as for example if associating cancer with death leads you not to smoke and to go in for regular checkups. At other times the same association may influence a person to Cognitive heuristics are thinking make an unwise decision, as for example ifmaneuvers which, at times, appear to be associating “cancer” with “death” were toalmost hardwired into our species. They lead you to be so fearful and pessimisticinfluence both systems of thinking, the that you do not seek diagnosis andintuitive thinking of System 1 and the treatment of a worrisome cancer symptomreflective reasoning of System 2. Five until it was really too late to do anything.heuristics often seem to be more frequentlyoperating in our System 1 reasoning are The Simulation heuristic is workingknown as availability, affect, association, when you are imagining how varioussimulation, and similarity. scenarios will unfold. People often imagine how a conversation will go, or how they will Availability, the coming to mind of a be treated by someone else when theystory or vivid memory of something that meet the person, or what their friends orhappened to you or to someone close to boss or lover will say and do when theyyou, inclines a person make inaccurate have to address some difficult issue. Theseestimates of the likelihood of that thing’s simulations, like movies in our heads, helphappening again. People tell stories of us prepare and do a better job when thethings that happened to themselves or their difficult moment arrives. But they can alsofriends all the time as a way of explaining lead us to have mistaken expectations.their own decisions. The stories may not be People may not respond as we imagined,scientifically representative, the events may things may go much differently. Ourbe mistaken, misunderstood, or preparations may fail us because the easemisinterpreted. But all that aside, the power of our simulation misled us into thinking thatof the story is to guide, often in a good way, things would have to go as we hadthe decision toward one choice rather than imagined them. And they did not.another. The Similarity heuristic operates The Affect heuristic operates when when we notice some way in which we areyou have an immediate positive or an like someone else and infer that whatFacione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 17
  18. 18. happened to that person is therefore more the time each of the decisions along thelikely to happen to us. The similarity way was “good enough for the time being.”heuristic functions much like an analogicalargument or metaphorical model. The We are by nature a species that issimilarity we focus on might be fundamental averse to risk and loss. Often we makeand relevant, which would make the decisions on the basis of what we are tooinference more warranted. For example, the worried about losing, rather than on theboss fired your coworker for missing sales basis of what we might gain. This works outtargets and you draw the reasonable to be a rather serviceable approach in manyconclusion that if you miss your sales circumstances. People do not want to losetargets you’ll be fired too. Or the similarity control, they do not want to lose theirthat comes to mind might be superficial or freedom, they do not want to lose their lives,not connected with the outcome, which their families, their jobs, their possessions.would make the inference unwarranted. For High stakes gambling is best left to thoseexample you see a TV commercial showing who can afford to lose the money. Lastrim-figured young people enjoying fattening Vegas didn’t build all those multi-millionfast foods and infer that because you’re dollar casino hotels because vacationersyoung too you can indulge your cravings for are winning all the time! And so, in real life,fast foods without gaining a lot of excess we take precautions. We avoidunsightly poundage. unnecessary risks. The odds may not be stacked against us, but the consequences Heuristics and biases often of losing at times are so great that we wouldappearing to be somewhat more associated prefer to forego the possibilities of gain inwith System 2 thinking include: satisficing, order not to lose what we have. And yet, onrisk/loss aversion, anchoring with occasion this can be a most unfortunateadjustment, and the illusion of control. decision too. History has shown time and time again that businesses which avoid Satisficing occurs as we consider risks often are unable to competeour alternatives. When we come to one successfully with those willing to move morewhich is good enough to fulfill our objectives boldly into new markets or into new productwe often regard ourselves as having lines.completed our deliberations. We havesatisficed. And why not? The choice is, Any heuristic is only a maneuver,after all, good enough. It may not be perhaps a shortcut or impulse to think or actperfect, it may not be optimal, it may not in one way rather than another, but certainlyeven be the best among the options not a failsafe rule. It may work out wellavailable. But it is good enough. Time to much of the time to rely on the heuristic, butdecide and move forward. it will not work out for the best all of the time. The running mate of satisficing istemporizing. Temporizing is deciding that For example, people with somethingthe option which we have come to is “good to lose tend toward conservative choicesenough for now.” We often move through politically as well as economically. Nothinglife satisficing and temporizing. At times we wrong with that necessarily. Just anlook back on our situations and wonder why observation about the influence of Lossit is that we have settled for far less than we Aversion heuristic on actual decisionmight have. If we had only studied harder, making. We are more apt to endure theworked out a little more, taken better care of status quo, even as it slowly deteriorates,ourselves and our relationships, perhaps we than we are to call for “radical” change.would not be living as we are now. But, at Regrettably, however, when the call for change comes, it often requires a farFacione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 18
  19. 19. greater upheaval to make the necessary future events may be quite negligible. Attransformations, or, on occasion, the times we do have some measure of control.situation has deteriorated beyond the point For example we may exercise, not smoke,of no return. In those situations we find and watch our diet in order to be more fitourselves wondering why we waited so long and healthy. We are careful not to drink ifbefore doing something. we are planning to drive so that we reduce the risks of being involved in a traffic The heuristic known as Anchoring accident. But at times we simply arewith Adjustment is operative when we find mistaken about our ability to actuallyourselves making evaluative judgments. exercise full control over a situation. SadlyThe natural thing for us to do is to locate or we might become ill even if we do work hardanchor our evaluation at some point along to take good care of ourselves. Or we maywhatever scale we are using. For example, be involved in an accident even if we area professor says that the student’s paper is sober. Our business may fail even if wea C+. Then, as other information comes our work very hard to make it a success. Weway, we may adjust that judgment. The may not do as well on an exam as we mightprofessor, for example, may decide that the hope even if we study hard.paper is as good as some others that weregiven a B-, and so adjust the grade upward. Related to the Illusion of ControlThe interesting thing about this heuristic, is heuristic is the tendency to misconstrue ourthat we do not normally start over with a personal influence or responsibility for pastfresh evaluation. We have dropped anchor events. This is called Hindsight Bias. Weand we may drag it upward or downward a may over-estimate the influence our actionsbit, but we do not pull it off the bottom of the have had on events when things go right, orsea to relocate our evaluation. First we may underestimate our responsibility orimpressions, as the saying goes, cannot be culpability when things go wrong. We haveundone. The good thing about this heuristic all heard people bragging about how theyis that it permits us to move on. We have did this and how they did that and, as adone the evaluation; there are other papers result, such and such wonderful thingsto grade, other projects to do, other things in happened. We made these great plans andlife that need attention. We could not long look how well our business did financially.endure if we had to constantly re-evaluate Which may be true when the economy isevery thing anew. The unfortunate thing strong; but not when the economy is failing.about this heuristic is that we sometimes It is not clear how much of that successdrop anchor in the wrong place; we have a came from the planning and how muchhard time giving people a second chance at came from the general businessmaking a good first impression. environment. Or, we have all been in the room when it was time to own up for some The heuristic known as Illusion of thing that went wrong and thought toControl is evident in many situations. Many ourselves, hey, I may have had some part inof us over-estimate our abilities to control this, but it was not entirely my fault. “Itwhat will happen. We make plans for how wasn’t my fault the children were late forwe are going to do this or that, say this or school, hey I was dressed and ready to gothat, manipulate the situation this way or at the regular time.” As if seeing that thethat way, share or not share this information family was running late I had noor that possibility, all the time thinking that responsibility to take some initiative andsome how our petty plans will enable us to help out.control what happens. We act as if othersare dancing on the ends of the strings thatwe are pulling, when in actuality theinfluences our words or actions have onFacione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 19
  20. 20. “Insanity is doing the same not what happens.6 When seeking to explain how people decide on an option withthing over and over again while such conviction that they stick to theirexpecting a different outcome.” decision over time and with such confidence that they act on that decision, the concept that what we do is build a Dominance Albert Einstein Structure has been put forth. In a nutshell this theory suggests that when we settle on Research on our shared heuristic a particular option which is good enough wepatterns of decision-making does not aim to tend to elevate its merits and diminish itsevaluate these patterns as necessarily good flaws relative to the other options. We raiseor bad patterns of thinking. I fear that my it up in our minds until it becomes for us thewording of them above may not have been dominant option. In this way, as ouras entirely neutral and descriptive as decision takes shape, we gain confidence inperhaps it should have been. In truth, our choice and we feel justified inreliance on heuristics can be an efficient dismissing the other options, even thoughways of deciding things, given how very the objective distance between any of themcomplicated our lives are. We cannot and our dominant option may not be verydevote maximal cognitive resources to great at all. But we become invested in ourevery single decision we make. dominant option to the extent that we are Those of us who study these able to put the other possibilities aside andheuristic thinking phenomena are simply act on the basis of our choice. In fact, ittrying to document how we humans do comes to dominate the other options in ourthink. There are many useful purposes for minds so much that we are able to sustaindoing this. For example, if we find that our decision to act over a period of time,people repeatedly make a given kind of rather than going back to re-evaluate ormistake when thinking about a commonly reconsider constantly. Understanding theexperienced problem, then we might find natural phenomenon of dominanceways to intervene and to help ourselves not structuring can help us appreciate why itrepeat that error over and over again. can be so difficult for us to get others to change their minds, or why it seems that our This research on the actual patterns reasons for our decisions are so muchof thinking used by individuals and by better than any of the objections whichgroups might prove particularly valuable to others might make to our decisions. This isthose who seek interventions which could not to say that we are right or wrong.improve how we make our own heath care Rather, this is only to observe that humandecisions, how we make business beings are capable of unconsciouslydecisions, how we lead teams of people to building up defenses around their choiceswork more effectively in collaborative which can result in the warranted orsettings, and the like. unwarranted confidence to act on the basis of those choices. Popular culture offers one othermyth about decision-making which is worthquestioning. And that is the belief that whenwe make reflective decisions we carefully 6 Henry Montgomery, “From cognition to action: Theweigh each of our options, giving due search for dominance in decision making.” In Processconsideration to all of them in turn, before and Structure in Human Decision-Making,deciding which we will adopt. Although Montgomery H, Svenson O (Eds). John Wiley & Sons:perhaps it should be, research on human Chichester, UK, 1989. For a more accessibledecision-making shows that this simply is description along with reflective exercises on how to avoid becoming “locked in” to a poor decision prematurely, see chapter 10 of Think Critically.Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 20
  21. 21. Realizing the power of dominance you have greater success in your work?structuring, one can only be more Would you get better grades?committed to the importance of educationand critical thinking. We should do all that Actually the answer to the gradeswe can to inform ourselves fully and to question, scientifically speaking, is veryreflect carefully on our choices before we possibly, Yes! A study of over 1100 collegemake them, because we are, after all, students shows that scores on a collegehuman and we are as likely as the next level critical thinking skills test significantlyperson to believe that we are right and they correlated with college GPA.7 It has alsoare wrong once the dominance structure been shown that critical thinking skills canbegins to be erected. Breaking through that be learned, which suggests that as oneto fix bad decisions, which is possible, can learns them one’s GPA might well much harder than getting things right in In further support of this hypothesis is thethe first place. significant correlation between critical thinking and reading comprehension. There are more heuristics than only Improvements in the one are paralleled bythose mentioned above. There is more to improvements in the other. Now if you canlearn about dominance structuring as it read better and think better, might you notoccurs in groups as well as in individuals, do better in your classes, learn more, andand how to mitigate the problems which get better grades. It is, to say the least,may arise by prematurely settling on a very plausible.“good enough” option, or about how to crafteducational programs or interventions which Learning, Critical Thinking, and Ourhelp people be more effective in their Nation’s FutureSystem 1 and System 2 thinking. There ismuch to learn about human thinking and “The future now belongs to societieshow to optimize it in individuals of different that organize themselves for learning...ages; how to optimize the thinking of groups nations that want high incomes and full employment must develop policies thatof peers and groups where organizational emphasize the acquisition of knowledgehierarchies influence interpersonal and skills by everyone, not just a selectdynamics. And, happily, there is a lot we few.”know today about human thinking anddecision-making that we did not know a few Ray Marshall & Marc Tucker, Thinking For A Living:years ago. Education And The Wealth of Nations, Basic Books. New York. 1992. Why critical thinking? But what a limited benefit — better grades. Who really cares in the long run? Let us start with you first. Why Two years after college, five years out, whatwould critical thinking be of value to you to does GPA really mean? Right now collegehave the cognitive skills of interpretation,analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation,and self-regulation? 7 Findings regarding the effectiveness of critical thinking instruction, and correlations with GPA and Apart from, or maybe in light of, what reading ability are reported in “Technical Report #1, Experimental Validation and Content Validity” (ERICwe said at the beginning of this essay about ED 327 549), “Technical Report #2, Factorsthe utility of positive critical thinking and Predictive of CT Skills” (ERIC ED 327 550), andabout the problems that failures of critical “Gender, Ethnicity, Major, CT Self-Esteem, and thethinking contribute to, why would it be of California Critical Thinking Skills Test” (ERIC ED 326value to you to learn to approach life and to 584). These findings remain consistent in research using the tools in the California Critical Thinking Skillsapproach specific concerns with the critical Test family of instruments published by Insightthinking dispositions listed above? Would Assessment.Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 21
  22. 22. level technical and professional programs challenge, question, and dissent. In fact,have a half-life of about four years, which this is exactly what the professors want.means that the technical content is They want their students to excel on theirexpanding so fast and changing so much own, to go beyond what is currently known,that in about four years after graduation to make their own contributions toyour professional training will be in serious knowledge and to society. [Being aneed of renewal. So, if the only thing a professor is a curious job — the morecollege is good for is to get the entry level effective you are as a teacher, less yourtraining and the credential needed for some students require your aid in learning.]job, then college would be a time-limitedvalue. Liberal education is about learning to learn, which means learning to think for yourself on your own and in collaboration with others. Liberal education leads us away from naive acceptance of authority, above self-defeating relativism, and beyond ambiguous contextualism. It culminates in principled reflective judgment. Learning critical thinking, cultivating the critical spirit, is not just a means to this end, it is part of the goal itself. People who are weak critical thinkers, who lack the dispositions and skills described, cannot be said to be liberally The APA Delphi Report, educated, regardless of the academic Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert degrees they may hold. Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction Yes, there is much more to a liberal 1990 ERIC Doc. NO.: ED 315 423 education, than critical thinking. There is an understanding of the methods, principles, Is that the whole story? A job is a theories and ways of achieving knowledgegood thing, but is that what a college which are proper to the different intellectualeducation is all about, getting started in a realms. There is an encounter with thegood job? Maybe some cannot see its cultural, artistic and spiritual dimensions offurther value, but many do. A main life. There is the evolution of one’s decisionpurpose, if not the main purpose, of the making to the level of principled integritycollegiate experience, at either the two-year and concern for the common good andor the four-year level, is to achieve what social justice. There is the realization of thepeople have called a “liberal education.” ways all our lives are shaped by global asNot liberal in the sense of a smattering of well as local political, social, psychological,this and that for no particular purpose economic, environmental, and physicalexcept to fulfill the unit requirement. But forces. There is the growth that comes fromliberal in the sense of “liberating.” And who the interaction with cultures, languages,is being liberated? You! Liberated from a ethnic groups, religions, nationalities, andkind of slavery. But from whom? social classes other than one’s own. There is the refinement of one’s humane From professors. Actually from sensibilities through reflection on thedependence on professors so that they no recurring questions of human existence,longer stand as infallible authorities meaning, love, life and death. There is thedelivering opinions beyond our capacity to sensitivity, appreciation and criticalFacione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts” 2011 update Page 22