Socrates once stated, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’, and, in part, this leads us to unearth the root behind a critical though process; a desire to learn and expand our knowledge. But what is critical thinking and how do we achieve it?
According to Ennis, 2015, Critical thinking is,
“reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what we believe or do.”
an alternative and perhaps more standard definition from Facione 1990,
“… purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which judgment is based.”
There are hundreds of vague and multifarious definitions, methodologies, frameworks and suggested pathways to learn, teach and apply critical thinking but most, if not all, concur that critical thinking is a skill that can be learned and that when a process of critical thought is applied better, more effective decisions will be derived from it.
By adopting an analytical approach we are able to take a reasoned, logical position on the information presented to us rather than accepting it at face value. By reflecting, reasoning and seeking alternative perspectives we are able to identify inconsistencies or mistakes and evaluate the importance and credibility of ideas. In short, critical thinking allows us to take ownership of our beliefs.
According to criticalthinking.org, as humans we are synonymously fallible; we inevitably allow emotion and biases to affect and cloud our judgements. “shoddy thinking” such as allowing our decisions to be made rashly through emotive or preconceived assumptions can become costly. Whereas decisions made rationally, through self awareness, open mindedness, considered skepticism and judicious reasoning allow us to side step our egos and misconceptions and consciously improve the quality of our thinking, ergo building knowledge, understanding and facilitating application and transfer of that knowledge.
Sturgeon’s revelation “90% of Everything is Crap” Sturgeon 1958
As the adage above indicates, how can we be certain that the information we have been presented with is accurate, precise or even fair? It is important that we use analytical skills and base our analysis on intellectual values and benchmarks in order to determine the credibility of information. According to Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder in their 2006 miniature guide to Critical Thinking, Concepts and Tools, those benchmarks are as follows:
By applying these values to the elements of thought we are able to develop the Intellectual traits of a critical thinker.
Confidence in Reason
These transferable thinking skills are non discipline specific and can be used not just academically but throughout all areas of your life. Essentially critical thinking is a life long learning process than can assist in many facets. By analyzing, reasoning, interpreting and deducing we are able to synthesize, evaluate and justify our ideas to form cohesive and logical arguments.
But maybe 90% of what you just read was crap or maybe because it requires examining, life is now worth living. You decide.
Criticalthinking.org, (2013). Defining Critical Thinking. [online] Available at: http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766 [Accessed 22 Feb. 2015].
Ennis, R. (2015). CriticalThinking.NET Definition of Critical Thinking. [online] Criticalthinking.net. Available at: http://www.criticalthinking.net/definition.html [Accessed 22 Feb. 2015].
Facione, P. (2015). Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction. California State University,.
Sturgeon, T. (1958). Theodore Sturgeon FAQ. [online] Physics.emory.edu. Available at: http://www.physics.emory.edu/faculty/weeks//misc/faq.html [Accessed 23 Feb. 2015].