It can be best to begin by exploring the definition of critical thinking and the skills it includes—once you do, you can then venture toward the crucial question at hand: How can I improve? This is no easy task, which is why we aimed to help break down the basic elements of critical thinking and offer suggestions on how you can hone your skills and become a better critical thinker. Critical thinking is the analysis of an issue or situation and the facts, data or evidence related to it. Ideally, critical thinking is to be done objectively—meaning without influence from personal feelings, opinions or biases—and it focuses solely on factual information.
Critical thinking is a skill that allows you to make logical and informed decisions to the best of your ability. For example, a child who has not yet developed such skills might believe the Tooth Fairy left money under their pillow based on stories their parents told them. A critical thinker, however, can quickly conclude that the existence of such a thing is probably unlikely—even if there are a few bucks under their pillow.
Focusing on these can put you on the path to becoming an exceptional critical thinker. The first step in the critical thinking process is to identify the situation or problem as well as the factors that may influence it. Once you have a clear picture of the situation and the people, groups or factors that may be influenced, you can then begin to dive deeper into an issue and its potential solutions.
How to improve: When facing any new situation, question or scenario, stop to take a mental inventory of the state of affairs and ask the following questions:. When comparing arguments about an issue, independent research ability is key.
The Importance of Critical Thinking for Students
Arguments are meant to be persuasive—that means the facts and figures presented in their favor might be lacking in context or come from questionable sources. The best way to combat this is independent verification; find the source of the information and evaluate.
How to improve: It can be helpful to develop an eye for unsourced claims. Does the person posing the argument offer where they got this information from?
This skill can be exceedingly difficult, as even the smartest among us can fail to recognize biases. Strong critical thinkers do their best to evaluate information objectively.
It is equally important—and arguably more difficult—to learn how to set aside your own personal biases that may cloud your judgement. First and foremost, you must be aware that bias exists. When evaluating information or an argument, ask yourself the following:. The ability to infer and draw conclusions based on the information presented to you is another important skill for mastering critical thinking. The ability to infer allows you to extrapolate and discover potential outcomes when assessing a scenario.
It is also important to note that not all inferences will be correct. For example, if you read that someone weighs pounds, you might infer they are overweight or unhealthy. Other data points like height and body composition, however, may alter that conclusion.
How to improve: An inference is an educated guess, and your ability to infer correctly can be polished by making a conscious effort to gather as much information as possible before jumping to conclusions. When faced with a new scenario or situation to evaluate, first try skimming for clues—things like headlines, images and prominently featured statistics—and then make a point to ask yourself what you think is going on.
One of the most challenging parts of thinking critically during a challenging scenario is figuring out what information is the most important for your consideration. Are you tasked with finding a solution? Should you be identifying a trend? If you figure out your end goal, you can use this to inform your judgement of what is relevant. Even with a clear objective, however, it can still be difficult to determine what information is truly relevant. One strategy for combating this is to make a physical list of data points ranked in order of relevance.
From there, you can narrow your focus on the less clear-cut topics that reside in the middle of your list for further evaluation. As we get older, it can be easier to get in the habit of keeping that impulse to ask questions at bay. All it takes is a conscious effort to ask open-ended questions about the things you see in your everyday life, and you can then invest the time to follow up on these questions. Thinking critically is vital for anyone looking to have a successful college career and a fruitful professional life upon graduation.
Your ability to objectively analyze and evaluate complex subjects and situations will always be useful. Unlock your potential by practicing and refining the six critical thinking skills above. Most professionals credit their time in college as having been crucial in the development of their critical thinking abilities.
It has since been updated. There are some errors in the form.
6 Critical Thinking Skills You Need to Master Now
Please correct the errors and submit again. Critical thinking isn't just about thinking clearly or rationally -- it's about thinking independently, according to Lee Watanabe-Crockett on the Global Digital Citizen Foundation blog. He says "Critically thinking about something means formulating your own opinions and drawing your own conclusions. This happens regardless of outside influence.
It's about the discipline of analysis, and seeing the connections between ideas.
Fifteen Positive Examples of Critical Thinking
A technique Watanabe-Crockett recommends for teachers is to simply begin with a question. The question needs to be one that encourages brainstorming and discussion. Coming up with the answer will require research and problem-solving, both closely tied to critical thinking. Knowing which information to discard and which to pursue involves mastering the proper use of information, or information fluency. Acquiring information isn't enough. Students need to analyze it to help determine if it is true or not, and then apply the data to the question or problem.
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Utilizing peer groups is another technique Watanabe-Crockett recommends. Peers can be a good source of information and, when working collaboratively, students can develop problem-solving techniques. Role playing is a method students can use to exercise critical thinking. Watanabe-Crockett says to "Pair students up and have them research an historical conflict. Ideally it should involve an interaction between two famous historical figures.
Then lead them to decide which character they each choose to play. They'll each have opposite points of view in this conflict. Have them discuss it until they can mutually explain the other's point of view.
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Their final challenge will be to each suggest a compromise. Getting students to think critically involves helping them set goals. It can be helpful to divide the process into three parts: planning a task, executing and monitoring the task, and doing a post-task evaluation and reflection. Educators who want to incorporate critical thinking for students into curriculum development can participate in programs like the online Educational Specialist in Curriculum and Instruction Ed.