According to Wikipedia, critical thinking is a skill that can be learned and used to decide whether a statement is true, partially true, or false and whether an argument is valid. It offers tools to curb the natural predisposition to believe something and to recognize and prevent illogical reasoning and fallacies’.
You will be surprised by the different approaches and wording because apparently this can be interpreted broadly and people largely fill in what the words critical and thinking mean. Whatever definition one uses, critical thinking does not equal criticism!
Many educators opt for a certain definition. After reading dozens of definitions, the definition from Lewis Vaugn’s book ‘The Power of Critical Thinking’ was chosen for this article.
” Critical thinking is the systematic evaluation of formulating beliefs or statements, according to rational standards. It is systematic because it requires separate procedures and methods. It is evaluating and formulating, as it is used both to assess existing beliefs (yours or someone else’s) and to invent new ones. It works according to reasonable standards, in the sense that beliefs are judged by the reasons and reasoning behind them.”
This is a long definition, you probably won’t be able to repeat it after reading it once. That is not necessary, because in this article various definitions will be described.
The American Philosophical Association (APA) has established a definition, based in part on the work of Peter Facione.
APA uses the following definition:
The ability to make purposeful, self-regulated judgments, resulting in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, drawing conclusions, and explaining what that judgment is based on in terms of evidence, concepts, methods, criteria, and contextual considerations.
APA also describes what a critical thinker is, does the following match your thinking?
A critical thinker is investigative, knowledgeable, relies on reasoning, open-minded, flexible, sincere in evaluation, honest in seeing his own biases, cautious in judging, willing to reconsider, clear on subjects, orderly in a complex matter, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in selecting criteria, research-oriented, and continues to seek results as precise as possible given the subject matter and circumstances of research.
You now obtain first insights, insofar as they are not yet available, but this does not imply that these are the correct definitions. On the contrary, the starting point for this article is to strengthen your foundation. Only you, by thinking critically, learn to arrive at a well-founded judgment.
What is thinking?
Thinking is a purposeful, organized process that we use to make sense of the world.
Many forms of thinking are described in the literature, a common dichotomy is creative thinking and critical thinking.
Logical and creative thinking
This dichotomy is often linked to the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Where the right half stands for creative thinking: arbitrary, intuitive, holistic, summarizing, subjective, and looking at the whole.
The left hemisphere represents critical thinking: logical, sequential, rational, analytical, objective, and looking at the parts.
The critical view
People can critically look at their reasoning and evaluate them directly. By continuously asking oneself whether one’s conviction is correct, it is possible to revise one’s convictions based on clear counter-arguments.
The beliefs that someone has can also be viewed critically by another. In both cases, it plays a major role to have an open mind to find out the truth, to be analytical and curious, and not to jump to conclusions.
Daring to think critically is quite difficult in practice. We almost all learn it, but it is a huge challenge to put this into practice. This applies to both the sender and the receiver in the event of a problem or challenge. A good example is to test this statement based on several behaviors. Which standard do you use? and What is the difference among:
- Analytical or too detailed.
- Skeptical or cynicism.
- Decisive or stubborn.
- Open-minded or have no point of view.
- Evaluate or judge or judge.
- Sharing insight or presumptuous communicating.
These simple examples show how easy it is to take a stand. The question is, however, whether this position has come about in a critical way of thinking or whether you have walked unnoticed into a minefield. An unfounded opinion can be quite explosive.
Importance for education
As indicated, many approaches are used in education, it might be interesting to mention Paul Elder’s framework as well. According to the Paul Elder framework, the whole consists of three parts:
- Analysis of thought by focusing on the parts or structures of thought (Elements of Thought).
- Evaluation of thinking by focusing on quality (Universal Intellectual Norms).
- Improving thinking by using what you have learned (Intellectual Properties).
Although Paul Elder’s framework is not described here, his threefold division will be articulated in a different form in this article.
This thinking involves the ability to independently arrive at well-considered and reasoned considerations, judgments, and decisions. This requires thinking skills, but also attitude aspects, reflection, and self-regulating capacity.
Thinking skills are about: seeing through and valuing information, identifying inaccuracies, and examining a vision or opinion. Based on this, a student can determine his own opinion or point of view, or make a decision.
This includes a critical attitude, which includes a desire to be well-informed, a tendency to seek reasons and causes, open-mindedness, respect for the views of others, and a willingness to consider those views. Finally, reflection and self-regulating capacity are important: a critical thinker consciously examines his thinking process and adjusts his decision, opinion or action if necessary.
This is an essential skill for examining and assessing information, forming points of view, and making informed decisions. This thinking presupposes analytical thinking and an open, inquiring attitude. This is important for acquiring domain knowledge and skills as well as for personal development and citizenship.
Education that contributes to the development of critical thinking skills teaches students to think about a topic, question, or problem and to analyze it before forming an opinion. Students are challenged to test and apply their ideas and those of others.
According to other publicists, the ‘critical’ is too limited. Critical thinking is, after all, a scientific method for arriving at informed criticism. So hereafter some sounds from ‘the scientific field’.
In education, the pure thought process is mainly approached from a macro perspective. Necessary to help shape the thinking process, but experience shows that critical thinking involves emotions and that they are expressed in different ways. Read the article: Conflicts in an agile team? but once.
Some publicists believe that in the wide variety of definitions too little attention is paid to the background, knowledge, culture, identity, and meaning of a person who helps to color this process. An interesting response, because this thinking is a scientific method in which one learns a thinking process.
In this process, one also learns to look at ‘bias’. Perhaps the message of critical thinking has not landed sufficiently, although it is an important skill that students can learn. Yet it is surprising why non-critical thinking is so common, even among the highly educated.
In addition to the 6 core skills, you will also encounter the 8 elements of a critical thinking process. These are the following elements:
- Acquisition of information.
- Structuring arguments.
These elements are not rocket science and are only brought to trigger your thought process.
The benefits of this thinking are so many. The core is and remains that you can distinguish between assertions and non-statements. This sounds a bit cryptic, but as soon as you use the terms facts and non-facts, you immediately get a different feeling. For example, you use the model of this thinking to determine whether something is fake or not.
What this thinking mainly accomplishes is that you think before you make decisions. What the thought process does to you is that you examine your assumptions. As a result, you learn to look at social, business, political, and economic topics differently.
From an agile perspective, your career is a focus, because in your working life this kind of thinking is a requirement. After all, employers are looking for colleagues with good thinking and communication skills. In addition, the ability to learn quickly, gain insights, collect data and solve problems with creativity will become increasingly important.
The current social issues show that critical thinking has partly been exchanged for opinions instead of facts. These opinions can lead to a different understanding of topics, situations, problems, or opportunities, but thinking is allowed in a free world.
If one uses thinking with multiple skills, such as analysis, evaluation, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making, and in doing so can distinguish between facts and opinions, relevance, and accuracy, freedom is created.
This thinking is a form of freedom, only in freedom do you get the opportunity to think and express yourself. Freedom to question whether things are right or wrong. It does not matter whether this concerns topics of a team, group, organization, or society.
You can say that in a negative environment, this thinking is often the first victim. Unfortunately, one can only name less positive characteristics of human behavior:
- Self-centered thinking (self-interest, being the center of attention)
- Groupthink (including letting group interests prevail or claiming superiority),
- Making assumptions without a proof (the ‘truth’ is not proven)
- Wishing that something is true or (I want it to be true…)
- Comparing the truth. (Truth is an opinion…)
Critical thinking is a process of understanding and knowing the importance of the definitional terms: systematically, evaluating, formulating, and adopting rational norms. So this is completely different from criticizing.
The aim is to understand how critical thinking is related to logic, the truth or falsehood of statements, knowledge, and the development of personal power.
We see that this is important every day in society and in business environments. This thinking is always better than passively accepting beliefs. Its strength lies in being able to distinguish between assertions and non-statements.
Basic concepts such as reasons, arguments, inferences, premises, and conclusions are used. You must then learn how words can be used to interpret statements in an argument (premise) and conclusions.
You often learn this by assessing the validity of the arguments used. Recognizing these arguments in different contexts and being able to distinguish between arguments and redundancies, arguments and statements, and claims in the argumentation and conclusions are important skills.