Thursday, March 28, 2013

What is Critical Thinking?

There are many definitions to: What is Critical Thinking? That's to be expected. Critical thinking encompasses much of what we do when using our brains.

Words like: reasoning, interpreting, observation and more are used to describe critical thinking.

Phrases are also used such as: rational thinking, focused thinking, cognitive process, reflective thought and informed opinions. Other phrases such as: analyzing and evaluating information to derive a judgment are also used.

These are all good and descriptive words and phrases for What is Critical Thinking. However, let's ask the $100,000 question:

What are the Benefits of Critical Thinking for you?

There are three answers to that question.

1. To make informed decisions - Making informed decisions is essential in your life. You have to decide on everything from where to have tomorrow's lunch, to what career to pursue. The more you are able to tap into your experiences and knowledge the better your decisions are.

2. To understand - Your ability to comprehend is another essential element in your life. You are exposed to a wide array of information on television, the Internet books, magazines and people.

o Understanding leads to opinions and decision making. For example, by reading about, and comprehending the positions of two political opponents you are better equipped to make an informed decision on how to vote.

3. To create, invent and discover - The ability to create, invent, and discover are human traits that exist in all of us. We create beautiful art, writing, music and more. We invent things like the light bulb, the computer and rockets. We discover things like E= MC2, penicillin, and DNA.

o The ability to create, invent and discover all require decision making. It is an integral part of each process. There are decisions in choosing a project to pursue. Whatever you pursue there are decisions along the path.

Decision making is the common thread that weaves through the most useful things critical thinking will do for you. That is why "What is Critical Thinking" can be defined as:

The ability to make and carry out informed decisions by efficiently utilizing your lifetime knowledge, experience, common sense, reasoning, intuition, feelings, and confidence

Critical thinking requires the use of self-discipline and self-examination. The rewards are great freedom and the ability to complete projects, achieve objectives and answer questions with confidence.

When you take charge of your mind using critical thinking and make sound decisions, you take charge of your life.

Critical thinking is a skill. It will be strengthened by anyone willing to stretch and grow.

The brain acts like a muscle. If used, it strengthens. If shunned, it withers.

The Benefits of Critical Thinking

Today there is a lack of critical thinking skills in the workplace and in personal lives. Many people don't know how to critically think effectively even though they are capable of becoming strong critical thinkers. Guidance, patience and practice are needed to learn how.

Critical thinking skills are not prevalent in our society simply because we don't teach: What is critical thinking? enough. Here is what our learning institutions are doing to teach critical thinking skills.

America's Universities

The United States has many of the finest universities in the world. Some of them emphasize and teach critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, many don't. This is evident because too many students attending are not learning the thinking skills they need to be successful.

For example The American Institute for Research published a study in January of 2006. It reports that:

More than 75% of students at two year colleges and more than 50% of students at four year colleges can't read or write well. As examples of this, the report states that these students can't effectively:

o Compare credit card offers with different interest rates
o Summarize the arguments of newspaper editorials

It also states that at least 20% of college graduates completing four year degrees, and 30% of students earning two year degrees, have only basic quantitative and literacy skills. These individuals:

o Are unable to estimate if their car will make it to the next gas station
o Calculate the total cost of ordering office supplies #1

Yet, they are still able to do these things better than the general adult population.

Where Do We Go From Here?

People can learn critical thinking skills on their own through trial and error. However, trial and error takes much longer than if properly taught and coached.

It is painfully clear that most people aren't taught critical thinking skills in a formal manner, or for that matter, in any manner. Many don't even know: What is Critical Thinking.

Critical thinking skills can be learned at any age though good books and from informed teachers, coaches, mentors and parents who care. The younger the students, the better, however, we all need to know: What is Critical Thinking. To help fill the void, this website has been created.

#1 From the American Institute for Research "New study of college students finds some are graduating with only basic skills". January 19, 2006.

Copyright 2009©

Chuck Clayton

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