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What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas.  Critical thinking has been the subject of much debate and thought since the time of early Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates and has continued to be a subject of discussion into the modern age, for example the ability to recognise fake news .

Critical thinking might be described as the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking.

In essence, critical thinking requires you to use your ability to reason. It is about being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information.

Critical thinkers rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value. They will always seek to determine whether the ideas, arguments and findings represent the entire picture and are open to finding that they do not.

Critical thinkers will identify, analyse and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or instinct.

Someone with critical thinking skills can:

Understand the links between ideas.

Determine the importance and relevance of arguments and ideas.

Recognise, build and appraise arguments.

Identify inconsistencies and errors in reasoning.

Approach problems in a consistent and systematic way.

Reflect on the justification of their own assumptions, beliefs and values.

Critical thinking is thinking about things in certain ways so as to arrive at the best possible solution in the circumstances that the thinker is aware of. In more everyday language, it is a way of thinking about whatever is presently occupying your mind so that you come to the best possible conclusion.

Critical Thinking is:

A way of thinking about particular things at a particular time; it is not the accumulation of facts and knowledge or something that you can learn once and then use in that form forever, such as the nine times table you learn and use in school.

The Skills We Need for Critical Thinking

The skills that we need in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making.

Specifically we need to be able to:

Think about a topic or issue in an objective and critical way.

Identify the different arguments there are in relation to a particular issue.

Evaluate a point of view to determine how strong or valid it is.

Recognise any weaknesses or negative points that there are in the evidence or argument.

Notice what implications there might be behind a statement or argument.

Provide structured reasoning and support for an argument that we wish to make.

The Critical Thinking Process

You should be aware that none of us think critically all the time.

Sometimes we think in almost any way but critically, for example when our self-control is affected by anger, grief or joy or when we are feeling just plain ‘bloody minded’.

On the other hand, the good news is that, since our critical thinking ability varies according to our current mindset, most of the time we can learn to improve our critical thinking ability by developing certain routine activities and applying them to all problems that present themselves.

Once you understand the theory of critical thinking, improving your critical thinking skills takes persistence and practice.

Try this simple exercise to help you to start thinking critically.

Think of something that someone has recently told you. Then ask yourself the following questions:

Who said it?

Someone you know? Someone in a position of authority or power? Does it matter who told you this?

What did they say?

Did they give facts or opinions? Did they provide all the facts? Did they leave anything out?

Where did they say it?

Was it in public or in private? Did other people have a chance to respond an provide an alternative account?

When did they say it?

Was it before, during or after an important event? Is timing important?

Why did they say it?

Did they explain the reasoning behind their opinion? Were they trying to make someone look good or bad?

How did they say it?

Were they happy or sad, angry or indifferent? Did they write it or say it? Could you understand what was said?

What are you Aiming to Achieve?

One of the most important aspects of critical thinking is to decide what you are aiming to achieve and then make a decision based on a range of possibilities.

Once you have clarified that aim for yourself you should use it as the starting point in all future situations requiring thought and, possibly, further decision making. Where needed, make your workmates, family or those around you aware of your intention to pursue this goal. You must then discipline yourself to keep on track until changing circumstances mean you have to revisit the start of the decision making process.

However, there are things that get in the way of simple decision making. We all carry with us a range of likes and dislikes, learnt behaviours and personal preferences developed throughout our lives; they are the hallmarks of being human. A major contribution to ensuring we think critically is to be aware of these personal characteristics, preferences and biases and make allowance for them when considering possible next steps, whether they are at the pre-action consideration stage or as part of a rethink caused by unexpected or unforeseen impediments to continued progress.

The more clearly we are aware of ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, the more likely our critical thinking will be productive.

The Benefit of Foresight

Perhaps the most important element of thinking critically is foresight.

Almost all decisions we make and implement don’t prove disastrous if we find reasons to abandon them. However, our decision making will be infinitely better and more likely to lead to success if, when we reach a tentative conclusion, we pause and consider the impact on the people and activities around us.

The elements needing consideration are generally numerous and varied. In many cases, consideration of one element from a different perspective will reveal potential dangers in pursuing our decision.

For instance, moving a business activity to a new location may improve potential output considerably but it may also lead to the loss of skilled workers if the distance moved is too great. Which of these is the more important consideration? Is there some way of lessening the conflict?

These are the sort of problems that may arise from incomplete critical thinking, a demonstration perhaps of the critical importance of good critical thinking.

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In Summary:

Critical thinking is aimed at achieving the best possible outcomes in any situation. In order to achieve this it must involve gathering and evaluating information from as many different sources possible.

Critical thinking requires a clear, often uncomfortable, assessment of your personal strengths, weaknesses and preferences and their possible impact on decisions you may make.

Critical thinking requires the development and use of foresight as far as this is possible. As Doris Day sang, “the future’s not ours to see”.

Implementing the decisions made arising from critical thinking must take into account an assessment of possible outcomes and ways of avoiding potentially negative outcomes, or at least lessening their impact.

  • Critical thinking involves reviewing the results of the application of decisions made and implementing change where possible.

It might be thought that we are overextending our demands on critical thinking in expecting that it can help to construct focused meaning rather than examining the information given and the knowledge we have acquired to see if we can, if necessary, construct a meaning that will be acceptable and useful.

After all, almost no information we have available to us, either externally or internally, carries any guarantee of its life or appropriateness.  Neat step-by-step instructions may provide some sort of trellis on which our basic understanding of critical thinking can blossom but it doesn’t and cannot provide any assurance of certainty, utility or longevity.

Continue to: Critical Thinking and Fake News Critical Reading

See also: Analytical Skills Understanding and Addressing Conspiracy Theories Introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

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Critical Thinking

Developing the right mindset and skills.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

We make hundreds of decisions every day and, whether we realize it or not, we're all critical thinkers.

We use critical thinking each time we weigh up our options, prioritize our responsibilities, or think about the likely effects of our actions. It's a crucial skill that helps us to cut out misinformation and make wise decisions. The trouble is, we're not always very good at it!

In this article, we'll explore the key skills that you need to develop your critical thinking skills, and how to adopt a critical thinking mindset, so that you can make well-informed decisions.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well.

Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly valued asset in the workplace. People who score highly in critical thinking assessments are also rated by their managers as having good problem-solving skills, creativity, strong decision-making skills, and good overall performance. [1]

Key Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinkers possess a set of key characteristics which help them to question information and their own thinking. Focus on the following areas to develop your critical thinking skills:

Being willing and able to explore alternative approaches and experimental ideas is crucial. Can you think through "what if" scenarios, create plausible options, and test out your theories? If not, you'll tend to write off ideas and options too soon, so you may miss the best answer to your situation.

To nurture your curiosity, stay up to date with facts and trends. You'll overlook important information if you allow yourself to become "blinkered," so always be open to new information.

But don't stop there! Look for opposing views or evidence to challenge your information, and seek clarification when things are unclear. This will help you to reassess your beliefs and make a well-informed decision later. Read our article, Opening Closed Minds , for more ways to stay receptive.

Logical Thinking

You must be skilled at reasoning and extending logic to come up with plausible options or outcomes.

It's also important to emphasize logic over emotion. Emotion can be motivating but it can also lead you to take hasty and unwise action, so control your emotions and be cautious in your judgments. Know when a conclusion is "fact" and when it is not. "Could-be-true" conclusions are based on assumptions and must be tested further. Read our article, Logical Fallacies , for help with this.

Use creative problem solving to balance cold logic. By thinking outside of the box you can identify new possible outcomes by using pieces of information that you already have.

Self-Awareness

Many of the decisions we make in life are subtly informed by our values and beliefs. These influences are called cognitive biases and it can be difficult to identify them in ourselves because they're often subconscious.

Practicing self-awareness will allow you to reflect on the beliefs you have and the choices you make. You'll then be better equipped to challenge your own thinking and make improved, unbiased decisions.

One particularly useful tool for critical thinking is the Ladder of Inference . It allows you to test and validate your thinking process, rather than jumping to poorly supported conclusions.

Developing a Critical Thinking Mindset

Combine the above skills with the right mindset so that you can make better decisions and adopt more effective courses of action. You can develop your critical thinking mindset by following this process:

Gather Information

First, collect data, opinions and facts on the issue that you need to solve. Draw on what you already know, and turn to new sources of information to help inform your understanding. Consider what gaps there are in your knowledge and seek to fill them. And look for information that challenges your assumptions and beliefs.

Be sure to verify the authority and authenticity of your sources. Not everything you read is true! Use this checklist to ensure that your information is valid:

  • Are your information sources trustworthy ? (For example, well-respected authors, trusted colleagues or peers, recognized industry publications, websites, blogs, etc.)
  • Is the information you have gathered up to date ?
  • Has the information received any direct criticism ?
  • Does the information have any errors or inaccuracies ?
  • Is there any evidence to support or corroborate the information you have gathered?
  • Is the information you have gathered subjective or biased in any way? (For example, is it based on opinion, rather than fact? Is any of the information you have gathered designed to promote a particular service or organization?)

If any information appears to be irrelevant or invalid, don't include it in your decision making. But don't omit information just because you disagree with it, or your final decision will be flawed and bias.

Now observe the information you have gathered, and interpret it. What are the key findings and main takeaways? What does the evidence point to? Start to build one or two possible arguments based on what you have found.

You'll need to look for the details within the mass of information, so use your powers of observation to identify any patterns or similarities. You can then analyze and extend these trends to make sensible predictions about the future.

To help you to sift through the multiple ideas and theories, it can be useful to group and order items according to their characteristics. From here, you can compare and contrast the different items. And once you've determined how similar or different things are from one another, Paired Comparison Analysis can help you to analyze them.

The final step involves challenging the information and rationalizing its arguments.

Apply the laws of reason (induction, deduction, analogy) to judge an argument and determine its merits. To do this, it's essential that you can determine the significance and validity of an argument to put it in the correct perspective. Take a look at our article, Rational Thinking , for more information about how to do this.

Once you have considered all of the arguments and options rationally, you can finally make an informed decision.

Afterward, take time to reflect on what you have learned and what you found challenging. Step back from the detail of your decision or problem, and look at the bigger picture. Record what you've learned from your observations and experience.

Critical thinking involves rigorously and skilfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions and beliefs. It's a useful skill in the workplace and in life.

You'll need to be curious and creative to explore alternative possibilities, but rational to apply logic, and self-aware to identify when your beliefs could affect your decisions or actions.

You can demonstrate a high level of critical thinking by validating your information, analyzing its meaning, and finally evaluating the argument.

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See Critical Thinking represented in our infographic: An Elementary Guide to Critical Thinking .

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Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. These skills are especially helpful at school and in the workplace, where employers prioritize the ability to think critically. Find out why and see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability.

Examples of Critical Thinking

The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:

  • A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated.
  • A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.
  • An attorney reviews the evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
  • A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses this information to develop a customer service training session for employees.

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.

Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.

Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter and during your interview.

How to Demonstrate Critical Thinking in a Job Search

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Add Keywords to Your Resume

You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your work history, include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your resume summary, if you have one.

For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”

Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter

Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Show the Interviewer Your Skills

You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.

Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand skills in mind as you refine your critical thinking practice —whether for work or school.

Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with analytical skills can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.

  • Asking Thoughtful Questions
  • Data Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Questioning Evidence
  • Recognizing Patterns

Communication

Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of classmates or colleagues. You need to be able to communicate with others to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

  • Active Listening
  • Collaboration
  • Explanation
  • Interpersonal
  • Presentation
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication

Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.

  • Flexibility
  • Conceptualization
  • Imagination
  • Drawing Connections
  • Synthesizing

Open-Mindedness

To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

  • Objectivity
  • Observation

Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Clarification
  • Decision Making
  • Groundedness
  • Identifying Patterns

More Critical Thinking Skills

  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Noticing Outliers
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Optimization
  • Restructuring
  • Integration
  • Strategic Planning
  • Project Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Causal Relationships
  • Case Analysis
  • Diagnostics
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Business Intelligence
  • Quantitative Data Management
  • Qualitative Data Management
  • Risk Management
  • Scientific Method
  • Consumer Behavior

Key Takeaways

  • Demonstrate you have critical thinking skills by adding relevant keywords to your resume.
  • Mention pertinent critical thinking skills in your cover letter, too, and include an example of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
  • Finally, highlight critical thinking skills during your interview. For instance, you might discuss a time when you were faced with a challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking skills to solve it.

University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."

American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."

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Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms for thinking carefully, and the thinking components on which they focus. Its adoption as an educational goal has been recommended on the basis of respect for students’ autonomy and preparing students for success in life and for democratic citizenship. “Critical thinkers” have the dispositions and abilities that lead them to think critically when appropriate. The abilities can be identified directly; the dispositions indirectly, by considering what factors contribute to or impede exercise of the abilities. Standardized tests have been developed to assess the degree to which a person possesses such dispositions and abilities. Educational intervention has been shown experimentally to improve them, particularly when it includes dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring. Controversies have arisen over the generalizability of critical thinking across domains, over alleged bias in critical thinking theories and instruction, and over the relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking.

2.1 Dewey’s Three Main Examples

2.2 dewey’s other examples, 2.3 further examples, 2.4 non-examples, 3. the definition of critical thinking, 4. its value, 5. the process of thinking critically, 6. components of the process, 7. contributory dispositions and abilities, 8.1 initiating dispositions, 8.2 internal dispositions, 9. critical thinking abilities, 10. required knowledge, 11. educational methods, 12.1 the generalizability of critical thinking, 12.2 bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, 12.3 relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking, other internet resources, related entries.

Use of the term ‘critical thinking’ to describe an educational goal goes back to the American philosopher John Dewey (1910), who more commonly called it ‘reflective thinking’. He defined it as

active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Dewey 1910: 6; 1933: 9)

and identified a habit of such consideration with a scientific attitude of mind. His lengthy quotations of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill indicate that he was not the first person to propose development of a scientific attitude of mind as an educational goal.

In the 1930s, many of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study of the Progressive Education Association (Aikin 1942) adopted critical thinking as an educational goal, for whose achievement the study’s Evaluation Staff developed tests (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942). Glaser (1941) showed experimentally that it was possible to improve the critical thinking of high school students. Bloom’s influential taxonomy of cognitive educational objectives (Bloom et al. 1956) incorporated critical thinking abilities. Ennis (1962) proposed 12 aspects of critical thinking as a basis for research on the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability.

Since 1980, an annual international conference in California on critical thinking and educational reform has attracted tens of thousands of educators from all levels of education and from many parts of the world. Also since 1980, the state university system in California has required all undergraduate students to take a critical thinking course. Since 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions in conjunction with the divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association (APA). In 1987, the APA’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy commissioned a consensus statement on critical thinking for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (Facione 1990a). Researchers have developed standardized tests of critical thinking abilities and dispositions; for details, see the Supplement on Assessment . Educational jurisdictions around the world now include critical thinking in guidelines for curriculum and assessment.

For details on this history, see the Supplement on History .

2. Examples and Non-Examples

Before considering the definition of critical thinking, it will be helpful to have in mind some examples of critical thinking, as well as some examples of kinds of thinking that would apparently not count as critical thinking.

Dewey (1910: 68–71; 1933: 91–94) takes as paradigms of reflective thinking three class papers of students in which they describe their thinking. The examples range from the everyday to the scientific.

Transit : “The other day, when I was down town on 16th Street, a clock caught my eye. I saw that the hands pointed to 12:20. This suggested that I had an engagement at 124th Street, at one o’clock. I reasoned that as it had taken me an hour to come down on a surface car, I should probably be twenty minutes late if I returned the same way. I might save twenty minutes by a subway express. But was there a station near? If not, I might lose more than twenty minutes in looking for one. Then I thought of the elevated, and I saw there was such a line within two blocks. But where was the station? If it were several blocks above or below the street I was on, I should lose time instead of gaining it. My mind went back to the subway express as quicker than the elevated; furthermore, I remembered that it went nearer than the elevated to the part of 124th Street I wished to reach, so that time would be saved at the end of the journey. I concluded in favor of the subway, and reached my destination by one o’clock.” (Dewey 1910: 68–69; 1933: 91–92)

Ferryboat : “Projecting nearly horizontally from the upper deck of the ferryboat on which I daily cross the river is a long white pole, having a gilded ball at its tip. It suggested a flagpole when I first saw it; its color, shape, and gilded ball agreed with this idea, and these reasons seemed to justify me in this belief. But soon difficulties presented themselves. The pole was nearly horizontal, an unusual position for a flagpole; in the next place, there was no pulley, ring, or cord by which to attach a flag; finally, there were elsewhere on the boat two vertical staffs from which flags were occasionally flown. It seemed probable that the pole was not there for flag-flying.

“I then tried to imagine all possible purposes of the pole, and to consider for which of these it was best suited: (a) Possibly it was an ornament. But as all the ferryboats and even the tugboats carried poles, this hypothesis was rejected. (b) Possibly it was the terminal of a wireless telegraph. But the same considerations made this improbable. Besides, the more natural place for such a terminal would be the highest part of the boat, on top of the pilot house. (c) Its purpose might be to point out the direction in which the boat is moving.

“In support of this conclusion, I discovered that the pole was lower than the pilot house, so that the steersman could easily see it. Moreover, the tip was enough higher than the base, so that, from the pilot’s position, it must appear to project far out in front of the boat. Moreover, the pilot being near the front of the boat, he would need some such guide as to its direction. Tugboats would also need poles for such a purpose. This hypothesis was so much more probable than the others that I accepted it. I formed the conclusion that the pole was set up for the purpose of showing the pilot the direction in which the boat pointed, to enable him to steer correctly.” (Dewey 1910: 69–70; 1933: 92–93)

Bubbles : “In washing tumblers in hot soapsuds and placing them mouth downward on a plate, bubbles appeared on the outside of the mouth of the tumblers and then went inside. Why? The presence of bubbles suggests air, which I note must come from inside the tumbler. I see that the soapy water on the plate prevents escape of the air save as it may be caught in bubbles. But why should air leave the tumbler? There was no substance entering to force it out. It must have expanded. It expands by increase of heat, or by decrease of pressure, or both. Could the air have become heated after the tumbler was taken from the hot suds? Clearly not the air that was already entangled in the water. If heated air was the cause, cold air must have entered in transferring the tumblers from the suds to the plate. I test to see if this supposition is true by taking several more tumblers out. Some I shake so as to make sure of entrapping cold air in them. Some I take out holding mouth downward in order to prevent cold air from entering. Bubbles appear on the outside of every one of the former and on none of the latter. I must be right in my inference. Air from the outside must have been expanded by the heat of the tumbler, which explains the appearance of the bubbles on the outside. But why do they then go inside? Cold contracts. The tumbler cooled and also the air inside it. Tension was removed, and hence bubbles appeared inside. To be sure of this, I test by placing a cup of ice on the tumbler while the bubbles are still forming outside. They soon reverse” (Dewey 1910: 70–71; 1933: 93–94).

Dewey (1910, 1933) sprinkles his book with other examples of critical thinking. We will refer to the following.

Weather : A man on a walk notices that it has suddenly become cool, thinks that it is probably going to rain, looks up and sees a dark cloud obscuring the sun, and quickens his steps (1910: 6–10; 1933: 9–13).

Disorder : A man finds his rooms on his return to them in disorder with his belongings thrown about, thinks at first of burglary as an explanation, then thinks of mischievous children as being an alternative explanation, then looks to see whether valuables are missing, and discovers that they are (1910: 82–83; 1933: 166–168).

Typhoid : A physician diagnosing a patient whose conspicuous symptoms suggest typhoid avoids drawing a conclusion until more data are gathered by questioning the patient and by making tests (1910: 85–86; 1933: 170).

Blur : A moving blur catches our eye in the distance, we ask ourselves whether it is a cloud of whirling dust or a tree moving its branches or a man signaling to us, we think of other traits that should be found on each of those possibilities, and we look and see if those traits are found (1910: 102, 108; 1933: 121, 133).

Suction pump : In thinking about the suction pump, the scientist first notes that it will draw water only to a maximum height of 33 feet at sea level and to a lesser maximum height at higher elevations, selects for attention the differing atmospheric pressure at these elevations, sets up experiments in which the air is removed from a vessel containing water (when suction no longer works) and in which the weight of air at various levels is calculated, compares the results of reasoning about the height to which a given weight of air will allow a suction pump to raise water with the observed maximum height at different elevations, and finally assimilates the suction pump to such apparently different phenomena as the siphon and the rising of a balloon (1910: 150–153; 1933: 195–198).

Diamond : A passenger in a car driving in a diamond lane reserved for vehicles with at least one passenger notices that the diamond marks on the pavement are far apart in some places and close together in others. Why? The driver suggests that the reason may be that the diamond marks are not needed where there is a solid double line separating the diamond lane from the adjoining lane, but are needed when there is a dotted single line permitting crossing into the diamond lane. Further observation confirms that the diamonds are close together when a dotted line separates the diamond lane from its neighbour, but otherwise far apart.

Rash : A woman suddenly develops a very itchy red rash on her throat and upper chest. She recently noticed a mark on the back of her right hand, but was not sure whether the mark was a rash or a scrape. She lies down in bed and thinks about what might be causing the rash and what to do about it. About two weeks before, she began taking blood pressure medication that contained a sulfa drug, and the pharmacist had warned her, in view of a previous allergic reaction to a medication containing a sulfa drug, to be on the alert for an allergic reaction; however, she had been taking the medication for two weeks with no such effect. The day before, she began using a new cream on her neck and upper chest; against the new cream as the cause was mark on the back of her hand, which had not been exposed to the cream. She began taking probiotics about a month before. She also recently started new eye drops, but she supposed that manufacturers of eye drops would be careful not to include allergy-causing components in the medication. The rash might be a heat rash, since she recently was sweating profusely from her upper body. Since she is about to go away on a short vacation, where she would not have access to her usual physician, she decides to keep taking the probiotics and using the new eye drops but to discontinue the blood pressure medication and to switch back to the old cream for her neck and upper chest. She forms a plan to consult her regular physician on her return about the blood pressure medication.

Candidate : Although Dewey included no examples of thinking directed at appraising the arguments of others, such thinking has come to be considered a kind of critical thinking. We find an example of such thinking in the performance task on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), which its sponsoring organization describes as

a performance-based assessment that provides a measure of an institution’s contribution to the development of critical-thinking and written communication skills of its students. (Council for Aid to Education 2017)

A sample task posted on its website requires the test-taker to write a report for public distribution evaluating a fictional candidate’s policy proposals and their supporting arguments, using supplied background documents, with a recommendation on whether to endorse the candidate.

Immediate acceptance of an idea that suggests itself as a solution to a problem (e.g., a possible explanation of an event or phenomenon, an action that seems likely to produce a desired result) is “uncritical thinking, the minimum of reflection” (Dewey 1910: 13). On-going suspension of judgment in the light of doubt about a possible solution is not critical thinking (Dewey 1910: 108). Critique driven by a dogmatically held political or religious ideology is not critical thinking; thus Paulo Freire (1968 [1970]) is using the term (e.g., at 1970: 71, 81, 100, 146) in a more politically freighted sense that includes not only reflection but also revolutionary action against oppression. Derivation of a conclusion from given data using an algorithm is not critical thinking.

What is critical thinking? There are many definitions. Ennis (2016) lists 14 philosophically oriented scholarly definitions and three dictionary definitions. Following Rawls (1971), who distinguished his conception of justice from a utilitarian conception but regarded them as rival conceptions of the same concept, Ennis maintains that the 17 definitions are different conceptions of the same concept. Rawls articulated the shared concept of justice as

a characteristic set of principles for assigning basic rights and duties and for determining… the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation. (Rawls 1971: 5)

Bailin et al. (1999b) claim that, if one considers what sorts of thinking an educator would take not to be critical thinking and what sorts to be critical thinking, one can conclude that educators typically understand critical thinking to have at least three features.

  • It is done for the purpose of making up one’s mind about what to believe or do.
  • The person engaging in the thinking is trying to fulfill standards of adequacy and accuracy appropriate to the thinking.
  • The thinking fulfills the relevant standards to some threshold level.

One could sum up the core concept that involves these three features by saying that critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking. This core concept seems to apply to all the examples of critical thinking described in the previous section. As for the non-examples, their exclusion depends on construing careful thinking as excluding jumping immediately to conclusions, suspending judgment no matter how strong the evidence, reasoning from an unquestioned ideological or religious perspective, and routinely using an algorithm to answer a question.

If the core of critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking, conceptions of it can vary according to its presumed scope, its presumed goal, one’s criteria and threshold for being careful, and the thinking component on which one focuses. As to its scope, some conceptions (e.g., Dewey 1910, 1933) restrict it to constructive thinking on the basis of one’s own observations and experiments, others (e.g., Ennis 1962; Fisher & Scriven 1997; Johnson 1992) to appraisal of the products of such thinking. Ennis (1991) and Bailin et al. (1999b) take it to cover both construction and appraisal. As to its goal, some conceptions restrict it to forming a judgment (Dewey 1910, 1933; Lipman 1987; Facione 1990a). Others allow for actions as well as beliefs as the end point of a process of critical thinking (Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b). As to the criteria and threshold for being careful, definitions vary in the term used to indicate that critical thinking satisfies certain norms: “intellectually disciplined” (Scriven & Paul 1987), “reasonable” (Ennis 1991), “skillful” (Lipman 1987), “skilled” (Fisher & Scriven 1997), “careful” (Bailin & Battersby 2009). Some definitions specify these norms, referring variously to “consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends” (Dewey 1910, 1933); “the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning” (Glaser 1941); “conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication” (Scriven & Paul 1987); the requirement that “it is sensitive to context, relies on criteria, and is self-correcting” (Lipman 1987); “evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations” (Facione 1990a); and “plus-minus considerations of the product in terms of appropriate standards (or criteria)” (Johnson 1992). Stanovich and Stanovich (2010) propose to ground the concept of critical thinking in the concept of rationality, which they understand as combining epistemic rationality (fitting one’s beliefs to the world) and instrumental rationality (optimizing goal fulfillment); a critical thinker, in their view, is someone with “a propensity to override suboptimal responses from the autonomous mind” (2010: 227). These variant specifications of norms for critical thinking are not necessarily incompatible with one another, and in any case presuppose the core notion of thinking carefully. As to the thinking component singled out, some definitions focus on suspension of judgment during the thinking (Dewey 1910; McPeck 1981), others on inquiry while judgment is suspended (Bailin & Battersby 2009, 2021), others on the resulting judgment (Facione 1990a), and still others on responsiveness to reasons (Siegel 1988). Kuhn (2019) takes critical thinking to be more a dialogic practice of advancing and responding to arguments than an individual ability.

In educational contexts, a definition of critical thinking is a “programmatic definition” (Scheffler 1960: 19). It expresses a practical program for achieving an educational goal. For this purpose, a one-sentence formulaic definition is much less useful than articulation of a critical thinking process, with criteria and standards for the kinds of thinking that the process may involve. The real educational goal is recognition, adoption and implementation by students of those criteria and standards. That adoption and implementation in turn consists in acquiring the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker.

Conceptions of critical thinking generally do not include moral integrity as part of the concept. Dewey, for example, took critical thinking to be the ultimate intellectual goal of education, but distinguished it from the development of social cooperation among school children, which he took to be the central moral goal. Ennis (1996, 2011) added to his previous list of critical thinking dispositions a group of dispositions to care about the dignity and worth of every person, which he described as a “correlative” (1996) disposition without which critical thinking would be less valuable and perhaps harmful. An educational program that aimed at developing critical thinking but not the correlative disposition to care about the dignity and worth of every person, he asserted, “would be deficient and perhaps dangerous” (Ennis 1996: 172).

Dewey thought that education for reflective thinking would be of value to both the individual and society; recognition in educational practice of the kinship to the scientific attitude of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (Dewey 1910: iii). Schools participating in the Eight-Year Study took development of the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems as a means to leading young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18, 81). Harvey Siegel (1988: 55–61) has offered four considerations in support of adopting critical thinking as an educational ideal. (1) Respect for persons requires that schools and teachers honour students’ demands for reasons and explanations, deal with students honestly, and recognize the need to confront students’ independent judgment; these requirements concern the manner in which teachers treat students. (2) Education has the task of preparing children to be successful adults, a task that requires development of their self-sufficiency. (3) Education should initiate children into the rational traditions in such fields as history, science and mathematics. (4) Education should prepare children to become democratic citizens, which requires reasoned procedures and critical talents and attitudes. To supplement these considerations, Siegel (1988: 62–90) responds to two objections: the ideology objection that adoption of any educational ideal requires a prior ideological commitment and the indoctrination objection that cultivation of critical thinking cannot escape being a form of indoctrination.

Despite the diversity of our 11 examples, one can recognize a common pattern. Dewey analyzed it as consisting of five phases:

  • suggestions , in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution;
  • an intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought;
  • the use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis , to initiate and guide observation and other operations in collection of factual material;
  • the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition as an idea or supposition ( reasoning , in the sense on which reasoning is a part, not the whole, of inference); and
  • testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action. (Dewey 1933: 106–107; italics in original)

The process of reflective thinking consisting of these phases would be preceded by a perplexed, troubled or confused situation and followed by a cleared-up, unified, resolved situation (Dewey 1933: 106). The term ‘phases’ replaced the term ‘steps’ (Dewey 1910: 72), thus removing the earlier suggestion of an invariant sequence. Variants of the above analysis appeared in (Dewey 1916: 177) and (Dewey 1938: 101–119).

The variant formulations indicate the difficulty of giving a single logical analysis of such a varied process. The process of critical thinking may have a spiral pattern, with the problem being redefined in the light of obstacles to solving it as originally formulated. For example, the person in Transit might have concluded that getting to the appointment at the scheduled time was impossible and have reformulated the problem as that of rescheduling the appointment for a mutually convenient time. Further, defining a problem does not always follow after or lead immediately to an idea of a suggested solution. Nor should it do so, as Dewey himself recognized in describing the physician in Typhoid as avoiding any strong preference for this or that conclusion before getting further information (Dewey 1910: 85; 1933: 170). People with a hypothesis in mind, even one to which they have a very weak commitment, have a so-called “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998): they are likely to pay attention to evidence that confirms the hypothesis and to ignore evidence that counts against it or for some competing hypothesis. Detectives, intelligence agencies, and investigators of airplane accidents are well advised to gather relevant evidence systematically and to postpone even tentative adoption of an explanatory hypothesis until the collected evidence rules out with the appropriate degree of certainty all but one explanation. Dewey’s analysis of the critical thinking process can be faulted as well for requiring acceptance or rejection of a possible solution to a defined problem, with no allowance for deciding in the light of the available evidence to suspend judgment. Further, given the great variety of kinds of problems for which reflection is appropriate, there is likely to be variation in its component events. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the critical thinking process is as a checklist whose component events can occur in a variety of orders, selectively, and more than once. These component events might include (1) noticing a difficulty, (2) defining the problem, (3) dividing the problem into manageable sub-problems, (4) formulating a variety of possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (5) determining what evidence is relevant to deciding among possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (6) devising a plan of systematic observation or experiment that will uncover the relevant evidence, (7) carrying out the plan of systematic observation or experimentation, (8) noting the results of the systematic observation or experiment, (9) gathering relevant testimony and information from others, (10) judging the credibility of testimony and information gathered from others, (11) drawing conclusions from gathered evidence and accepted testimony, and (12) accepting a solution that the evidence adequately supports (cf. Hitchcock 2017: 485).

Checklist conceptions of the process of critical thinking are open to the objection that they are too mechanical and procedural to fit the multi-dimensional and emotionally charged issues for which critical thinking is urgently needed (Paul 1984). For such issues, a more dialectical process is advocated, in which competing relevant world views are identified, their implications explored, and some sort of creative synthesis attempted.

If one considers the critical thinking process illustrated by the 11 examples, one can identify distinct kinds of mental acts and mental states that form part of it. To distinguish, label and briefly characterize these components is a useful preliminary to identifying abilities, skills, dispositions, attitudes, habits and the like that contribute causally to thinking critically. Identifying such abilities and habits is in turn a useful preliminary to setting educational goals. Setting the goals is in its turn a useful preliminary to designing strategies for helping learners to achieve the goals and to designing ways of measuring the extent to which learners have done so. Such measures provide both feedback to learners on their achievement and a basis for experimental research on the effectiveness of various strategies for educating people to think critically. Let us begin, then, by distinguishing the kinds of mental acts and mental events that can occur in a critical thinking process.

  • Observing : One notices something in one’s immediate environment (sudden cooling of temperature in Weather , bubbles forming outside a glass and then going inside in Bubbles , a moving blur in the distance in Blur , a rash in Rash ). Or one notes the results of an experiment or systematic observation (valuables missing in Disorder , no suction without air pressure in Suction pump )
  • Feeling : One feels puzzled or uncertain about something (how to get to an appointment on time in Transit , why the diamonds vary in spacing in Diamond ). One wants to resolve this perplexity. One feels satisfaction once one has worked out an answer (to take the subway express in Transit , diamonds closer when needed as a warning in Diamond ).
  • Wondering : One formulates a question to be addressed (why bubbles form outside a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , how suction pumps work in Suction pump , what caused the rash in Rash ).
  • Imagining : One thinks of possible answers (bus or subway or elevated in Transit , flagpole or ornament or wireless communication aid or direction indicator in Ferryboat , allergic reaction or heat rash in Rash ).
  • Inferring : One works out what would be the case if a possible answer were assumed (valuables missing if there has been a burglary in Disorder , earlier start to the rash if it is an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug in Rash ). Or one draws a conclusion once sufficient relevant evidence is gathered (take the subway in Transit , burglary in Disorder , discontinue blood pressure medication and new cream in Rash ).
  • Knowledge : One uses stored knowledge of the subject-matter to generate possible answers or to infer what would be expected on the assumption of a particular answer (knowledge of a city’s public transit system in Transit , of the requirements for a flagpole in Ferryboat , of Boyle’s law in Bubbles , of allergic reactions in Rash ).
  • Experimenting : One designs and carries out an experiment or a systematic observation to find out whether the results deduced from a possible answer will occur (looking at the location of the flagpole in relation to the pilot’s position in Ferryboat , putting an ice cube on top of a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , measuring the height to which a suction pump will draw water at different elevations in Suction pump , noticing the spacing of diamonds when movement to or from a diamond lane is allowed in Diamond ).
  • Consulting : One finds a source of information, gets the information from the source, and makes a judgment on whether to accept it. None of our 11 examples include searching for sources of information. In this respect they are unrepresentative, since most people nowadays have almost instant access to information relevant to answering any question, including many of those illustrated by the examples. However, Candidate includes the activities of extracting information from sources and evaluating its credibility.
  • Identifying and analyzing arguments : One notices an argument and works out its structure and content as a preliminary to evaluating its strength. This activity is central to Candidate . It is an important part of a critical thinking process in which one surveys arguments for various positions on an issue.
  • Judging : One makes a judgment on the basis of accumulated evidence and reasoning, such as the judgment in Ferryboat that the purpose of the pole is to provide direction to the pilot.
  • Deciding : One makes a decision on what to do or on what policy to adopt, as in the decision in Transit to take the subway.

By definition, a person who does something voluntarily is both willing and able to do that thing at that time. Both the willingness and the ability contribute causally to the person’s action, in the sense that the voluntary action would not occur if either (or both) of these were lacking. For example, suppose that one is standing with one’s arms at one’s sides and one voluntarily lifts one’s right arm to an extended horizontal position. One would not do so if one were unable to lift one’s arm, if for example one’s right side was paralyzed as the result of a stroke. Nor would one do so if one were unwilling to lift one’s arm, if for example one were participating in a street demonstration at which a white supremacist was urging the crowd to lift their right arm in a Nazi salute and one were unwilling to express support in this way for the racist Nazi ideology. The same analysis applies to a voluntary mental process of thinking critically. It requires both willingness and ability to think critically, including willingness and ability to perform each of the mental acts that compose the process and to coordinate those acts in a sequence that is directed at resolving the initiating perplexity.

Consider willingness first. We can identify causal contributors to willingness to think critically by considering factors that would cause a person who was able to think critically about an issue nevertheless not to do so (Hamby 2014). For each factor, the opposite condition thus contributes causally to willingness to think critically on a particular occasion. For example, people who habitually jump to conclusions without considering alternatives will not think critically about issues that arise, even if they have the required abilities. The contrary condition of willingness to suspend judgment is thus a causal contributor to thinking critically.

Now consider ability. In contrast to the ability to move one’s arm, which can be completely absent because a stroke has left the arm paralyzed, the ability to think critically is a developed ability, whose absence is not a complete absence of ability to think but absence of ability to think well. We can identify the ability to think well directly, in terms of the norms and standards for good thinking. In general, to be able do well the thinking activities that can be components of a critical thinking process, one needs to know the concepts and principles that characterize their good performance, to recognize in particular cases that the concepts and principles apply, and to apply them. The knowledge, recognition and application may be procedural rather than declarative. It may be domain-specific rather than widely applicable, and in either case may need subject-matter knowledge, sometimes of a deep kind.

Reflections of the sort illustrated by the previous two paragraphs have led scholars to identify the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a “critical thinker”, i.e., someone who thinks critically whenever it is appropriate to do so. We turn now to these three types of causal contributors to thinking critically. We start with dispositions, since arguably these are the most powerful contributors to being a critical thinker, can be fostered at an early stage of a child’s development, and are susceptible to general improvement (Glaser 1941: 175)

8. Critical Thinking Dispositions

Educational researchers use the term ‘dispositions’ broadly for the habits of mind and attitudes that contribute causally to being a critical thinker. Some writers (e.g., Paul & Elder 2006; Hamby 2014; Bailin & Battersby 2016a) propose to use the term ‘virtues’ for this dimension of a critical thinker. The virtues in question, although they are virtues of character, concern the person’s ways of thinking rather than the person’s ways of behaving towards others. They are not moral virtues but intellectual virtues, of the sort articulated by Zagzebski (1996) and discussed by Turri, Alfano, and Greco (2017).

On a realistic conception, thinking dispositions or intellectual virtues are real properties of thinkers. They are general tendencies, propensities, or inclinations to think in particular ways in particular circumstances, and can be genuinely explanatory (Siegel 1999). Sceptics argue that there is no evidence for a specific mental basis for the habits of mind that contribute to thinking critically, and that it is pedagogically misleading to posit such a basis (Bailin et al. 1999a). Whatever their status, critical thinking dispositions need motivation for their initial formation in a child—motivation that may be external or internal. As children develop, the force of habit will gradually become important in sustaining the disposition (Nieto & Valenzuela 2012). Mere force of habit, however, is unlikely to sustain critical thinking dispositions. Critical thinkers must value and enjoy using their knowledge and abilities to think things through for themselves. They must be committed to, and lovers of, inquiry.

A person may have a critical thinking disposition with respect to only some kinds of issues. For example, one could be open-minded about scientific issues but not about religious issues. Similarly, one could be confident in one’s ability to reason about the theological implications of the existence of evil in the world but not in one’s ability to reason about the best design for a guided ballistic missile.

Facione (1990a: 25) divides “affective dispositions” of critical thinking into approaches to life and living in general and approaches to specific issues, questions or problems. Adapting this distinction, one can usefully divide critical thinking dispositions into initiating dispositions (those that contribute causally to starting to think critically about an issue) and internal dispositions (those that contribute causally to doing a good job of thinking critically once one has started). The two categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, open-mindedness, in the sense of willingness to consider alternative points of view to one’s own, is both an initiating and an internal disposition.

Using the strategy of considering factors that would block people with the ability to think critically from doing so, we can identify as initiating dispositions for thinking critically attentiveness, a habit of inquiry, self-confidence, courage, open-mindedness, willingness to suspend judgment, trust in reason, wanting evidence for one’s beliefs, and seeking the truth. We consider briefly what each of these dispositions amounts to, in each case citing sources that acknowledge them.

  • Attentiveness : One will not think critically if one fails to recognize an issue that needs to be thought through. For example, the pedestrian in Weather would not have looked up if he had not noticed that the air was suddenly cooler. To be a critical thinker, then, one needs to be habitually attentive to one’s surroundings, noticing not only what one senses but also sources of perplexity in messages received and in one’s own beliefs and attitudes (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Habit of inquiry : Inquiry is effortful, and one needs an internal push to engage in it. For example, the student in Bubbles could easily have stopped at idle wondering about the cause of the bubbles rather than reasoning to a hypothesis, then designing and executing an experiment to test it. Thus willingness to think critically needs mental energy and initiative. What can supply that energy? Love of inquiry, or perhaps just a habit of inquiry. Hamby (2015) has argued that willingness to inquire is the central critical thinking virtue, one that encompasses all the others. It is recognized as a critical thinking disposition by Dewey (1910: 29; 1933: 35), Glaser (1941: 5), Ennis (1987: 12; 1991: 8), Facione (1990a: 25), Bailin et al. (1999b: 294), Halpern (1998: 452), and Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo (2001).
  • Self-confidence : Lack of confidence in one’s abilities can block critical thinking. For example, if the woman in Rash lacked confidence in her ability to figure things out for herself, she might just have assumed that the rash on her chest was the allergic reaction to her medication against which the pharmacist had warned her. Thus willingness to think critically requires confidence in one’s ability to inquire (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Courage : Fear of thinking for oneself can stop one from doing it. Thus willingness to think critically requires intellectual courage (Paul & Elder 2006: 16).
  • Open-mindedness : A dogmatic attitude will impede thinking critically. For example, a person who adheres rigidly to a “pro-choice” position on the issue of the legal status of induced abortion is likely to be unwilling to consider seriously the issue of when in its development an unborn child acquires a moral right to life. Thus willingness to think critically requires open-mindedness, in the sense of a willingness to examine questions to which one already accepts an answer but which further evidence or reasoning might cause one to answer differently (Dewey 1933; Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b; Halpern 1998, Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). Paul (1981) emphasizes open-mindedness about alternative world-views, and recommends a dialectical approach to integrating such views as central to what he calls “strong sense” critical thinking. In three studies, Haran, Ritov, & Mellers (2013) found that actively open-minded thinking, including “the tendency to weigh new evidence against a favored belief, to spend sufficient time on a problem before giving up, and to consider carefully the opinions of others in forming one’s own”, led study participants to acquire information and thus to make accurate estimations.
  • Willingness to suspend judgment : Premature closure on an initial solution will block critical thinking. Thus willingness to think critically requires a willingness to suspend judgment while alternatives are explored (Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Halpern 1998).
  • Trust in reason : Since distrust in the processes of reasoned inquiry will dissuade one from engaging in it, trust in them is an initiating critical thinking disposition (Facione 1990a, 25; Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001; Paul & Elder 2006). In reaction to an allegedly exclusive emphasis on reason in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, Thayer-Bacon (2000) argues that intuition, imagination, and emotion have important roles to play in an adequate conception of critical thinking that she calls “constructive thinking”. From her point of view, critical thinking requires trust not only in reason but also in intuition, imagination, and emotion.
  • Seeking the truth : If one does not care about the truth but is content to stick with one’s initial bias on an issue, then one will not think critically about it. Seeking the truth is thus an initiating critical thinking disposition (Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). A disposition to seek the truth is implicit in more specific critical thinking dispositions, such as trying to be well-informed, considering seriously points of view other than one’s own, looking for alternatives, suspending judgment when the evidence is insufficient, and adopting a position when the evidence supporting it is sufficient.

Some of the initiating dispositions, such as open-mindedness and willingness to suspend judgment, are also internal critical thinking dispositions, in the sense of mental habits or attitudes that contribute causally to doing a good job of critical thinking once one starts the process. But there are many other internal critical thinking dispositions. Some of them are parasitic on one’s conception of good thinking. For example, it is constitutive of good thinking about an issue to formulate the issue clearly and to maintain focus on it. For this purpose, one needs not only the corresponding ability but also the corresponding disposition. Ennis (1991: 8) describes it as the disposition “to determine and maintain focus on the conclusion or question”, Facione (1990a: 25) as “clarity in stating the question or concern”. Other internal dispositions are motivators to continue or adjust the critical thinking process, such as willingness to persist in a complex task and willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to self-correct (Halpern 1998: 452). For a list of identified internal critical thinking dispositions, see the Supplement on Internal Critical Thinking Dispositions .

Some theorists postulate skills, i.e., acquired abilities, as operative in critical thinking. It is not obvious, however, that a good mental act is the exercise of a generic acquired skill. Inferring an expected time of arrival, as in Transit , has some generic components but also uses non-generic subject-matter knowledge. Bailin et al. (1999a) argue against viewing critical thinking skills as generic and discrete, on the ground that skilled performance at a critical thinking task cannot be separated from knowledge of concepts and from domain-specific principles of good thinking. Talk of skills, they concede, is unproblematic if it means merely that a person with critical thinking skills is capable of intelligent performance.

Despite such scepticism, theorists of critical thinking have listed as general contributors to critical thinking what they variously call abilities (Glaser 1941; Ennis 1962, 1991), skills (Facione 1990a; Halpern 1998) or competencies (Fisher & Scriven 1997). Amalgamating these lists would produce a confusing and chaotic cornucopia of more than 50 possible educational objectives, with only partial overlap among them. It makes sense instead to try to understand the reasons for the multiplicity and diversity, and to make a selection according to one’s own reasons for singling out abilities to be developed in a critical thinking curriculum. Two reasons for diversity among lists of critical thinking abilities are the underlying conception of critical thinking and the envisaged educational level. Appraisal-only conceptions, for example, involve a different suite of abilities than constructive-only conceptions. Some lists, such as those in (Glaser 1941), are put forward as educational objectives for secondary school students, whereas others are proposed as objectives for college students (e.g., Facione 1990a).

The abilities described in the remaining paragraphs of this section emerge from reflection on the general abilities needed to do well the thinking activities identified in section 6 as components of the critical thinking process described in section 5 . The derivation of each collection of abilities is accompanied by citation of sources that list such abilities and of standardized tests that claim to test them.

Observational abilities : Careful and accurate observation sometimes requires specialist expertise and practice, as in the case of observing birds and observing accident scenes. However, there are general abilities of noticing what one’s senses are picking up from one’s environment and of being able to articulate clearly and accurately to oneself and others what one has observed. It helps in exercising them to be able to recognize and take into account factors that make one’s observation less trustworthy, such as prior framing of the situation, inadequate time, deficient senses, poor observation conditions, and the like. It helps as well to be skilled at taking steps to make one’s observation more trustworthy, such as moving closer to get a better look, measuring something three times and taking the average, and checking what one thinks one is observing with someone else who is in a good position to observe it. It also helps to be skilled at recognizing respects in which one’s report of one’s observation involves inference rather than direct observation, so that one can then consider whether the inference is justified. These abilities come into play as well when one thinks about whether and with what degree of confidence to accept an observation report, for example in the study of history or in a criminal investigation or in assessing news reports. Observational abilities show up in some lists of critical thinking abilities (Ennis 1962: 90; Facione 1990a: 16; Ennis 1991: 9). There are items testing a person’s ability to judge the credibility of observation reports in the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, Levels X and Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). Norris and King (1983, 1985, 1990a, 1990b) is a test of ability to appraise observation reports.

Emotional abilities : The emotions that drive a critical thinking process are perplexity or puzzlement, a wish to resolve it, and satisfaction at achieving the desired resolution. Children experience these emotions at an early age, without being trained to do so. Education that takes critical thinking as a goal needs only to channel these emotions and to make sure not to stifle them. Collaborative critical thinking benefits from ability to recognize one’s own and others’ emotional commitments and reactions.

Questioning abilities : A critical thinking process needs transformation of an inchoate sense of perplexity into a clear question. Formulating a question well requires not building in questionable assumptions, not prejudging the issue, and using language that in context is unambiguous and precise enough (Ennis 1962: 97; 1991: 9).

Imaginative abilities : Thinking directed at finding the correct causal explanation of a general phenomenon or particular event requires an ability to imagine possible explanations. Thinking about what policy or plan of action to adopt requires generation of options and consideration of possible consequences of each option. Domain knowledge is required for such creative activity, but a general ability to imagine alternatives is helpful and can be nurtured so as to become easier, quicker, more extensive, and deeper (Dewey 1910: 34–39; 1933: 40–47). Facione (1990a) and Halpern (1998) include the ability to imagine alternatives as a critical thinking ability.

Inferential abilities : The ability to draw conclusions from given information, and to recognize with what degree of certainty one’s own or others’ conclusions follow, is universally recognized as a general critical thinking ability. All 11 examples in section 2 of this article include inferences, some from hypotheses or options (as in Transit , Ferryboat and Disorder ), others from something observed (as in Weather and Rash ). None of these inferences is formally valid. Rather, they are licensed by general, sometimes qualified substantive rules of inference (Toulmin 1958) that rest on domain knowledge—that a bus trip takes about the same time in each direction, that the terminal of a wireless telegraph would be located on the highest possible place, that sudden cooling is often followed by rain, that an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug generally shows up soon after one starts taking it. It is a matter of controversy to what extent the specialized ability to deduce conclusions from premisses using formal rules of inference is needed for critical thinking. Dewey (1933) locates logical forms in setting out the products of reflection rather than in the process of reflection. Ennis (1981a), on the other hand, maintains that a liberally-educated person should have the following abilities: to translate natural-language statements into statements using the standard logical operators, to use appropriately the language of necessary and sufficient conditions, to deal with argument forms and arguments containing symbols, to determine whether in virtue of an argument’s form its conclusion follows necessarily from its premisses, to reason with logically complex propositions, and to apply the rules and procedures of deductive logic. Inferential abilities are recognized as critical thinking abilities by Glaser (1941: 6), Facione (1990a: 9), Ennis (1991: 9), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 99, 111), and Halpern (1998: 452). Items testing inferential abilities constitute two of the five subtests of the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (Watson & Glaser 1980a, 1980b, 1994), two of the four sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), three of the seven sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), 11 of the 34 items on Forms A and B of the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992), and a high but variable proportion of the 25 selected-response questions in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Experimenting abilities : Knowing how to design and execute an experiment is important not just in scientific research but also in everyday life, as in Rash . Dewey devoted a whole chapter of his How We Think (1910: 145–156; 1933: 190–202) to the superiority of experimentation over observation in advancing knowledge. Experimenting abilities come into play at one remove in appraising reports of scientific studies. Skill in designing and executing experiments includes the acknowledged abilities to appraise evidence (Glaser 1941: 6), to carry out experiments and to apply appropriate statistical inference techniques (Facione 1990a: 9), to judge inductions to an explanatory hypothesis (Ennis 1991: 9), and to recognize the need for an adequately large sample size (Halpern 1998). The Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) includes four items (out of 52) on experimental design. The Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) makes room for appraisal of study design in both its performance task and its selected-response questions.

Consulting abilities : Skill at consulting sources of information comes into play when one seeks information to help resolve a problem, as in Candidate . Ability to find and appraise information includes ability to gather and marshal pertinent information (Glaser 1941: 6), to judge whether a statement made by an alleged authority is acceptable (Ennis 1962: 84), to plan a search for desired information (Facione 1990a: 9), and to judge the credibility of a source (Ennis 1991: 9). Ability to judge the credibility of statements is tested by 24 items (out of 76) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) and by four items (out of 52) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). The College Learning Assessment’s performance task requires evaluation of whether information in documents is credible or unreliable (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Argument analysis abilities : The ability to identify and analyze arguments contributes to the process of surveying arguments on an issue in order to form one’s own reasoned judgment, as in Candidate . The ability to detect and analyze arguments is recognized as a critical thinking skill by Facione (1990a: 7–8), Ennis (1991: 9) and Halpern (1998). Five items (out of 34) on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992) test skill at argument analysis. The College Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) incorporates argument analysis in its selected-response tests of critical reading and evaluation and of critiquing an argument.

Judging skills and deciding skills : Skill at judging and deciding is skill at recognizing what judgment or decision the available evidence and argument supports, and with what degree of confidence. It is thus a component of the inferential skills already discussed.

Lists and tests of critical thinking abilities often include two more abilities: identifying assumptions and constructing and evaluating definitions.

In addition to dispositions and abilities, critical thinking needs knowledge: of critical thinking concepts, of critical thinking principles, and of the subject-matter of the thinking.

We can derive a short list of concepts whose understanding contributes to critical thinking from the critical thinking abilities described in the preceding section. Observational abilities require an understanding of the difference between observation and inference. Questioning abilities require an understanding of the concepts of ambiguity and vagueness. Inferential abilities require an understanding of the difference between conclusive and defeasible inference (traditionally, between deduction and induction), as well as of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Experimenting abilities require an understanding of the concepts of hypothesis, null hypothesis, assumption and prediction, as well as of the concept of statistical significance and of its difference from importance. They also require an understanding of the difference between an experiment and an observational study, and in particular of the difference between a randomized controlled trial, a prospective correlational study and a retrospective (case-control) study. Argument analysis abilities require an understanding of the concepts of argument, premiss, assumption, conclusion and counter-consideration. Additional critical thinking concepts are proposed by Bailin et al. (1999b: 293), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 105–106), Black (2012), and Blair (2021).

According to Glaser (1941: 25), ability to think critically requires knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning. If we review the list of abilities in the preceding section, however, we can see that some of them can be acquired and exercised merely through practice, possibly guided in an educational setting, followed by feedback. Searching intelligently for a causal explanation of some phenomenon or event requires that one consider a full range of possible causal contributors, but it seems more important that one implements this principle in one’s practice than that one is able to articulate it. What is important is “operational knowledge” of the standards and principles of good thinking (Bailin et al. 1999b: 291–293). But the development of such critical thinking abilities as designing an experiment or constructing an operational definition can benefit from learning their underlying theory. Further, explicit knowledge of quirks of human thinking seems useful as a cautionary guide. Human memory is not just fallible about details, as people learn from their own experiences of misremembering, but is so malleable that a detailed, clear and vivid recollection of an event can be a total fabrication (Loftus 2017). People seek or interpret evidence in ways that are partial to their existing beliefs and expectations, often unconscious of their “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998). Not only are people subject to this and other cognitive biases (Kahneman 2011), of which they are typically unaware, but it may be counter-productive for one to make oneself aware of them and try consciously to counteract them or to counteract social biases such as racial or sexual stereotypes (Kenyon & Beaulac 2014). It is helpful to be aware of these facts and of the superior effectiveness of blocking the operation of biases—for example, by making an immediate record of one’s observations, refraining from forming a preliminary explanatory hypothesis, blind refereeing, double-blind randomized trials, and blind grading of students’ work. It is also helpful to be aware of the prevalence of “noise” (unwanted unsystematic variability of judgments), of how to detect noise (through a noise audit), and of how to reduce noise: make accuracy the goal, think statistically, break a process of arriving at a judgment into independent tasks, resist premature intuitions, in a group get independent judgments first, favour comparative judgments and scales (Kahneman, Sibony, & Sunstein 2021). It is helpful as well to be aware of the concept of “bounded rationality” in decision-making and of the related distinction between “satisficing” and optimizing (Simon 1956; Gigerenzer 2001).

Critical thinking about an issue requires substantive knowledge of the domain to which the issue belongs. Critical thinking abilities are not a magic elixir that can be applied to any issue whatever by somebody who has no knowledge of the facts relevant to exploring that issue. For example, the student in Bubbles needed to know that gases do not penetrate solid objects like a glass, that air expands when heated, that the volume of an enclosed gas varies directly with its temperature and inversely with its pressure, and that hot objects will spontaneously cool down to the ambient temperature of their surroundings unless kept hot by insulation or a source of heat. Critical thinkers thus need a rich fund of subject-matter knowledge relevant to the variety of situations they encounter. This fact is recognized in the inclusion among critical thinking dispositions of a concern to become and remain generally well informed.

Experimental educational interventions, with control groups, have shown that education can improve critical thinking skills and dispositions, as measured by standardized tests. For information about these tests, see the Supplement on Assessment .

What educational methods are most effective at developing the dispositions, abilities and knowledge of a critical thinker? In a comprehensive meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies of strategies for teaching students to think critically, Abrami et al. (2015) found that dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring each increased the effectiveness of the educational intervention, and that they were most effective when combined. They also found that in these studies a combination of separate instruction in critical thinking with subject-matter instruction in which students are encouraged to think critically was more effective than either by itself. However, the difference was not statistically significant; that is, it might have arisen by chance.

Most of these studies lack the longitudinal follow-up required to determine whether the observed differential improvements in critical thinking abilities or dispositions continue over time, for example until high school or college graduation. For details on studies of methods of developing critical thinking skills and dispositions, see the Supplement on Educational Methods .

12. Controversies

Scholars have denied the generalizability of critical thinking abilities across subject domains, have alleged bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, and have investigated the relationship of critical thinking to other kinds of thinking.

McPeck (1981) attacked the thinking skills movement of the 1970s, including the critical thinking movement. He argued that there are no general thinking skills, since thinking is always thinking about some subject-matter. It is futile, he claimed, for schools and colleges to teach thinking as if it were a separate subject. Rather, teachers should lead their pupils to become autonomous thinkers by teaching school subjects in a way that brings out their cognitive structure and that encourages and rewards discussion and argument. As some of his critics (e.g., Paul 1985; Siegel 1985) pointed out, McPeck’s central argument needs elaboration, since it has obvious counter-examples in writing and speaking, for which (up to a certain level of complexity) there are teachable general abilities even though they are always about some subject-matter. To make his argument convincing, McPeck needs to explain how thinking differs from writing and speaking in a way that does not permit useful abstraction of its components from the subject-matters with which it deals. He has not done so. Nevertheless, his position that the dispositions and abilities of a critical thinker are best developed in the context of subject-matter instruction is shared by many theorists of critical thinking, including Dewey (1910, 1933), Glaser (1941), Passmore (1980), Weinstein (1990), Bailin et al. (1999b), and Willingham (2019).

McPeck’s challenge prompted reflection on the extent to which critical thinking is subject-specific. McPeck argued for a strong subject-specificity thesis, according to which it is a conceptual truth that all critical thinking abilities are specific to a subject. (He did not however extend his subject-specificity thesis to critical thinking dispositions. In particular, he took the disposition to suspend judgment in situations of cognitive dissonance to be a general disposition.) Conceptual subject-specificity is subject to obvious counter-examples, such as the general ability to recognize confusion of necessary and sufficient conditions. A more modest thesis, also endorsed by McPeck, is epistemological subject-specificity, according to which the norms of good thinking vary from one field to another. Epistemological subject-specificity clearly holds to a certain extent; for example, the principles in accordance with which one solves a differential equation are quite different from the principles in accordance with which one determines whether a painting is a genuine Picasso. But the thesis suffers, as Ennis (1989) points out, from vagueness of the concept of a field or subject and from the obvious existence of inter-field principles, however broadly the concept of a field is construed. For example, the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning hold for all the varied fields in which such reasoning occurs. A third kind of subject-specificity is empirical subject-specificity, according to which as a matter of empirically observable fact a person with the abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker in one area of investigation will not necessarily have them in another area of investigation.

The thesis of empirical subject-specificity raises the general problem of transfer. If critical thinking abilities and dispositions have to be developed independently in each school subject, how are they of any use in dealing with the problems of everyday life and the political and social issues of contemporary society, most of which do not fit into the framework of a traditional school subject? Proponents of empirical subject-specificity tend to argue that transfer is more likely to occur if there is critical thinking instruction in a variety of domains, with explicit attention to dispositions and abilities that cut across domains. But evidence for this claim is scanty. There is a need for well-designed empirical studies that investigate the conditions that make transfer more likely.

It is common ground in debates about the generality or subject-specificity of critical thinking dispositions and abilities that critical thinking about any topic requires background knowledge about the topic. For example, the most sophisticated understanding of the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning is of no help unless accompanied by some knowledge of what might be plausible explanations of some phenomenon under investigation.

Critics have objected to bias in the theory, pedagogy and practice of critical thinking. Commentators (e.g., Alston 1995; Ennis 1998) have noted that anyone who takes a position has a bias in the neutral sense of being inclined in one direction rather than others. The critics, however, are objecting to bias in the pejorative sense of an unjustified favoring of certain ways of knowing over others, frequently alleging that the unjustly favoured ways are those of a dominant sex or culture (Bailin 1995). These ways favour:

  • reinforcement of egocentric and sociocentric biases over dialectical engagement with opposing world-views (Paul 1981, 1984; Warren 1998)
  • distancing from the object of inquiry over closeness to it (Martin 1992; Thayer-Bacon 1992)
  • indifference to the situation of others over care for them (Martin 1992)
  • orientation to thought over orientation to action (Martin 1992)
  • being reasonable over caring to understand people’s ideas (Thayer-Bacon 1993)
  • being neutral and objective over being embodied and situated (Thayer-Bacon 1995a)
  • doubting over believing (Thayer-Bacon 1995b)
  • reason over emotion, imagination and intuition (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • solitary thinking over collaborative thinking (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • written and spoken assignments over other forms of expression (Alston 2001)
  • attention to written and spoken communications over attention to human problems (Alston 2001)
  • winning debates in the public sphere over making and understanding meaning (Alston 2001)

A common thread in this smorgasbord of accusations is dissatisfaction with focusing on the logical analysis and evaluation of reasoning and arguments. While these authors acknowledge that such analysis and evaluation is part of critical thinking and should be part of its conceptualization and pedagogy, they insist that it is only a part. Paul (1981), for example, bemoans the tendency of atomistic teaching of methods of analyzing and evaluating arguments to turn students into more able sophists, adept at finding fault with positions and arguments with which they disagree but even more entrenched in the egocentric and sociocentric biases with which they began. Martin (1992) and Thayer-Bacon (1992) cite with approval the self-reported intimacy with their subject-matter of leading researchers in biology and medicine, an intimacy that conflicts with the distancing allegedly recommended in standard conceptions and pedagogy of critical thinking. Thayer-Bacon (2000) contrasts the embodied and socially embedded learning of her elementary school students in a Montessori school, who used their imagination, intuition and emotions as well as their reason, with conceptions of critical thinking as

thinking that is used to critique arguments, offer justifications, and make judgments about what are the good reasons, or the right answers. (Thayer-Bacon 2000: 127–128)

Alston (2001) reports that her students in a women’s studies class were able to see the flaws in the Cinderella myth that pervades much romantic fiction but in their own romantic relationships still acted as if all failures were the woman’s fault and still accepted the notions of love at first sight and living happily ever after. Students, she writes, should

be able to connect their intellectual critique to a more affective, somatic, and ethical account of making risky choices that have sexist, racist, classist, familial, sexual, or other consequences for themselves and those both near and far… critical thinking that reads arguments, texts, or practices merely on the surface without connections to feeling/desiring/doing or action lacks an ethical depth that should infuse the difference between mere cognitive activity and something we want to call critical thinking. (Alston 2001: 34)

Some critics portray such biases as unfair to women. Thayer-Bacon (1992), for example, has charged modern critical thinking theory with being sexist, on the ground that it separates the self from the object and causes one to lose touch with one’s inner voice, and thus stigmatizes women, who (she asserts) link self to object and listen to their inner voice. Her charge does not imply that women as a group are on average less able than men to analyze and evaluate arguments. Facione (1990c) found no difference by sex in performance on his California Critical Thinking Skills Test. Kuhn (1991: 280–281) found no difference by sex in either the disposition or the competence to engage in argumentative thinking.

The critics propose a variety of remedies for the biases that they allege. In general, they do not propose to eliminate or downplay critical thinking as an educational goal. Rather, they propose to conceptualize critical thinking differently and to change its pedagogy accordingly. Their pedagogical proposals arise logically from their objections. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Focus on argument networks with dialectical exchanges reflecting contesting points of view rather than on atomic arguments, so as to develop “strong sense” critical thinking that transcends egocentric and sociocentric biases (Paul 1981, 1984).
  • Foster closeness to the subject-matter and feeling connected to others in order to inform a humane democracy (Martin 1992).
  • Develop “constructive thinking” as a social activity in a community of physically embodied and socially embedded inquirers with personal voices who value not only reason but also imagination, intuition and emotion (Thayer-Bacon 2000).
  • In developing critical thinking in school subjects, treat as important neither skills nor dispositions but opening worlds of meaning (Alston 2001).
  • Attend to the development of critical thinking dispositions as well as skills, and adopt the “critical pedagogy” practised and advocated by Freire (1968 [1970]) and hooks (1994) (Dalgleish, Girard, & Davies 2017).

A common thread in these proposals is treatment of critical thinking as a social, interactive, personally engaged activity like that of a quilting bee or a barn-raising (Thayer-Bacon 2000) rather than as an individual, solitary, distanced activity symbolized by Rodin’s The Thinker . One can get a vivid description of education with the former type of goal from the writings of bell hooks (1994, 2010). Critical thinking for her is open-minded dialectical exchange across opposing standpoints and from multiple perspectives, a conception similar to Paul’s “strong sense” critical thinking (Paul 1981). She abandons the structure of domination in the traditional classroom. In an introductory course on black women writers, for example, she assigns students to write an autobiographical paragraph about an early racial memory, then to read it aloud as the others listen, thus affirming the uniqueness and value of each voice and creating a communal awareness of the diversity of the group’s experiences (hooks 1994: 84). Her “engaged pedagogy” is thus similar to the “freedom under guidance” implemented in John Dewey’s Laboratory School of Chicago in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It incorporates the dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring that Abrami (2015) found to be most effective in improving critical thinking skills and dispositions.

What is the relationship of critical thinking to problem solving, decision-making, higher-order thinking, creative thinking, and other recognized types of thinking? One’s answer to this question obviously depends on how one defines the terms used in the question. If critical thinking is conceived broadly to cover any careful thinking about any topic for any purpose, then problem solving and decision making will be kinds of critical thinking, if they are done carefully. Historically, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ were two names for the same thing. If critical thinking is conceived more narrowly as consisting solely of appraisal of intellectual products, then it will be disjoint with problem solving and decision making, which are constructive.

Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives used the phrase “intellectual abilities and skills” for what had been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others (Bloom et al. 1956: 38). Thus, the so-called “higher-order thinking skills” at the taxonomy’s top levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are just critical thinking skills, although they do not come with general criteria for their assessment (Ennis 1981b). The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) likewise treats critical thinking as cutting across those types of cognitive process that involve more than remembering (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270). For details, see the Supplement on History .

As to creative thinking, it overlaps with critical thinking (Bailin 1987, 1988). Thinking about the explanation of some phenomenon or event, as in Ferryboat , requires creative imagination in constructing plausible explanatory hypotheses. Likewise, thinking about a policy question, as in Candidate , requires creativity in coming up with options. Conversely, creativity in any field needs to be balanced by critical appraisal of the draft painting or novel or mathematical theory.

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The Peak Performance Center

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The pursuit of performance excellence, critical thinking.

Critical Thinking header

Critical thinking refers to the process of actively analyzing, assessing, synthesizing, evaluating and reflecting on information gathered from observation, experience, or communication. It is thinking in a clear, logical, reasoned, and reflective manner to solve problems or make decisions. Basically, critical thinking is taking a hard look at something to understand what it really means.

Critical Thinkers

Critical thinkers do not simply accept all ideas, theories, and conclusions as facts. They have a mindset of questioning ideas and conclusions. They make reasoned judgments that are logical and well thought out by assessing the evidence that supports a specific theory or conclusion.

When presented with a new piece of new information, critical thinkers may ask questions such as;

“What information supports that?”

“How was this information obtained?”

“Who obtained the information?”

“How do we know the information is valid?”

“Why is it that way?”

“What makes it do that?”

“How do we know that?”

“Are there other possibilities?”

Critical Thinking

Combination of Analytical and Creative Thinking

Many people perceive critical thinking just as analytical thinking. However, critical thinking incorporates both analytical thinking and creative thinking. Critical thinking does involve breaking down information into parts and analyzing the parts in a logical, step-by-step manner. However, it also involves challenging consensus to formulate new creative ideas and generate innovative solutions. It is critical thinking that helps to evaluate and improve your creative ideas.

Critical Thinking Skills

Elements of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves:

  • Gathering relevant information
  • Evaluating information
  • Asking questions
  • Assessing bias or unsubstantiated assumptions
  • Making inferences from the information and filling in gaps
  • Using abstract ideas to interpret information
  • Formulating ideas
  • Weighing opinions
  • Reaching well-reasoned conclusions
  • Considering alternative possibilities
  • Testing conclusions
  • Verifying if evidence/argument support the conclusions

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is considered a higher order thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, deduction, inference, reason, and evaluation. In order to demonstrate critical thinking, you would need to develop skills in;

Interpreting : understanding the significance or meaning of information

Analyzing : breaking information down into its parts

Connecting : making connections between related items or pieces of information.

Integrating : connecting and combining information to better understand the relationship between the information.

Evaluating : judging the value, credibility, or strength of something

Reasoning : creating an argument through logical steps

Deducing : forming a logical opinion about something based on the information or evidence that is available

Inferring : figuring something out through reasoning based on assumptions and ideas

Generating : producing new information, ideas, products, or ways of viewing things.

Blooms Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised

Mind Mapping

Chunking Information

Brainstorming

concept critical thinking skills

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What are critical thinking skills?

How to develop critical thinking skills: 12 tips, how to practice critical thinking skills at work, become your own best critic.

A client requests a tight deadline on an intense project. Your childcare provider calls in sick on a day full of meetings. Payment from a contract gig is a month behind. 

Your day-to-day will always have challenges, big and small. And no matter the size and urgency, they all ask you to use critical thinking to analyze the situation and arrive at the right solution. 

Critical thinking includes a wide set of soft skills that encourage continuous learning, resilience , and self-reflection. The more you add to your professional toolbelt, the more equipped you’ll be to tackle whatever challenge presents itself. Here’s how to develop critical thinking, with examples explaining how to use it.

Critical thinking skills are the skills you use to analyze information, imagine scenarios holistically, and create rational solutions. It’s a type of emotional intelligence that stimulates effective problem-solving and decision-making . 

When you fine-tune your critical thinking skills, you seek beyond face-value observations and knee-jerk reactions. Instead, you harvest deeper insights and string together ideas and concepts in logical, sometimes out-of-the-box , ways. 

Imagine a team working on a marketing strategy for a new set of services. That team might use critical thinking to balance goals and key performance indicators , like new customer acquisition costs, average monthly sales, and net profit margins. They understand the connections between overlapping factors to build a strategy that stays within budget and attracts new sales. 

Looking for ways to improve critical thinking skills? Start by brushing up on the following soft skills that fall under this umbrella: 

  • Analytical thinking: Approaching problems with an analytical eye includes breaking down complex issues into small chunks and examining their significance. An example could be organizing customer feedback to identify trends and improve your product offerings. 
  • Open-mindedness: Push past cognitive biases and be receptive to different points of view and constructive feedback . Managers and team members who keep an open mind position themselves to hear new ideas that foster innovation . 
  • Creative thinking: With creative thinking , you can develop several ideas to address a single problem, like brainstorming more efficient workflow best practices to boost productivity and employee morale . 
  • Self-reflection: Self-reflection lets you examine your thinking and assumptions to stimulate healthier collaboration and thought processes. Maybe a bad first impression created a negative anchoring bias with a new coworker. Reflecting on your own behavior stirs up empathy and improves the relationship. 
  • Evaluation: With evaluation skills, you tackle the pros and cons of a situation based on logic rather than emotion. When prioritizing tasks , you might be tempted to do the fun or easy ones first, but evaluating their urgency and importance can help you make better decisions. 

There’s no magic method to change your thinking processes. Improvement happens with small, intentional changes to your everyday habits until a more critical approach to thinking is automatic. 

Here are 12 tips for building stronger self-awareness and learning how to improve critical thinking: 

1. Be cautious

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of skepticism. One of the core principles of critical thinking is asking questions and dissecting the available information. You might surprise yourself at what you find when you stop to think before taking action. 

Before making a decision, use evidence, logic, and deductive reasoning to support your own opinions or challenge ideas. It helps you and your team avoid falling prey to bad information or resistance to change .

2. Ask open-ended questions

“Yes” or “no” questions invite agreement rather than reflection. Instead, ask open-ended questions that force you to engage in analysis and rumination. Digging deeper can help you identify potential biases, uncover assumptions, and arrive at new hypotheses and possible solutions. 

3. Do your research

No matter your proficiency, you can always learn more. Turning to different points of view and information is a great way to develop a comprehensive understanding of a topic and make informed decisions. You’ll prioritize reliable information rather than fall into emotional or automatic decision-making. 

close-up-of-mans-hands-opening-a-dictionary-with-notebook-on-the-side-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

4. Consider several opinions

You might spend so much time on your work that it’s easy to get stuck in your own perspective, especially if you work independently on a remote team . Make an effort to reach out to colleagues to hear different ideas and thought patterns. Their input might surprise you.

If or when you disagree, remember that you and your team share a common goal. Divergent opinions are constructive, so shift the focus to finding solutions rather than defending disagreements. 

5. Learn to be quiet

Active listening is the intentional practice of concentrating on a conversation partner instead of your own thoughts. It’s about paying attention to detail and letting people know you value their opinions, which can open your mind to new perspectives and thought processes.

If you’re brainstorming with your team or having a 1:1 with a coworker , listen, ask clarifying questions, and work to understand other peoples’ viewpoints. Listening to your team will help you find fallacies in arguments to improve possible solutions.

6. Schedule reflection

Whether waking up at 5 am or using a procrastination hack, scheduling time to think puts you in a growth mindset . Your mind has natural cognitive biases to help you simplify decision-making, but squashing them is key to thinking critically and finding new solutions besides the ones you might gravitate toward. Creating time and calm space in your day gives you the chance to step back and visualize the biases that impact your decision-making. 

7. Cultivate curiosity

With so many demands and job responsibilities, it’s easy to seek solace in routine. But getting out of your comfort zone helps spark critical thinking and find more solutions than you usually might.

If curiosity doesn’t come naturally to you, cultivate a thirst for knowledge by reskilling and upskilling . Not only will you add a new skill to your resume , but expanding the limits of your professional knowledge might motivate you to ask more questions. 

You don’t have to develop critical thinking skills exclusively in the office. Whether on your break or finding a hobby to do after work, playing strategic games or filling out crosswords can prime your brain for problem-solving. 

woman-solving-puzzle-at-home-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

9. Write it down

Recording your thoughts with pen and paper can lead to stronger brain activity than typing them out on a keyboard. If you’re stuck and want to think more critically about a problem, writing your ideas can help you process information more deeply.

The act of recording ideas on paper can also improve your memory . Ideas are more likely to linger in the background of your mind, leading to deeper thinking that informs your decision-making process. 

10. Speak up

Take opportunities to share your opinion, even if it intimidates you. Whether at a networking event with new people or a meeting with close colleagues, try to engage with people who challenge or help you develop your ideas. Having conversations that force you to support your position encourages you to refine your argument and think critically. 

11. Stay humble

Ideas and concepts aren’t the same as real-life actions. There may be such a thing as negative outcomes, but there’s no such thing as a bad idea. At the brainstorming stage , don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Sometimes the best solutions come from off-the-wall, unorthodox decisions. Sit in your creativity , let ideas flow, and don’t be afraid to share them with your colleagues. Putting yourself in a creative mindset helps you see situations from new perspectives and arrive at innovative conclusions. 

12. Embrace discomfort

Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable . It isn’t easy when others challenge your ideas, but sometimes, it’s the only way to see new perspectives and think critically.

By willingly stepping into unfamiliar territory, you foster the resilience and flexibility you need to become a better thinker. You’ll learn how to pick yourself up from failure and approach problems from fresh angles. 

man-looking-down-to-something-while-thinking-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

Thinking critically is easier said than done. To help you understand its impact (and how to use it), here are two scenarios that require critical thinking skills and provide teachable moments. 

Scenario #1: Unexpected delays and budget

Imagine your team is working on producing an event. Unexpectedly, a vendor explains they’ll be a week behind on delivering materials. Then another vendor sends a quote that’s more than you can afford. Unless you develop a creative solution, the team will have to push back deadlines and go over budget, potentially costing the client’s trust. 

Here’s how you could approach the situation with creative thinking:

  • Analyze the situation holistically: Determine how the delayed materials and over-budget quote will impact the rest of your timeline and financial resources . That way, you can identify whether you need to build an entirely new plan with new vendors, or if it’s worth it to readjust time and resources. 
  • Identify your alternative options: With careful assessment, your team decides that another vendor can’t provide the same materials in a quicker time frame. You’ll need to rearrange assignment schedules to complete everything on time. 
  • Collaborate and adapt: Your team has an emergency meeting to rearrange your project schedule. You write down each deliverable and determine which ones you can and can’t complete by the deadline. To compensate for lost time, you rearrange your task schedule to complete everything that doesn’t need the delayed materials first, then advance as far as you can on the tasks that do. 
  • Check different resources: In the meantime, you scour through your contact sheet to find alternative vendors that fit your budget. Accounting helps by providing old invoices to determine which vendors have quoted less for previous jobs. After pulling all your sources, you find a vendor that fits your budget. 
  • Maintain open communication: You create a special Slack channel to keep everyone up to date on changes, challenges, and additional delays. Keeping an open line encourages transparency on the team’s progress and boosts everyone’s confidence. 

coworkers-at-meeting-looking-together-the-screen-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

Scenario #2: Differing opinions 

A conflict arises between two team members on the best approach for a new strategy for a gaming app. One believes that small tweaks to the current content are necessary to maintain user engagement and stay within budget. The other believes a bold revamp is needed to encourage new followers and stronger sales revenue. 

Here’s how critical thinking could help this conflict:

  • Listen actively: Give both team members the opportunity to present their ideas free of interruption. Encourage the entire team to ask open-ended questions to more fully understand and develop each argument. 
  • Flex your analytical skills: After learning more about both ideas, everyone should objectively assess the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. Analyze each idea's risk, merits, and feasibility based on available data and the app’s goals and objectives. 
  • Identify common ground: The team discusses similarities between each approach and brainstorms ways to integrate both idea s, like making small but eye-catching modifications to existing content or using the same visual design in new media formats. 
  • Test new strategy: To test out the potential of a bolder strategy, the team decides to A/B test both approaches. You create a set of criteria to evenly distribute users by different demographics to analyze engagement, revenue, and customer turnover. 
  • Monitor and adapt: After implementing the A/B test, the team closely monitors the results of each strategy. You regroup and optimize the changes that provide stronger results after the testing. That way, all team members understand why you’re making the changes you decide to make.

You can’t think your problems away. But you can equip yourself with skills that help you move through your biggest challenges and find innovative solutions. Learning how to develop critical thinking is the start of honing an adaptable growth mindset. 

Now that you have resources to increase critical thinking skills in your professional development, you can identify whether you embrace change or routine, are open or resistant to feedback, or turn to research or emotion will build self-awareness. From there, tweak and incorporate techniques to be a critical thinker when life presents you with a problem.

Cultivate your creativity

Foster creativity and continuous learning with guidance from our certified Coaches.

Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

How to improve your creative skills for effective problem-solving

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Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

3 Core Critical Thinking Skills Every Thinker Should Have

Critically thinking about critical thinking skills..

Posted March 13, 2020 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

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I recently received an email from an educator friend, asking me to briefly describe the skills necessary for critical thinking. They were happy to fill in the blanks themselves from outside reading but wanted to know what specific skills they should focus on teaching their students. I took this as a good opportunity to dedicate a post here to such discussion, in order to provide my friend and any other interested parties with an overview.

To understand critical thinking skills and how they factor into critical thinking, one first needs a definition of the latter. Critical thinking (CT) is a metacognitive process, consisting of a number of skills and dispositions, that when used through self-regulatory reflective judgment, increases the chances of producing a logical conclusion to an argument or solution to a problem (Dwyer, 2017; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2014). On the surface, this definition clarifies two issues. First, critical thinking is metacognitive—simply, it requires the individual to think about thinking; second, its main components are reflective judgment, dispositions, and skills.

Below the surface, this description requires clarification; hence the impetus for this entry—what is meant by reflective judgment, disposition towards CT, and CT skills? Reflective judgment (i.e. an individuals' understanding of the nature, limits, and certainty of knowing and how this can affect their judgments [King & Kitchener, 1994]) and disposition towards CT (i.e. an inclination, tendency or willingness to perform a given thinking skill [Dwyer, 2017; Facione, Facione & Giancarlo, 1997; Ku, 2009; Norris, 1992; Siegel, 1999; Valenzuela, Nieto & Saiz, 2011]) have both already been covered in my posts; so, consistent with the aim of this piece, let’s discuss CT skills.

CT skills allow individuals to transcend lower-order, memorization-based learning strategies to gain a more complex understanding of the information or problems they encounter (Halpern, 2014). Though debate is ongoing over the definition of CT, one list stands out as a reasonable consensus conceptualization of CT skills. In 1988, a committee of 46 experts in the field of CT gathered to discuss CT conceptualisations, resulting in the Delphi Report; within which was overwhelmingly agreement (i.e. 95% consensus) that analysis , evaluation and inference were the core skills necessary for CT (Facione, 1990). Indeed, over 30 years later, these three CT skills remain the most commonly cited.

1. Analysis

Analysis is a core CT skill used to identify and examine the structure of an argument, the propositions within an argument and the role they play (e.g. the main conclusion, the premises and reasons provided to support the conclusion, objections to the conclusion and inferential relationships among propositions), as well as the sources of the propositions (e.g. personal experience, common belief, and research).

When it comes to analysing the basis for a standpoint, the structure of the argument can be extracted for subsequent evaluation (e.g. from dialogue and text). This can be accomplished through looking for propositions that either support or refute the central claim or other reasons and objections. Through analysis, the argument’s hierarchical structure begins to appear. Notably, argument mapping can aid the visual representation of this hierarchical structure and is supported by research as having positive effects on critical thinking (Butchart et al., 2009; Dwyer, 2011; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2012; van Gelder, Bisset & Cumming, 2004).

2. Evaluation

Evaluation is a core CT skill that is used in the assessment of propositions and claims (identified through the previous analysis ) with respect to their credibility; relevance; balance, bias (and potential omissions); as well as the logical strength amongst propositions (i.e. the strength of the inferential relationships). Such assessment allows for informed judgment regarding the overall strength or weakness of an argument (Dwyer, 2017; Facione, 1990). If an argument (or its propositions) is not credible, relevant, logical, and unbiased, you should consider excluding it or discussing its weaknesses as an objection.

Evaluating the credibility of claims and arguments involves progressing beyond merely identifying the source of propositions in an argument, to actually examining the "trustworthiness" of those identified sources (e.g. personal experiences, common beliefs/opinions, expert/authority opinion and scientific evidence). This is particularly important because some sources are more credible than others. Evaluation also implies deep consideration of the relevance of claims within an argument, which is accomplished by assessing the contextual relevance of claims and premises—that is, the pertinence or applicability of one proposition to another.

With respect to balance, bias (and potential omissions), it's important to consider the "slant" of an argument—if it seems imbalanced in favour of one line of thinking, then it’s quite possible that the argument has omitted key, opposing points that should also be considered. Imbalance may also imply some level of bias in the argument—another factor that should also be assessed.

UTOK's Tree of Knowledge System

However, just because an argument is balanced does not mean that it isn’t biased. It may very well be the case that the "opposing views" presented have been "cherry-picked" because they are easily disputed (akin to building a strawman ); thus, making supporting reasons appear stronger than they may actually be—and this is just one example of how a balanced argument may, in fact, be biased. The take-home message regarding balance, bias, and potential omissions should be that, in any argument, you should construct an understanding of the author or speaker’s motivations and consider how these might influence the structure and contents of the argument.

Finally, evaluating the logical strength of an argument is accomplished through monitoring both the logical relationships amongst propositions and the claims they infer. Assessment of logical strength can actually be aided through subsequent inference, as a means of double-checking the logical strength. For example, this can be checked by asking whether or not a particular proposition can actually be inferred based on the propositions that precede it. A useful means of developing this sub-skill is through practicing syllogistic reasoning .

3. Inference

Similar to other educational concepts like synthesis (e.g., see Bloom et al., 1956; Dwyer, 2011; 2017), the final core CT skill, inference , involves the “gathering” of credible, relevant and logical evidence based on the previous analysis and evaluation, for the purpose of drawing a reasonable conclusion (Dwyer, 2017; Facione, 1990). Drawing a conclusion always implies some act of synthesis (i.e. the ability to put parts of information together to form a new whole; see Dwyer, 2011). However, inference is a unique form of synthesis in that it involves the formulation of a set of conclusions derived from a series of arguments or a body of evidence. This inference may imply accepting a conclusion pointed to by an author in light of the evidence they present, or "conjecturing an alternative," equally logical, conclusion or argument based on the available evidence (Facione, 1990). The ability to infer a conclusion in this manner can be completed through formal logic strategies, informal logic strategies (or both) in order to derive intermediate conclusions, as well as central claims.

Another important aspect of inference involves the querying of available evidence, for example, by recognising the need for additional information, gathering it and judging the plausibility of utilising such information for the purpose of drawing a conclusion. Notably, in the context of querying evidence and conjecturing alternative conclusions, inference overlaps with evaluation to a certain degree in that both skills are used to judge the relevance and acceptability of a claim or argument. Furthermore, after inferring a conclusion, the resulting argument should be re-evaluated to ensure that it is reasonable to draw the conclusion that was derived.

Overall, the application of critical thinking skills is a process—one must analyse, evaluate and then infer; and this process can be repeated to ensure that a reasonable conclusion has been drawn. In an effort to simplify the description of this process, for the past few years, I’ve used the analogy of picking apples for baking . We begin by picking apples from a tree. Consider the tree as an analogy, in its own right, for an argument, which is often hierarchically structured like a tree-diagram. By picking apples, I mean identifying propositions and the role they play (i.e. analysis). Once we pick an apple, we evaluate it—we make sure it isn’t rotten (i.e. lacks credibility, is biased) and is suitable for baking (i.e. relevant and logically strong). Finally, we infer— we gather the apples in a basket and bring them home and group them together based on some rationale for construction— maybe four for a pie, three for a crumble and another four for a tart. By the end of the process, we have baked some apple-based goods, or developed a conclusion, solution or decision through critical thinking.

Of course, there is more to critical thinking than the application of skills—a critical thinker must also have the disposition to think critically and engage reflective judgment. However, without the appropriate skills—analysis, evaluation, and inference, it is not likely that CT will be applied. For example, though one might be willing to use CT skills and engage reflective judgment, they may not know how to do so. Conversely, though one might be aware of which CT skills to use in a given context and may have the capacity to perform well when using these skills, they may not be disposed to use them (Valenzuela, Nieto & Saiz, 2011). Though the core CT skills of analysis, evaluation, and inference are not the only important aspects of CT, they are essential for its application.

Bloom, B.S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York: McKay.

Butchart, S., Bigelow, J., Oppy, G., Korb, K., & Gold, I. (2009). Improving critical thinking using web-based argument mapping exercises with automated feedback. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25, 2, 268-291.

Dwyer, C.P. (2011). The evaluation of argument mapping as a learning tool. Doctoral Thesis. National University of Ireland, Galway.

Dwyer, C.P. (2017). Critical thinking: Conceptual perspectives and practical guidelines.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Dwyer, C.P., Hogan, M.J., & Stewart, I. (2012). An evaluation of argument mapping as a method of enhancing critical thinking performance in e-learning environments. Metacognition and Learning, 7, 219-244.

Dwyer, C. P., Hogan, M. J., & Stewart, I. (2014). An integrated critical thinking framework for the 21st century. Thinking Skills & Creativity, 12, 43–52.

Facione, P.A. (1990). The Delphi report: Committee on pre-college philosophy. Millbrae, CA: California Academic Press.

Facione, P.A., Facione, N.C., & Giancarlo, C.A. (1997). Setting expectations for student learning: New directions for higher education. Millbrae: California Academic Press.

Halpern, D.F. (2014). Thought & knowledge: An introduction to critical thinking (5th Ed.). UK: Psychology Press.

King, P. M., & Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment: Understanding and promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Ku, K.Y.L. (2009). Assessing students’ critical thinking performance: Urging for measurements using multi-response format. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 4, 1, 70- 76.

Norris, S. P. (Ed.). (1992). The generalizability of critical thinking: Multiple perspectives on an educational ideal. New York: Teachers College Press.

Siegel, H. (1999). What (good) are thinking dispositions? Educational Theory, 49, 2, 207-221.

Valenzuela, J., Nieto, A.M., & Saiz, C. (2011). Critical thinking motivational scale: A contribution to the study of relationship between critical thinking and motivation. Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 9, 2, 823-848.

van Gelder, T.J., Bissett, M., & Cumming, G. (2004). Enhancing expertise in informal reasoning. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology 58, 142-52.

Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the Technological University of the Shannon in Athlone, Ireland.

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How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

It’s simple in theory, but tougher in practice – here are five tips to get you started.

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Have you heard the riddle about two coins that equal thirty cents, but one of them is not a nickel? What about the one where a surgeon says they can’t operate on their own son?

Those brain teasers tap into your critical thinking skills. But your ability to think critically isn’t just helpful for solving those random puzzles – it plays a big role in your career. 

An impressive 81% of employers say critical thinking carries a lot of weight when they’re evaluating job candidates. It ranks as the top competency companies consider when hiring recent graduates (even ahead of communication ). Plus, once you’re hired, several studies show that critical thinking skills are highly correlated with better job performance.

So what exactly are critical thinking skills? And even more importantly, how do you build and improve them? 

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate facts and information, remain objective, and make a sound decision about how to move forward.

Does that sound like how you approach every decision or problem? Not so fast. Critical thinking seems simple in theory but is much tougher in practice, which helps explain why 65% of employers say their organization has a need for more critical thinking. 

In reality, critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. In order to do it well, you need to:

  • Remain open-minded and inquisitive, rather than relying on assumptions or jumping to conclusions
  • Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value
  • Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible
  • Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation

So, critical thinking isn’t just being intelligent or analytical. In many ways, it requires you to step outside of yourself, let go of your own preconceived notions, and approach a problem or situation with curiosity and fairness.

It’s a challenge, but it’s well worth it. Critical thinking skills will help you connect ideas, make reasonable decisions, and solve complex problems.

7 critical thinking skills to help you dig deeper

Critical thinking is often labeled as a skill itself (you’ll see it bulleted as a desired trait in a variety of job descriptions). But it’s better to think of critical thinking less as a distinct skill and more as a collection or category of skills. 

To think critically, you’ll need to tap into a bunch of your other soft skills. Here are seven of the most important. 

Open-mindedness

It’s important to kick off the critical thinking process with the idea that anything is possible. The more you’re able to set aside your own suspicions, beliefs, and agenda, the better prepared you are to approach the situation with the level of inquisitiveness you need. 

That means not closing yourself off to any possibilities and allowing yourself the space to pull on every thread – yes, even the ones that seem totally implausible.

As Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D. writes in a piece for Psychology Today , “Even if an idea appears foolish, sometimes its consideration can lead to an intelligent, critically considered conclusion.” He goes on to compare the critical thinking process to brainstorming . Sometimes the “bad” ideas are what lay the foundation for the good ones. 

Open-mindedness is challenging because it requires more effort and mental bandwidth than sticking with your own perceptions. Approaching problems or situations with true impartiality often means:

  • Practicing self-regulation : Giving yourself a pause between when you feel something and when you actually react or take action.
  • Challenging your own biases: Acknowledging your biases and seeking feedback are two powerful ways to get a broader understanding. 

Critical thinking example

In a team meeting, your boss mentioned that your company newsletter signups have been decreasing and she wants to figure out why.

At first, you feel offended and defensive – it feels like she’s blaming you for the dip in subscribers. You recognize and rationalize that emotion before thinking about potential causes. You have a hunch about what’s happening, but you will explore all possibilities and contributions from your team members.

Observation

Observation is, of course, your ability to notice and process the details all around you (even the subtle or seemingly inconsequential ones). Critical thinking demands that you’re flexible and willing to go beyond surface-level information, and solid observation skills help you do that.

Your observations help you pick up on clues from a variety of sources and experiences, all of which help you draw a final conclusion. After all, sometimes it’s the most minuscule realization that leads you to the strongest conclusion.

Over the next week or so, you keep a close eye on your company’s website and newsletter analytics to see if numbers are in fact declining or if your boss’s concerns were just a fluke. 

Critical thinking hinges on objectivity. And, to be objective, you need to base your judgments on the facts – which you collect through research. You’ll lean on your research skills to gather as much information as possible that’s relevant to your problem or situation. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the quantity of information – quality matters too. You want to find data and details from a variety of trusted sources to drill past the surface and build a deeper understanding of what’s happening. 

You dig into your email and website analytics to identify trends in bounce rates, time on page, conversions, and more. You also review recent newsletters and email promotions to understand what customers have received, look through current customer feedback, and connect with your customer support team to learn what they’re hearing in their conversations with customers.

The critical thinking process is sort of like a treasure hunt – you’ll find some nuggets that are fundamental for your final conclusion and some that might be interesting but aren’t pertinent to the problem at hand.

That’s why you need analytical skills. They’re what help you separate the wheat from the chaff, prioritize information, identify trends or themes, and draw conclusions based on the most relevant and influential facts. 

It’s easy to confuse analytical thinking with critical thinking itself, and it’s true there is a lot of overlap between the two. But analytical thinking is just a piece of critical thinking. It focuses strictly on the facts and data, while critical thinking incorporates other factors like emotions, opinions, and experiences. 

As you analyze your research, you notice that one specific webpage has contributed to a significant decline in newsletter signups. While all of the other sources have stayed fairly steady with regard to conversions, that one has sharply decreased.

You decide to move on from your other hypotheses about newsletter quality and dig deeper into the analytics. 

One of the traps of critical thinking is that it’s easy to feel like you’re never done. There’s always more information you could collect and more rabbit holes you could fall down.

But at some point, you need to accept that you’ve done your due diligence and make a decision about how to move forward. That’s where inference comes in. It’s your ability to look at the evidence and facts available to you and draw an informed conclusion based on those. 

When you’re so focused on staying objective and pursuing all possibilities, inference can feel like the antithesis of critical thinking. But ultimately, it’s your inference skills that allow you to move out of the thinking process and onto the action steps. 

You dig deeper into the analytics for the page that hasn’t been converting and notice that the sharp drop-off happened around the same time you switched email providers.

After looking more into the backend, you realize that the signup form on that page isn’t correctly connected to your newsletter platform. It seems like anybody who has signed up on that page hasn’t been fed to your email list. 

Communication

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

If and when you identify a solution or answer, you can’t keep it close to the vest. You’ll need to use your communication skills to share your findings with the relevant stakeholders – like your boss, team members, or anybody who needs to be involved in the next steps.

Your analysis skills will come in handy here too, as they’ll help you determine what information other people need to know so you can avoid bogging them down with unnecessary details. 

In your next team meeting, you pull up the analytics and show your team the sharp drop-off as well as the missing connection between that page and your email platform. You ask the web team to reinstall and double-check that connection and you also ask a member of the marketing team to draft an apology email to the subscribers who were missed. 

Problem-solving

Critical thinking and problem-solving are two more terms that are frequently confused. After all, when you think critically, you’re often doing so with the objective of solving a problem.

The best way to understand how problem-solving and critical thinking differ is to think of problem-solving as much more narrow. You’re focused on finding a solution.

In contrast, you can use critical thinking for a variety of use cases beyond solving a problem – like answering questions or identifying opportunities for improvement. Even so, within the critical thinking process, you’ll flex your problem-solving skills when it comes time to take action. 

Once the fix is implemented, you monitor the analytics to see if subscribers continue to increase. If not (or if they increase at a slower rate than you anticipated), you’ll roll out some other tests like changing the CTA language or the placement of the subscribe form on the page.

5 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Think critically about critical thinking and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not as instinctive as you’d like it to be. Fortunately, your critical thinking skills are learned competencies and not inherent gifts – and that means you can improve them. Here’s how:

  • Practice active listening: Active listening helps you process and understand what other people share. That’s crucial as you aim to be open-minded and inquisitive.
  • Ask open-ended questions: If your critical thinking process involves collecting feedback and opinions from others, ask open-ended questions (meaning, questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”). Doing so will give you more valuable information and also prevent your own biases from influencing people’s input.
  • Scrutinize your sources: Figuring out what to trust and prioritize is crucial for critical thinking. Boosting your media literacy and asking more questions will help you be more discerning about what to factor in. It’s hard to strike a balance between skepticism and open-mindedness, but approaching information with questions (rather than unquestioning trust) will help you draw better conclusions. 
  • Play a game: Remember those riddles we mentioned at the beginning? As trivial as they might seem, games and exercises like those can help you boost your critical thinking skills. There are plenty of critical thinking exercises you can do individually or as a team . 
  • Give yourself time: Research shows that rushed decisions are often regrettable ones. That’s likely because critical thinking takes time – you can’t do it under the wire. So, for big decisions or hairy problems, give yourself enough time and breathing room to work through the process. It’s hard enough to think critically without a countdown ticking in your brain. 

Critical thinking really is critical

The ability to think critically is important, but it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s just easier to stick with biases, assumptions, and surface-level information. 

But that route often leads you to rash judgments, shaky conclusions, and disappointing decisions. So here’s a conclusion we can draw without any more noodling: Even if it is more demanding on your mental resources, critical thinking is well worth the effort.

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9 characteristics of critical thinking (and how you can develop them)

9 characteristics of critical thinking (and how you can develop them)

It's no secret that critical thinking is essential for growth and success. Yet many people aren't quite sure what it means — it sounds like being a critic or cynical, traits that many people want to avoid.

However, thinking critically isn't about being negative. On the contrary, effective critical thinkers possess many positive traits. Attributes like curiosity, compassion, and communication are among the top commonalities that critical thinkers share, and the good news is that we can all learn to develop these capabilities.

This article will discuss some of the principal characteristics of critical thinking and how developing these qualities can help you improve your decision-making and problem-solving skills. With a bit of self-reflection and practice, you'll be well on your way to making better decisions, solving complex problems, and achieving success across all areas of your life.

What is critical thinking?

Scholarly works on critical thinking propose many ways of interpreting the concept ( at least 17 in one reference! ), making it challenging to pinpoint one exact definition. In general, critical thinking refers to rational, goal-directed thought through logical arguments and reasoning. We use critical thinking to objectively assess and evaluate information to form reasonable judgments.

Critical thinking has its roots in ancient Greece. The philosopher Socrates is credited with being one of the first to encourage his students to think critically about their beliefs and ideas. Socrates believed that by encouraging people to question their assumptions, they would be able to see the flaws in their reasoning and improve their thought processes.

Today, critical thinking skills are considered vital for success in academia and everyday life. One of the defining " 21st-century skills ," critical thinking is integral to problem-solving, decision making, and goal setting.

Why is it necessary to develop critical thinking skills?

Characteristics of critical thinking: question marks and a light bulb icon

Critical thinking skills help us learn new information, understand complex concepts, and make better decisions. The ability to be objective and reasonable is an asset that can enhance personal and professional relationships.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports critical thinking is among the top desired skills in the workplace. The ability to develop a properly thought-out solution in a reasonable amount of time is highly valued by employers. Companies want employees who can solve problems independently and work well in a team. A desirable employee can evaluate situations critically and creatively, collaborate with others, and make sound judgments.

Critical thinking is an essential component of academic study as well. Critical thinking skills are vital to learners because they allow students to build on their prior knowledge and construct new understandings. This will enable learners to expand their knowledge and experience across various subjects.

Despite its importance, though, critical thinking is not something that we develop naturally or casually. Even though critical thinking is considered an essential learning outcome in many universities, only 45% of college students in a well-known study reported that their skills had improved after two years of classes.

9 characteristics of critical thinking

Clearly, improving our ability to think critically will require some self-improvement work. As lifelong learners, we can use this opportunity for self-reflection to identify where we can improve our thinking processes.

Strong critical thinkers possess a common set of personality traits, habits, and dispositions. Being aware of these attributes and putting them into action can help us develop a strong foundation for critical thinking. These essential characteristics of critical thinking can be used as a toolkit for applying specific thinking processes to any given situation.

Characteristics of critical thinking: illustration of a human head with a lightbulb in it

Curiosity is one of the most significant characteristics of critical thinking. Research has shown that a state of curiosity drives us to continually seek new information . This inquisitiveness supports critical thinking as we need to constantly expand our knowledge to make well-informed decisions.

Curiosity also facilitates critical thinking because it encourages us to question our thoughts and mental models, the filters we use to understand the world. This is essential to avoid critical thinking barriers like biases and misconceptions. Challenging our beliefs and getting curious about all sides of an issue will help us have an open mind during the critical thinking process.

Actionable Tip: Choose to be curious. When you ask “why,” you learn about things around you and clarify ambiguities. Google anything you are curious about, read new books, and play with a child. Kids have a natural curiosity that can be inspiring.

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2. Analytical

Investigation is a crucial component of critical thinking, so it's important to be analytical. Analytical thinking involves breaking down complex ideas into their simplest forms . The first step when tackling a problem or making a decision is to analyze information and consider it in smaller pieces. Then, we use critical thinking by gathering additional information before getting to a judgment or solution.

Being analytical is helpful for critical thinking because it allows us to look at data in detail. When examining an issue from various perspectives, we should pay close attention to these details to arrive at a decision based on facts. Taking these steps is crucial to making good decisions.

Actionable Tip: Become aware of your daily surroundings. Examine how things work — breaking things down into steps will encourage analysis. You can also play brain and puzzle games. These provide an enjoyable way to stimulate analytical thinking.

3. Introspective

Critical thinkers are typically introspective. Introspection is a process of examining our own thoughts and feelings. We do this as a form of metacognition, or thinking about thinking. Researchers believe that we can improve our problem-solving skills by using metacognition to analyze our reasoning processes .

Being introspective is essential to critical thinking because it helps us be self-aware. Self-awareness encourages us to acknowledge and face our own biases, prejudices, and selfish tendencies. If we know our assumptions, we can question them and suspend judgment until we have all the facts.

Actionable Tip: Start a journal. Keep track of your thoughts, feelings, and opinions throughout the day, especially when faced with difficult decisions. Look for patterns. You can avoid common thought fallacies by being aware of them.

4. Able to make inferences

Another characteristic of critical thinking is the ability to make inferences, which are logical conclusions based on reviewing the facts, events, and ideas available. Analyzing the available information and observing patterns and trends will help you find relationships and make informed decisions based on what is likely to happen.

The ability to distinguish assumptions from inferences is crucial to critical thinking. We decide something is true by inference because another thing is also true, but we decide something by assumption because of what we believe or think we know. While both assumptions and inferences can be valid or invalid, inferences are more rational because data support them.

Actionable Tip: Keep an eye on your choices and patterns during the day, noticing when you infer. Practice applying the Inference Equation — I observe + I already know = So now I am thinking — to help distinguish when you infer or assume.

5. Observant

Wooden blocks with icons of the 5 senses

Observation skills are also a key part of critical thinking. Observation is more than just looking — it involves arranging, combining, and classifying information through all five senses to build understanding. People with keen observation skills notice small details and catch slight changes in their surroundings.

Observation is one of the first skills we learn as children , and it is critical for problem-solving. Being observant allows us to collect more information about a situation and use that information to make better decisions and solve problems. Further, it facilitates seeing things from different perspectives and finding alternative solutions.

Actionable Tip: Limit your use of devices, and be mindful of your surroundings. Notice and name one thing for each of your five senses when you enter a new environment or even a familiar one. Being aware of what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch allows you to fully experience the moment and it develops your ability to observe your surroundings.

6. Open-minded and compassionate

Open-minded and compassionate people are good critical thinkers. Being open-minded means considering new ideas and perspectives, even if they conflict with your own. This allows you to examine different sides of an issue without immediately dismissing them. Likewise, compassionate people can empathize with others, even if they disagree. When you understand another person's point of view, you can find common ground and understanding.

Critical thinking requires an open mind when analyzing opposing arguments and compassion when listening to the perspective of others. By exploring different viewpoints and seeking to understand others' perspectives, critical thinkers can gain a more well-rounded understanding of an issue. Using this deeper understanding, we can make better decisions and solve more complex problems.

Actionable Tip: Cultivate open-mindedness and compassion by regularly exposing yourself to new ideas and views. Read books on unfamiliar topics, listen to podcasts with diverse opinions, or talk with people from different backgrounds.

7. Able to determine relevance

The ability to assess relevance is an essential characteristic of critical thinking. Relevance is defined as being logically connected and significant to the subject. When a fact or statement is essential to a topic, it can be deemed relevant.

Relevance plays a vital role in many stages of the critical thinking process . It's especially crucial to identify the most pertinent facts before evaluating an argument. Despite being accurate and seemingly meaningful, a point may not matter much to your subject. Your criteria and standards are equally relevant, as you can't make a sound decision with irrelevant guidelines.

Actionable Tip: When you're in a conversation, pay attention to how each statement relates to what you're talking about. It's surprising how often we stray from the point with irrelevant information. Asking yourself, "How does that relate to the topic?" can help you spot unrelated issues.

I CAN or I WILL written in wooden blocks

Critical thinking requires willingness. Some scholars argue that the "willingness to inquire" is the most fundamental characteristic of critical thinking , which encompasses all the others. Being willing goes hand in hand with other traits, like being flexible and humble. Flexible thinkers are willing to adapt their thinking to new evidence or arguments. Those who are humble are willing to acknowledge their faults and recognize their limitations.

It's essential for critical thinking that we have an open mind and are willing to challenge the status quo. The willingness to question assumptions, consider multiple perspectives, and think outside the box allows critical thinkers to reach new and necessary conclusions.

Actionable Tip: Cultivate willingness by adopting a growth mindset. See challenges as learning opportunities. Celebrate others' accomplishments, and get curious about what led to their success.

9. Effective communicators

Being a good critical thinker requires effective communication. Effective critical thinkers know that communication is imperative when solving problems. They can articulate their goals and concerns clearly while recognizing others' perspectives. Critical thinking requires people to be able to listen to each other's opinions and share their experiences respectfully to find the best solutions.

A good communicator is also an attentive and active listener. Listening actively goes beyond simply hearing what someone says. Being engaged in the discussion involves:

  • Listening to what they say
  • Being present
  • Asking questions that clarify their position

Actively listening is crucial for critical thinking because it helps us understand other people's perspectives.

Actionable Tip: The next time you speak with a friend, family member, or even a complete stranger, take the time to genuinely listen to what they're saying. It may surprise you how much you can learn about others — and about yourself — when you take the time to listen carefully.

The nine traits above represent just a few of the most common characteristics of critical thinking. By developing or strengthening these characteristics, you can enhance your capacity for critical thinking.

Get to the core of critical thinking

Critical thinking is essential for success in every aspect of life, from personal relationships to professional careers. By developing your critical thinking skills , you can challenge the status quo and gain a new perspective on the world around you. You can start improving your critical thinking skills today by determining which characteristics of critical thinking you need to work on and using the actionable tips to strengthen them. With practice, you can become a great critical thinker.

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Erin E. Rupp

Erin E. Rupp

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Critical Thinking

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concept critical thinking skills

In today’s dynamic and fast-paced world, critical thinking stands out as an essential competency, seamlessly bridging the gap between soft and hard skills . As we navigate complex challenges and make informed decisions, the ability to think critically enhances our overall skill set. Critical thinking stands at the core of effective decision-making and problem-solving in today’s complex world. It involves analyzing information, evaluating evidence, and considering multiple perspectives to make informed judgments. In a society flooded with information, the ability to think critically ensures that individuals can distinguish between credible sources and misinformation. It empowers people to approach challenges logically and creatively, fostering innovation and resilience. By honing critical thinking skills, individuals enhance their capacity to navigate personal and professional landscapes with clarity and confidence.

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the process of actively and skillfully analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information gathered from various sources, including observations , experiences, and communication. It involves using logic and reasoning to identify connections, draw conclusions, and make informed decisions, while remaining open-minded and aware of potential biases.

Critical Thinking Examples

Critical Thinking Examples

  • Analyzing News Reports : Evaluating the credibility of sources, checking for biases, and verifying facts before accepting news stories as true.
  • Problem-Solving in the Workplace : Identifying the root cause of a problem, considering multiple solutions, and weighing the pros and cons before deciding on the best course of action.
  • Scientific Research : Formulating hypotheses, designing experiments to test them, analyzing data objectively, and drawing conclusions based on evidence.
  • Budgeting : Assessing income and expenses, prioritizing spending, and making informed decisions to stay within budget while saving for future needs.
  • Reading Literature : Interpreting themes, symbols, and character motivations in a novel or poem, and considering how they relate to broader societal issues.
  • Debating : Constructing logical arguments, anticipating counterarguments, and using evidence to support one’s position while also listening to and understanding opposing views.
  • Medical Diagnosis : Doctors evaluating symptoms, considering possible conditions, ordering tests, and interpreting results to make accurate diagnoses and treatment plans.
  • Educational Assessment : Teachers designing fair and effective assessments that measure student understanding and skills, and using the results to improve teaching strategies.
  • Ethical Decision-Making : Weighing the moral implications of actions, considering the impact on stakeholders, and making choices that align with ethical principles.
  • Legal Analysis : Lawyers analyzing case law, statutes, and evidence to build strong legal arguments and anticipate the strategies of opposing counsel.
  • Marketing Strategy : Analyzing market trends, customer needs, and competitor actions to develop effective marketing campaigns that resonate with target audiences.
  • Programming : Writing efficient code by understanding the problem, breaking it into smaller parts, and testing and debugging to ensure it works correctly.
  • Urban Planning : Evaluating the needs of a community, considering environmental impact, and planning sustainable and functional urban spaces.
  • Historical Analysis : Examining historical events, considering the context, and understanding the causes and effects while avoiding presentism (judging the past by today’s standards).
  • Personal Decision-Making : Weighing the benefits and drawbacks of significant life choices, such as career changes or moving to a new city, and making decisions based on careful consideration and long-term goals.

For Students

  • Activity : Organize debates on current events or controversial topics.
  • Example : Have students debate the pros and cons of renewable energy sources versus fossil fuels.
  • Activity : Present students with complex problems to solve in groups.
  • Example : Task students with designing a plan to reduce plastic waste in their school.
  • Activity : Analyze case studies relevant to their subjects.
  • Example : In a business class, analyze a company’s decision-making process during a crisis.
  • Activity : Conduct Socratic seminars where students discuss philosophical or ethical questions.
  • Example : Discuss the ethical implications of artificial intelligence in society.
  • Activity : Facilitate brainstorming sessions to generate creative solutions to problems.
  • Example : Brainstorm ideas for a community service project to help local residents.
  • Activity : Assign research projects requiring critical analysis of sources.
  • Example : Research the impact of social media on teenage mental health and present findings.
  • Activity : Engage students in role-playing exercises to explore different perspectives.
  • Example : Role-play a historical event, with each student taking on the role of a key figure.
  • Activity : Use logic puzzles and games to develop reasoning skills.
  • Example : Solve Sudoku puzzles or play strategy games like chess.
  • Activity : Encourage students to write reflectively about their learning experiences.
  • Example : Write an essay on how their views on a topic have changed after a class discussion.
  • Activity : Analyze the techniques used in advertisements to influence consumers.
  • Example : Evaluate an advertisement’s claims and discuss the strategies used to persuade the audience.

In the Workplace

  • Problem Solving : Analyzing the root cause of a recurring issue in production and developing a sustainable solution.
  • Decision Making : Evaluating the pros and cons of two potential suppliers based on cost, quality, and reliability.
  • Strategic Planning : Assessing market trends to develop a new product line that meets future consumer demands.
  • Conflict Resolution : Mediating a disagreement between team members by understanding both perspectives and finding common ground.
  • Process Improvement : Reviewing workflow inefficiencies and implementing new procedures to increase productivity.
  • Risk Management : Identifying potential risks in a project and devising strategies to mitigate them.
  • Customer Service : Addressing a customer complaint by understanding the underlying issue and providing a satisfactory resolution.
  • Innovation : Brainstorming and evaluating new ideas for improving a product or service.
  • Performance Evaluation : Analyzing employee performance data to provide constructive feedback and development plans.
  • Budgeting : Reviewing and adjusting the department budget to ensure financial efficiency without compromising quality.

In the Classroom

  • Critical Reading : Analyzing a text to understand the author’s argument, purpose, and use of evidence.
  • Scientific Inquiry : Designing and conducting experiments to test hypotheses and draw conclusions based on data.
  • Mathematical Problem Solving : Applying logical reasoning to solve complex math problems and explaining the solution process.
  • Historical Analysis : Evaluating historical events and their impact from multiple perspectives.
  • Debate : Constructing and defending arguments on various topics using evidence and reasoning.
  • Project-Based Learning : Developing a research project by identifying a problem, gathering information, and presenting findings.
  • Creative Writing : Critiquing peers’ work to provide constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  • Ethical Dilemmas : Discussing moral questions and justifying decisions based on ethical principles.
  • Literary Analysis : Interpreting themes, symbols, and character development in literature.
  • Collaborative Learning : Working in groups to solve problems, share ideas, and reach consensus.

In Everyday Life

  • Financial Planning : Creating a budget to manage expenses, savings, and investments.
  • Nutrition and Health : Analyzing dietary choices to improve overall health and wellness.
  • Time Management : Prioritizing tasks and activities to make efficient use of time.
  • Consumer Decisions : Comparing product reviews and prices before making a purchase.
  • Home Maintenance : Troubleshooting and fixing household issues, such as plumbing or electrical problems.
  • Travel Planning : Researching destinations, comparing travel options, and creating itineraries.
  • Parenting : Making informed decisions about children’s education, health, and activities.
  • Conflict Resolution : Resolving disputes with family or friends by understanding different viewpoints and finding compromises.
  • Personal Development : Setting and pursuing personal goals, such as learning a new skill or improving fitness.
  • Community Involvement : Analyzing community issues and participating in local initiatives to address them.

In Healthcare

  • Diagnosis : Interpreting patient symptoms and medical history to diagnose conditions accurately.
  • Treatment Planning : Developing individualized treatment plans based on patient needs and evidence-based practices.
  • Ethical Decision-Making : Addressing ethical dilemmas in patient care, such as end-of-life decisions.
  • Patient Communication : Explaining complex medical information to patients and families clearly and compassionately.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration : Working with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care.
  • Medical Research : Designing and conducting research studies to advance medical knowledge and treatments.
  • Healthcare Policy Analysis : Evaluating healthcare policies and their impact on patient care and outcomes.
  • Clinical Judgment : Assessing and prioritizing patient care needs in emergency situations.
  • Quality Improvement : Implementing strategies to improve patient safety and care quality.
  • Continuing Education : Staying updated on medical advancements and integrating new knowledge into practice.

In Business

  • Market Analysis : Evaluating market trends and consumer behavior to make informed business decisions.
  • Strategic Planning : Developing long-term goals and strategies to achieve business objectives.
  • Financial Management : Analyzing financial statements to make sound investment and budgeting decisions.
  • Risk Assessment : Identifying and mitigating potential business risks.
  • Negotiation : Using persuasive arguments and data to negotiate contracts and deals.
  • Product Development : Assessing customer needs and market gaps to create new products.
  • Customer Feedback Analysis : Collecting and analyzing customer feedback to improve products and services.
  • Supply Chain Management : Optimizing supply chain processes to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
  • Leadership : Making decisions that motivate and guide employees toward achieving company goals.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility : Evaluating the social and environmental impact of business practices and implementing sustainable strategies.
  • Research Projects : Conducting independent research, analyzing data, and presenting findings.
  • Critical Essays : Writing essays that critically analyze texts, arguments, and ideas.
  • Group Projects : Collaborating with classmates to complete assignments and solve problems.
  • Class Discussions : Participating in discussions by presenting well-reasoned arguments and listening to others.
  • Case Studies : Analyzing real-world scenarios to understand complex issues and propose solutions.
  • Exam Preparation : Developing study plans and strategies to prepare for exams effectively.
  • Internships : Applying classroom knowledge to real-world situations during internships and reflecting on experiences.
  • Time Management : Balancing academic, social, and personal responsibilities.
  • Library Research : Using library resources to find credible sources for research papers.
  • Extracurricular Activities : Engaging in activities that develop leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.

Critical Thinking scenarios

Here are some critical thinking scenarios along with questions and answers to help you practice and enhance your critical thinking skills:

Scenario 1: Workplace Conflict

Scenario: You are a manager at a company. Two of your team members, John and Lisa, have been having frequent disagreements. These conflicts are starting to affect the team’s productivity and morale.

  • What steps would you take to address the conflict between John and Lisa?
  • How would you ensure that the resolution is fair and satisfactory for both parties?
  • What strategies would you implement to prevent similar conflicts in the future?
  • Schedule a private meeting with John and Lisa to discuss the issue.
  • Listen to both sides without taking sides to understand the root cause of the conflict.
  • Facilitate a mediation session where both parties can express their concerns and work towards a resolution.
  • Agree on specific actions that both parties will take to avoid future conflicts.
  • Ensure that both John and Lisa feel heard and respected during the mediation process.
  • Identify common ground and mutual interests to build a foundation for resolution.
  • Set clear expectations and follow-up actions for both parties.
  • Monitor the situation and provide support to ensure the conflict does not resurface.
  • Foster an open and inclusive team culture where concerns can be raised early.
  • Provide regular team-building activities to strengthen relationships.
  • Implement conflict resolution training for all team members.
  • Establish clear communication channels and protocols for addressing grievances.

Scenario 2: Ethical Dilemma

Scenario: You are a journalist working on a high-profile story. You discover that one of your sources has provided you with information that could harm their reputation if published. However, this information is crucial to your story and serves the public interest.

  • What factors would you consider before deciding whether to publish the information?
  • How would you balance the public interest with the potential harm to your source?
  • What steps would you take to verify the accuracy of the information before publication?
  • The significance of the information to the public interest.
  • The potential consequences for the source if the information is published.
  • The ethical guidelines and professional standards of journalism.
  • Any possible legal implications of publishing the information.
  • Evaluate whether the public’s right to know outweighs the potential harm to the source.
  • Consider anonymizing the source or redacting sensitive details to protect their identity.
  • Seek advice from colleagues or an ethics committee to make an informed decision.
  • Cross-check the information with other reliable sources.
  • Review any documentation or evidence provided by the source.
  • Conduct interviews with other individuals who can corroborate the information.
  • Ensure that the information is presented in context to avoid misrepresentation.

Scenario 3: Environmental Impact

Scenario: Your company is planning to build a new factory in a rural area. This project promises economic growth and job creation but also raises concerns about environmental impact and the displacement of local wildlife.

  • What are the potential environmental impacts of the new factory?
  • How would you address the concerns of the local community and environmental groups?
  • What measures would you implement to minimize the environmental impact of the factory?
  • Air and water pollution from factory emissions and waste.
  • Habitat destruction and displacement of local wildlife.
  • Increased traffic and noise pollution in the area.
  • Strain on local resources such as water and energy.
  • Organize community meetings to discuss the project and listen to concerns.
  • Collaborate with environmental groups to assess the impact and find solutions.
  • Provide transparent information about the factory’s operations and mitigation plans.
  • Offer compensation or relocation assistance to affected residents if necessary.
  • Implement eco-friendly technologies and practices to reduce emissions and waste.
  • Develop a comprehensive environmental management plan.
  • Create buffer zones and wildlife corridors to protect local habitats.
  • Invest in renewable energy sources to power the factory.
  • Improved Problem Solving: Critical thinking helps in analyzing problems systematically and making better decisions.
  • Enhanced Communication: It allows for clear expression and understanding of ideas.
  • Better Decision Making: Critical thinking leads to more informed and logical choices.
  • Adaptability: It enables individuals to adapt to new situations and challenges effectively.
  • Informed Opinions: Critical thinkers can form well-grounded opinions and defend them logically.

What are the critical thinking skills?

  • Analysis: Breaking down complex information into smaller parts to understand it better.
  • Interpretation: Understanding and explaining the meaning of information or an event.
  • Inference: Drawing logical conclusions from available information.
  • Evaluation: Assessing the credibility and relevance of information and arguments.
  • Explanation: Clearly and concisely articulating your reasoning and evidence.
  • Self-Regulation: Reflecting on and adjusting one’s own thought processes and biases.

Concepts of critical thinking

  • Clarity: Ensuring that the information and arguments are clear and understandable.
  • Accuracy: Ensuring that information is true and free from errors.
  • Precision: Providing enough detail to understand the specific context.
  • Relevance: Ensuring that information and arguments are directly related to the issue at hand.
  • Depth: Addressing the complexities and underlying factors of an issue.
  • Breadth: Considering different perspectives and alternatives.
  • Logic: Ensuring that the reasoning is coherent and follows a logical sequence.
  • Fairness: Being open-minded and impartial in evaluating information and arguments.
  • Identify the Problem or Question: Clearly define what you are trying to solve or understand.
  • Gather Information: Collect relevant data, evidence, and viewpoints.
  • Analyze the Information: Break down the information to understand the relationships and implications.
  • Evaluate the Evidence: Assess the quality, credibility, and relevance of the evidence.
  • Formulate Conclusions: Draw reasoned conclusions based on the analysis and evaluation.
  • Communicate the Conclusion: Clearly express your findings and reasoning.
  • Reflect and Reassess: Continuously reflect on the process and outcomes to improve your critical thinking skills.

Basics of critical thinking

  • Open-Mindedness: Being willing to consider new ideas and perspectives.
  • Curiosity: Having a strong desire to learn and understand.
  • Skepticism: Questioning the validity of information and not taking things at face value.
  • Objectivity: Striving to remain unbiased and impartial.
  • Rationality: Basing decisions on logical reasoning rather than emotions.
  • Socratic Questioning: Asking a series of probing questions to explore complex ideas and uncover underlying assumptions.
  • Mind Mapping: Visually organizing information to see connections and relationships.
  • Brainstorming: Generating a wide range of ideas and solutions without immediate judgment.
  • Role Playing: Considering different perspectives by imagining oneself in another person’s position.
  • SWOT Analysis: Evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to a particular situation or decision.
  • Thought Experiments: Imagining hypothetical scenarios to explore potential outcomes and implications.

How to Practice and Use Critical Thinking

The critical thinking process incorporates various other logical soft skills that will help you analyze and interpret all the information to create an informed decision. These soft skills include observational skills, problem-solving, communication skills, and analytical thinking. If you sharpen all of these elements and characteristics you will inadvertently enhance your critical thinking.

Step 1: Practice One’s Observational and Perception Skills

We use our senses to perceive the world around us, whether it would be sight, smell, a, and sensations. One should practice utilizing these senses to create logical inferences and deductions that will help out brain unconsciously absorb and analyze these types of information. The more one practices their senses the better their thinking process will be.

Step 2: Enhance One’s Problem-Solving Skills

Logic and problem-solving allow the person to deduce and connect information that the environment or circumstance presents to the said person. You need to practice your problem-solving skills via puzzles, logical reasoning tests, and ethical dilemmas. Practicing one’s problem-solving skills will allow the person to efficiently establish cause-and-effect  reasoning or properly create logical decisions.

Step 3: Prepare and Practice One’s Communication Skills

Communication is a pivotal skill we often use when interacting with other people. This type of skill includes body language , assertive communication , concise language, and other communication skills. In critical thinking, a person must be able to properly communicate their thoughts and thinking process to other people, which will create a collaborative environment. Other times, the perfect solution might not be present without the need for communication.

Step 4: Practice Analysis of the Situation

One’s analytical thinking skills allow the person to take note of various elements and characteristics of the situation and analyze these elements’ contribution to the current situation or circumstance. You need to practice your analytical thinking to properly process the current situation or circumstance you find yourself in.

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers value critical thinking skills because they enable employees to analyze situations, make informed decisions, and solve problems effectively. Critical thinkers can evaluate information from various sources, identify logical connections, and foresee potential consequences, which leads to better strategic planning and innovation. These skills also enhance communication and collaboration, as critical thinkers can present their ideas clearly and consider different perspectives. Ultimately, critical thinking contributes to improved productivity, adaptability, and competitiveness in the workplace.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking involves analyzing and evaluating information to make reasoned, logical decisions, and judgments. It emphasizes evidence-based reasoning and problem-solving.

Why is critical thinking important?

Critical thinking enhances decision-making, problem-solving, and the ability to analyze complex situations. It is crucial for personal and professional growth.

How can I improve my critical thinking skills?

Improve critical thinking by questioning assumptions, seeking diverse perspectives, practicing problem-solving, and engaging in reflective thinking regularly.

What are the key components of critical thinking?

Key components include analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation. These skills help in understanding and assessing arguments and evidence.

How does critical thinking benefit students?

Students benefit from critical thinking by improving academic performance, enhancing research skills, and fostering independent thinking and creativity.

What role does critical thinking play in the workplace?

In the workplace, critical thinking aids in decision-making, innovation, conflict resolution, and improving productivity and efficiency.

Can critical thinking be taught?

Yes, critical thinking can be taught through targeted educational programs, exercises, and practice that focus on developing analytical and evaluative skills.

What is an example of critical thinking in everyday life?

An example is evaluating news sources for credibility before accepting information as true. This involves analyzing evidence and assessing biases.

How does critical thinking relate to problem-solving?

Critical thinking is integral to problem-solving as it involves analyzing the problem, evaluating options, and making reasoned decisions based on evidence.

What are common barriers to critical thinking?

Common barriers include cognitive biases, emotional influences, lack of relevant information, and social pressures. Overcoming these requires awareness and deliberate practice.

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Critical Thinking: Creating Job-Proof Skills for the Future of Work

Daniela dumitru.

1 Teacher Training Department, Bucharest University of Economic Studies, 010374 Bucharest, Romania

2 Doctoral School of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Bucharest, 050663 Bucharest, Romania

Diane F. Halpern

3 Department of Psychology, Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA 91711, USA; moc.liamg@nreplahfenaid

In this study, we explore the transformative impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the job market and argue for the growing importance of critical thinking skills in the face of job automation and changing work dynamics. Advancements in AI have the potential to disrupt various professions, including, for example, programming, legal work, and radiology. However, solely relying on AI systems can lead to errors and misjudgments, emphasizing the need for human oversight. The concept of “job-proof skills” is introduced, highlighting the importance of critical thinking, problem-solving, empathy, ethics, and other human attributes that machines cannot replicate with the same standards and agility. We maintain that critical thinking can be taught and learned through appropriate classroom instruction and transfer-focused approaches. The need for critical thinking skills is further reinforced by the influx of information and the spread of misinformation in the age of social media. Moreover, employers increasingly value critical thinking skills in their workforce, yet there exists a gap between the demand for these skills and the preparedness of college graduates. Critical thinking is not only essential for the future of work, but also for informed citizenship in an increasingly complex world. The potential impact of AI on job disruption, wages, and employment polarization is discussed, highlighting the correlation between jobs requiring critical thinking skills and their resistance to automation. We conclude by discussing collaborative efforts between universities and labor market organizations to adapt curricula and promote the development of critical thinking skills, drawing on examples from European initiatives. The need to prioritize critical thinking skills in education and address the evolving demands of the labor market is emphasized as a crucial step for navigating the future of work and opportunities for workers.

1. Introduction: Critical Thinking: Creating Job-Proof Skills for the Future of Work

The rapid evolution of online technologies has ushered in a paradigm shift in employment, redefining the nature of work and the skills required to succeed in the digital age. This transformative landscape, characterized by the ubiquitous presence of the Internet, social media platforms, and advanced artificial intelligence systems, has created a plethora of new opportunities and challenges in the labor market. As we navigate this digital frontier, it is becoming increasingly clear that traditional employment paradigms are undergoing a profound transformation. The convergence of online technologies with the demands of a networked world has not only created new job opportunities, but it has also disrupted established industries, rendering some job roles obsolete while creating demand for previously unforeseen skills. In this era of unprecedented connectivity and innovation, examining the intricate interplay between online technologies and jobs is paramount as it holds the key to understanding the dynamics of our rapidly evolving workforce.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is disrupting many jobs and promises “to change the way the world works” ( adminGPT 2023, para. 13 ). The number and range of AI programs are increasing at a rapid pace, and they are likely to continually improve to meet user demands. Consider, for example, ChatGPT, which can respond to questions and requests in a way that seems to come from a human rather than a computer program. GPT stands for “generative pretrained transformer”. It is generative in that it can provide responses that it never “learned”; it is pretrained with a large language model ( Bushwick et al. 2023 ). Newer versions can describe visual images, although thus far, they cannot create visual images. Its uses are seemingly endless. It is easy to imagine how such programs can change the lives of blind individuals. In fact, it can and will change the lives of all of us.

In this paper, we argue that these advances in online technologies will make critical thinking (CT) more important than ever before. Many who are preparing to enter the job market, and many who are already employed, will need to adapt to new forms of job automation and different ways of working.

Consider, for example, that an early achievement of ChatGPT was its generation of Python code (a computer language) to compute various tasks, such as data analysis. Apparently, getting ChatGPT to generate code is so easy that several YouTube videos have popped up claiming that they can teach novice users to use ChatGPT to generate code in 90 s. ( Data Professor 2023 ). The benefits are obvious, but so are the potential job losses for people who work in Python. Python coders will need to upgrade their skills, perhaps first becoming experts in the use of ChatGPT and similar programs, but this also has a positive side--they can spend more time working on larger questions such as which analyses are needed, and, of course, carefully reviewing the work produced by AI to ensure that it is accurate and understandable. Early versions of ChatGPT responses often contained errors. A New York lawyer learned the hard way: Steven A. Schwartz, a lawyer for 30 years, used ChatGPT to create a legal document ( Weiser and Schweber 2023 ). It was filled with fake citations and bogus judicial opinions. Sadly, Mr. Schwartz never checked the accuracy of the document he filed in court. The judge was not amused. This highly public and embarrassing event should be a lesson for all of us. Current AI programs cannot be trusted to take over our work, though they may be able to aid or supplement it. However, other AI programs can “read” radiographs more accurately than human radiologists, which provides a benefit to both radiologists and patients. There is an immediate positive effect for this advancement: Radiologists will have more time to directly work with patients, and yes, they must also check the accuracy of the outputs from their programs when presenting diagnoses.

For the rest of us, whether we are students or early or late in our careers, we need to focus on the development of “job-proof skills” in the face of AI advances. A report from the United Nations defines job-proof skills as “conceptual and strategic thinking, problem-solving, empathy, optimism, ethics, emotional intelligence, and judgments are the future-proof skills and attributes that machines will not be able to replicate with the same standards and agility as qualified human beings” ( Elkeiy 2022, para. 5 ). In other words, critical thinking skills will always be needed.

2. What Is Critical Thinking?

Although some scholars in the field of critical thinking have emphasized differences among various definitions, we believe that the commonalities are evident (c.f., Dwyer 2017 ; Nisbett 2015 ; Lipman 1991 ; Fisher 2001 ). There are some differences in the use of terms and several skills might be more important, but all of the definitions (more or less) conform to our preferred definition: “Critical thinking is the use of those cognitive skills and abilities that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. It is purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed. It is the kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions. Critical thinkers use these skills appropriately, without prompting, and usually with conscious intent, in a variety of settings. That is, they are predisposed to think critically. When we think critically, we are evaluating the outcomes of our thought processes--how good a decision is or how well a problem is solved. Critical thinking also involves evaluating the thinking process--the reasoning that went into the conclusion we’ve arrived at, or the kinds of factors considered in making a decision” ( Halpern and Dunn 2023, pp. 6–7 ). The reason we need a common definition of critical thinking is that, without it, instructors can and have passed almost anything off as instruction in critical thinking. However, common ground is to be found concerning CT definitions. In a European project, which we shall refer to in Section 4.3 , the critical thinking definition is based on the works of Halpern and Dunn ( 2023 ), Facione ( 1990 ), Paul and Elder ( 2008 ), and Kuhn ( 1999 ). During two debate sessions, 33 international participants from higher education and the labor market defined critical thinking as a deliberate cognitive process guided by conscious, dynamic, self-directed, self-monitored, and self-correcting thought ( Rebelo et al. 2023 ). It relies on both disciplinary and procedural knowledge, along with metacognitive aspects (including metacognitive, meta-strategic, and epistemological dimensions). Critical thinking can be cultivated and enhanced through the development of competencies, and it is facilitated by various attitudes, such as systematic thinking, open-mindedness, empathy, flexibility, and cognitive maturity. Additionally, it encompasses intellectual skills such as reflection, self-regulation, analysis, inference, explanation, synthesis, and systematic thought. Critical thinking not only stimulates problem-solving capabilities but also facilitates effective communication, fosters independent and holistic thinking, and bolsters decision-making and active citizenship ( Pnevmatikos et al. 2021 ).

2.1. Can Critical Thinking Be Learned?

We teach writing, oral communication, and mathematics with the (often implicit) belief that these skills will be learned and transferred to multiple settings both inside and outside of the classroom. There is a large and growing research literature showing that, with appropriate classroom instruction in critical thinking, including specific instruction designed for transfer, the skills will spontaneously transfer and in uncued (i.e., there are no reminders to use the critical thinking skill that was learned in class) situations ( Dumitru 2012 ; Heijltjes et al. 2014 ; Tiruneh 2019 ). Several such studies were presented by Dwyer ( 2017 ) and Halpern and Dunn ( 2023 ). For the sake of brevity, we review just one recent study. The study was designed to counteract the effects of conspiracy theories. When people believe conspiracy theories, they often act in harmful ways–such as refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which resulted in the death of large numbers of people around the world, or attacking the United State Capitol Building on 6 January 2021 in the belief that there was a conspiracy afoot designed to steal the United States 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump. In a review of the research literature on the efficacy of interventions, the researchers found “there was one intervention which was characteristically different to the rest” ( O’Mahony et al. 2023, para. 23 ). It was a semester-long university course in critical thinking that was designed to teach students the difference between good scientific practices and pseudoscience. These courses require effort and commitment, but they are effective. The same conclusion applies to all interventions designed to enhance critical thinking. There are no fast and easy “once and done” strategies that work. This is why we recommend continuous and pervasive coursework to make sure that the learning of CT skills “sticks.”

2.2. The Need for Critical Thinking Skills

Online technologies-related (including AI) job loss and redesign are not the only reasons why we need to concentrate on teaching and learning the skills of critical thinking. COVID-19 left 140 million people out of work, and many of their jobs will never return ( Roslansky 2021 ). We are drowning in a tsunami of information, confronted with advertisements online, in news reports, social media, podcasts, and more. The need to be able to distinguish good information from bad is critical. In addition, employers want to hire people with critical thinking skills. In a recent report by Hart Research Associated ( 2018 ), they found that in an employer survey of 501 business executives, 78% said that critical thinking/analytic reasoning is the most important skill they want in their employees, but they also added that only 34% of college graduates arrive well prepared in critical thinking. This gap between what employers want and their perception of the preparedness of the workforce was larger for critical thinking than for any other area. In fact, every report on the future of work made this same point. Consider this quote from The World Economic Forum ( 2020 ) on the future of jobs: “Skills gaps continue to be high as in-demand skills across jobs change in the next five years. The top skills and skill groups which employers see as rising in prominence in the lead up to 2025 include groups such as critical thinking and analysis as well as problem-solving.” (p. 5). In a report from the Office of the European Union: Key Competences for Lifelong Learning, the commissioner wrote “Critical thinking, media literacy, and communication skills are some of the requirements to navigate our increasingly complex world” ( Navracsics 2019, p. 3 ). Of course, critical thinking is not just needed in the world of work. A true democracy requires an educated citizenry with citizens who can think critically about world social issues, such as the use/threat of AI, war, poverty, climate change, and so much more. Irrational voters are a threat to all of us—and to themselves.

The need to think critically is not new, but it has taken on a new urgency as social media and other forms of communication have made the deliberate spread of misinformation move at the speed of light. There is nothing new about the use of lies, half-truths, and innuendos to get people to believe something that is not true. Anyone can post anything on popular media sites, and this “fake news” is often copied and shared thousands of times. Sometimes the information is spread with a deliberate attempt to mislead; other times, it is copied and spread by people who believe it is true. These messages are often used to discredit political adversaries, create social unrest, and incite fear. It can be a difficult task to determine what to believe and what to discard. Vosoughi et al. ( 2018 ) analyzed data from 126,000 tweets that were spread by approximately 3 million people. How did the researchers discriminate true data from false data? The same way we all should. They used several different fact-checking sites and found 95% to 98% agreement regarding the truth or falsehood of information. They found that false data spread more quickly and more widely than true data because the false data tended to be novel and sensational, rendering it salient and seductive.

In today’s landscape, the imperative to foster critical thinking skills is becoming increasingly apparent as we grapple with the rapid rise of social media and artificial intelligence technologies and their profound impact on the future of work. The confluence of these transformative forces has ushered in a new era characterized by the potential for significant job disruption. As online technologies advance and automation becomes more widespread, certain traditional job roles may become obsolete, requiring the development of innovative skills and adaptability in the workforce. In this context, critical thinking emerges as a central element in preparing individuals to navigate the evolving job market. It equips individuals with the ability to analyze complex information, discern credible sources from the proliferation of social media information, and make informed decisions in an era of blurring boundaries between human and machine contributions to the workforce. Cultivating critical thinking skills will be essential to ensuring that individuals can take advantage of the opportunities presented by new technologies while mitigating the challenges of job disruption in this AI-driven future.

3. Critical Thinking Skills and Job Disruption and Replacement

Eloundou et al. in 2023 estimated that about 15% of all U.S. workers’ jobs could be accomplished much faster and at the same level of quality with currently available AI. There are large differences in the extent to which various occupations and industries will be affected by advancements in AI. For example, tasks that require a high degree of human interaction, highly specialized domain knowledge, or creating innovative technologies will be minimally affected; whereas, other occupations such as providing captions for images or answering questions about a text or document are more likely to be affected. Routine-based jobs in general are more likely to be dislodged by advanced technologies ( Acemoglu 2002 ). Using the basic definitions of skills that are standard in O*Net, Eloundou et al. ( 2023 ) found a clear negative correlation between jobs requiring knowledge of science and critical thinking skills and the likelihood that AI will “take over” the job. These findings reinforce our main point—the best way to gain job-proof skills is with critical thinking.

The effect of online technologies on wages is complicated because of the large number of factors that come together to determine earnings. Acemoglu and Autor ( 2011 ) advocated for a model that simultaneously considers the level of the tasks required for any job (low, medium, and high), where a high level of skill is defined as one that allows employees to perform a variety of tasks, the demand for the tasks, and technological changes that can complement a task or replace it. They assert that employment has become increasingly polarized with the growth in both high education, high wage occupations and low education, and low wage occupations in the United States and the European Union. To understand and predict which occupations will be most disrupted by AI (and other developing technologies), an investigator will need to simultaneously consider all of these variables. Technological advancements can generate shifts in demand, favoring either high- or low-skilled workers. According to Acemoglu and Autor ( 2011 ), we can expect some of the largest disruptive effects at the middle level of skills, where some of the tasks performed at this level can be more easily replaced by new technologies, with widespread employment growth in high- and low-skilled occupations.

4. Business-University Collaborations

The pursuit of promoting high standards of critical thinking in university students across various academic disciplines is a challenging endeavor that should be leveraged through collaboration with stakeholders. In such collaborations, stakeholders can contribute to refining the skills required by learners and bring their own perspectives to academic instruction. This close partnership between universities and stakeholders helps minimize gaps and mismatches in the transition to the labor market, facilitates research collaboration, and increases student motivation.

Collaborations between businesses and universities have gained increasing importance in today’s rapidly evolving educational and economic landscape. These partnerships are instrumental in bridging the gap between academic learning and the real-world skills demanded by the job market. One key aspect of business-university collaboration (BUC) is the alignment of curricula with the dynamic needs of industries. This entails the joint effort of higher education institutions (HEIs) and industry experts to design, develop, and deliver educational programs that equip students with practical, job-ready skills. The curriculum design phase involves tailoring study programs, courses, and modules to address skills gaps and align with the specific requirements of employers.

Moreover, BUC extends beyond the classroom. Collaborations often involve business engagement in educational activities, including guest lectures, internships, co-op programs, and research projects. These interactions provide students with invaluable exposure to real-world scenarios, allowing them to apply theoretical knowledge in practical settings.

In essence, BUC is a multifaceted partnership that benefits both students and businesses. It ensures that educational programs remain relevant, fostering a seamless transition from academia to the workforce. This collaborative approach not only enhances students’ employability but also contributes to the overall growth and innovation of industries.

Operationalizing the collaboration implicates a particular focus on curriculum design, development, and delivery. These involve the collaboration between higher education institutions and labor market partners to create or enhance undergraduate or postgraduate study programs, courses, or modules. This collaborative effort aims to address skills gaps, align curricula with employers’ needs, integrate training initiatives, and improve graduates’ employability. Additionally, curriculum delivery includes various forms of business involvement, such as guest lectures, placements, supervision, mentoring, and work-based learning activities.

While the existing literature often discusses the barriers and motivations for university-business collaboration ( Healy et al. 2014 ; Orazbayeva et al. 2020 ), there is a need for more empirical insights into the roles and responsibilities of each party engaged in joint curriculum design, development, and delivery, as well as lessons learned from these collaborations ( Rebelo et al. 2023 ).

4.1. Why Do We Need Higher Education’s Help?

In the preceding sections of this paper, we delved into the disruptive forces of artificial intelligence (AI) on the job market and the critical need for individuals to adapt to these changes by developing “job-proof skills”. The rise of online technologies such as ChatGPT presents both opportunities and challenges, particularly in fields where middle-level skills are required. To effectively tackle these challenges, we must turn our attention to the pivotal role of education and the cultivation of essential skills such as critical thinking.

We highlighted how AI is rapidly transforming various industries and the need for individuals to adapt to these changes. Moreover, we explored the question of whether critical thinking can be learned, showcasing research evidence that supports the teachability of this skill. Now, we shall explore practical strategies for fostering critical thinking skills through collaborations between universities and businesses. The idea here is to create an educational framework that equips students with the capabilities needed to thrive in the evolving workforce.

Building upon the success of two European projects, “Critical thinking across higher education curricula—CRITHINKEDU” and “Critical thinking for successful jobs—THINK4JOBS”, we argue that incorporating practical experience and CT development through apprenticeships is a possible action for better higher education classes. This collaborative approach between HEI and LMO designed to address the differing perspectives and terminologies used by these two entities regarding critical thinking could be an important curriculum design for the better adaptation of job market technology disruptions.

Research conducted by Eloundou et al. ( 2023 ), which shows that critical thinking skills and science skills are less likely to be taken by AI, compels us to sustain the THINK4JOBS apprenticeship curricula as a possible teaching protocol for critical thinking enhancement to face challenges posed by AI at work.

The results from these projects demonstrate significant progress in students’ critical thinking skills and dispositions. These improvements, as highlighted below in Section 4.3 , underscore the effectiveness of embedding critical thinking in the curriculum. The guidelines formulated for implementing Critical Thinking Blended Apprenticeship Curricula provide a roadmap for educators to follow when effectively integrating critical thinking into their courses.

As we ponder the possibility of a world where critical thinking is widespread, we can envision a future where individuals are equipped to confront the ideological fanaticism that threatens global stability. Critical thinking, as both a cognitive skill and a disposition, has the potential to shape a workforce capable of adapting to the ever-changing landscape of work, making informed decisions, and contributing to a more rational and democratic world. The THINK4JOBS project emphasizes the practical steps taken to prepare students for the future job market and sets the stage for further exploration of the role of critical thinking in addressing global challenges, including AI presence in the job market.

4.2. CRITHINKEDU Proctocol for Critical Thinking Education across Curricula

Given that the best education for the future of work is the acquisition of critical thinking skills, how can we facilitate this sort of education? One way to obtain a job-proof education is to create classes with the help of labor market organizations. Two projects funded by the European Union were designed to bring to life the idea that better communication and collaboration between universities and employers result in a better adaptation of the curriculum, especially a curriculum involving critical thinking skill development.

Between 2016 and 2019, the project “Critical thinking across the European higher education curriculum—CRITHINKEDU” focused on how CT is taught in various academic domains. The CRITHINKEDU project, involving universities across Europe, exemplifies how academia and industry can join forces to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world job demands. This initiative aimed to enhance the curriculum by explicitly emphasizing critical thinking skill development. It revealed that employers across various fields value critical thinking, and they perceive it as essential for recent graduates entering the workforce.

The participants were eleven universities from nine European countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Lithuania, and Ireland; Dominguez 2018). Qualitative research was conducted with 32 focus groups comprised of professionals from various European countries and fields. The findings align with previous studies: “CT is a set of interconnected skills (interpretation, inference, analysis, explanation, evaluation, self-regulation”, see Payan-Carreira et al. ( 2023, p. 16 ), and dispositions (open-mindedness, refection, attentiveness, organization, perseverance, intrinsic goal motivation ( Payan-Carreira et al. 2023 ), essential for recent graduates in response to labor market demands. However, an important consideration is that the practical application of CT varies across professional fields. The participants in this study defined the ideal critical thinker as someone with a cultivated mindset, motivated to learn and improve, and equipped with cognitive and behavioral tools to anticipate, regulate, and monitor their thinking. CT is associated with problem-solving and decision-making and is intertwined with other skills such as proactivity, adaptability, creativity, emotional intelligence, communication, and teamwork. The report from this project also introduced “a European collection of the Critical Thinking skills and dispositions needed in different professional fields for the 21st century” ( Dominguez 2018 ), which categorizes CT skills and dispositions based on professional fields and offers a basis for defining learning objectives and adapting university curricula. This study provides valuable insights from 189 European employers into CT needs in the labor market for new graduates. The interviewed professionals had an obvious preference for CT skills in STEM fields and an obvious preference for dispositions in the Humanities. Social Sciences and bio-medical sciences professionals were equally interested in CT skills and dispositions, with a slight preference for dispositions ( Dominguez 2018, p. 28 ).

4.3. Next Steps: THINK4JOBS Blended Appreticeship Curricula

After the termination of the CRITHINKEDU project, partners from Romania, Greece, Lithuania, and Portugal, with the addition of a new partner from Germany, proposed a new research application: “Critical Thinking for Successful Jobs—THINK4JOBS” ( www.think4jobs.uowm.gr ). The idea was to utilize the results from the previous project and, together with labor market organizations, create new courses that are more adapted to the reality of the future of work. The core element of the classes was explicit teaching of critical thinking, using real-life cases and methods. In an apprenticeship model, critical thinking skills are embedded in a relevant context. The value of realistic contexts is that students can see the need for the skills being taught in a workplace scenario. Relevant contexts enhance student engagement and motivation to learn. Dumitru et al. ( 2021 ) focused on improving students’ critical thinking skills and dispositions through collaboration between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Labor Market Organizations (LMOs). The aim was to bridge the gap between HEI curricula and the expectations of the labor market by incorporating apprenticeships that provide practical experience and CT development.

The process of mapping responses from those in the labor market organizations onto college curricula involved the use of research methods such as observation, focus groups, and documentary analysis, with stakeholders from HEIs and LMOs participating. The findings indicated that while there were no definitive “gaps” between HEIs and LMOs, there were contextual differences in the approach to CT. HEIs focus on long-term career preparation, while LMOs emphasize short-term learning strategies. The terminology and expression of CT also differed between the two contexts. Based on the findings, ten work-based scenarios were created, with one from each discipline involved in the project. Overall, the report ( Dumitru et al. 2021 ) highlighted the different goals and perspectives of HEIs and LMOs regarding CT, emphasizing the need for collaboration and a common understanding of which skills should be included in the college curriculum.

There is a different context in the approach to CT, since HEIs usually use different learning activities, focusing more on career preparation with long-term goals, while LMOs follow compact and short-term learning and teaching strategies. Furthermore, the findings suggest that CT is a new workplace requirement and that HEIs and LMOs do not choose the same terminology when referring to the concept, with HEIs usually choosing scientific terms. Another element that emerged is that CT is generally expressed in a declarative way in higher education institutions, while in LMOs the application to specific cases follows a more procedural approach. Put another way, LMOs are focused on making a profit, while HEI is focused on being socially responsible.

In the second phase of the project, partners ( Pnevmatikos et al. 2021 ) focused on the development of a collaborative training curriculum for Higher Education Instructors and LMO tutors. The purpose of the training was to enhance comprehension and knowledge of critical thinking for both sides of this collaboration, since previous research indicated a potential lack of conceptual and procedural understanding between these two entities. Additionally, the training aimed to facilitate the promotion, support, and evaluation of students’ CT skills within apprenticeship curricula, as well as the creation of blended curricula utilizing an open-source learning platform. The training course encompassed workshops that delved into various aspects of CT, including analyzing and reassembling ideas about CT, formulating a working definition of CT, instructional methodologies, blended learning techniques, usage of a learning platform, CT assessment, and the development of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between higher education institutions and LMOs. The participants’ knowledge about these topics was assessed through pre- and post-training online questionnaires. Although data analysis showed various predicted trends, only perceived self-confidence in the topics covered during the training obtained statistical significance ( Pnevmatikos et al. 2021 ).

In the final report from this project, Payan-Carreira et al. ( 2023 ) presented the results of the implementation of the critical thinking Blended Apprenticeships Curricula (CTBAC) and discussed the improvements in critical thinking skills and dispositions observed in students. The study involved cross-disciplinary analysis and assessed changes before and after the piloting activities. A total of 609 students participated, and their critical thinking skills and dispositions were evaluated.

The consortium chose the Critical Thinking Self-Assessment Scale (CTSAS) developed by Nair ( 2011 ) as an instrument to assess CT skills based on an earlier conceptualization ( Facione 1990 ). The questionnaire has been tested in various geographic and cultural contexts, demonstrating good reliability, internal consistency, and confirmatory factor analysis results. However, the original CTSAS was considered too long to complete, consisting of 115 items, so a shorter version was specifically developed for this project. The short form of the questionnaire (CTSAS-SF) was created through a two-step process. Items with loading weights below .500 were eliminated, resulting in 84 remaining items. Redundant and non-cognitive-focused items were marked for elimination, leaving 60 items. The short form maintained the original scale’s framework and utilized a seven-point Likert scale ranging from 0 (Never) to 6 (Always) for students to respond to items assessing various dimensions and subdimensions of CT skills.

The CTSAS-SF validation process, with confirmatory factor analysis, resulted in two models with equivalent satisfactory goodness-of-fit indices. Model 4, the second-order factor model (RMSEA = .051; TLI = .924; CFI = .927), had a chi-square/df ratio of 2.33. The Cronbach alpha of the overall instrument was excellent (α = .969). Sample items are shown in Table 1 .

Sample items forming Critical Thinking Self-Assessment Scale (CTSAS), Nair ( 2011 ).

Compared to instruments for assessing CT skills, the availability of instruments for measuring critical thinking (CT) dispositions is limited. However, one of the instruments adopted by the consortium to assess CT dispositions is the Student-Educator Negotiated Critical Thinking Dispositions Scale (SENCTDS), which was developed by Quinn et al. ( 2020 ). The scale was validated with a mixed population of Irish and American undergraduate students. The scale considers a variety of CT dispositions that the authors consider important for the labor market and real-world decision-making. Some of the items in the scale combine Facione ’s ( 1990 ) original CT dispositions into new dimensions that are relevant to academic and labor market success, such as organization, perseverance, and intrinsic goal motivation. The scale consists of six dimensions (Reflection, Attentiveness, Open-mindedness, Organization, Perseverance, and Intrinsic Goal Motivation) and presents statements for students to respond to using a 7-point Likert scale. The Likert scale ranges from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). The original version of the SENCTDS contains 21 items. The validation process, with confirmatory factor analysis, identified only one model presenting a satisfactory goodness-of-fit index—model 3, comprised of six correlated factors (RMSEA = .054; TLI = .974; CFI = .969) with a chi-square/df ratio of 2.57. The instrument presented a high Cronbach alpha (α = .842), suggesting a strong internal consistency of the instrument. Sample items are presented in Table 2 .

Sample items from Student-Educator Negotiated Critical Thinking Dispositions Scale (SENCTDS), developed by Quinn et al. ( 2020 ).

The analysis showed gains in critical thinking skills and indicated that changes were more prominent in skills than dispositions. All skills (interpretation, analysis, inference, explanation, self-regulation, and evaluation) obtained significant differences between the pretest and posttest, with p ≤ .0001 to all skills, plus the integrated critical thinking skills score was t = 9.705 and p ≤ .0001, which demonstrates strong significant difference between pre- and the posttest. Dispositions displayed no significant differences regarding the integrated score, but showed significant differences in reflection (t = 1.766, p = .079), open-mindedness (t = 2.636, p = .009), organization (t = 2.568, p = .011), and intrinsic goal motivation (t = 1.712, p = .088).

Based on the findings from the implementation of the blended apprenticeship curricula, the following guidelines were formulated for implementing Critical Thinking Blended Apprenticeship Curricula ( Payan-Carreira et al. 2023 ):

  • Provide an explanation of the importance of critical thinking—Clearly communicate to students why critical thinking is a vital skill in today’s workforce and how it is valued in specific professions. Explicitly incorporate the development of critical thinking as an outcome of the course.
  • Emphasize continuous and pervasive CT training—To achieve success, there should be a concerted effort across disciplinary curricula to foster students’ critical thinking skills and dispositions. Skills require training, and dispositions necessitate the internalization of desired attitudes. Therefore, sufficient time and a collaborative approach at the disciplinary level are necessary for consistent and significant progress.
  • Allocate dedicated time—Building on the previous point, it is essential to allocate specific time within the course to work on the proposed critical thinking goals. Students and educators need to schedule activities and create opportunities for preparation, development, and feedback exchange. This ensures that the intervention leads to meaningful, lasting learning.
  • Establish connections with real-world scenarios—Foster student engagement and improve their perception of learning experiences by incorporating case studies that reflect situations professionals encounter in their daily work. By grounding the learning content in reality, students are more likely to be motivated and actively participate in the educational process.

Foster reflection on CT skills and dispositions—Offer students the chance to reflect on their reasoning processes and the attitudes they have developed throughout their learning experiences. Encouraging reflective thinking enhances the effectiveness of learning interventions and helps cultivate a deeper understanding of one’s experiences.

These steps aim to guide educators in effectively implementing the critical thinking blended apprenticeship curricula while also maximizing the impact of critical thinking development in students.

The two European projects made a great start in integrating the skills that employers want employees to learn from university curricula, but the results are nonetheless provisional. There is not a clear agreement among participating universities regarding how best to teach critical thinking, nor any regarding its importance for future jobs. We urge that more work should be done to nurture critical thinking within university curricula in order to provide our current students—who represent the future of the workforce—the much-wanted job-proof skills they need.

5. European Recommendations and Good Practices

Critical thinking stands as a pivotal goal for European Higher Education Institutions. To facilitate the attainment of this objective, we present an educational protocol that draws from comprehensive research and practical experiences, including insights from the CRITHINKEDU project. This protocol amalgamates insights from both theoretical and empirical studies on critical thinking with practical strategies for its cultivation.

Recommendations go toward signing memorandums of understanding between universities and labor market organizations to cultivate strong partnerships ( Rebelo et al. 2023 ). Effective collaboration between universities and businesses is crucial in fostering critical thinking. This partnership thrives on the synergy that results when academic institutions and businesses combine their expertise, resources, and perspectives. Strategies such as aligning goals, fostering long-term commitment, and promoting a culture of collaboration can strengthen these partnerships and ensure that academic research is harmoniously aligned with real-world needs.

Another recommendation relates to the formulation of compelling goals . Accurate and transparent goals are fundamental to the successful implementation of university-industry collaborations to promote critical thinking. These goals must be clearly defined and easily understood at multiple levels, from the institutional to the program and course levels. Recognition of critical thinking as an overarching goal implies its integration into assessment and evaluation processes.

Another recommendation is to develop flexible curricula . To effectively foster critical thinking, curricula must demonstrate adaptability and responsiveness to emerging trends and market demands. The use of agile curriculum design methodologies and the involvement of business partners in curriculum development is of great value. Approaches such as problem-based and case-based learning facilitate rapid adaptation to evolving market needs, such as the use of AI-powered software to solve work tasks better and faster. Regular feedback mechanisms and ongoing collaboration with business partners ensure that curricula remain relevant and flexible.

Incorporating real-world challenges and case studies into curricula bridges the gap between academia and the business world, creating an environment that encourages experiential learning. The active involvement of business stakeholders in providing relevant challenges plays a key role. Students’ problem-solving skills are enhanced by shifting from traditional teaching methods to project-based, problem-based, or case-based learning. Engaging students through apprenticeships, internships, guest lectures, and seminars immerses them in authentic work environments and fosters their professional development.

Ongoing, multi-faceted evaluation is a cornerstone of the collaboration between higher education and the business community to cultivate critical thinking. Assessment includes measuring learners’ progress in critical thinking, the effectiveness of curricula, and the impact of partnerships through the use of key performance indicators.

Regarding how to implement a critical thinking curriculum, pedagogical research ( Elen et al. 2019 ) suggests that in the development of critical thinking, whether it is regarded as a skill, disposition, or a combination of both, three categories of supportive measures can be identified: modeling, induction, and declaration.

Modeling: Support the development of critical thinking skills by demonstrating what it means to think critically at the institutional, programmatic, and course levels, considering multiple perspectives and alternative viewpoints.

Induction: Support critical thinking development by provoking critical thinking through the presentation of open-ended questions, unstructured tasks, complex problems, and real-world issues. The exact nature of “induction” and how it is implemented may vary across fields and disciplines. Induction can be carried out in a variety of ways; for example, presenting unstructured problems, providing authentic tasks, encouraging constructive controversy, asking “why” questions, or encouraging student autonomy.

Explanation: Promote the development of critical thinking by articulating or explicitly stating what is at stake, what strategies can be used, and what criteria must be met. This explanation can take the form of oral or written communication and should always be explicit and specific. Declaring and making things explicit can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including using critical thinking rubrics, developing elaborate concept maps, providing feedback on critical thinking, and engaging in discussion and reflection on critical issues.

This integrated approach, encompassing university-business collaboration and an educational protocol, underscores the significance of critical thinking in higher education. It provides a structured framework for nurturing this essential skill by aligning objectives, fostering partnerships, adapting curricula, and implementing ongoing evaluation practices. In doing so, educational institutions are better poised to equip students with the critical thinking skills needed to thrive in a rapidly evolving world.

6. Concluding Remarks or Can Critical THINKING Save the World?

In summary, the dynamic interaction between universities, businesses, and the evolving technology landscape, including the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and online technologies, underscore the critical need to nurture and develop students’ critical thinking skills. As we navigate the challenges posed by AI and the ever-expanding digital realm, collaborative efforts between academia and industry have proven to be instrumental in preparing students for the future job market.

Incorporating real-world experiences, such as apprenticeships, into the curriculum is an important step toward improving students’ critical thinking skills in real-world contexts. Projects such as “Critical thinking across higher education curricula—CRITHINKEDU” and “Critical thinking for successful jobs—THINK4JOBS” have demonstrated the potential of these collaborations to bridge the gap between classroom learning and industry needs. In addition, the development of flexible curricula that can adapt to the evolving needs of the job market, especially considering online technologies, is essential. By integrating real-world challenges and case studies into the curriculum, students gain valuable problem-solving skills and are better prepared to navigate the complexities of the digital age.

Ongoing assessment and evaluation are critical components of this collaborative effort, ensuring that critical thinking remains a central focus and that students are making meaningful progress in acquiring this essential skill.

With the disruption of AI and the ubiquity of online technologies, the integration of critical thinking into higher education curricula is more important than ever. It enables students not only to thrive in a technology-driven world, but also to contribute to a rational, democratic, and globally interconnected society. The partnerships forged between universities and businesses, along with a well-defined educational protocol, provide a roadmap for cultivating these essential skills and preparing students for the challenges and opportunities of the future job market. The imperative to foster critical thinking in university curricula remains a fundamental step in equipping tomorrow’s workforce to navigate the complexities of an AI-influenced job market and a rapidly changing world.

Lilienfeld ( 2007, para. 3 ) said it well: “The greatest threat to the world is ideological fanaticism, by ideological fanaticism I mean the unshakeable conviction that one’s belief system and that of other in-group members is always right and righteous and that others’ belief systems are always wrong and wrong-headed”. Imagine a world where (most or even many) people use the skills of critical thinking. Just maybe, CT could save the world.

The job market will require a psychologically adaptable toolkit, and we propose that critical thinking is an essential component therein. The disruptions imposed by new technological advances such as AI will require students to learn new employable skills because we will need not just an engineer, but a critical thinking engineer; not just a programmer, but a critical thinking programmer; and not just a journalist, but a critical thinking journalist. The dignity of workers—their humanity and our collective survival—may well depend on CT, a very human creation.

Acknowledgments

We sincerely thank Dana Dunn, Moravian University, for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Funding Statement

Daniela Dumitru received funding from European Commission/EACEA, through the ERASMUS+ Programme, “Critical Thinking for Successful Jobs—Think4Jobs” Project, with the reference number 2020-1-EL01-KA203-078797.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, D.F.H. and D.D.; investigation, D.F.H. and D.D.; resources, D.F.H. and D.D.; writing—original draft preparation, D.F.H. and D.D.; writing—review and editing, D.F.H. and D.D. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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concept critical thinking skills

Explained: Importance of critical thinking, problem-solving skills in curriculum

F uture careers are no longer about domain expertise or technical skills. Rather, critical thinking and problem-solving skills in employees are on the wish list of every big organization today. Even curriculums and pedagogies across the globe and within India are now requiring skilled workers who are able to think critically and are analytical.

The reason for this shift in perspective is very simple.

These skills provide a staunch foundation for comprehensive learning that extends beyond books or the four walls of the classroom. In a nutshell, critical thinking and problem-solving skills are a part of '21st Century Skills' that can help unlock valuable learning for life.

Over the years, the education system has been moving away from the system of rote and other conventional teaching and learning parameters.

They are aligning their curriculums to the changing scenario which is becoming more tech-driven and demands a fusion of critical skills, life skills, values, and domain expertise. There's no set formula for success.

Rather, there's a defined need for humans to be more creative, innovative, adaptive, agile, risk-taking, and have a problem-solving mindset.

In today's scenario, critical thinking and problem-solving skills have become more important because they open the human mind to multiple possibilities, solutions, and a mindset that is interdisciplinary in nature.

Therefore, many schools and educational institutions are deploying AI and immersive learning experiences via gaming, and AR-VR technologies to give a more realistic and hands-on learning experience to their students that hone these abilities and help them overcome any doubt or fear.

ADVANTAGES OF CRITICAL THINKING AND PROBLEM-SOLVING IN CURRICULUM

Ability to relate to the real world:  Instead of theoretical knowledge, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills encourage students to look at their immediate and extended environment through a spirit of questioning, curiosity, and learning. When the curriculum presents students with real-world problems, the learning is immense.

Confidence, agility & collaboration : Critical thinking and problem-solving skills boost self-belief and confidence as students examine, re-examine, and sometimes fail or succeed while attempting to do something.

They are able to understand where they may have gone wrong, attempt new approaches, ask their peers for feedback and even seek their opinion, work together as a team, and learn to face any challenge by responding to it.

Willingness to try new things: When problem-solving skills and critical thinking are encouraged by teachers, they set a robust foundation for young learners to experiment, think out of the box, and be more innovative and creative besides looking for new ways to upskill.

It's important to understand that merely introducing these skills into the curriculum is not enough. Schools and educational institutions must have upskilling workshops and conduct special training for teachers so as to ensure that they are skilled and familiarized with new teaching and learning techniques and new-age concepts that can be used in the classrooms via assignments and projects.

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are two of the most sought-after skills. Hence, schools should emphasise the upskilling of students as a part of the academic curriculum.

The article is authored by Dr Tassos Anastasiades, Principal- IB, Genesis Global School, Noida. 

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Explained: Importance of critical thinking, problem-solving skills in curriculum

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The Most Important Logical Thinking Skills (With Examples)

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Logical thinking skills like critical-thinking, research, and creative thinking are valuable assets in the workplace. These skills are sought after by many employers, who want employees that take into account facts and data before deciding on an important course of action. This is because such solutions will ensure the organization’s processes can continue to operate efficiently.

So, if you’re a job seeker or employee looking to explore and brush up on your logical thinking skills, you’re in luck. This article will cover examples of logical thinking skills in the workplace, as well as what you can do to showcase those skills on your resume and in interviews.

Key Takeaways:

Logical thinking is problem solving based on reasoning that follows a strictly structured progression of analysis.

Critical thinking, research, creativity, mathematics, reading, active listening, and organization are all important logical thinking skills in the workplace.

Logical thinking provides objectivity for decision making that multiple people can accept.

Deduction follows valid premises to reach a logical conclusion.

It can be very helpful to demonstrate logical thinking skills at a job interview.

The Most Important Logical Thinking Skills

What is logical thinking?

10 examples of logical thinking skills, examples of logical thinking in the workplace, what is deductive reasoning, logical thinking in a job interview, logical thinking skills faq, final thoughts.

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Logical thinking is the ability to reason out an issue after observing and analyzing it from all angles . You can then form a conclusion that makes the most sense. It also includes the ability to take note of reactions and feedback to aid in the formation of the conclusion.

Logical thinking skills enable you to present your justification for the actions you take, the strategies you use, and the decisions you make. You can easily stand in front of your clients, peers, and supervisors and defend your product, service, and course of action if the necessity arises.

Logical thinking is an excellent way of solving complex problems. You can break the problem into smaller parts; solve them individually in a sequence, then present the complete solution. However, it is not infallible.

So, when a problem in the workplace feels overwhelming, you may want to think about it logically first.

Logical thinking skills are a skill set that enables you to reason logically when solving problems. They enable you to provide well-reasoned answers to any issues that arise. They also empower you to make decisions that most people will consider rational.

Critical-thinking skills. If you are a critical thinker, then you can analyze and evaluate a problem before making judgments. You need to improve your critical thinking process to become a logical thinker.

Your critical thinking skills will improve your ability to solve problems. You will be the go-to employee concerning crises. People can rely on you to be reasonable whenever an issue arises instead of letting biases rule you.

Research skills. If you are a good researcher , then you can search and locate data that can be useful when presenting information on your preferred subject.

The more relevant information you have about a particular subject, the more accurate your conclusions are likely to be. The sources you use must be reputable and relevant.

For this reason, your ability to ferret out information will affect how well you can reason logically.

Creative thinking skills. If you are a creative thinker , then you can find innovative solutions to problems.

You are the kind of person that can think outside the box when brainstorming ideas and potential solutions. Your thinking is not rigid. Instead, you tend to look at issues in ways other people have not thought of before.

While logical thinking is based on data and facts, that doesn’t mean it is rigid. You can creatively find ways of sourcing that data or experimenting so that you can form logical conclusions. Your strategic thinking skills will also help enable you to analyze reactions or collect feedback .

Mathematical skills. If you are skilled in mathematics , then you can work well with numbers and represent mathematical ideas using visual symbols. Your brain must be able to compute information.

Business is a numbers game. That means you must have some knowledge of mathematics. You must be able to perform basic mathematical tasks involving addition, subtractions, divisions, multiplications, etc.

So, to become a logical thinker, you must be comfortable working with numbers. You will encounter them in many business-related complex problems. And your ability to understand them will determine whether you can reach an accurate logical conclusion that helps your organization.

Reading skills. If you are a good reader , then you can make sense of the letters and symbols that you see. Your ability to read will determine your competency concerning your logical thinking and reasoning skills.

And that skill set will come in handy when you are presented with different sets of work-related statements from which you are meant to conclude. Such statements may be part of your company policy, technical manual, etc.

Active listening skills. Active listening is an important communication skill to have. If you are an active listener, then you can hear, understand what is being said, remember it, and respond to it if necessary.

Not all instructions are written. You may need to listen to someone to get the information you need to solve problems before you write it down. In that case, your active listening skills will determine how well you can remember the information so that you can use it to reason things out logically.

Information ordering skills. If you have information ordering skills, then you can arrange things based on a specified order following the set rules or conditions. These things may include mathematical operations, words, pictures, etc.

Different organizations have different business processes. The workflow in one organization will be not similar to that of another organization even if both belong to the same industry.

Your ability to order information will depend on an organization’s culture . And it will have a major impact on how you can think and reason concerning solutions to your company problems.

If you follow the wrong order, then no matter how good your problem-solving techniques are your conclusions may be wrong for your organization.

Persuasion skills. Logical thinking can be useful when persuading others, especially in the workplace.

For example, lets say one of your co-workers wants to take a project in an impulsive direction, which will increase the budget. However, after you do your research, you realize a budget increase would be impossible.

You can then use your logical thinking skills to explain the situation to your co-worker , including details facts and numbers, which will help dissuade them from making an uninformed decision.

Decision making skills. Decision making skills go hand and hand with logical thinking, as being able to think logically about solutions and research topics will make it far easier to make informed decisions.

After all, no one likes making a decision that feels like a shot in the dark, so knowing crucial information about the options aviable to you, and thinking about them logically, can improve your confidence around decision making.

Confidence skills. Confidence that stems from an emotional and irrational place will always be fragile, but when you have more knowledge available to you through logical thinking, you can be more confident in your confidence skills.

For instance, if an employee asked you to answer an important question, you will have a lot more confidence in your answer if you can think logically about it, as opposed to having an air of uncertainty.

To improve your logic skills, it would be wise to practice how to solve problems based on facts and data. Below are examples of logical thinking in the workplace that will help you understand this kind of reasoning so that you can improve your thinking:

The human resource department in your organization has determined that leadership skills are important for anyone looking to go into a senior management position. So, it decides that it needs proof of leadership before hiring anyone internally. To find the right person for the senior management position , every candidate must undertake a project that involves a team of five. Whoever leads the winning team will get the senior managerial position.

This example shows a logical conclusion that is reached by your organization’s human resource department. In this case, your HR department has utilized logical thinking to determine the best internal candidate for the senior manager position.

It could be summarized as follows:

Statement 1: People with excellent leadership skills that produce winning teams make great senior managers. Statement 2: Candidate A is an excellent leader that has produced a winning team. Conclusion: Candidate A will make an excellent senior manager .
A marketing company researches working women on behalf of one of their clients – a robotics company. They find out that these women feel overwhelmed with responsibilities at home and in the workplace. As a result, they do not have enough time to clean, take care of their children, and stay productive in the workplace. A robotics company uses this research to create a robot cleaner that can be operated remotely . Then they advertise this cleaner specifically to working women with the tag line, “Working women can do it all with a little bit of help.” As a result of this marketing campaign, their revenues double within a year.

This example shows a logical conclusion reached by a robotics company after receiving the results of marketing research on working women. In this case, logical thinking has enabled the company to come up with a new marketing strategy for their cleaning product.

Statement 1: Working women struggle to keep their homes clean. Statement 2: Robot cleaners can take over cleaning duties for women who struggle to keep their homes clean. Conclusion: Robot cleaner can help working women keep their homes clean.
CalcX. Inc. has created a customer survey concerning its new finance software. The goal of the survey is to determine what customers like best about the software. After reading through over 100 customer reviews and ratings, it emerges that 60% of customers love the new user interface because it’s easy to navigate. CalcX. Inc. then decides to improve its marketing strategy. It decides to train every salesperson to talk about the easy navigation feature and how superior it is to the competition. So, every time a client objects to the price, the sales rep could admit that it is expensive, but the excellent user interface makes up for the price. At the end of the year, it emerges that this strategy has improved sales revenues by 10%.

The above example shows how logical thinking has helped CalcX. Sell more software and improve its bottom line.

Statement 1: If the majority of customers like a particular software feature, then sales reps should use it to overcome objections and increase revenues. Statement 2: 60% of the surveyed customers like the user interface of the new software, and; they think it makes navigation easier. Conclusion: The sales reps should market the new software’s user interface and the fact that it is easy to navigate to improve the company’s bottom line.
A political candidate hires a focus group to discuss hot-button issues they feel strongly about. It emerges that the group is torn on sexual reproductive health issues, but most support the issue of internal security . However, nearly everyone is opposed to the lower wages being paid due to the current economic crisis. Based on the results of this research, the candidate decides to focus on improving the economy and security mechanisms in the country. He also decides to let go of the sexual productive health issues because it would potentially cause him to lose some support.

In this case, the political candidate has made logical conclusions on what topics he should use to campaign for his seat with minimal controversies so that he doesn’t lose many votes.

This situation could be summarized as follows:

Statement 1: Most people find sexual reproductive health issues controversial and cannot agree. Statement 2: Most people feel that the internal security of the country is in jeopardy and something should be done about it. Statement 3: Most people want higher wages and an improved economy. Statement 4: Political candidates who want to win must avoid controversy and speak up on things that matter to people. Conclusion: To win, political candidates must focus on higher wages, an improved economy, and the internal security of the country while avoiding sexual reproductive health matters.

Deductive reasoning is an aspect of logical reasoning. It is a top-down reasoning approach that enables you to form a specific logical conclusion based on generalities. Therefore, you can use one or more statements, usually referred to as premises, to conclude something.

For example:

Statement 1: All mothers are women Statement 2: Daisy is a mother. Conclusion: Daisy is a woman.

Based on the above examples, all mothers are classified as women, and since Daisy is a mother, then it’s logical to deduce that she is a woman too.

It’s worth noting though, that deductive reasoning does not always produce an accurate conclusion based on reality.

Statement 1: All caregivers in this room are nurses. Statement 2: This dog, Tom, is a caregiver . Conclusion: This dog, Tom, is a nurse .

From the above example, we have deduced that Tom, the dog, is a nurse simply because the first statement stated that all caregivers are nurses. And yet, in reality, we know that dogs cannot be nurses. They do not have the mental capacity to become engaged in the profession.

For this reason, you must bear in mind that an argument can be validly based on the conditions but it can also be unsound if some statements are based on a fallacy.

Since logical thinking is so important in the workplace, most job interviewers will want to see you demonstrate this skill at the job interview. It is very important to keep in mind your logical thinking skills when you talk about yourself at the interview.

There are many ways in which an interviewer may ask you to demonstrate your logical thinking skills. For example:

You may have to solve an example problem. If the interviewer provides you a problem similar to one you might find at your job, make sure to critically analyze the problem to deduce a solution.

You may be asked about a previous problem or conflict you had to solve. This classic question provides you the opportunity to show your skills in action, so make sure to highlight the objectivity and logic of your problem solving.

Show your logic when talking about yourself. When given the opportunity to talk about yourself, highlight how logic comes into play in your decision making. This could be in how you picked the job position, why you choose your career or education, or what it is about yourself that makes you a great candidate.

Why is it important to think logically?

It’s important to think logically because it allows you to analyze a situation and come up with a logical solution. It allows for you to reason through the important decisions and solve problems with a better understanding of what needs to be done. This is necessary for developing a strong career.

Why is logic important?

Logic is important because it helps develop critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills are important because they help you analyze and evaluate a problem before you make a decision. It also helps you improve your problem-solving skills to allow you to make better decisions.

How do you improve your logical thinking skills?

When improving your logical thinking skills make sure you spend time on a creative hobby and practice questioning. Creative hobbies can help reduce stress levels, and lower stress leads to having an easier time focusing on tasks and making logical thinking. Creative hobbies can include things like drawing, painting, and writing.

Another way to improve your logical thinking is to start asking questions about things. Asking questions allows for you to discover new things and learn about new topics you may not have thought about before.

What are logical thinking skills you need to succeed at work?

There are many logical thinking skills you need to succeed in the workplace. Our top four picks include:

Observation

Active Listening

Problem-solving

Logical thinking skills are valuable skills to have. You need to develop them so that you can become an asset to any organization that hires you. Be sure to include them in your resume and cover letter .

And if you make it to the interview, also ensure that you highlight these skills. You can do all this by highlighting the career accomplishments that required you to use logical thinking in the workplace.

It’s Your Yale – Consider Critical Thinking Skills to Articulate Your Work Quality

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Roger Raber has been a content writer at Zippia for over a year and has authored several hundred articles. Having retired after 28 years of teaching writing and research at both the high school and college levels, Roger enjoys providing career details that help inform people who are curious about a new job or career. Roger holds a BA in English from Cleveland State University and a MA from Marygrove college.

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Critical Thinking Crisis Plagues Legal Profession’s Entry Level

Patricia Libby

Law firm partners frequently tell me they are worried that associates fresh out of law school aren’t approaching legal problems with the type of analytical thinking successful lawyering requires. Is this lack of critical thinking skills a generational problem specific to Gen Z lawyers, or does the issue go back further?

Some may argue that the influence of social media created a generation of lawyers who lack critical thinking skills, while others may blame the rise of standardized testing, or even the disruption of the pandemic. I would argue it doesn’t matter.

The need for robust critical thinking skills among newer law firm attorneys today has become absolutely indispensable.

Thanks to the digital age and the proliferation of artificial intelligence, lawyers have an unprecedented wealth of information at their fingertips. Are these new lawyers being adequately trained to analyze and assess the information before them? The answer is most likely a resounding no. This instant access to information makes critical skills training for our newest attorneys even more urgent.

Critical Thinking Deficits

I have seen firsthand numerous examples of this skills gap.

Associates drafting a contract using a sample precedent agreement routinely leave provisions from the precedent that don’t belong in the new contract. New litigators draft motions that include arguments relevant to a sample motion form that are inapplicable to the current motion—then fail to include other key arguments because they’re too wedded to the sample.

Associates will often cite cases to support an argument but fail to explain exactly why the case is applicable. They expect the reader—usually a court—to make the connection themselves, in essence telling the court their client should win “because this case.” Or, associates start to mark up a document without first thinking through how much time and resources the client wants to spend, whether they even have the leverage to negotiate the positions, or the most practical approach for the size and scope of the matter.

What is the common denominator here? It’s a failure to ask “why.” Why was the provision in the precedent agreement and should it be in the agreement being drafted? Why was a certain argument made in the sample motion and does it even apply to the current case? Why did the court rule a certain way in the cited case, what facts did it rely on to reach that ruling, and how does any of this relate to the case at hand? And, finally, why am I spending time marking up an agreement without first talking to the partner about the client’s goals and resources?

In my experience working with law students and junior attorneys—as an adjunct professor and supervising attorney—this failure to ask “why” is one of the most significant stumbling blocks for an associate seeking to develop as an attorney.

Learning to Ask Why

In today’s legal landscape, the lack of critical thinking skills is an even more significant problem with more serious consequences. With widespread availability of information and AI tools at the hands of associates, the ability to ask “why” is even more urgent.

Every associate should ask themselves whether the information they just obtained through a search platform, whether AI focused or otherwise, is to be trusted. What’s the source? Is it complete? Is it accurate? Is it up-to-date? Is it sufficiently nuanced to relate to the case at hand or does it just sound like it applies?

If we assume law schools aren’t adequately training emerging lawyers to develop these critical thinking skills, what can be done once these graduates are first-or-second year associates in a firm?

It can be difficult for partners to balance training time with their workloads. This can in turn impact the billable hours of senior team members.

But training new lawyers to ask “why” and giving them opportunities to exercise and strengthen their critical thinking skills is essential. Associates will be practice-ready, bill more efficiently, and reduce the need to write-off their time.

The same partners who bemoan the lack of critical thinking skills should invest in explicit critical thinking training for new associates. In the long run, this will develop productive and successful associates, and improve the ability of our future attorneys to best serve their clients.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

Author Information

Patricia Libby is executive legal editor at AltaClaro, an experiential attorney training platform, where she oversees all practitioner-created and instructed educational content.

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To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jada Chin at [email protected] ; Jessie Kokrda Kamens at [email protected]

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COMMENTS

  1. What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

    According to the University of the People in California, having critical thinking skills is important because they are [ 1 ]: Universal. Crucial for the economy. Essential for improving language and presentation skills. Very helpful in promoting creativity. Important for self-reflection.

  2. What is critical thinking?

    Critical thinking is a kind of thinking in which you question, analyse, interpret , evaluate and make a judgement about what you read, hear, say, or write. The term critical comes from the Greek word kritikos meaning "able to judge or discern". Good critical thinking is about making reliable judgements based on reliable information.

  3. What Is Critical Thinking?

    Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment. To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. Critical thinking skills help you to: Identify credible sources. Evaluate and respond to arguments.

  4. Critical Thinking Skills

    The Skills We Need for Critical Thinking. The skills that we need in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making. Specifically we need to be able to: Think about a topic or issue in an objective and ...

  5. Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well. Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly ...

  6. Critical thinking

    Theorists have noted that such skills are only valuable insofar as a person is inclined to use them. Consequently, they emphasize that certain habits of mind are necessary components of critical thinking. This disposition may include curiosity, open-mindedness, self-awareness, empathy, and persistence. Although there is a generally accepted set of qualities that are associated with critical ...

  7. Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

    Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings. Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful ...

  8. Critical Thinking

    Critical Thinking. Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms ...

  9. Defining Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is a rich concept that has been developing throughout the past 2,500 years. The term "critical thinking" has its roots in the mid-late 20th century. ... Critical thinking can be seen as having two components: 1) a set of information and belief generating and processing skills, and 2) the habit, based on intellectual commitment ...

  10. Critical thinking

    Critical thinking is the analysis of available facts, evidence, observations, and arguments in order to form a judgement by the application of rational, skeptical, and unbiased analyses and evaluation. The application of critical thinking includes self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective habits of the mind, thus a critical thinker is a person who practices the ...

  11. Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking refers to the process of actively analyzing, assessing, synthesizing, evaluating and reflecting on information gathered from observation, experience, or communication. It is thinking in a clear, logical, reasoned, and reflective manner to solve problems or make decisions. Basically, critical thinking is taking a hard look at ...

  12. How to develop critical thinking skills

    Here are 12 tips for building stronger self-awareness and learning how to improve critical thinking: 1. Be cautious. There's nothing wrong with a little bit of skepticism. One of the core principles of critical thinking is asking questions and dissecting the available information.

  13. Critical Thinking: Definition, Examples, & Skills

    The exact definition of critical thinking is still debated among scholars. It has been defined in many different ways including the following: . "purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or ...

  14. 3 Core Critical Thinking Skills Every Thinker Should Have

    Critical thinking (CT) is a metacognitive process, consisting of a number of skills and dispositions, that when used through self-regulatory reflective judgment, increases the chances of producing ...

  15. 6 Main Types of Critical Thinking Skills (With Examples)

    Critical thinking skills examples. There are six main skills you can develop to successfully analyze facts and situations and come up with logical conclusions: 1. Analytical thinking. Being able to properly analyze information is the most important aspect of critical thinking. This implies gathering information and interpreting it, but also ...

  16. Critical Thinking: Where to Begin

    A Brief Definition: Critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it. A well-cultivated critical thinker: communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems. Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking.

  17. Bridging critical thinking and transformative learning: The role of

    A significant contribution of the mainstream concept of critical thinking is the recognition that critical thinking includes not only ... moment in time, is irreversible. One cannot undo the choice once it has been made. However, when it comes to using critical thinking skills to change one's beliefs and values on a topic, one could always ...

  18. How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

    Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value. Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible. Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation. So, critical thinking isn't just being intelligent or analytical.

  19. Our Conception of Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. To Analyze ...

  20. 5 Top Critical Thinking Skills (And How To Improve Them)

    Top 5 critical thinking skills. Here are five common and impactful critical thinking skills you might consider highlighting on your resume or in an interview: 1. Observation. Observational skills are the starting point for critical thinking. People who are observant can quickly sense and identify a new problem.

  21. 9 characteristics of critical thinking

    Critical thinking skills help us learn new information, understand complex concepts, and make better decisions. The ability to be objective and reasonable is an asset that can enhance personal and professional relationships. ... Critical thinking skills are vital to learners because they allow students to build on their prior knowledge and ...

  22. What Are Critical Thinking Skills + Examples

    The key critical thinking skills are analysis, interpretation, inference, explanation, self-regulation, open-mindedness, and problem-solving. To apply the basic principles of critical thinking, follow these steps: identify the problem, gather data, analyze and evaluate, identify assumptions, establish significance, make a decision, and ...

  23. Critical Thinking

    In today's dynamic and fast-paced world, critical thinking stands out as an essential competency, seamlessly bridging the gap between soft and hard skills.As we navigate complex challenges and make informed decisions, the ability to think critically enhances our overall skill set. Critical thinking stands at the core of effective decision-making and problem-solving in today's complex world.

  24. Critical Thinking: Creating Job-Proof Skills for the Future of Work

    The concept of "job-proof skills" is introduced, highlighting the importance of critical thinking, problem-solving, empathy, ethics, and other human attributes that machines cannot replicate with the same standards and agility. ... Cultivating critical thinking skills will be essential to ensuring that individuals can take advantage of the ...

  25. Developing Students' Mathematical Critical Thinking Skills Using Open

    1. Introduction. The Thai government has set critical thinking as one of the key 21st-century skills in its National Education Plan [] because they are essential for students' future success [2 - 5].Critical thinking skills are necessary in the workplace [6 - 8] and can assist students in solving problems, making decisions, and managing their lives [9, 10].

  26. Playing with AI to Investigate Human‐Computer Interaction Technology

    This is because critical thinking skills are the foundation for 21 st-century skills, and AI-based instruction helps students learn these skills. This study helped AI-based instruction because it helps nonnative English students become more trusting, self-confident, open-minded, and mature in English. ... Reading passage concepts, sentence and ...

  27. Explained: Importance of critical thinking, problem-solving skills in

    Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are two of the most sought-after skills. Hence, schools should emphasise the upskilling of students as a part of the academic curriculum.

  28. The Most Important Logical Thinking Skills (With Examples)

    Critical-thinking skills. If you are a critical thinker, then you can analyze and evaluate a problem before making judgments. You need to improve your critical thinking process to become a logical thinker. Your critical thinking skills will improve your ability to solve problems. You will be the go-to employee concerning crises.

  29. Critical Thinking Crisis Plagues Legal Profession's Entry Level

    The same partners who bemoan the lack of critical thinking skills should invest in explicit critical thinking training for new associates. In the long run, this will develop productive and successful associates, and improve the ability of our future attorneys to best serve their clients.

  30. DGSOM Program Objectives

    Demonstrate leadership skills that enhance scientific learning and/or health care delivery locally, nationally, and globally. Curiosity, Inquiry, And Critical Thinking Demonstrate an ability to apply analytical thinking, discerning inquiry, and creative problem-solving to identify and fill gaps in scientific and clinical evidence-based ...