Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fairminded way. Changing one’s habits of thought is a long-range project, happening over years, not weeks or months. Many of our resources, publications, and materials are applicable to all professions and across all domains of thought. When children begin to make detailed observations about objects or information, they are then able to draw conclusions or make judgments based on those observations. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness. This allows children to tell the ways things are similar and different and helps them analyze and categorize information. The essential traits of a critical thinker require an extended period of development. This requires objectivity–the ability to separate “what is” from what you might want to believe or what might be more comforting to believe. This includes analyzing and evaluating information that is provided, whether that information is through observation, experience or communication. How can we help ourselves and our students to practice better thinking in everyday life?
The core of critical thinking is being responsive to information and not just accepting it. Further details to our descriptions may need to be added for those who know little about critical thinking. Reality is objective; it exists independently of your desires, wishes, whims, and objectives. Improvement in thinking is like improvement in basketball, in ballet, or in playing the saxophone.
There are many ways to articulate the concept of critical thinking, yet every substantive conception must contain certain core elements. This is the beginning of scientific observation skills that will be useful and necessary throughout life. Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. If you are new to critical thinking or wish to deepen your conception of it, we recommend you review the content below and bookmark this page for future reference. Your thinking will be productive to the extent that you are able to accurately perceive and interpret this reality. It is a part of scientific, mathematical, historical, economic and philosophical thinking, all of which are necessary for the future development of our society. Development in thinking requires a gradual process requiring plateaus of learning and just plain hard work. The closed mind thinker can easily be recognized; he or she has a rigid set of opinions and attitudes that are not open to discussion.
Critical thinking skills are skills that children (and adults) need to learn to be able to solve problems. If your thinking is fuzzy or flawed, your decisions may lead to less than desirable consequences. Truth will withstand questioning; only illusion is threatened by the exchange of thought.
First, we must understand that there are stages required for development as a critical thinker: Stage One: The Unreflective Thinker (we are unaware of significant problems in our thinking) Stage Two: The Challenged Thinker (we become aware of problems in our thinking) Stage Three: The Beginning Thinker (we try to improve but without regular practice) Stage Four: The Practicing Thinker (we recognize the necessity of regular practice) Stage Five: The Advanced Thinker (we advance in accordance with our practice) Stage Six: The Master Thinker (skilled & insightful thinking become second nature to us) We develop through these stages if we: 1) accept the fact that there are serious problems in our thinking (accepting the challenge to our thinking) and 2) begin regular practice. Such a thinker cannot be reasoned with, since this process involves processing new input. We have therefore created the following pages as starting points for your studies.