Critical Thinking as defined by Moore and Parker in their book Critical Thinking is
“The careful, deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject, or suspend judgment about a claim, and the degree of confidence with which we accept or reject it.”
Critical thinking will assist you to:
Clarify Your Thinking
Our own thinking usually seems clear to us, even when it is not. But vague, ambiguous, muddled, deceptive, or misleading thinking causes significant problems in human life. If we are to develop as thinkers, we must learn the art of clarifying thinking, of pinning it down, spelling it out, and giving it a specific meaning. Here is what you can do to begin. When people explain things to you, summarize in your own words what you think they said. When you cannot do this to their satisfaction, you do not really understand what they said. When they cannot summarize what you have said to your satisfaction, they do not really understand what you said.
Strategies for clarifying your thinking:
To clarify other people’s thinking, consider asking the following:
Stick to the Point
Be on the lookout for fragmented thinking, thinking that leaps about with no logical connections. Start noticing when you or others fail to stay focused on what is relevant. Focus on finding what will aid you in truly solving a problem. When someone brings up a point (however true) that does not seem pertinent to the issue at hand, ask, “How is what you are saying relevant to the issue?” When you are working through a problem, make sure you stay focused on what sheds light on and, thus, helps address the problem. Do not allow your mind to wander to unrelated matters. Do not allow others to stray from the main issue. Frequently ask: “What is the central question? Is this or that relevant to it? And, how?”
Ask these questions to make sure thinking is focused and relevant:
Be on the lookout for questions: the ones we ask and the ones we fail to ask. Look on the surface. Look beneath the surface. Listen to how people question, when they question, and when they fail to question. Look closely at the questions asked. What questions do you ask or should you ask? Examine the extent to which you are a questioner or simply one who accepts the definitions of situations given by others.
Good thinkers routinely ask questions in order to understand and effectively deal with the world around them. They question the status quo. They know that things are often different from the way they are presented. Their questions penetrate images, masks, fronts, and propaganda. Their questions make real problems explicit and discipline their thinking through those problems. If you become a student of questions, you can learn to ask powerful questions that lead to a deeper and more fulfilling life. Your questions become more basic, essential, and deep.
Strategies for formulating more powerful questions:
Questions you can ask to discipline your thinking:
Be on the lookout for reasonable and unreasonable behaviors – yours and others. Look on the surface. Look beneath the surface. Listen to what people say. Look closely at what they do. Notice when you are unwilling to listen to the views of others, when you simply see yourself as right and others as wrong. Ask yourself at those moments whether their views might have any merit. See if you can break through your defensiveness to hear what they are saying. Notice unreasonableness in others. One of the hallmarks of a critical thinker is the disposition to change one’s mind when given good reason to change. Good thinkers want to change their thinking when they discover better thinking.
Realize that you are being close-minded if you
After you catch yourself being close-minded, analyze what was going on in your mind by completing these statements:
The information for handout was adapted or excerpted from the following:
Elder, L. and Paul, R. (2004). Adapted from The Thinker’s Guide to the Art of Strategic Thinking: 25 Weeks to Better Thinking and Better Living.