Critical Thinking: Skillset for 21st century

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Critical thinking…the awakening of the intellect to the study of itself.

The importance of critical thinking skills cannot be undermined in a student’s life. No matter which industry he/she is interested in pursuing critical thinking skills can act as the determining factor for success and growth. Moreover it has been observed that students lacking such skills suffer a downfall in their studies and further education. This is primarily because of the inability to process and analyze information effectively .

Developing critical thinking skills takes concentrated and rigorous work on the part of any student. The best way to commence the task would be by exploring the definition of critical thinking and the skills it includes. Once this is clearly understood, he/she can progress towards improving the same.

Q. What is critical thinking?

A statement by Michael Scriven & Richard Paul, presented at the 8th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform, Summer 1987. 

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skilfully 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. 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.

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, of using those skills to guide behavior. It is thus to be contrasted with: 1) the mere acquisition and retention of information alone, because it involves a particular way in which information is sought and treated; 2) the mere possession of a set of skills, because it involves the continual use of them; and 3) the mere use of those skills (“as an exercise”) without acceptance of their results.

Simply put, critical thinking is the analysis of an issue, situation, state or topic and the facts, data or evidence related to it. Ideally, critical thinking is to be done objectively, without being influenced from personal feelings, opinions or biases—and it focuses solely on factual information. Critical thinking allows one to make logical and informed decisions based on facts and information.

6 Crucial critical thinking skills

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1. Identification

The first step in the critical thinking process is identification of the problem and the factors that may influence it. Once you have identified a problem, dive deeper and try to recall information and facts pertaining to it, thereby arriving at a probable solution.

2. Research

When collecting facts and information about an issue, the ability to conduct independent research is the answer. The facts thus collected need to be selected and organised diligently. One may come across facts and figures presented in a way that they favor a particular opinion or thought, or they might be lacking in context or come from questionable sources. The best way to resolve this conflict is to ascertain the source of the information and evaluate them. It is also useful helpful to develop an eye for unverified claims. Does the person /author tender where they got this information from? If there’s no clear answer, that should be considered a red flag, and should alert you towards biases. It’s also important to know that not all sources are equally valid. Students should know the difference between popular and scholarly articles.

3. Identifying biases

This skill is extremely complicated and even the smartest fail to recognize biases and popular opinion versus genuine facts. Strong critical thinkers evaluate information objectively. A critical thinker acts as a judge and evaluates the claims of both sides of an argument, keeping in mind the biases each side may possess. It is equally important and also more challenging to set aside own personal biases that may cloud the judgement.

When evaluating information , ask yourself the following:

  • Who does this benefit?
  • Does the source of this information appear to have an schema?
  • Is the source overlooking, ignoring or leaving out information that doesn’t support its beliefs or claims?
  • Is this source using unnecessary language to sway an audience’s perception of a fact?

4. Inference/Analysis

The ability to conjecture and draw conclusions based on the information is another important skill for mastering critical thinking. Information doesn’t always come with a synopsis that defines or explains what it means. One needs to assess the information given and draw conclusions based upon raw data. Students need to be able to segregate information and facts from whole into parts or components. The ability to infer allows you to determine and discover potential outcomes when assessing a scenario. It is also important to note that not all inferences will be correct..

An inference is an educated guess, and your ability to infer correctly can be refined by making a conscious effort to gather as much information as possible before jumping to conclusions. When faced with new circumstances or situation to evaluate, first try read quickly for clues—things like headlines, images and prominently featured statistics—and then make a ask yourself what you think is going on.

5. Determining relevance

One of the most challenging parts of thinking critically is figuring out what information is the most important for your contemplation. You’ll be presented with information that may seem important, but it may turn out to be only a minor data. The best way to get better at determining relevance is by establishing a clear direction and thought about what you’re trying to outline/ search for. Even with a clear objective, however, it can still be difficult to determine what information is truly relevant. One approach for solving this is to make a list of data ranked in order of relevance. Doing this you will have a list that includes a couple of obviously relevant pieces of information at the top, in addition to some points at the bottom that you can likely ignore. From there, you can narrow your focus on the less clear-cut topics that reside in the middle of your list for further evaluation.

6. Curiosity

It’s incredibly easy to sit back and take everything presented to you at face value, but that can also be also a recipe for disaster when faced with a scenario that requires critical thinking. It’s true that we’re all naturally curious—just ask any parent who has faced an onslaught of “Why?” questions from their child. As we get older, it can be easier to get in the habit of keeping that impulse to ask questions at bay. But that’s not a winning approach for critical thinking.

How to improve: While it might seem like a curious mind is just something you’re born with, you can still train yourself to foster that curiosity productively. All it takes is a conscious effort to ask open-ended questions about the things you see in your everyday life, and you can then invest the time to follow up on these questions.

These are just my thoughts, please feel free to add or correct any information found here. waiting to hear from you.

Published by avid reader

Words do not describe a person. I am many things and yet nothing. I am an avid reader, reading her way through the pages of life. Some stories warm the heart and yet others have let me dry. I am a result of my life, and yet my life is part a result of me. Don't try to figure me.

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