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What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

Learn what critical thinking skills are, why they’re important, and how to develop and apply them in your workplace and everyday life.

[Featured Image]:  Project Manager, approaching  and analyzing the latest project with a team member,

We often use critical thinking skills without even realizing it. When you make a decision, such as which cereal to eat for breakfast, you're using critical thinking to determine the best option for you that day.

Critical thinking is like a muscle that can be exercised and built over time. It is a skill that can help propel your career to new heights. You'll be able to solve workplace issues, use trial and error to troubleshoot ideas, and more.

We'll take you through what it is and some examples so you can begin your journey in mastering this skill.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to interpret, evaluate, and analyze facts and information that are available, to form a judgment or decide if something is right or wrong.

More than just being curious about the world around you, critical thinkers make connections between logical ideas to see the bigger picture. Building your critical thinking skills means being able to advocate your ideas and opinions, present them in a logical fashion, and make decisions for improvement.

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Why is critical thinking important?

Critical thinking is useful in many areas of your life, including your career. It makes you a well-rounded individual, one who has looked at all of their options and possible solutions before making a choice.

According to the University of the People in California, having critical thinking skills is important because they are [ 1 ]:

Crucial for the economy

Essential for improving language and presentation skills

Very helpful in promoting creativity

Important for self-reflection

The basis of science and democracy 

Critical thinking skills are used every day in a myriad of ways and can be applied to situations such as a CEO approaching a group project or a nurse deciding in which order to treat their patients.

Examples of common critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills differ from individual to individual and are utilized in various ways. Examples of common critical thinking skills include:

Identification of biases: Identifying biases means knowing there are certain people or things that may have an unfair prejudice or influence on the situation at hand. Pointing out these biases helps to remove them from contention when it comes to solving the problem and allows you to see things from a different perspective.

Research: Researching details and facts allows you to be prepared when presenting your information to people. You’ll know exactly what you’re talking about due to the time you’ve spent with the subject material, and you’ll be well-spoken and know what questions to ask to gain more knowledge. When researching, always use credible sources and factual information.

Open-mindedness: Being open-minded when having a conversation or participating in a group activity is crucial to success. Dismissing someone else’s ideas before you’ve heard them will inhibit you from progressing to a solution, and will often create animosity. If you truly want to solve a problem, you need to be willing to hear everyone’s opinions and ideas if you want them to hear yours.

Analysis: Analyzing your research will lead to you having a better understanding of the things you’ve heard and read. As a true critical thinker, you’ll want to seek out the truth and get to the source of issues. It’s important to avoid taking things at face value and always dig deeper.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving is perhaps the most important skill that critical thinkers can possess. The ability to solve issues and bounce back from conflict is what helps you succeed, be a leader, and effect change. One way to properly solve problems is to first recognize there’s a problem that needs solving. By determining the issue at hand, you can then analyze it and come up with several potential solutions.

How to develop critical thinking skills

You can develop critical thinking skills every day if you approach problems in a logical manner. Here are a few ways you can start your path to improvement:

1. Ask questions.

Be inquisitive about everything. Maintain a neutral perspective and develop a natural curiosity, so you can ask questions that develop your understanding of the situation or task at hand. The more details, facts, and information you have, the better informed you are to make decisions.

2. Practice active listening.

Utilize active listening techniques, which are founded in empathy, to really listen to what the other person is saying. Critical thinking, in part, is the cognitive process of reading the situation: the words coming out of their mouth, their body language, their reactions to your own words. Then, you might paraphrase to clarify what they're saying, so both of you agree you're on the same page.

3. Develop your logic and reasoning.

This is perhaps a more abstract task that requires practice and long-term development. However, think of a schoolteacher assessing the classroom to determine how to energize the lesson. There's options such as playing a game, watching a video, or challenging the students with a reward system. Using logic, you might decide that the reward system will take up too much time and is not an immediate fix. A video is not exactly relevant at this time. So, the teacher decides to play a simple word association game.

Scenarios like this happen every day, so next time, you can be more aware of what will work and what won't. Over time, developing your logic and reasoning will strengthen your critical thinking skills.

Learn tips and tricks on how to become a better critical thinker and problem solver through online courses from notable educational institutions on Coursera. Start with Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking from Duke University or Mindware: Critical Thinking for the Information Age from the University of Michigan.

Article sources

University of the People, “ Why is Critical Thinking Important?: A Survival Guide , https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/why-is-critical-thinking-important/.” Accessed May 18, 2023.

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  • What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

Published on May 30, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

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
  • Assess alternative viewpoints
  • Test hypotheses against relevant criteria

Table of contents

Why is critical thinking important, critical thinking examples, how to think critically, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about critical thinking.

Critical thinking is important for making judgments about sources of information and forming your own arguments. It emphasizes a rational, objective, and self-aware approach that can help you to identify credible sources and strengthen your conclusions.

Critical thinking is important in all disciplines and throughout all stages of the research process . The types of evidence used in the sciences and in the humanities may differ, but critical thinking skills are relevant to both.

In academic writing , critical thinking can help you to determine whether a source:

  • Is free from research bias
  • Provides evidence to support its research findings
  • Considers alternative viewpoints

Outside of academia, critical thinking goes hand in hand with information literacy to help you form opinions rationally and engage independently and critically with popular media.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Critical thinking can help you to identify reliable sources of information that you can cite in your research paper . It can also guide your own research methods and inform your own arguments.

Outside of academia, critical thinking can help you to be aware of both your own and others’ biases and assumptions.

Academic examples

However, when you compare the findings of the study with other current research, you determine that the results seem improbable. You analyze the paper again, consulting the sources it cites.

You notice that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical company that created the treatment. Because of this, you view its results skeptically and determine that more independent research is necessary to confirm or refute them. Example: Poor critical thinking in an academic context You’re researching a paper on the impact wireless technology has had on developing countries that previously did not have large-scale communications infrastructure. You read an article that seems to confirm your hypothesis: the impact is mainly positive. Rather than evaluating the research methodology, you accept the findings uncritically.

Nonacademic examples

However, you decide to compare this review article with consumer reviews on a different site. You find that these reviews are not as positive. Some customers have had problems installing the alarm, and some have noted that it activates for no apparent reason.

You revisit the original review article. You notice that the words “sponsored content” appear in small print under the article title. Based on this, you conclude that the review is advertising and is therefore not an unbiased source. Example: Poor critical thinking in a nonacademic context You support a candidate in an upcoming election. You visit an online news site affiliated with their political party and read an article that criticizes their opponent. The article claims that the opponent is inexperienced in politics. You accept this without evidence, because it fits your preconceptions about the opponent.

There is no single way to think critically. How you engage with information will depend on the type of source you’re using and the information you need.

However, you can engage with sources in a systematic and critical way by asking certain questions when you encounter information. Like the CRAAP test , these questions focus on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

When encountering information, ask:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?
  • What do they say? Is their argument clear? Can you summarize it?
  • When did they say this? Is the source current?
  • Where is the information published? Is it an academic article? Is it peer-reviewed ?
  • Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence? Does it rely on opinion, speculation, or appeals to emotion ? Do they address alternative arguments?

Critical thinking also involves being aware of your own biases, not only those of others. When you make an argument or draw your own conclusions, you can ask similar questions about your own writing:

  • Am I only considering evidence that supports my preconceptions?
  • Is my argument expressed clearly and backed up with credible sources?
  • Would I be convinced by this argument coming from someone else?

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
  • Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
  • Chicago style
  • Paraphrasing

 Plagiarism

  • Types of plagiarism
  • Self-plagiarism
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Academic integrity
  • Consequences of plagiarism
  • Common knowledge

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role of critical thinking

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

Critical thinking skills include the ability to:

You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

Ask questions such as:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.

Being information literate means that you:

  • Know how to find credible sources
  • Use relevant sources to inform your research
  • Understand what constitutes plagiarism
  • Know how to cite your sources correctly

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search, interpret, and recall information in a way that aligns with our pre-existing values, opinions, or beliefs. It refers to the ability to recollect information best when it amplifies what we already believe. Relatedly, we tend to forget information that contradicts our opinions.

Although selective recall is a component of confirmation bias, it should not be confused with recall bias.

On the other hand, recall bias refers to the differences in the ability between study participants to recall past events when self-reporting is used. This difference in accuracy or completeness of recollection is not related to beliefs or opinions. Rather, recall bias relates to other factors, such as the length of the recall period, age, and the characteristics of the disease under investigation.

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Ryan, E. (2023, May 31). What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved January 2, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/critical-thinking/

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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 Nature of Critical Thinking: An Outline of Critical Thinking Dispositions and Abilities , by Robert H. Ennis

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Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

15 Things We Have Learned About Critical Thinking

Here are the key issues to consider in critical thinking..

Posted July 27, 2018

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Not long after the publication of my book, Critical Thinking: Conceptual Perspectives and Practical Guidelines , by Cambridge University Press, Psychology Today contacted me and asked me to write a blog on the subject. I never thought I would write a blog, but when presented with the opportunity to keep sharing my thoughts on critical thinking on a regular basis, I thought, why not ? Maybe my writing might help educators, maybe they might help students and maybe they might help people in their day-to-day decision-making . If it can help, then it’s worthwhile.

To recap, critical thinking (CT) is a metacognitive process, consisting of a number of sub-skills and dispositions, that, when applied through purposeful, self-regulatory, reflective judgment, increase the chances of producing a logical solution to a problem or a valid conclusion to an argument (Dwyer, 2017; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2014).

CT, if anything, has become more necessary , in this age of information bombardment and the new knowledge economy (Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2014). It allows students to gain a better understanding of complex information (Dwyer, Hogan, & Stewart, 2012; 2014; Gambrill, 2006; Halpern, 2014); it allows them to achieve higher grades and become more employable, informed and active citizens (Barton & McCully, 2007; Holmes & Clizbe, 1997; National Academy of Sciences, 2005); it facilitates good decision-making and problem-solving in social and interpersonal contexts (Ku, 2009); and it decreases the effects of cognitive biases and heuristic -based thinking (Facione & Facione, 2001; McGuinness, 2013).

It’s now been just over a year since I started writing ‘Thoughts on Thinking’. As I consider my thinking and look over my writing during this period, I thought it would be worthwhile to collate and summarise some of the broader learning that has appeared in my writings. So, here’s what we’ve learned:

  • We all know CT is important, but it may be the case that many educators, as well as students, don’t really know what researchers mean by "critical thinking" and/or simply haven’t researched it themselves.
  • Just as many don’t really know what is meant by "critical thinking", there is also the problem of ensuring consistency across how it is defined/conceptualised, trained and measured , which is no easy task.
  • Without adequate training in CT, it may be the case that mature students’ perceptions of how they approach CT do not match their actual ability - despite potentially enhanced autonomy, student responsibility and locus of control , it may be that an over- optimistic outlook on the benefits of experience (and its associated heuristic-based, intuitive judgment) takes centre-stage above and beyond actual ability.
  • Social media is many things: entertainment, education , networking and much more. It is also, unfortunately, a vehicle for promoting faulty thinking. Being able to recognise persuasion techniques, illogical argumentation and fallacious reasoning , will allow you to better assess arguments presented to you, and help you to present better arguments.
  • Values are unique to each and every individual. Though individuals can certainly share values, there is no guarantee that all of an individual’s values overlap with another’s. On the other hand, using the 'virtue' moniker implies that the individual is right based on some kind of ‘moral correctness’. Though there is nothing wrong with an individual presenting ideas and perspectives that they value, it is ill-conceived and dangerous to treat them as global virtues that everyone else should value too.
  • CT is domain-g eneral, but explicit CT training is necessary if educators want to see CT improve and flourish across domains.
  • A person with a strong willingness to conduct CT has the consistent internal willingness and motivation to engage problems and make decisions by using reflective judgment . Reflective judgment, the recognition of limited knowledge and how this uncertainty can affect decision-making processes, is an important aspect of critical thinking regarding ‘taking a step back’ and thinking about an argument or problem a little bit longer and considering the basis for the reasons and consequences of responding in a particular way.
  • There is a need for general, secondary-school training in bias and statistics. We need to teach CT to the coming generations. When not critically thinking, people don’t listen, and fail to be open-minded and reflect upon the information presented to them; they project their opinions and beliefs regardless of whether or not they have evidence to support their claims.
  • Be open-minded towards others. You don’t have to respect them (respect is earned, it’s not a right); but be courteous (sure, we may be in disagreement; but, hey, we’re still civilised people).
  • A person said what they said, not how you interpret what they said. If you are unclear as to what has been said, ask for clarification. Asking for clarity is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of successful problem-solving.
  • ‘Proof’ is the dirtiest word in critical thinking. Research and science do not prove things, they can only disprove. Be wary when you hear the word ‘prove’ or any of its variants thrown around; but also, be mindful that people feel safer when they are assured and words like ‘proven’ reinforce this feeling of assuredness.
  • Creative thinking isn’t really useful or practical in critical thinking, depending on how you conceptualize it. Critical thinking and creative thinking are very different entities if you treat the latter as something similar to lateral thinking or ‘thinking outside the box’. However, if we conceptualize creative thinking as synthesizing information for the purpose of inferring a logical and feasible conclusion or solution, then it becomes complementary to critical thinking. But then, we are not resorting to creativity alone - all other avenues involving critical thinking must be considered. That is, we can think creatively by synthesizing information we have previously thought about critically (i.e. through analysis and evaluation ) for the purpose of inferring a logical and feasible conclusion or solution. Thus, given this caveat, we can infuse our critical thinking with creative thinking, but we must do so with caution.
  • Changing people’s minds is not easy ; and it’s even more difficult when the person you’re working with believes they have critically thought about it. It may simply boil down to the person you’re trying to educate and their disposition towards critical thinking, but the person’s emotional investment in their stance also plays a significant role.
  • There is no such thing as good or bad CT – you either thought critically or you didn’t. Those who try it in good faith are likely to want to do it ‘properly’; and so, much of whether or not an individual is thinking critically comes down to intellectual humility and intellectual integrity .
  • Finally, there are some general tips that people find useful in applying their critical thinking:
  • Save your critical thinking for things that matter - things you care about.
  • Do it earlier in your day to avoid faulty thinking resulting from decision fatigue.
  • Take a step back and think about a problem a little bit longer, considering the basis for the reasons and consequences of responding in a particular way.
  • Play Devil’s Advocate in order to overcome bias and 'auto-pilot processing' through truly considering alternatives.
  • Leave emotion at the door and remove your beliefs, attitudes, opinions and personal experiences from the equation - all of which are emotionally charged.

Barton, K., & McCully, A. (2007). Teaching controversial issues where controversial issues really matter. Teaching History, 127, 13–19.

Dwyer, C.P. (2017). Critical thinking: Conceptual perspectives and practical guidelines. 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-learningenvironments. 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.

Eigenauer, J.D. (2017). Don’t reinvent the critical thinking wheel: What scholarly literature tells us about critical thinking instruction. Innovation Abstracts, 39, 2.

Facione, P. A., & Facione, N. C. (2001). Analyzing explanations for seemingly irrational choices: Linking argument analysis and cognitive science. International Journal of Applied Philosophy, 15(2), 267–286.

Gambrill, E. (2006). Evidence-based practice and policy: Choices ahead. Research on Social Work Practice, 16(3), 338–357.

Halpern, D.F. (2014). Though and knowledge. UK: Psychology Press.

Holmes, J., & Clizbe, E. (1997). Facing the 21st century. Business Education Forum, 52(1), 33–35.

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.

McGuinness, C. (2013). Teaching thinking: Learning how to think. Presented at the Psychological Society of Ireland and British Psychological Association’s Public Lecture Series. Galway, Ireland, 6th March.

National Academy of Sciences. (2005). National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine Rising above the gathering storm: Energising and employingAmerica for a brighter economic future. Committee on prospering in the global economy for the 21st century. Washington, DC.

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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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making  - What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking and decision-making  -, what is critical thinking, critical thinking and decision-making what is critical thinking.

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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making: What is Critical Thinking?

Lesson 1: what is critical thinking, what is critical thinking.

Critical thinking is a term that gets thrown around a lot. You've probably heard it used often throughout the years whether it was in school, at work, or in everyday conversation. But when you stop to think about it, what exactly is critical thinking and how do you do it ?

Watch the video below to learn more about critical thinking.

Simply put, critical thinking is the act of deliberately analyzing information so that you can make better judgements and decisions . It involves using things like logic, reasoning, and creativity, to draw conclusions and generally understand things better.

illustration of the terms logic, reasoning, and creativity

This may sound like a pretty broad definition, and that's because critical thinking is a broad skill that can be applied to so many different situations. You can use it to prepare for a job interview, manage your time better, make decisions about purchasing things, and so much more.

The process

illustration of "thoughts" inside a human brain, with several being connected and "analyzed"

As humans, we are constantly thinking . It's something we can't turn off. But not all of it is critical thinking. No one thinks critically 100% of the time... that would be pretty exhausting! Instead, it's an intentional process , something that we consciously use when we're presented with difficult problems or important decisions.

Improving your critical thinking

illustration of the questions "What do I currently know?" and "How do I know this?"

In order to become a better critical thinker, it's important to ask questions when you're presented with a problem or decision, before jumping to any conclusions. You can start with simple ones like What do I currently know? and How do I know this? These can help to give you a better idea of what you're working with and, in some cases, simplify more complex issues.  

Real-world applications

illustration of a hand holding a smartphone displaying an article that reads, "Study: Cats are better than dogs"

Let's take a look at how we can use critical thinking to evaluate online information . Say a friend of yours posts a news article on social media and you're drawn to its headline. If you were to use your everyday automatic thinking, you might accept it as fact and move on. But if you were thinking critically, you would first analyze the available information and ask some questions :

  • What's the source of this article?
  • Is the headline potentially misleading?
  • What are my friend's general beliefs?
  • Do their beliefs inform why they might have shared this?

illustration of "Super Cat Blog" and "According to survery of cat owners" being highlighted from an article on a smartphone

After analyzing all of this information, you can draw a conclusion about whether or not you think the article is trustworthy.

Critical thinking has a wide range of real-world applications . It can help you to make better decisions, become more hireable, and generally better understand the world around you.

illustration of a lightbulb, a briefcase, and the world

/en/problem-solving-and-decision-making/why-is-it-so-hard-to-make-decisions/content/

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. Employers prioritize the ability to think critically—find out why, plus see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability throughout the job application process. 

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.

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 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.

Promote Your Skills in Your 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 critical thinking skills in mind as you update your resume and write your cover letter. As you've seen, you can also emphasize them at other points throughout the application process, such as your interview. 

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 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 that 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.

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Why Is Critical Thinking Important? A Survival Guide

Why-Is-Critical-Thinking-Important-a-Survival-Guide

Why is critical thinking important? The decisions that you make affect your quality of life. And if you want to ensure that you live your best, most successful and happy life, you’re going to want to make conscious choices. That can be done with a simple thing known as critical thinking. Here’s how to improve your critical thinking skills and make decisions that you won’t regret.

What Is Critical Thinking?

You’ve surely heard of critical thinking, but you might not be entirely sure what it really means, and that’s because there are many definitions. For the most part, however, we think of critical thinking as the process of analyzing facts in order to form a judgment. Basically, it’s thinking about thinking.

How Has The Definition Evolved Over Time?

The first time critical thinking was documented is believed to be in the teachings of Socrates , recorded by Plato. But throughout history, the definition has changed.

Today it is best understood by philosophers and psychologists and it’s believed to be a highly complex concept. Some insightful modern-day critical thinking definitions include :

  • “Reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.”
  • “Deciding what’s true and what you should do.”

The Importance Of Critical Thinking

Why is critical thinking important? Good question! Here are a few undeniable reasons why it’s crucial to have these skills.

1. Critical Thinking Is Universal

Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. What does this mean? It means that no matter what path or profession you pursue, these skills will always be relevant and will always be beneficial to your success. They are not specific to any field.

2. Crucial For The Economy

Our future depends on technology, information, and innovation. Critical thinking is needed for our fast-growing economies, to solve problems as quickly and as effectively as possible.

3. Improves Language & Presentation Skills

In order to best express ourselves, we need to know how to think clearly and systematically — meaning practice critical thinking! Critical thinking also means knowing how to break down texts, and in turn, improve our ability to comprehend.

4. Promotes Creativity

By practicing critical thinking, we are allowing ourselves not only to solve problems but also to come up with new and creative ideas to do so. Critical thinking allows us to analyze these ideas and adjust them accordingly.

5. Important For Self-Reflection

Without critical thinking, how can we really live a meaningful life? We need this skill to self-reflect and justify our ways of life and opinions. Critical thinking provides us with the tools to evaluate ourselves in the way that we need to.

Woman deep into thought as she looks out the window, using her critical thinking skills to do some self-reflection.

6. The Basis Of Science & Democracy

In order to have a democracy and to prove scientific facts, we need critical thinking in the world. Theories must be backed up with knowledge. In order for a society to effectively function, its citizens need to establish opinions about what’s right and wrong (by using critical thinking!).

Benefits Of Critical Thinking

We know that critical thinking is good for society as a whole, but what are some benefits of critical thinking on an individual level? Why is critical thinking important for us?

1. Key For Career Success

Critical thinking is crucial for many career paths. Not just for scientists, but lawyers , doctors, reporters, engineers , accountants, and analysts (among many others) all have to use critical thinking in their positions. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking is one of the most desirable skills to have in the workforce, as it helps analyze information, think outside the box, solve problems with innovative solutions, and plan systematically.

2. Better Decision Making

There’s no doubt about it — critical thinkers make the best choices. Critical thinking helps us deal with everyday problems as they come our way, and very often this thought process is even done subconsciously. It helps us think independently and trust our gut feeling.

3. Can Make You Happier!

While this often goes unnoticed, being in touch with yourself and having a deep understanding of why you think the way you think can really make you happier. Critical thinking can help you better understand yourself, and in turn, help you avoid any kind of negative or limiting beliefs, and focus more on your strengths. Being able to share your thoughts can increase your quality of life.

4. Form Well-Informed Opinions

There is no shortage of information coming at us from all angles. And that’s exactly why we need to use our critical thinking skills and decide for ourselves what to believe. Critical thinking allows us to ensure that our opinions are based on the facts, and help us sort through all that extra noise.

5. Better Citizens

One of the most inspiring critical thinking quotes is by former US president Thomas Jefferson: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” What Jefferson is stressing to us here is that critical thinkers make better citizens, as they are able to see the entire picture without getting sucked into biases and propaganda.

6. Improves Relationships

While you may be convinced that being a critical thinker is bound to cause you problems in relationships, this really couldn’t be less true! Being a critical thinker can allow you to better understand the perspective of others, and can help you become more open-minded towards different views.

7. Promotes Curiosity

Critical thinkers are constantly curious about all kinds of things in life, and tend to have a wide range of interests. Critical thinking means constantly asking questions and wanting to know more, about why, what, who, where, when, and everything else that can help them make sense of a situation or concept, never taking anything at face value.

8. Allows For Creativity

Critical thinkers are also highly creative thinkers, and see themselves as limitless when it comes to possibilities. They are constantly looking to take things further, which is crucial in the workforce.

9. Enhances Problem Solving Skills

Those with critical thinking skills tend to solve problems as part of their natural instinct. Critical thinkers are patient and committed to solving the problem, similar to Albert Einstein, one of the best critical thinking examples, who said “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Critical thinkers’ enhanced problem-solving skills makes them better at their jobs and better at solving the world’s biggest problems. Like Einstein, they have the potential to literally change the world.

10. An Activity For The Mind

Just like our muscles, in order for them to be strong, our mind also needs to be exercised and challenged. It’s safe to say that critical thinking is almost like an activity for the mind — and it needs to be practiced. Critical thinking encourages the development of many crucial skills such as logical thinking, decision making, and open-mindness.

11. Creates Independence

When we think critically, we think on our own as we trust ourselves more. Critical thinking is key to creating independence, and encouraging students to make their own decisions and form their own opinions.

12. Crucial Life Skill

Critical thinking is crucial not just for learning, but for life overall! Education isn’t just a way to prepare ourselves for life, but it’s pretty much life itself. Learning is a lifelong process that we go through each and every day.

How to Think Critically

Now that you know the benefits of thinking critically, how do you actually do it?

How To Improve Your Critical Thinking

  • Define Your Question: When it comes to critical thinking, it’s important to always keep your goal in mind. Know what you’re trying to achieve, and then figure out how to best get there.
  • Gather Reliable Information: Make sure that you’re using sources you can trust — biases aside. That’s how a real critical thinker operates!
  • Ask The Right Questions: We all know the importance of questions, but be sure that you’re asking the right questions that are going to get you to your answer.
  • Look Short & Long Term: When coming up with solutions, think about both the short- and long-term consequences. Both of them are significant in the equation.
  • Explore All Sides: There is never just one simple answer, and nothing is black or white. Explore all options and think outside of the box before you come to any conclusions.

How Is Critical Thinking Developed At School?

Critical thinking is developed in nearly everything we do. However, much of this important skill is encouraged to be practiced at school, and rightfully so! Critical thinking goes beyond just thinking clearly — it’s also about thinking for yourself.

When a teacher asks a question in class, students are given the chance to answer for themselves and think critically about what they learned and what they believe to be accurate. When students work in groups and are forced to engage in discussion, this is also a great chance to expand their thinking and use their critical thinking skills.

How Does Critical Thinking Apply To Your Career?

Once you’ve finished school and entered the workforce, your critical thinking journey only expands and grows from here!

Impress Your Employer

Employers value employees who are critical thinkers, ask questions, offer creative ideas, and are always ready to offer innovation against the competition. No matter what your position or role in a company may be, critical thinking will always give you the power to stand out and make a difference.

Careers That Require Critical Thinking

Some of many examples of careers that require critical thinking include:

  • Human resources specialist
  • Marketing associate
  • Business analyst

Truth be told however, it’s probably harder to come up with a professional field that doesn’t require any critical thinking!

Photo by  Oladimeji Ajegbile  from  Pexels

What is someone with critical thinking skills capable of doing.

Someone with critical thinking skills is able to think rationally and clearly about what they should or not believe. They are capable of engaging in their own thoughts, and doing some reflection in order to come to a well-informed conclusion.

A critical thinker understands the connections between ideas, and is able to construct arguments based on facts, as well as find mistakes in reasoning.

The Process Of Critical Thinking

The process of critical thinking is highly systematic.

What Are Your Goals?

Critical thinking starts by defining your goals, and knowing what you are ultimately trying to achieve.

Once you know what you are trying to conclude, you can foresee your solution to the problem and play it out in your head from all perspectives.

What Does The Future Of Critical Thinking Hold?

The future of critical thinking is the equivalent of the future of jobs. In 2020, critical thinking was ranked as the 2nd top skill (following complex problem solving) by the World Economic Forum .

We are dealing with constant unprecedented changes, and what success is today, might not be considered success tomorrow — making critical thinking a key skill for the future workforce.

Why Is Critical Thinking So Important?

Why is critical thinking important? Critical thinking is more than just important! It’s one of the most crucial cognitive skills one can develop.

By practicing well-thought-out thinking, both your thoughts and decisions can make a positive change in your life, on both a professional and personal level. You can hugely improve your life by working on your critical thinking skills as often as you can.

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The importance of critical thinking

19th Feb 2016

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Critical thinking is a core academic skill that teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students to question or reflect on their own knowledge and information presented to them. This skill is essential for students working on assignments and performing research. It’s also an invaluable skill in many workplace scenarios. In this week’s blog we discuss what critical thinking is, how it applies to the workplace and how to develop this crucial skill.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is not just being critical in the typical, negative sense of the word; there are many definitions but according to Beyer (1995), critical thinking means ‘making clear, reasoned judgments’.

A successful critical thinker questions perceived knowledge, rejects anecdotal or non-scientific evidence and examines the source of all information. He or she is open-minded and well-informed, able to judge the quality of an argument and draw cautious yet evidence-based conclusions.

It’s important for academic students because it enables them to produce essays and papers that are free from personal or societal bias.

How is it developed while studying?

With the support of their tutor and fellow students, learners must become skilled at assessing each source of information to determine its merit before using it as a reference.

Before utilising a statistic, quotation or piece of research to reinforce their argument in an assignment or discussion, students should check the source carefully to ensure that it was produced by a reliable source. That source needs to be based on solid evidence and should not suffer from research bias.

Assignments based on flimsy or badly-researched source materials will receive lower grades as the conclusions drawn are only as reliable as the data they are based on.

Critical thinking is developed naturally over the course of study as students learn to scrutinise evidence and dissect opposing arguments.

How does it apply to the workplace?

Many people considering undergraduate or postgraduate study focus their attention only on the subject-specific skills that they will develop, e.g. they assume that a law degree will only help them to progress in a legal-related role.

However this is not the case; while it’s true that a law course covers many law-related topics, it will also develop your general communication, presentation, writing, analytical and critical thinking skills. These skills can then be used in the workplace in many ways, depending on the industry. For example, a manager could use their critical thinking skills to evaluate sales and financial data, or to review a project proposal.

By remaining detached from sudden fluctuations in data and emotional sales pitches, employees with critical thinking skills are able to see the bigger picture and avoid making hasty (and costly!) decisions. Employees with critical thinking skills can also use these to improve their company through market research and by recognising opportunities. By researching the competition and their practices, assessing what is successful, these employees can help their company spot opportunities for growth, expansion or product development. Getting ahead of market trends before anyone else gives the company a valuable edge in the marketplace.

In summary, critical thinking is a vital skill in both academia and the world of work. It is developed naturally during undergraduate and postgraduate study, and has applications in almost every industry and role.

Do you want to develop your critical thinking skills?  Download our prospectus today  and find a course to help you.

Beyer, B.K., 1995. Critical Thinking. Fastback 385 . Phi Delta Kappa, 408 N. Union, PO Box 789, Bloomington, IN 47402-0789.

role of critical thinking

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  • Teaching Tips

On Critical Thinking

Several years ago some teaching colleagues were talking about the real value of teaching psychology students to think critically. After some heated discussion, the last word was had by a colleague from North Carolina. “The real value of being a good critical thinker in psychology is so you won’t be a jerk,” he said with a smile. That observation remains one of my favorites in justifying why teaching critical thinking skills should be an important goal in psychology. However, I believe it captures only a fraction of the real value of teaching students to think critically about behavior.

What I s Critical Thinking?

Although there is little agreement about what it means to think critically in psychology, I like the following broad definition: The propensity and skills to engage in activity with reflec tive skepticism focused on deciding what to believe or do

Students often arrive at their first introductory course with what they believe is a thorough grasp of how life works. After all, they have been alive for at least 18 years, have witnessed their fair shares of crisis, joy, and tragedy, and have successfully navigated their way in to your classroom.

These students have had a lot of time to develop their own personal theories about how the world works and most are quite satisfied with the results. They often pride themselves on how good they are with people as well as how astute they are in understanding and explaining the motives of others. And they think they know what psychology is. Many are surprised- and sometimes disappointed- to discover that psychology is a science, and the rigor of psychological research is a shock. The breadth and depth of psychology feel daunting. Regardless of their sophistication in the discipline, students often are armed with a single strategy to survive the experience: Memorize the book and hope it works out on the exam. In many cases, this strategy will serve them well. Unfortunately, student exposure to critical thinking skill development may be more accidental than planful on the part of most teachers. Collaboration in my department and with other colleagues over the years has persuaded me that we need to approach critical thinking skills in a purposeful, systematic, and developmental manner from the introductory course through the capstone experience, propose that we need to teach critical thinking skills in three domains of psychology: practical (the “jerk avoidance” function), theoretical (developing scientific explanations for behavior), and methodological (testing scientific ideas). I will explore each of these areas and then offer some general suggestions about how psychology teachers can improve their purposeful pursuit of critical thinking objectives.

Practical Domain

Practical critical thinking is often expressed as a long-term, implicit goal of teachers of psychology, even though they may not spend much academic time teaching how to transfer critical thinking skills to make students wise consumers, more careful judges of character, or more cautious interpreters of behavior. Accurate appraisal of behavior is essential, yet few teachers invest time in helping students understand how vulnerable their own interpretations are to error.

Encourage practice in accurate description and interpretation of behavior by presenting students with ambiguous behavior samples. Ask them to distinguish what they observe (What is the behavior?) from the inferences they draw from the behavior (What is the meaning of the behavior?). I have found that cartoons, such as Simon Bond’s Uns p eakable Acts, can be a good resource for refining observation skills. Students quickly recognize that crisp behavioral descriptions are typically consistent from observer to observer, but inferences vary wildly. They recognize that their interpretations are highly personal and sometimes biased by their own values and preferences. As a result of experiencing such strong individual differences in interpretation, students may learn to be appropriately less confident of their immediate conclusions, more tolerant of ambiguity, and more likely to propose alternative explanations. As they acquire a good understanding of scientific procedures, effective control techniques, and legitimate forms of evidence, they may be less likely to fall victim to the multitude of off-base claims about behavior that confront us all. (How many Elvis sightings can be valid in one year?)

Theoretical Domain

Theoretical critical thinking involves helping the student develop an appreciation for scientific explanations of behavior. This means learning not just the content of psychology but how and why psychology is organized into concepts, principles, laws, and theories. Developing theoretical skills begins in the introductory course where the primary critical thinking objective is understanding and applying concepts appropriately. For example, when you introduce students to the principles of reinforcement, you can ask them to find examples of the principles in the news or to make up stories that illustrate the principles.

Mid-level courses in the major require more sophistication, moving students beyond application of concepts and principles to learning and applying theories. For instance, you can provide a rich case study in abnormal psychology and ask students to make sense of the case from different perspectives, emphasizing theoretical flexibility or accurate use of existing and accepted frameworks in psychology to explain patterns of behavior. In advanced courses we can justifiably ask students to evaluate theory, selecting the most useful or rejecting the least helpful. For example, students can contrast different models to explain drug addiction in physiological psychology. By examining the strengths and weaknesses of existing frameworks, they can select which theories serve best as they learn to justify their criticisms based on evidence and reason.

Capstone, honors, and graduate courses go beyond theory evaluation to encourage students to create theory. Students select a complex question about behavior (for example, identifying mechanisms that underlie autism or language acquisition) and develop their own theory-based explanations for the behavior. This challenge requires them to synthesize and integrate existing theory as well as devise new insights into the behavior.

Methodological Domain

Most departments offer many opportunities for students to develop their methodological critical thinking abilities by applying different research methods in psychology. Beginning students must first learn what the scientific method entails. The next step is to apply their understanding of scientific method by identifying design elements in existing research. For example, any detailed description of an experimental design can help students practice distinguishing the independent from the dependent variable and identifying how researchers controlled for alternative explanations. The next methodological critical thinking goals include evaluating the quality of existing research design and challenging the conclusions of research findings. Students may need to feel empowered by the teacher to overcome the reverence they sometimes demonstrate for anything in print, including their textbooks. Asking students to do a critical analysis on a fairly sophisticated design may simply be too big a leap for them to make. They are likely to fare better if given examples of bad design so they can build their critical abilities and confidence in order to tackle more sophisticated designs. (Examples of bad design can be found in The Critical Thinking Companion for Introductory Psychology or they can be easily constructed with a little time and imagination). Students will develop and execute their own research designs in their capstone methodology courses. Asking students to conduct their own independent research, whether a comprehensive survey on parental attitudes, a naturalistic study of museum patrons’ behavior, or a well-designed experiment on paired associate learning, prompts students to integrate their critical thinking skills and gives them practice with conventional writing forms in psychology. In evaluating their work I have found it helpful to ask students to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their own work- as an additional opportunity to think critically-before giving them my feedback.

Additional Suggestions

Adopting explicit critical thinking objectives, regardless of the domain of critical thinking, may entail some strategy changes on the part of the teacher.

• Introduce psychology as an ope n-end ed, growing enterprise . Students often think that their entry into the discipline represents an end-point where everything good and true has already been discovered. That conclusion encourages passivity rather than criticality. Point out that research is psychology’ s way of growing and developing. Each new discovery in psychology represents a potentially elegant act of critical thinking. A lot of room for discovery remains. New ideas will be developed and old conceptions discarded.

• Require student performance that goes beyond memorization . Group work, essays, debates, themes, letters to famous psychologists, journals, current event examples- all of these and more can be used as a means of developing the higher skills involved in critical thinking in psychology. Find faulty cause-effect conclusions in the tabloids (e.g., “Eating broccoli increases your IQ!”) and have students design studies to confirm or discredit the headline’s claims. Ask students to identify what kinds of evidence would warrant belief in commercial claims. Although it is difficult, even well designed objective test items can capture critical thinking skills so that students are challenged beyond mere repetition and recall.

• Clarify your expectations about performance with explicit, public criteria. Devising clear performance criteria for psychology projects will enhance student success. Students often complain that they don’t understand “what you want” when you assign work. Performance criteria specify the standards that you will use to evaluate their work. For example, perfonnance criteria for the observation exercise described earlier might include the following: The student describes behavior accurately; offers i nference that is reasonable for the context; and identifies personal factors that might influence infer ence. Perfonnance criteria facilitate giving detailed feedback easily and can also promote student self-assessment.

• Label good examples of critical thinking when these occur spontaneously. Students may not recognize when they are thinking critically. When you identify examples of good thinking or exploit examples that could be improved, it enhances students’ ability to understand. One of my students made this vivid for me when she commented on the good connection she had made between a course concept and an insight from her literature class, “That is what you mean by critical thinking?” There after I have been careful to label a good critical thinking insight.

• Endorse a questioning attitude. Students often assume that if they have questions about their reading, then they are somehow being dishonorable, rude, or stupid. Having  discussions early in the course about the role of good questions in enhancing the quality of the subject and expanding the sharpness of the mind may set a more critical stage on which students can play. Model critical thinking from some insights you have had about behavior or from some research you have conducted in the past. Congratulate students who offer good examples of the principles under study. Thank students who ask concept-related questions and describe why you think their questions are good. Leave time and space for more. Your own excitement about critical thinking can be a great incentive for students to seek that excitement.

• Brace yourself . When you include more opportunity for student critical thinking in class, there is much more opportunity for the class to go astray. Stepping away from the podium and engaging the students to perform what they know necessitates some loss of control, or at least some enhanced risk. However, the advantage is that no class will ever feel completely predictable, and this can be a source of stimulation for students and the professor as well.

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As far back as I can remember over 50 yrs. ago. I have been talking psychology to friends, or helping them to solve problems. I never thought about psy. back then, but now I realize I really love helping people. How can I become a critical thinker without condemning people?

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using a case study explain use of critical thinking in counseling process.

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Do you have any current readings with Critical Thinking Skills in Psychology, besides John Russcio’s work?

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About the Author

Jane Halonen received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1980. She is Professor of Psychology at Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she has served as Chair of Psychology and Dean of the Behavior Sciences Department. Halonen is past president of the Council for Teachers of Undergraduate Psychology. A fellow of APA's Division 2 (Teaching), she has been active on the Committee of Undergraduate Education, helped design the 1991 APA Conference on Undergraduate Educational Quality, and currently serves as a committee member to develop standards for the teaching of high school psychology.

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Critical thinking in everyday life.

by Winston Sieck updated September 19, 2021

critical thinking in everyday life

Have you ever been listening to one of your teacher’s lessons and thought that it had no relevance to your own life?

You’re not alone. Just about every student has felt the same way.

Sure, you use critical thinking skills in the classroom to solve word problems in math, write essays in English, and create hypotheses in science.

But how will you use critical thinking in everyday life?

First, keep in mind that critical thinking is simply a “deliberate thought process.”

Basically, it means that you are using reason and logic to come to a conclusion about an issue or decision you are tangling with.

And clear, sound reasoning is something that will help you every day.

To help you make the leap from classroom to real world, here are 3 concrete examples of critical thinking in everyday life.

Fake News vs. Real News

Take a moment to reflect on your media skills. Do you think you have what it takes to sort out a real news source from a piece of clever advertising?

According to a recent study from Stanford University, a whopping 82% of the teens surveyed could not distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a legitimate news story.

Part of the problem may come from schools cutting back on formal instruction of critical thinking skills and an assumption that today’s “digital native” teens can automatically tell the difference without practice or instruction.

You are good at lots of things. But, you know, you’ve practiced those things you’re good at. So, how can you practice telling fact from fiction?

One way (outside of school) is to chat with your family and friends about media sources. Find out how they stay informed, and why they choose those outlets. Ask each other routine questions for evaluating sources .

Do your Friends Know Everything?

It’s tempting to believe that the world begins and ends with your friends. Don’t get me wrong. Friends are definitely important. However, it pays to reflect a little on how a group influences our lives.

To practice critical thinking in everyday life, take a close look at your group of friends. Are there things that are “forbidden” in your social circle? Are you expected to act a certain way, dress a certain way?

Think a certain way?

It’s natural that when a group defines something as “cool”, all the people in the group work to fit into that definition. Regardless of what they individually believe.

The problem is that virtually every situation can be defined in multiple ways. What is “dumb” to one person may be “cool” to another.

Develop your ability to redefine the way you see the world around you. On your own terms.

Find a time when your friend group sees the negative in a situation. Is there a positive way to view it instead? Or at least a way that makes it seem not quite so bad?

You may not be ready to speak up with your independent view. And that’s ok. Just practice thinking differently from the group to strengthen your mind.

Critical Thinking in the Driver’s Seat

One of the core critical thinking skills you need every day is the ability to examine the implications and consequences of a belief or action. In its deepest form, this ability can help you form your own set of beliefs in everything from climate change to religion.

But this skill can also save your life (and your car insurance rate) behind the wheel.

Imagine you are cruising down the freeway when your phone alerts you to an incoming text message. The ability to examine your potential actions and their accompanying consequences will help you make the best choice for how to handle the situation.

Do you look at the text and risk getting into an accident? Do you wait and risk not responding to an urgent matter? Or do you pull over to look at the text and risk being late for your appointment?

The same skill can be applied when you are looking for a place to park, when to pull onto a busy street, or whether to run the yellow light.

Better yet, the more practiced you are at looking at the implications of your driving habits, the faster you can make split second decisions behind the wheel.

Why Critical Thinking in Everyday Life Matters

Literally everyone can benefit from critical thinking because the need for it is all around us.

In a philosophical paper , Peter Facione makes a strong case that critical thinking skills are needed by everyone, in all societies who value safety, justice, and a host of other positive values:

“Considered as a form of thoughtful judgment or reflective decision-making, in a very real sense critical thinking is pervasive. There is hardly a time or a place where it would not seem to be of potential value. As long as people have purposes in mind and wish to judge how to accomplish them, as long as people wonder what is true and what is not, what to believe and what to reject, strong critical thinking is going to be necessary.”

So, in other words, as long as you remain curious, purposeful, and ambitious, no matter what your interests, you’re going to need critical thinking to really own your life.

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About Winston Sieck

Dr. Winston Sieck is a cognitive psychologist working to advance the development of thinking skills. He is founder and president of Global Cognition, and director of Thinker Academy .

Reader Interactions

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July 27, 2019 at 7:20 am

Wonderful article.. Useful in daily life… I have never imagined the way critical thinking is useful to make judgments

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December 9, 2020 at 9:38 pm

My name is Anthony Lambert I am student at miller Motte. Critical Thinking is one my classes. I thank you for giving me the skills of critical thinking.

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  • J Adv Med Educ Prof
  • v.2(3); 2014 Jul

The role of critical thinking skills and learning styles of university students in their academic performance

Zohre ghazivakili.

1 Emergency medical services department, Paramedical school, Alborz University of Medical Sciences, Karaj, Iran;

ROOHANGIZ NOROUZI NIA

2 Educational Development Center, Alborz University of Medical Sciences, Karaj, Iran;

FARIDE PANAHI

3 Nursing and midwifery school, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran;

MEHRDAD KARIMI

4 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Public Health School, Tehran, Iran;

HAYEDE GHOLSORKHI

5 Medical school, Alborz University of Medical Sciences, Karaj, Iran;

ZARRIN AHMADI

6 Amirkabir University of Technology(Polytechnic), Tehran, Iran

Introduction: The Current world needs people who have a lot of different abilities such as cognition and application of different ways of thinking, research, problem solving, critical thinking skills and creativity. In addition to critical thinking, learning styles is another key factor which has an essential role in the process of problem solving. This study aimed to determine the relationship between learning styles and critical thinking of students and their academic performance in Alborz University of Medical Science.

Methods: This cross-correlation study was performed in 2012, on 216 students of Alborz University who were selected randomly by the stratified random sampling. The data was obtained via a three-part questionnaire included demographic data, Kolb standardized questionnaire of learning style and California critical thinking standardized questionnaire. The academic performance of the students was extracted by the school records. The validity of the instruments was determined in terms of content validity, and the reliability was gained through internal consistency methods. Cronbach's alpha coefficient was found to be 0.78 for the California critical thinking questionnaire. The Chi Square test, Independent t-test, one way ANOVA and Pearson correlation test were used to determine relationship between variables. The Package SPSS14 statistical software was used to analyze data with a significant level of p<0.05.

Results: Our findings indicated the significant difference of mean score in four learning style, suggesting university students with convergent learning style have better performance than other groups. Also learning style had a relationship with age, gender, field of study, semester and job. The results about the critical thinking of the students showed that the mean of deductive reasoning and evaluation skills were higher than that of other skills and analytical skills had the lowest mean and there was a positive significant relationship between the students’ performance with inferential skill and the total score of critical thinking skills (p<0.05). Furthermore, evaluation skills and deductive reasoning had significant relationship. On the other hand, the mean total score of critical thinking had significant difference between different learning styles.

Conclusion: The results of this study showed that the learning styles, critical thinking and academic performance are significantly associated with one another. Considering the growing importance of critical thinking in enhancing the professional competence of individuals, it's recommended to use teaching methods consistent with the learning style because it would be more effective in this context.

Introduction

The current world needs people with a lot of capabilities such as understanding and using different ways of thinking, research, problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. Critical thinking is one of the aspects of thinking that has been accepted as a way to overcome the difficulties and to facilitate the access to information in life ( 1 ).

To Watson and Glizer, critical thinking is a combination of knowledge, attitude, and performance of every individual. They also believe that there are some skills of critical thinking such as perception, assumption recognition deduction, interpretation and evaluation of logical reasoning. They argue that the ability of critical thinking, processing and evaluation of previous information with new information result from inductive and deductive reasoning of solving problems. Watson and Glizer definition of critical thinking has been the basis of critical thinking tests that are widely used to measure the critical thinking today ( 2 ).

World Federation for Medical Education has considered critical thinking one of the medical training standards so that in accredited colleges this subject is one of the key points. In fact, one of the criteria for the accreditation of a learning institute is the measurement of critical thinking in its students ( 3 ).

In addition to critical thinking, learning style, i.e. the information processing method, of the learners, is an important key factor that has a major role in problem solving. According to David Kolb’s theory, learning is a four-step process that includes concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation. This position represents two dimensions: concrete experience versus abstract thinking, and reflective observation to active experimentation. These dimensions include four learning styles: divergent, convergent, assimilate, and accommodate. According to Kolb and Ferry, the learner needs four different abilities to function efficiently: Learning styles involve several variables such as academic performance of learner, higher education improvement; critical thinking and problem solving ( 4 ).

Due to the importance of learning styles and critical thinking in students' academic performance, a large volume of educational research has been devoted to these issues in different countries. Demirhan, Besoluk and Onder (2011) in their study on critical thinking and students’ academic performance from the first semester to two years later have found that contrary to expectations the students’ critical thinking level reduced but the total mean of students’ scores increased. This is due to the fact that the students are likely to increase adaptive behavior with environment and university and reduce the stress during their education ( 1 ).

In another study over 330 students in Turkey, the students who had divergent learning style, had lower scores in critical thinking in contrast with students who have accommodator learning style ( 5 ).

Also Mahmoud examined the relationship between critical thinking and learning styles of the Bachelor students with their academic performance in 2012. In this study all the nursing students of the university in the semesters four, six and eight were studied. The results did not show any significant relationship between critical thinking and learning styles of nursing students with their academic performance ( 6 ).

Another research by Nasrabadi in 2012 showed a positive relationship between critical thinking attitudes and student's academic achievement. The results showed that there was a significant difference between the levels of critical thinking of assimilating and converge styles. Also converging, diverging, assimilating and accommodating styles had the highest level of critical thinking, respectively ( 4 ). Among other studies we can refer to Sharma’s study in 2011 whose results suggested a relationship between the academic performance and learning styles ( 7 ).

Today university students should not only think but also should think differently and should not only remember the knowledge in their mind but also should research the best learning style among different learning styles. Therefore, the study on the topic of how the students think and how they learn has received great emphasis in recent years. In this regard, with the importance of the subject, researchers attempted to doa research in this area to determine the relationship between critical thinking and learning styles with academic performance of the students at Alborz University of Medical Sciences.

This study is a descriptive-analytic, cross sectional study and investigates the relationship between critical thinking and learning styles with students’ academic performance of Alborz University of Medical Science in 2012. After approval and permission from university’s authorities and in coordination with official faculties, the critical thinking and learning styles questionnaire was given to the undergraduate students in associate degree, bachelor, medicine (second semester and after that). The total number of participants in the study was 216 students with different majors such as medical, nursing and midwifery, and health and medical emergency students. The tool to collect the data was a two-part questionnaire of Kolb's learning styles and California's critical thinking skills test (form B). The Kolb's questionnaire has two parts. The first part asks for demographic information and the second part includes 12 multiple choice questions. The participants respond to the questions with regard to how they learn, and the scores of respondents are ranked from 1 to 4 in which 4 is most consistent with the participants’ learning style 3 to some extent, 2 poorly consistent and 1 not consistent To find the participants’ learning styles, the first choice of all 12 questions were added together and this was repeated for other choices. Thus, four total scores for the four learning styles were obtained, the first for concrete experience learning style, the second for reflective observation of learning style, the third for abstract conceptualization learning style and the forth for active experimentation learning style. The highest score determined the learning style of the participant. The California critical thinking skills test (form B) includes 34 multiple choice questions with one correct answer in five different areas of critical thinking skills, including evaluation, inference, analysis, inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning. The answering time was 45 minutes and the final score is 34 and the achieved score in each section of the test varies from 0 to 16. In the evaluation section, the maximum point is 14, in analysis section 9, in inference section 11, in inductive reasoning 16 and in deductive reasoning the maximum point was 14. So there were 6 scores for each participant, which included a critical thinking total score and 5 score for critical thinking skills. Dehghani, Jafari Sani, Pakmehr and Malekzadeh found that the reliability of the questionnaire was 78% in a research. In the study of Khalili et al., the confidence coefficient was 62% and construct validity of all subscales with positive and high correlation were reported between 60%-65%. So this test was reliable for the research. Collecting the information was conducted in two stages. In the first stage, the questionnaires were given to the students and the objectives and importance of the research were mentioned. In the next stage, the students' academic performance was reviewed. After data collection, the data were coded and analyzed, using the SPSS 14 ( SPSS Inc, Chicago, IL, USA) software. To describe the data, descriptive statistics were used such as mean and standard deviation for continues variables and frequency for qualitative variables. Chi Square test, Independent t-test, one way ANOVA and Pearson correlation test were used to determine the relationship between variables at a significant level of p<0.05.

Research hypothesis

  • There is a relationship between Alborz University of Medical Sciences students’ learning styles and their demographic information. 
  • There is a relationship between Alborz University of Medical Sciences students’ critical thinking and their demographic information. 
  • There is a relationship between Alborz University of Medical Sciences students’ academic performance and their demographic information. 
  • There is a relationship between Alborz University of Medical Sciences students’ learning styles and their academic performance. 
  • There is a relationship between Alborz University of Medical Sciences students’ learning styles and their critical thinking. 

225 questionnaires were distributed of which 216 were completely responded (96%). The age range of the participants was from 16 to 45 with the mean age of (22.44±3.7). 52.8% of participants (n=114) were female, 83.3% (n=180) were single, 30.1% of participants’ (n=65) major was pediatric anesthesiology of OR, 35.2% of participants (n=76) were in fourth semester, 74.5% (n=161) were unemployed and 48.6 % (n=105) had Persian ethnicity.

The range of participants’ average grade points, which were considered as their academic performance, were from 12.51 to 19.07 with a mean of (16.75±1.3). According to Kolbs' pattern, 42.7% (n=85) had the convergent learning style (the maximum percentage) followed by 33.2 % (n= 66) with the assimilating style and only 9.5%, (n= 19) with the accommodating style (the minimum percentage).

Among the 5 critical thinking skills, the maximum mean score belonged to deductive reasoning skill (3.38±1.58) and the minimum mean score belonged to analysis skill (1.67±1.08).

Table 1 shows the frequency distribution and demographic variables and the academic performance of the students. According to the Chi-square (Χ 2 ) p-value, there was a significant relationship between gender and learning style (p=0.032), so that nearly 50 percent of males had the assimilating learning style and nearly 52 percent of the females had the convergent learning style.

The relationship between demographic variable and student’s academic performance with learning styles

The relationship between employment, major and semester of studying with the learning style was significant at a p-value of 0.049, 0.006, 0.009 and 0.001, respectively. The mean and standard deviation of age and students' academic performance in the four learning styles are reported in Table 1 .

Using the one way analysis of variance (One way ANOVA) and comparing the mean age of four groups, we found a significant relation between age and academic performance with learning style (p=0.049).

The students with convergent learning style had a better academic performance than those with other learning styles and in the performance of those with the assimilating learning style the weakest.

Table 2 shows the relationship between the total score of critical thinking skills and each of the demographic variables and academic performance. The results of the t-test and one way ANOVA variance analysis are reported to investigate the relationship between each variable with skills below the mean standard deviation.

Relationships between CCT Skills and demographic variables Using t-test and ANOVA. Pearson Correlation coefficient between age and Student's performance with CCT Skills was reported

* Significant in surface 0.05 

** Significant in surface 0.01

Based on the t-test and ANOVA, p-value of t and F, the mean of total score of critical thinking skills had only significant relationship with students’ major (p=0.020). Also a significant relationship was found between the major of students and gender with inference skill; semester of study with deductive reasoning skill, and ethnicity with 2 skills of inference and deductive reasoning (p<0.05).

Also regarding the relationship between age and the student academic performance with each of the critical thinking skills, the Pearson correlation coefficient results indicated a significant positive relationship but a negative relationship between age and analysis skill, i.e. with the increase of age, the score of analysis skill was reduced (p<0.05). Academic performance of the students had a direct significant relationship with critical thinking total score and inference skill; the more the score, the better the academic performance of students (p<0.05).

Table 3 shows the mean and standard deviation of learning styles score in the 4 groups of learning style. Using ANOVA one way ANOVA, the relationship between learning style and critical thinking skills and the comparison of the mean score for each skill in four styles are reported in the last column of the Table 3 .

The Relationship between critical thinking styles with learning styles

Based on the p-value of ANOVA, the mean of evaluation skill and inductive reasoning skill had a significant difference and the relationship between these two skills with learning style was significant (p<0.05). Also the mean of critical thinking’s total score was significantly different in the four groups and the relationship between total score with learning style was significant, too (p<0.05).

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The mean and confidence interval of university students’ performance in four learning  styles

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The mean and confidene interval of critical thinking skills

The study findings showed that the popular learning style among the students was the convergent style followed by the assimilating style which is consistent with Kolb's theory stating that medical science students usually have this learning style ( 8 ). This result was consistent with the results of other studies ( 9 , 10 ). In Yenice's study in which the student of training teacher were the target of the project, the most frequent learning styles were divergent and assimilating styles and these differences originate from the different target group of study in 2012 ( 11 ).

This study showed a significant relationship between learning style and gender, age, semester and employment. Meyari et al. did not find any significant relationship between learning style, age and gender of the freshman but for the fifth semester students, a significant relationship with age and gender was found ( 10 ). Also in Yenice's study, no relationship with learning style, gender, semester and age was found.

Furthermore, in the first semester divergent style, in the second semester assimilating style and in the third and fourth semester divergent style were accounted for the highest percentage. Also in the group age of 17-20 years the assimilating style and the age of 21-24 years the divergent style were dominant styles ( 11 ).

In the present study, it was found a significant positive relationship between convergent learning style and academic performance. Also in the study of Pooladi et al. the majority of the students had convergent style and they also found a significant relationship between learning style, total mean score and the mean of practical courses ( 12 ). Nasrabadi et al. found that students with the highest achievement were those with convergent style with a significant difference with those with divergent style ( 4 ). But the results are inconsistent to Meyari et al.’s ( 10 ).

In this study, the obtained mean score from the critical thinking questionnaire was (7.15±2.41) that was compared with that in the study of Khalili and Hoseinzadeh which was to validate and make reliable the critical thinking skills questionnaire of California (form B) in the Iranian nursing students; the mean of total score was about the 11th percentile of this study ( 13 ).

In other words, the computed score for critical thinking of the students participating was lower than 11 score that is in the 50th percentile and of course is lower than normal range.

Hariri and Bagherinezhad had shown that the computed score for Bachelor and Master students of Health faculty was also lower than the norm in Iran ( 14 ). Also Mayer and Dayer came to a similar conclusion in critical thinking skill in the Agricultural university of Florida’s students in 2006 ( 15 ).

But in Gharib et al.’s study, the total score of critical thinking test among the freshman and senior of Health-care management was in normal range ( 16 ). Wangensteen et al., found that the critical thinking skills of the newest graduate nursing students were relatively high in Sweden in 2010 ( 17 ).

In this study, students of all levels (Associate, Bachelor and PhD) with various fields of study participated but other studies have been limited to certain graduate courses that may explain the differences in levels of special critical thinking skills score in this study. In this study we found a significant relationship between total score of critical thinking and major of the students. This result is consistent with Serin et al. ( 18 ).

It was found a significant relationship between major of participants, gender and inference skill, semester and deductive reasoning skill, ethnicity and both inference and deductive reasoning skills.

In the Yenice's study significant relationship between critical thinking, group of age, gender and semester was seen ( 11 ). In Wangensteen et al.’s ( 17 ) study in the older age group, the level of critical thinking score increased. In Serin et al.’s ( 18 ) study the level of communication skills in girls was better than that in boys. And also a significant relationship was found between critical thinking and academic semester, but in Mayer and Dayer’s study no significant relationship between critical thinking levels and gender was found ( 4 , 15 ).

The results also showed that the total score of critical thinking and analytical skills of students and their performance had a significant relationship. Nasrabady et al.’s study also showed that there was a positive relationship between critical thinking reflection attitude and academic achievement ( 4 ). This is contradictory with what Demirhan, Bosluk and Ander found ( 6 , 15 ).

The results of the relationship between learning style and critical thinking indicated that the relationship between evaluation and inductive reasoning was significant to learning style (p<0.05). The relationship of critical thinking total score with learning style was also significant (p<0.05). Thus the total score for those with the conforming style of critical skills was more than that with other styles. But in the subgroup of inference skills, those with the convergent style had a higher mean than those with other styles.

Yenice found a negative relationship between critical thinking score and divergent learning style and a positive relation between critical thinking score and accommodating style ( 11 ).

Siriopoulos and Pomonis in their study compared the learning style and critical thinking skills of students in two phases: at the beginning and end of education and came to this conclusion that the learning style of students changed in the second phase.

For example, the divergent, convergent and accommodating styles languished and the assimilating style (combination of abstract thinking and reflective observation) was noticeably strengthened. However, those with converging learning style had higher levels of critical thinking.

The level of students’ critical thinking was lower in all international standards styles. Perhaps it was because of widely used teacher-centered teaching methods (lectures) in that university ( 19 ).

The results in the study of Nasrabady et al. showed that there was a significant difference between the level of learners’ critical thinking and divergent and assimilating styles ( 4 ).

Those with converging, diverging, assimilating and accommodating styles had the highest level of critical thinking, respectively.

Also there was a positive significant relationship between the reflective observation method and critical thinking and also a negative significant relationship between the abstract conceptualization method and critical thinking ( 4 ). But in another study that Mahmud has done in 2012, he did not find any significant relationship between learning style, critical thinking and students’ performance ( 6 ).

The results of this study showed that the students’ critical thinking skills of this university aren't acceptable. Also learning styles, critical thinking and academic performance have significant relationship with each other. Due to the important role of critical thinking in enhancing professional competence, it is recommend using teaching methods which are consistent with the learning styles.

Acknowledgment

This study is based on a research project that was approved in Research Deputy of Alborz University of Medical sciences. We sincerely appreciate all in Research Deputy of Alborz University of Medical sciences who supported us financially and morally and all students and colleagues who participated in this study.

Conflict of Interest: None declared.

References:

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The Critical Role of Critical Thinking

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Rusty Handlon, Senior Manager, Instruction Faculty, General Education at WGU, is working as a part of the dynamic team of instructors teaching core courses in Critical Thinking, Composition, and Communication. While skills acquired in this curriculum may have once been thought of as optional, or ‘soft skills,’ today’s employers have voiced loudly and clearly that critical thinking and communication are among the powerful human skills they need from their employees.

In 2022, the learning content company Pearson published its Skills Outlook Report providing insights into the needs of today’s modern workforce and the future of work. They established power skills they saw emerging from looking at 21 million job postings. Between now and 2026 these include communication, leadership, attention to detail, collaboration, customer focus, achievement focus, and cultural and social intelligence. Critical thinking plays a key foundational role in an employee’s ability to master these skills.

There are many definitions for critical thinking. Handlon shares his definition: “When I think of critical thinking, I think of individuals who are thinking carefully and honestly and in ways that move things forward,” said Handlon. “Critical thinking is a necessary aspect of our society. But specifically, it’s important for the individuals in a society to have the ability to put themselves in check as well as to analyze the information that they’re getting - to be able to step back and say, “Does this track? Does this argument sound correct?”

role of critical thinking

“My father used to say, 'Don't raise your voice, improve your argument.' " - Desmond Tutu

Handlon notes that critical thinking is not just external facing as done by scrutinizing information an individual is receiving, but it also builds the character and capacity to look inward. “Critical thinking also helps a person say, “Let me check myself. Do I have biases as I am making this decision?” He continues, “We all have biases of some sort. Recognizing what those biases are can help us to step back and make better-informed decisions and take a more deliberately ethical and logical approach.”

Ethics play a key role in teaching critical thinking, according to Handlon, and that’s a good thing. “If you have a person who is an adept critical thinker, but they lack ethics, that could create a very dangerous scenario,” he said. One need not think much further than any evil mastermind in any book or movie for his point to be well taken. “You must have an ethical base and lens as you’re making evidence-based decisions. It’s the pinnacle in critical thinking.” 

In General Education, there is one course that it titled 'Critical Thinking,' but Handlon notes that the topic is woven throughout many other courses as well. “Our course titled 'Critical Thinking' is probably the largest course in the university because most students are taking it at some point in their learning journey here. It provides the foundation for our students, but in my domain, which I think of as the foundation of the foundation – Critical Thinking, Composition, and Communication – they are learning how to write, how to communicate, and how to think…so it’s woven throughout the curriculum across the three subjects. Being able to apply critical thinking skills in these more task-based courses benefits the individual in everything from distinguishing fallacies to making more successful evidence-based claims for something they believe.”

role of critical thinking

In fact, Handlon’s research has found that the importance of critical thinking on a student's learning journey should not be underestimated. At WGU, the four colleges can determine when general education courses are placed into the curriculum sequencing. “We’ve done the research, and we have seen the students who struggle in the course tended to struggle in additional courses. 

Students who have not had critical thinking also tended to drop at an elevated rate compared to those who took it and successfully completed it, which makes sense. The skills you learn in this course benefit you for the rest of the education pathway," he says. Because of this Handlon and the team have worked with the colleges (Education, IT, Business, and Health) to move Critical Thinking up in the sequencing.

In the WGU competency-based model student progression is measured by mastery of the subject matter, not seat time in class, which creates a model of better personalization. Students can typically proceed more quickly through material they understand and slow down where they need additional support within each six-month term. Assessing whether a student is grasping and assimilating the knowledge and skills can take many forms .

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle

“Instructors watch for students to have that ‘light bulb’ moment where the way they frame an argument changes. They look for fallacies, they look at the quality of the sources being cited, and they watch for biases that have taken a role in the formation of ideas and decisions. There are objective assessments where a student needs to show they know how to map an argument, how to pull in reliable sources, and understand the impact of bias,” said Handlon.

The goal, says Handlon, is for each student to be able to test their own thinking and assumptions for life and see if they are using the critical thinking skills they developed at WGU. “Of course, all of this here is just the first step in the journey,” he said. “Then they have to take what they learned here and apply it in all of their other courses, and later in their careers.”

Regarding careers, WGU degree programs have been specifically designed for current and future workforce relevance.

Handlon provides some examples below of how critical thinking skills learned at WGU may play out in various career tracks from within the Schools/Colleges of IT, Business, Health, and Education.

role of critical thinking

College of IT

“This industry requires employees/ talent to be agile – it’s a fast-moving area where decisions often have to be made very quickly. Critical thinking helps a person come to the right decision through a process that can speed outcomes, while also giving them the skills to know when to temper that speed with caution and if needed, force more consideration before a decision is reached. Today it’s also more important than ever to have people with the powerful combination of ethical critical thinking because of where we are going with AI and the deep integration of technology into our daily lives,” Handlon said.

College of Business

We’ve seen the outcomes of the benefits of critical thinking, and the pains of the lack of it throughout society as leaders of organizations either displayed ethical critical thinking, or they didn’t, and they got themselves and often many others into significant trouble. “Strategic planning and corporate finance are complex topics that benefit tremendously from a leader who has honed their critical thinking skills. It also protects from that “next best or big thing” syndrome that can plague businesses. Our graduates know how to step back and look at the entire picture to determine what will work best vs. how it has always been done. They don’t give in to the quick and easy approach because they can discern and determine if it has flaws in the long run. Critical thinking helps create systems thinkers which help businesses be successful and understand how to move things forward.” (An interesting side note, the College of General Education has recently added Systems Thinking courses that are taught by the same faculty as the Critical Thinking course.)

Leavitt School of Health

Nursing comprises a large population of students at WGU, and these students as well as those from other areas of focus in the Leavitt School of Health will be working with vulnerable populations who are leaning on their care team of professionals to understand their unique situations and help improve their health. “Health professionals are using critical thinking all day long, every single day, especially when a patient can’t express or advocate for themselves,” says Handlon. “Oftentimes, decisions that could be lifesaving must be made quickly by assessing multiple factors and understanding dependencies and contingencies. That’s a great example of critical thinking in real-time.” The best doctors and nurses use credible sources of information to formulate evidence-based decisions and claims – all an integral part of critical thinking.

School of Education

Teachers are a great influence on a child’s future, and for that to be a positive influence they need a deep understanding and practical knowledge of learning science, their area of expertise or topic, empathy and observation skills, and ethical critical thinking. Handlon explains, “Our teachers must constantly be scanning the classroom and identifying where each individual is on the learning journey, and in many cases, also in their personal lives. Who is following, and who is not? Who has factors external to the classroom that are impacting learning? How can each teacher be sure they are asking the right questions, and giving the right assignments and assessments? This is all critical thinking in play, and it profoundly impacts the future of society,” he says.

“In the College of General Education, we collectively believe that what happens here has a positive effect on the future life and career of our students, and being ethical critical thinkers better prepares them for whatever comes their way,” said Handlon.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

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41+ Critical Thinking Examples (Definition + Practices)

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Critical thinking is an essential skill in our information-overloaded world, where figuring out what is fact and fiction has become increasingly challenging.

But why is critical thinking essential? Put, critical thinking empowers us to make better decisions, challenge and validate our beliefs and assumptions, and understand and interact with the world more effectively and meaningfully.

Critical thinking is like using your brain's "superpowers" to make smart choices. Whether it's picking the right insurance, deciding what to do in a job, or discussing topics in school, thinking deeply helps a lot. In the next parts, we'll share real-life examples of when this superpower comes in handy and give you some fun exercises to practice it.

Critical Thinking Process Outline

a woman thinking

Critical thinking means thinking clearly and fairly without letting personal feelings get in the way. It's like being a detective, trying to solve a mystery by using clues and thinking hard about them.

It isn't always easy to think critically, as it can take a pretty smart person to see some of the questions that aren't being answered in a certain situation. But, we can train our brains to think more like puzzle solvers, which can help develop our critical thinking skills.

Here's what it looks like step by step:

Spotting the Problem: It's like discovering a puzzle to solve. You see that there's something you need to figure out or decide.

Collecting Clues: Now, you need to gather information. Maybe you read about it, watch a video, talk to people, or do some research. It's like getting all the pieces to solve your puzzle.

Breaking It Down: This is where you look at all your clues and try to see how they fit together. You're asking questions like: Why did this happen? What could happen next?

Checking Your Clues: You want to make sure your information is good. This means seeing if what you found out is true and if you can trust where it came from.

Making a Guess: After looking at all your clues, you think about what they mean and come up with an answer. This answer is like your best guess based on what you know.

Explaining Your Thoughts: Now, you tell others how you solved the puzzle. You explain how you thought about it and how you answered. 

Checking Your Work: This is like looking back and seeing if you missed anything. Did you make any mistakes? Did you let any personal feelings get in the way? This step helps make sure your thinking is clear and fair.

And remember, you might sometimes need to go back and redo some steps if you discover something new. If you realize you missed an important clue, you might have to go back and collect more information.

Critical Thinking Methods

Just like doing push-ups or running helps our bodies get stronger, there are special exercises that help our brains think better. These brain workouts push us to think harder, look at things closely, and ask many questions.

It's not always about finding the "right" answer. Instead, it's about the journey of thinking and asking "why" or "how." Doing these exercises often helps us become better thinkers and makes us curious to know more about the world.

Now, let's look at some brain workouts to help us think better:

1. "What If" Scenarios

Imagine crazy things happening, like, "What if there was no internet for a month? What would we do?" These games help us think of new and different ideas.

Pick a hot topic. Argue one side of it and then try arguing the opposite. This makes us see different viewpoints and think deeply about a topic.

3. Analyze Visual Data

Check out charts or pictures with lots of numbers and info but no explanations. What story are they telling? This helps us get better at understanding information just by looking at it.

4. Mind Mapping

Write an idea in the center and then draw lines to related ideas. It's like making a map of your thoughts. This helps us see how everything is connected.

There's lots of mind-mapping software , but it's also nice to do this by hand.

5. Weekly Diary

Every week, write about what happened, the choices you made, and what you learned. Writing helps us think about our actions and how we can do better.

6. Evaluating Information Sources

Collect stories or articles about one topic from newspapers or blogs. Which ones are trustworthy? Which ones might be a little biased? This teaches us to be smart about where we get our info.

There are many resources to help you determine if information sources are factual or not.

7. Socratic Questioning

This way of thinking is called the Socrates Method, named after an old-time thinker from Greece. It's about asking lots of questions to understand a topic. You can do this by yourself or chat with a friend.

Start with a Big Question:

"What does 'success' mean?"

Dive Deeper with More Questions:

"Why do you think of success that way?" "Do TV shows, friends, or family make you think that?" "Does everyone think about success the same way?"

"Can someone be a winner even if they aren't rich or famous?" "Can someone feel like they didn't succeed, even if everyone else thinks they did?"

Look for Real-life Examples:

"Who is someone you think is successful? Why?" "Was there a time you felt like a winner? What happened?"

Think About Other People's Views:

"How might a person from another country think about success?" "Does the idea of success change as we grow up or as our life changes?"

Think About What It Means:

"How does your idea of success shape what you want in life?" "Are there problems with only wanting to be rich or famous?"

Look Back and Think:

"After talking about this, did your idea of success change? How?" "Did you learn something new about what success means?"

socratic dialogue statues

8. Six Thinking Hats 

Edward de Bono came up with a cool way to solve problems by thinking in six different ways, like wearing different colored hats. You can do this independently, but it might be more effective in a group so everyone can have a different hat color. Each color has its way of thinking:

White Hat (Facts): Just the facts! Ask, "What do we know? What do we need to find out?"

Red Hat (Feelings): Talk about feelings. Ask, "How do I feel about this?"

Black Hat (Careful Thinking): Be cautious. Ask, "What could go wrong?"

Yellow Hat (Positive Thinking): Look on the bright side. Ask, "What's good about this?"

Green Hat (Creative Thinking): Think of new ideas. Ask, "What's another way to look at this?"

Blue Hat (Planning): Organize the talk. Ask, "What should we do next?"

When using this method with a group:

  • Explain all the hats.
  • Decide which hat to wear first.
  • Make sure everyone switches hats at the same time.
  • Finish with the Blue Hat to plan the next steps.

9. SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is like a game plan for businesses to know where they stand and where they should go. "SWOT" stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

There are a lot of SWOT templates out there for how to do this visually, but you can also think it through. It doesn't just apply to businesses but can be a good way to decide if a project you're working on is working.

Strengths: What's working well? Ask, "What are we good at?"

Weaknesses: Where can we do better? Ask, "Where can we improve?"

Opportunities: What good things might come our way? Ask, "What chances can we grab?"

Threats: What challenges might we face? Ask, "What might make things tough for us?"

Steps to do a SWOT Analysis:

  • Goal: Decide what you want to find out.
  • Research: Learn about your business and the world around it.
  • Brainstorm: Get a group and think together. Talk about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  • Pick the Most Important Points: Some things might be more urgent or important than others.
  • Make a Plan: Decide what to do based on your SWOT list.
  • Check Again Later: Things change, so look at your SWOT again after a while to update it.

Now that you have a few tools for thinking critically, let’s get into some specific examples.

Everyday Examples

Life is a series of decisions. From the moment we wake up, we're faced with choices – some trivial, like choosing a breakfast cereal, and some more significant, like buying a home or confronting an ethical dilemma at work. While it might seem that these decisions are disparate, they all benefit from the application of critical thinking.

10. Deciding to buy something

Imagine you want a new phone. Don't just buy it because the ad looks cool. Think about what you need in a phone. Look up different phones and see what people say about them. Choose the one that's the best deal for what you want.

11. Deciding what is true

There's a lot of news everywhere. Don't believe everything right away. Think about why someone might be telling you this. Check if what you're reading or watching is true. Make up your mind after you've looked into it.

12. Deciding when you’re wrong

Sometimes, friends can have disagreements. Don't just get mad right away. Try to see where they're coming from. Talk about what's going on. Find a way to fix the problem that's fair for everyone.

13. Deciding what to eat

There's always a new diet or exercise that's popular. Don't just follow it because it's trendy. Find out if it's good for you. Ask someone who knows, like a doctor. Make choices that make you feel good and stay healthy.

14. Deciding what to do today

Everyone is busy with school, chores, and hobbies. Make a list of things you need to do. Decide which ones are most important. Plan your day so you can get things done and still have fun.

15. Making Tough Choices

Sometimes, it's hard to know what's right. Think about how each choice will affect you and others. Talk to people you trust about it. Choose what feels right in your heart and is fair to others.

16. Planning for the Future

Big decisions, like where to go to school, can be tricky. Think about what you want in the future. Look at the good and bad of each choice. Talk to people who know about it. Pick what feels best for your dreams and goals.

choosing a house

Job Examples

17. solving problems.

Workers brainstorm ways to fix a machine quickly without making things worse when a machine breaks at a factory.

18. Decision Making

A store manager decides which products to order more of based on what's selling best.

19. Setting Goals

A team leader helps their team decide what tasks are most important to finish this month and which can wait.

20. Evaluating Ideas

At a team meeting, everyone shares ideas for a new project. The group discusses each idea's pros and cons before picking one.

21. Handling Conflict

Two workers disagree on how to do a job. Instead of arguing, they talk calmly, listen to each other, and find a solution they both like.

22. Improving Processes

A cashier thinks of a faster way to ring up items so customers don't have to wait as long.

23. Asking Questions

Before starting a big task, an employee asks for clear instructions and checks if they have the necessary tools.

24. Checking Facts

Before presenting a report, someone double-checks all their information to make sure there are no mistakes.

25. Planning for the Future

A business owner thinks about what might happen in the next few years, like new competitors or changes in what customers want, and makes plans based on those thoughts.

26. Understanding Perspectives

A team is designing a new toy. They think about what kids and parents would both like instead of just what they think is fun.

School Examples

27. researching a topic.

For a history project, a student looks up different sources to understand an event from multiple viewpoints.

28. Debating an Issue

In a class discussion, students pick sides on a topic, like school uniforms, and share reasons to support their views.

29. Evaluating Sources

While writing an essay, a student checks if the information from a website is trustworthy or might be biased.

30. Problem Solving in Math

When stuck on a tricky math problem, a student tries different methods to find the answer instead of giving up.

31. Analyzing Literature

In English class, students discuss why a character in a book made certain choices and what those decisions reveal about them.

32. Testing a Hypothesis

For a science experiment, students guess what will happen and then conduct tests to see if they're right or wrong.

33. Giving Peer Feedback

After reading a classmate's essay, a student offers suggestions for improving it.

34. Questioning Assumptions

In a geography lesson, students consider why certain countries are called "developed" and what that label means.

35. Designing a Study

For a psychology project, students plan an experiment to understand how people's memories work and think of ways to ensure accurate results.

36. Interpreting Data

In a science class, students look at charts and graphs from a study, then discuss what the information tells them and if there are any patterns.

Critical Thinking Puzzles

critical thinking tree

Not all scenarios will have a single correct answer that can be figured out by thinking critically. Sometimes we have to think critically about ethical choices or moral behaviors. 

Here are some mind games and scenarios you can solve using critical thinking. You can see the solution(s) at the end of the post.

37. The Farmer, Fox, Chicken, and Grain Problem

A farmer is at a riverbank with a fox, a chicken, and a grain bag. He needs to get all three items across the river. However, his boat can only carry himself and one of the three items at a time. 

Here's the challenge:

  • If the fox is left alone with the chicken, the fox will eat the chicken.
  • If the chicken is left alone with the grain, the chicken will eat the grain.

How can the farmer get all three items across the river without any item being eaten? 

38. The Rope, Jar, and Pebbles Problem

You are in a room with two long ropes hanging from the ceiling. Each rope is just out of arm's reach from the other, so you can't hold onto one rope and reach the other simultaneously. 

Your task is to tie the two rope ends together, but you can't move the position where they hang from the ceiling.

You are given a jar full of pebbles. How do you complete the task?

39. The Two Guards Problem

Imagine there are two doors. One door leads to certain doom, and the other leads to freedom. You don't know which is which.

In front of each door stands a guard. One guard always tells the truth. The other guard always lies. You don't know which guard is which.

You can ask only one question to one of the guards. What question should you ask to find the door that leads to freedom?

40. The Hourglass Problem

You have two hourglasses. One measures 7 minutes when turned over, and the other measures 4 minutes. Using just these hourglasses, how can you time exactly 9 minutes?

41. The Lifeboat Dilemma

Imagine you're on a ship that's sinking. You get on a lifeboat, but it's already too full and might flip over. 

Nearby in the water, five people are struggling: a scientist close to finding a cure for a sickness, an old couple who've been together for a long time, a mom with three kids waiting at home, and a tired teenager who helped save others but is now in danger. 

You can only save one person without making the boat flip. Who would you choose?

42. The Tech Dilemma

You work at a tech company and help make a computer program to help small businesses. You're almost ready to share it with everyone, but you find out there might be a small chance it has a problem that could show users' private info. 

If you decide to fix it, you must wait two more months before sharing it. But your bosses want you to share it now. What would you do?

43. The History Mystery

Dr. Amelia is a history expert. She's studying where a group of people traveled long ago. She reads old letters and documents to learn about it. But she finds some letters that tell a different story than what most people believe. 

If she says this new story is true, it could change what people learn in school and what they think about history. What should she do?

The Role of Bias in Critical Thinking

Have you ever decided you don’t like someone before you even know them? Or maybe someone shared an idea with you that you immediately loved without even knowing all the details. 

This experience is called bias, which occurs when you like or dislike something or someone without a good reason or knowing why. It can also take shape in certain reactions to situations, like a habit or instinct. 

Bias comes from our own experiences, what friends or family tell us, or even things we are born believing. Sometimes, bias can help us stay safe, but other times it stops us from seeing the truth.

Not all bias is bad. Bias can be a mechanism for assessing our potential safety in a new situation. If we are biased to think that anything long, thin, and curled up is a snake, we might assume the rope is something to be afraid of before we know it is just a rope.

While bias might serve us in some situations (like jumping out of the way of an actual snake before we have time to process that we need to be jumping out of the way), it often harms our ability to think critically.

How Bias Gets in the Way of Good Thinking

Selective Perception: We only notice things that match our ideas and ignore the rest. 

It's like only picking red candies from a mixed bowl because you think they taste the best, but they taste the same as every other candy in the bowl. It could also be when we see all the signs that our partner is cheating on us but choose to ignore them because we are happy the way we are (or at least, we think we are).

Agreeing with Yourself: This is called “ confirmation bias ” when we only listen to ideas that match our own and seek, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms what we already think we know or believe. 

An example is when someone wants to know if it is safe to vaccinate their children but already believes that vaccines are not safe, so they only look for information supporting the idea that vaccines are bad.

Thinking We Know It All: Similar to confirmation bias, this is called “overconfidence bias.” Sometimes we think our ideas are the best and don't listen to others. This can stop us from learning.

Have you ever met someone who you consider a “know it”? Probably, they have a lot of overconfidence bias because while they may know many things accurately, they can’t know everything. Still, if they act like they do, they show overconfidence bias.

There's a weird kind of bias similar to this called the Dunning Kruger Effect, and that is when someone is bad at what they do, but they believe and act like they are the best .

Following the Crowd: This is formally called “groupthink”. It's hard to speak up with a different idea if everyone agrees. But this can lead to mistakes.

An example of this we’ve all likely seen is the cool clique in primary school. There is usually one person that is the head of the group, the “coolest kid in school”, and everyone listens to them and does what they want, even if they don’t think it’s a good idea.

How to Overcome Biases

Here are a few ways to learn to think better, free from our biases (or at least aware of them!).

Know Your Biases: Realize that everyone has biases. If we know about them, we can think better.

Listen to Different People: Talking to different kinds of people can give us new ideas.

Ask Why: Always ask yourself why you believe something. Is it true, or is it just a bias?

Understand Others: Try to think about how others feel. It helps you see things in new ways.

Keep Learning: Always be curious and open to new information.

city in a globe connection

In today's world, everything changes fast, and there's so much information everywhere. This makes critical thinking super important. It helps us distinguish between what's real and what's made up. It also helps us make good choices. But thinking this way can be tough sometimes because of biases. These are like sneaky thoughts that can trick us. The good news is we can learn to see them and think better.

There are cool tools and ways we've talked about, like the "Socratic Questioning" method and the "Six Thinking Hats." These tools help us get better at thinking. These thinking skills can also help us in school, work, and everyday life.

We’ve also looked at specific scenarios where critical thinking would be helpful, such as deciding what diet to follow and checking facts.

Thinking isn't just a skill—it's a special talent we improve over time. Working on it lets us see things more clearly and understand the world better. So, keep practicing and asking questions! It'll make you a smarter thinker and help you see the world differently.

Critical Thinking Puzzles (Solutions)

The farmer, fox, chicken, and grain problem.

  • The farmer first takes the chicken across the river and leaves it on the other side.
  • He returns to the original side and takes the fox across the river.
  • After leaving the fox on the other side, he returns the chicken to the starting side.
  • He leaves the chicken on the starting side and takes the grain bag across the river.
  • He leaves the grain with the fox on the other side and returns to get the chicken.
  • The farmer takes the chicken across, and now all three items -- the fox, the chicken, and the grain -- are safely on the other side of the river.

The Rope, Jar, and Pebbles Problem

  • Take one rope and tie the jar of pebbles to its end.
  • Swing the rope with the jar in a pendulum motion.
  • While the rope is swinging, grab the other rope and wait.
  • As the swinging rope comes back within reach due to its pendulum motion, grab it.
  • With both ropes within reach, untie the jar and tie the rope ends together.

The Two Guards Problem

The question is, "What would the other guard say is the door to doom?" Then choose the opposite door.

The Hourglass Problem

  • Start both hourglasses. 
  • When the 4-minute hourglass runs out, turn it over.
  • When the 7-minute hourglass runs out, the 4-minute hourglass will have been running for 3 minutes. Turn the 7-minute hourglass over. 
  • When the 4-minute hourglass runs out for the second time (a total of 8 minutes have passed), the 7-minute hourglass will run for 1 minute. Turn the 7-minute hourglass again for 1 minute to empty the hourglass (a total of 9 minutes passed).

The Boat and Weights Problem

Take the cat over first and leave it on the other side. Then, return and take the fish across next. When you get there, take the cat back with you. Leave the cat on the starting side and take the cat food across. Lastly, return to get the cat and bring it to the other side.

The Lifeboat Dilemma

There isn’t one correct answer to this problem. Here are some elements to consider:

  • Moral Principles: What values guide your decision? Is it the potential greater good for humanity (the scientist)? What is the value of long-standing love and commitment (the elderly couple)? What is the future of young children who depend on their mothers? Or the selfless bravery of the teenager?
  • Future Implications: Consider the future consequences of each choice. Saving the scientist might benefit millions in the future, but what moral message does it send about the value of individual lives?
  • Emotional vs. Logical Thinking: While it's essential to engage empathy, it's also crucial not to let emotions cloud judgment entirely. For instance, while the teenager's bravery is commendable, does it make him more deserving of a spot on the boat than the others?
  • Acknowledging Uncertainty: The scientist claims to be close to a significant breakthrough, but there's no certainty. How does this uncertainty factor into your decision?
  • Personal Bias: Recognize and challenge any personal biases, such as biases towards age, profession, or familial status.

The Tech Dilemma

Again, there isn’t one correct answer to this problem. Here are some elements to consider:

  • Evaluate the Risk: How severe is the potential vulnerability? Can it be easily exploited, or would it require significant expertise? Even if the circumstances are rare, what would be the consequences if the vulnerability were exploited?
  • Stakeholder Considerations: Different stakeholders will have different priorities. Upper management might prioritize financial projections, the marketing team might be concerned about the product's reputation, and customers might prioritize the security of their data. How do you balance these competing interests?
  • Short-Term vs. Long-Term Implications: While launching on time could meet immediate financial goals, consider the potential long-term damage to the company's reputation if the vulnerability is exploited. Would the short-term gains be worth the potential long-term costs?
  • Ethical Implications : Beyond the financial and reputational aspects, there's an ethical dimension to consider. Is it right to release a product with a known vulnerability, even if the chances of it being exploited are low?
  • Seek External Input: Consulting with cybersecurity experts outside your company might be beneficial. They could provide a more objective risk assessment and potential mitigation strategies.
  • Communication: How will you communicate the decision, whatever it may be, both internally to your team and upper management and externally to your customers and potential users?

The History Mystery

Dr. Amelia should take the following steps:

  • Verify the Letters: Before making any claims, she should check if the letters are actual and not fake. She can do this by seeing when and where they were written and if they match with other things from that time.
  • Get a Second Opinion: It's always good to have someone else look at what you've found. Dr. Amelia could show the letters to other history experts and see their thoughts.
  • Research More: Maybe there are more documents or letters out there that support this new story. Dr. Amelia should keep looking to see if she can find more evidence.
  • Share the Findings: If Dr. Amelia believes the letters are true after all her checks, she should tell others. This can be through books, talks, or articles.
  • Stay Open to Feedback: Some people might agree with Dr. Amelia, and others might not. She should listen to everyone and be ready to learn more or change her mind if new information arises.

Ultimately, Dr. Amelia's job is to find out the truth about history and share it. It's okay if this new truth differs from what people used to believe. History is about learning from the past, no matter the story.

Related posts:

  • Experimenter Bias (Definition + Examples)
  • Hasty Generalization Fallacy (31 Examples + Similar Names)
  • Ad Hoc Fallacy (29 Examples + Other Names)
  • Confirmation Bias (Examples + Definition)
  • Equivocation Fallacy (26 Examples + Description)

Reference this article:

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Philosophy Behind Critical Thinking: A Concise Overview

Philosophy Behind Critical Thinking

The philosophy behind critical thinking delves into the deeper understanding of what it means to think critically and to develop the ability to reason, analyze, and evaluate information in a structured and systematic manner. Critical thinking has intricate connections with philosophy, mainly because it originated from ancient philosophical teachings. At its core, the concept of critical thinking is rooted in the Socratic method of questioning, which emphasizes the importance of inquiry and rational thinking as a means to achieve knowledge.

role of critical thinking

Understanding critical thinking necessitates exploring the various philosophical groundings, which delves into epistemology, the branch of philosophy that deals with knowledge, truth, and belief. Epistemological theories help elucidate different approaches to critical thinking, such as the psychological approach, focusing on cognitive processes, and the cultural and social context approach, emphasizing the importance of context in shaping critical thought. In the realm of education, the role of critical thinking cannot be understated, as it is a vital component of teaching and learning, shaping the way individuals process and interpret information and develop intellectually.

Key Takeaways

  • Critical thinking is deeply rooted in ancient philosophical teachings, particularly the Socratic method of questioning.
  • Different philosophical groundings provide varying approaches to critical thinking, such as psychological and cultural/social context approaches.
  • The importance of critical thinking in education is paramount, as it shapes how individuals process, interpret, and develop intellectually.

Understanding Critical Thinking

Definition and Process

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It involves engaging in reflective and independent thinking . To understand the logical connections between ideas, one needs to identify, construct, and evaluate arguments.

Logic, Reason, Rationality

Logic, reason, and rationality are essential components of critical thinking. Logic refers to the systematic approach to reasoning and validating claims through principles and rules. Reasoning, on the other hand, is the process of drawing conclusions based on logic, evidence, and assumptions. Rationality encompasses the use of logic and reason to make well-informed decisions, judgments, and evaluations.

Strategies and Patterns

To develop critical thinking skills, individuals must employ various strategies and recognize patterns in their thinking. Some common strategies include:

  • Analysis : Breaking down complex problems, data, or texts into simpler parts to understand what they mean and explain the implications to others.
  • Interpretation : Making sense of information and grasping its relevance in a given context.
  • Inference : Drawing reasonable conclusions based on available evidence and logic.
  • Evaluation : Assessing the credibility and validity of claims, arguments, or sources of information.

Recognizing patterns in thinking involves identifying common errors, biases, and other factors that might hinder critical thinking and refining one’s thought process accordingly.

Justification and Argumentation

Justification and argumentation play a crucial role in critical thinking. Justification refers to providing reasons or evidence in support of a claim, while argumentation involves constructing and evaluating arguments . Both justification and argumentation require logical reasoning, analysis of evidence, and clear communication of ideas.

Clarity and Reflection

Clarity is essential for effective critical thinking. This entails expressing ideas and arguments in a clear, concise, and organized manner. Furthermore, critical thinkers must also engage in reflection — the process of examining their own thought processes, assumptions, and biases. Reflecting on one’s beliefs and values helps individuals refine their thinking and develop a more nuanced understanding of the world around them.

In conclusion, understanding critical thinking involves exploring its definition, process, and key components, such as logic, reason, rationality, strategies, patterns, justification, argumentation, clarity, and reflection. By cultivating a strong foundation in these areas, individuals can develop their ability to think critically and make well-informed decisions in various aspects of life.

Psychological Approach to Critical Thinking

role of critical thinking

Cognition and Pattern Recognition

The psychological approach to critical thinking emphasizes the role of cognition and pattern recognition in the process. Cognitive psychologists recognize that our minds have a natural ability to identify patterns and relationships in the information we encounter. This involves categorizing, comparing, and evaluating various pieces of information. By developing cognitive skills, individuals can more effectively analyze and evaluate complex arguments, ultimately fostering their critical thinking abilities.

Bias and Judgments

Another aspect of the psychological approach to critical thinking is the examination of biases and judgments. Bias refers to the systematic errors or distortions in human reasoning that can arise from emotions, beliefs, or external factors. When individuals possess a strong bias, it can impede their ability to think critically and accurately evaluate information. By being aware of these biases and actively seeking to minimize their influence, one can improve their critical thinking skills and make more accurate judgments.

Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

Finally, the psychological approach to critical thinking also emphasizes the importance of problem-solving and decision-making abilities. Effective problem-solving is accomplished by identifying the problem, gathering and evaluating relevant information, and formulating potential solutions. Strong decision-making skills involve comparing potential solutions and selecting the most effective one based on logical reasoning and evidence.

In conclusion, the psychological approach to critical thinking focuses on fostering cognitive skills, identifying and minimizing biases, and developing strong problem-solving and decision-making abilities. By enhancing these aspects, individuals can become more effective critical thinkers and make well-informed decisions throughout their lives.

Philosophical Groundings

Roots of critical thought.

The roots of critical thought can be traced back to ancient Greek philosophy, particularly the ideas developed by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. In their teachings, these philosophers emphasized the importance of questioning and examining beliefs, seeking evidence, and evaluating arguments logically. Through these pursuits, they laid a strong foundation for the development of critical thinking in modern times.

Major Philosophers and Approaches

Several major philosophers and their approaches have significantly contributed to the evolution of critical thinking. Among them, Socrates’ method of inquiry, known as the Socratic Method, involves continuous questioning and probing for deeper understanding. Plato, a student of Socrates, focused on the power of dialectical reasoning, urging individuals to engage in dialogue and debate to examine their own beliefs and the beliefs of others.

Aristotle contributed to critical thinking by emphasizing the importance of logic and coherent reasoning to gain knowledge. He also explored rhetoric, expounding on its role in persuasive argumentation. In more recent times, figures such as John Dewey and Karl Marx have provided insights into the role of critical thinking in education and social transformation.

Informal Logic and its Importance

Informal logic plays a crucial role in critical thinking as it concerns the principles and methods used to analyze everyday arguments and reasoning beyond the scope of formal logic. It complements formal logic, which deals strictly with logical systems and symbols. Informal logic helps individuals assess the validity, soundness, and context of arguments encountered in daily life. By honing their skills in informal logic, individuals can become better critical thinkers and more adept at navigating complex situations and decision-making processes.

Through the teachings of philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, as well as the application of informal logic and logical reasoning, the concept of critical thinking has evolved into an essential aspect of learning and decision-making in modern society. Embracing these foundational elements can empower individuals to develop the skills necessary to think critically and effectively in various aspects of life.

Critical Thinking in Cultural and Social Context

Race and gender perspectives.

Critical thinking is a universal skill that transcends cultural and social boundaries. However, it is essential to consider the impact of race and gender on the development and exercise of critical thinking skills. People from marginalized groups may experience unique challenges and perspectives that influence their critical thinking abilities. For example, in a cross-cultural study examining critical thinking among nurse scholars in Thailand and the United States, distinctive perspectives on critical thinking were observed due to cultural differences. Understanding the intersections of race, gender, and critical thinking can help create more inclusive education and workplace environments that foster critical thinking for everyone.

Critical Thinking in a Democratic Society

In a democratic society, critical thinking plays a crucial role in informed decision-making, civic engagement, and open discussion. The healthy functioning of a democracy relies on the citizens’ capacity to discern reliable information, assess arguments, and make rational choices. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , critical thinking includes abilities and dispositions that lead individuals to think critically when appropriate. Developing these skills allows members of democratic societies to engage in productive debates, evaluate policies, and hold leaders accountable.

Culture, Society, and Critical Thinking

Cultural backgrounds and societal norms can significantly impact how individuals approach critical thinking. Different cultures may emphasize various ways of thinking, problem-solving, and expressing ideas. As a result, critical thinking can manifest differently across cultures, often influenced by aspects such as language, traditions, and values. A study discussing critical thinking in its historical and social contexts highlights the importance of considering cultural influences when evaluating and teaching critical thinking.

In summary, critical thinking is an essential skill across various cultural, racial, gender, and social contexts. By acknowledging these differences and understanding the significance of critical thinking in democratic societies, educators and societies can promote a more inclusive environment for cultivating critical thinking skills.

Role of Critical Thinking in Education

Aims of education.

The primary aim of education is to foster the development of individuals’ cognitive capabilities, empowering them to grow into confident, knowledgeable and discerning adults. Critical thinking plays a significant role in education as it helps students acquire and apply knowledge more effectively, by analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information from diverse sources in a systematic manner, leading to more accurate and informed decisions.

In addition, critical thinking allows students to question existing knowledge and challenge conventional wisdom, thus avoiding indoctrination and promoting intellectual independence. This helps in nurturing open-minded and critical citizens who can contribute positively to society.

Skills Development

Critical thinking involves a variety of skills and abilities that are essential for students’ personal and professional success. These include problem-solving, decision making, logical reasoning, and effective communication, among others. By teaching these skills in the classroom, educators enable learners to confront complex issues and dilemmas with confidence and clarity, fostering their cognitive, social, and emotional growth.

Classroom activities focused on critical thinking are essential to help students develop a systematic approach to problem-solving and sharpen their analytical skills. Practical tasks, like debates, group discussions, case studies, or role plays, can be employed to engage students in active learning, thus enhancing their critical thought processes.

Standardized Tests vs. Critical Thought

While standardized tests have dominated the contemporary education system, there is growing concern regarding their effectiveness in promoting critical thinking. Some argue that standardized tests prioritize the acquisition of specific knowledge over the development of essential skills and abilities, leading to an education that is more focused on rote memorization than meaningful learning.

However, introducing critical thinking elements in the curriculum or classroom activities does not require a complete removal of standardized tests. Educators can strike a balance between knowledge acquisition and skill development by incorporating critical thinking exercises in conjunction with traditional assessments. In doing so, students can better prepare for life beyond the classroom, developing a mindset that values continuous learning, reflection, and intellectual curiosity.

Importance of Open-Mindedness and Skepticism

Being skeptical vs. being cynical.

It is essential to understand the difference between being skeptical and being cynical. Skepticism in critical thinking involves questioning assertions and assumptions, seeking evidence, and evaluating arguments from a neutral, objective viewpoint. On the other hand, cynicism is a distrustful attitude, where one assumes negative intentions or outcomes.

A critical thinker should strive to be skeptical rather than cynical. Approaching situations with skepticism allows for the exploration of different viewpoints and the willingness to change one’s mind based on new evidence, while cynicism can lead to the dismissal of valid arguments due to preconceived negative beliefs.

Traits of an Open-Minded Thinker

Open-mindedness is an essential trait for critical thinkers. Some key characteristics of an open-minded thinker include:

  • Cognitive flexibility : Adapting to and considering new information or perspectives.
  • Tolerance for ambiguity : Accepting the possibility that there may be multiple valid solutions or interpretations.
  • Willingness to change : Being open to revising beliefs and opinions when presented with strong evidence or arguments.

Being open-minded allows critical thinkers to explore various perspectives and ideas and to evaluate them fairly. This inclination towards cognitive flexibility helps in avoiding rigidity in thinking, enabling better decision-making and problem-solving.

Role of Curiosity and Empathy in Critical Thinking

Curiosity and empathy play crucial roles in effective critical thinking. A curious individual seeks knowledge and understanding, thus asking relevant questions and engaging in Socratic questioning. Socratic questioning is a method of probing and analyzing through questions to encourage self-reflection and deeper understanding. This technique fosters critical thinking by challenging assumptions and providing opportunities to explore diverse viewpoints.

Empathy, on the other hand, permits critical thinkers to comprehend and appreciate different perspectives by placing themselves in others’ shoes. An empathetic approach contributes to open-mindedness and cultivates a sense of humility, recognizing that individuals may hold contrasting opinions based on personal experiences or beliefs. The combination of curiosity and empathy enhances critical thinking by promoting a more inclusive and nuanced understanding of complex issues and scenarios.

In the realm of philosophy, critical thinking holds a prominent position. It is a process that revolves around using and assessing reasons to evaluate statements, assumptions, and arguments in ordinary situations. The ultimate goal of critical thinking is to foster good beliefs, aligning them with goals such as truth, usefulness, and rationality 1 .

John Dewey played a crucial role in shaping the concept of critical thinking by introducing it as an educational goal 2 . He connected it with a scientific attitude of mind, highlighting the importance of reflective thought in the process of critical thinking. This approach enhances one’s ability to understand and analyze situations, leading to informed and rational decisions.

Critical thinking equips individuals with the tools necessary to think carefully with clarity, depth, precision, accuracy, and logic 3 . It has applications across various domains, such as science, where great scientists like Albert Einstein have benefited from critical thinking skills to discover groundbreaking concepts.

In conclusion, the philosophy behind critical thinking emphasizes the importance of cultivating a rational and reflective mindset. As an essential skill for problem-solving and decision-making, critical thinking plays a vital role in developing well-rounded individuals ready to navigate the complexities of the world.

  • Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy ↩
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ↩
  • SlideShare ↩

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What You Can Do To Improve Critical-Thinking Skills

Posted: October 21, 2023 | Last updated: October 21, 2023

In a technology-driven world where we are overwhelmed with information, people often make decisions without thinking things through – and then rue what they have done.

This is because decisions made without data, analysis and facts are decisions made in the dark.

People seem to have forgotten how to check credible sources, access and understand data and look at the facts.

One  study  of millennial and Gen Z workers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan found that people have so much on their minds, so many distractions overwhelming them, that they struggle to think deeply and reflectively.

But poorly thought-out plans and decisions aren’t good for business or for the career prospects of individuals.

Critical thinking is as important as ever – in business and in life – and here are a few things worth knowing about it:

  • It’s possible to train yourself to become a critical thinker, and there are steps you can take that will help. Start with challenging the norm, “We have always done it this way.” Ask these questions: “Why?” “What data supports a different way to look at a problem and come up with a solution?” “How much time have I actually set aside to think?” “How can I look for a solution with the data that I see?”
  • When you have mastered critical thinking, you can apply it to your current career, job and company — or to the next one. Critical thinking allows you to replicate success. Once I am working toward a new goal, I look back on the strategy that made me successful and replicate it.
  • Stepping back and looking at the big picture is an important part of critical thinking — but so is delving into the details and coming up with a plan, especially as it relates to work. Your plan should rely on four key components.  Data : What is it showing me, and where does the success exist?  Total addressable market : How much of the market can I capture?  Competition : Who are my top competitors, and how do I win against them? And finally,  identifying the breaks : Where am I winning and losing, and how can I get better?
  •  In a hectic world, it’s important to carve out time to think, so people should set aside an hour each day when they can be alone without distractions. Without time to think, you are on a hamster wheel, spinning and spinning but never getting ahead. This time to think should happen daily, shutting out all distractions so you can consider such things as: “What worked, what didn’t, and how do I improve?”

The bottom line is when you start to think in terms of data and solutions and strategies, you can start to see patterns and trends elsewhere in your life — and make changes to win at both your career and life.

Puja Bhola Rios  is the author of “ Get It Together: A Winning Formula for Success from the Boss You Need ” and the chief revenue officer for Frame.io, an Adobe company and the world’s premier video review and collaboration platform. Rios previously spent seven years working at Xerox and 13 years at CareerBuilder as senior vice president of Enterprise Sales and Customer Success. She also has been a chronic pain advocate and blogger, and is author of the Huffington Post feature blog, “ Me vs. Fibromyalgia .”

<a>DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images</a>

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Critical thinking definition

role of critical thinking

Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process, which is why it's often used in education and academics.

Some even may view it as a backbone of modern thought.

However, it's a skill, and skills must be trained and encouraged to be used at its full potential.

People turn up to various approaches in improving their critical thinking, like:

  • Developing technical and problem-solving skills
  • Engaging in more active listening
  • Actively questioning their assumptions and beliefs
  • Seeking out more diversity of thought
  • Opening up their curiosity in an intellectual way etc.

Is critical thinking useful in writing?

Critical thinking can help in planning your paper and making it more concise, but it's not obvious at first. We carefully pinpointed some the questions you should ask yourself when boosting critical thinking in writing:

  • What information should be included?
  • Which information resources should the author look to?
  • What degree of technical knowledge should the report assume its audience has?
  • What is the most effective way to show information?
  • How should the report be organized?
  • How should it be designed?
  • What tone and level of language difficulty should the document have?

Usage of critical thinking comes down not only to the outline of your paper, it also begs the question: How can we use critical thinking solving problems in our writing's topic?

Let's say, you have a Powerpoint on how critical thinking can reduce poverty in the United States. You'll primarily have to define critical thinking for the viewers, as well as use a lot of critical thinking questions and synonyms to get them to be familiar with your methods and start the thinking process behind it.

Are there any services that can help me use more critical thinking?

We understand that it's difficult to learn how to use critical thinking more effectively in just one article, but our service is here to help.

We are a team specializing in writing essays and other assignments for college students and all other types of customers who need a helping hand in its making. We cover a great range of topics, offer perfect quality work, always deliver on time and aim to leave our customers completely satisfied with what they ordered.

The ordering process is fully online, and it goes as follows:

  • Select the topic and the deadline of your essay.
  • Provide us with any details, requirements, statements that should be emphasized or particular parts of the essay writing process you struggle with.
  • Leave the email address, where your completed order will be sent to.
  • Select your prefered payment type, sit back and relax!

With lots of experience on the market, professionally degreed essay writers , online 24/7 customer support and incredibly low prices, you won't find a service offering a better deal than ours.

Design is all around us, but how designers think through their work is often a mystery. Understanding that process can fuel our own curiosity and creativity. Adam Fromme hosts Thinking through Design as a series of in-depth discussions to reveal the designer's mindset and realize its value. Department of Design. The Ohio State University.

Thinking Through Design Adam Fromme

  • JAN 5, 2024

05 | The role of strategy in the creative process

In this episode of the Thinking through Design podcast, host Adam Fromme sits down with Rebekah Matheny. Rebekah is an Associate Professor in the Department of Design at Ohio State University. With a Masters in Sustainable Design and a background in Interior Design and Architecture, she focuses on sensory retail experiences that fuse sustainability and brand strategies. Her research, TEDx talk and industry collaborations highlight her commitment to merging design innovation with sustainability in education and practice. Their conversation navigates the fundamental strategies behind teaching design, focusing on the tools in the symbiotic relationship between words and design strategy. In design education, this follows a gradual immersion serving as a springboard for students to employ these tools according to personal preferences or workplace demands.

  • DEC 19, 2023

04 | How making impacts the design process

In this episode of the Thinking through Design podcast, host Adam Fromme sits down with Jeff Haase Jeff is an Associate Professor and Interior Design program coordinator in the Department of Design at Ohio State University. He is known for his innovative restaurant designs, notably shaping various esteemed Columbus venues. His multifaceted career spans award-winning designs across healthcare, hospitality and corporate sectors, while his academic focus centers on redefining spatial representations. Their conversation offers a compelling insight into the evolving landscape of design education, urging designers to embrace curiosity as a catalyst for exploration and discovery. In doing so, the discussion encompasses the integration of technology, the significance of diverse tools and the enduring importance of curiosity in fostering creativity and innovation.

  • DEC 14, 2023

03 | The importance of collaborative design

In this episode of the Thinking through Design podcast, host Adam Fromme sits down with Liz Sanders and PJ Stappers.   Liz is an Associate Professor at Ohio State University, bringing a wealth of industry experience in design research. A pioneer in human-centered design methods, she has championed participatory design across disciplines, conducting workshops globally and contributing to prominent journals while co-founding MakeTools, an innovative design exploration company catering to major industry players. Pieter Jan is a Professor of Design Techniques in Industrial Design Engineering at Delft University of Technology. PJ’s research path led from human perception, spatial imagery and VR to design tool sand participatory design techniques. His specialization is in ‘research through design’, especially tools and techniques for the early phases of design (early concept prototyping, ‘experiential prototypes’ and context-mapping). In 2012, Liz and PJ published Convivial Toolbox: generative research for the front end of design. Their conversation focuses on design’s shift from product-centric approaches to inclusive, collaborative problem-solving methodologies. Their discussion offers insights into design education, the dynamic evolution of design, its impact on societal challenges and the growing importance of participatory approaches in shaping a brighter, more inclusive future.

  • DEC 9, 2023

02 | The changing role of the designer

In this episode of the Thinking through Design podcast, host Adam Fromme sits down with Paul Nini.   Paul is a Professor of Visual Communication Design in the Department of Design at Ohio State University, where he has also served as Department Chairperson, Graduate Studies Chair, Undergraduate Studies Chair, and Coordinator of the Visual Communication Design undergraduate program. He boasts a rich academic background, prolific writing, and influential roles within design education and professional organizations. Their conversation focuses on the evolving role of design in society. They discuss how this design education goes beyond aesthetics and into the multidimensional nature of design, emphasizing technology, sustainability and a user-centric approach.

  • DEC 4, 2023

01 | What does it mean to be a curious, critical thinker?

In this inaugural episode of the Thinking through Design podcast, host Adam Fromme sits down with Fabienne Münch, PhD.   Fabienne is the Chair of the Department of Design at Ohio State University, drawing from a rich career across academia and design leadership. Her research dives into how cultural diversity influences innovation in teams, focusing on EU universities and the role of designers in sustainable materials, notably work by women designers.  Their conversation focuses on curious, critical thinking. They discuss how this mindset can enhance decision-making, problem-solving, and collaboration, urging individuals to embrace curiosity, flexibility, and a user-centric perspective.

  • 1 hr 11 min

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  1. The benefits of critical thinking for students and how to develop it

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  2. 10 Essential Critical Thinking Skills (And How to Improve Them

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  1. Foundations of Critical Thinking

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

    Critical thinking is the ability to interpret, evaluate, and analyze facts and information that are available, to form a judgment or decide if something is right or wrong. More than just being curious about the world around you, critical thinkers make connections between logical ideas to see the bigger picture.

  2. 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

  3. Critical Thinking

    Critical Thinking First published Sat Jul 21, 2018; substantive revision Wed Oct 12, 2022 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.

  4. 15 Things We Have Learned About Critical Thinking

    To recap, critical thinking (CT) is a metacognitive process, consisting of a number of sub-skills and dispositions, that, when applied through purposeful, self-regulatory, reflective judgment ...

  5. Critical Thinking and Decision-Making

    Definition. Simply put, critical thinking is the act of deliberately analyzing information so that you can make better judgements and decisions. It involves using things like logic, reasoning, and creativity, to draw conclusions and generally understand things better. This may sound like a pretty broad definition, and that's because critical ...

  6. 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.

  7. Critical Thinking

    Critical Thinking is the process of using and assessing reasons to evaluate statements, assumptions, and arguments in ordinary situations. The goal of this process is to help us have good beliefs, where "good" means that our beliefs meet certain goals of thought, such as truth, usefulness, or rationality.

  8. Critical thinking

    reason. empathy. curiosity. critical thinking, in educational theory, mode of cognition using deliberative reasoning and impartial scrutiny of information to arrive at a possible solution to a problem. From the perspective of educators, critical thinking encompasses both a set of logical skills that can be taught and a disposition toward ...

  9. Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It's Important

    Because of this, employers value critical thinking—especially in roles where preparing strategy is an essential part of the job. Critical thinking is considered a soft skill, which means it's a skill inherent in a person's personality. That said, it is possible to develop this skill.

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

    The role of perspective-taking within a theory of critical thinking can thereby help address oversights in our thinking by bringing problems into the light. This broadened perspective can in turn facilitate transformative learning whereby we reorient our beliefs, actions, and way of being in the world.

  11. The Importance Of Critical Thinking, and how to improve it

    1. Critical Thinking Is Universal Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. What does this mean? It means that no matter what path or profession you pursue, these skills will always be relevant and will always be beneficial to your success. They are not specific to any field. 2. Crucial For The Economy

  12. The Role of Critical Thinking in Problem Analysis

    Critical thinking allows us to take control of our thinking rather than letting it become hijacked by convenience, mindset, assumptions, and bias. This white paper will walk you through understanding the implications of inputs (data) and influences (bias) to the reasoning process.

  13. The importance of critical thinking

    Critical thinking is a core academic skill that teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students to question or reflect on their own knowledge and information presented to them. This skill is essential for students working on assignments and performing research. It's also an invaluable skill in many workplace scenarios.

  14. The Importance of Critical Thinking

    According to the Oxford Languages dictionary, critical thinking is "the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment." It sounds relatively simple, yet we often form judgments without that all-important objective analysis/evaluation piece.

  15. On Critical Thinking

    Theoretical critical thinking involves helping the student develop an appreciation for scientific explanations of behavior. This means learning not just the content of psychology but how and why psychology is organized into concepts, principles, laws, and theories. Developing theoretical skills begins in the introductory course where the ...

  16. The Role of Critical Thinking in the Workplace

    Six Steps There are six steps to critical thinking. These are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Knowledge comes from the research gathered while using critical thinking in the workplace. In order to understand a problem, workers must first find the sources.

  17. Critical Thinking in Everyday Life

    First, keep in mind that critical thinking is simply a "deliberate thought process." Basically, it means that you are using reason and logic to come to a conclusion about an issue or decision you are tangling with. And clear, sound reasoning is something that will help you every day.

  18. The role of critical thinking skills and learning styles of university

    Critical thinking is one of the aspects of thinking that has been accepted as a way to overcome the difficulties and to facilitate the access to information in life ( 1 ). To Watson and Glizer, critical thinking is a combination of knowledge, attitude, and performance of every individual.

  19. The Critical Role of Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking plays a key foundational role in an employee's ability to master these skills. There are many definitions for critical thinking. Handlon shares his definition: "When I think of critical thinking, I think of individuals who are thinking carefully and honestly and in ways that move things forward," said Handlon ...

  20. 41+ Critical Thinking Examples (Definition + Practices)

    Put, critical thinking empowers us to make better decisions, challenge and validate our beliefs and assumptions, and understand and interact with the world more effectively and meaningfully. Critical thinking is like using your brain's "superpowers" to make smart choices.

  21. Philosophy Behind Critical Thinking: A Concise Overview

    In the realm of education, the role of critical thinking cannot be understated, as it is a vital component of teaching and learning, shaping the way individuals process and interpret information and develop intellectually. Contents. 1 Key Takeaways. 2 Understanding Critical Thinking.

  22. What You Can Do To Improve Critical-Thinking Skills

    Critical thinking is as important as ever - in business and in life - and here are a few things worth knowing about it: It's possible to train yourself to become a critical thinker, and ...

  23. PDF The Role of Critical Thinking in Academic

    When it comes to university contexts, critical thinking is defined in terms of abilities or skills such as selection, evaluation, analysis, reflection, questioning, inference and judgement (Tapper 2004). Despite the many diverging views on the nature of critical thinking, there is consensus in the literature that critical

  24. Using Critical Thinking in Essays and other Assignments

    Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process, which is why it's often used in education and academics.

  25. ‎Thinking Through Design on Apple Podcasts

    In this episode of the Thinking through Design podcast, host Adam Fromme sits down with Paul Nini. Paul is a Professor of Visual Communication Design in the Department of Design at Ohio State University, where he has also served as Department Chairperson, Graduate Studies Chair, Undergraduate Studies Chair, and Coordinator of the Visual Communication Design undergraduate program. He boasts a ...

  26. The Crucial Role of Critical Thinking in Education.pdf

    Title: The Crucial Role of Critical Thinking in Education Introduction: Critical thinking is a fundamental skill that plays a pivotal role in education, empowering students to analyze information, solve problems, and make informed decisions. In an ever-changing and complex world, the cultivation of critical thinking skills is essential for fostering independent, analytical, and adaptable learners.