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Tuesday, 01 November 2011 01:53

Critical Thinking

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The current class I am taking is called "Critical Thinking". I thought the "definition" below was interesting:

Critical Thinking: The art of thinking about thinking while thinking in order to make thinking better.

From the textbook: Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life
by Richard Paul and Linda Elder

My brain hurts.


1. Use "wasted" time.

We all waste at least some time in the course of our daily lives. We don't always manage it well or use it productively. Why not capitalize on the time you routinely squander by using it to practice thinking about your thinking? For example, say you regularly get stuck in traffic on your commute home from work or school. Instead of stewing behind the wheel while distractedly listening to the radio, you could use the time to mentally review your day, evaluating your thinking for its strengths and weaknesses.

2. Handle one problem per day.

Each day, choose one problem in your life to think through systematically. Identify its elements in order to figure out the logic of the problem. Ask yourself, what exactly is the problem and how can it be formulated as a question?

3. Internalize intellectual standards.

Every week, incorporate one of the following universal intellectual standards into your thinking:

  • clarity
  • accuracy
  • precision
  • relevance
  • depth
  • breadth
  • logic
  • significance
  • fairness

For example, say you focus on precision for the week. Try to notice whenever you are imprecise in communicating with others. Be alert to when your position in an argument lacks specifics. When you read, be conscious of the absence of details offered by the author to support a point.

4. Keep an intellectual journal.

Compose a certain number of journal entries weekly. Use the following entry format:

  • Describe only events or situations you care deeply about
  • Describe one event or situation at a time
  • Describe your behavior with respect to the event or situation (What did you say and/or do? How did you react?)
  • Analyze exactly what was occurring in the event or situation. Your analysis should plumb beneath the surface.
  • Assess the implications of your analysis. (What did you learn? What would you do differently if you could relive the event or situation?)

5. Practice intellectual strategies.

Choose a strategy from among those outlined in Chapter 17 (on strategic thinking) of Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life. Apply it. As you do, record your observations on what you learn about yourself and how you can use the strategy to better your thinking.

6. Reshape your character.

Select one intellectual trait (e.g., intellectual humility, courage, empathy, etc.) each month to aspire toward. Focus on what you can do to cultivate that trait in yourself.

7. Deal with your ego.

Be conscious of how your behavior is driven by egocentric thinking. To sharpen your observation of your own ego in action, consider daily questions like the following:

  • Did I behave irrationally in order to get my way?
  • Did I try to impose my will on others?
  • Did small things make me irritable?

The first step is to identify egocentric thinking in action. Once you do, you can strive to replace it with more rational thinking. The path from egocentricity to rationality is systematic self-reflection.

8. Redefine the way you see things.

How one defines a situation - the meaning one ascribes to it - drives how one feels about it and acts in it. Be mindful that nearly any situation can be defined in more than one way. This fact presents you a prime opportunity to make your life more constructive and fulfilling.

Many situations in our lives that we define negatively could be redefined positively. When we transform a "con" into a "pro," we gain rather than lose. So practice redefining the way you see things. Convert negatives into positives, mistakes into learning opportunities, and dead-ends into new directions.

9. Get in touch with your emotions.

Work to identify the causes of negative emotion in your personal experience. Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • What, exactly, is the thinking that leads to this emotion?
  • How might this thinking be flawed?

10. Analyze group influences on your life.

Contemplate the impact on how you act of social groups to which you belong. Analyze what behavior is encouraged and discouraged, respectively. What does any given group expect, or even require, you to believe? What are you proscribed from doing?

Recognizing how one's social memberships influence what one thinks and how one behaves is vital to one's development as a critical thinker.

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Layne Cope

I am a geek. A Windows geek to be exact. I do all things computer. I do like outdoor activities; camping, fishing, riding my hawg, etc. but I always gravitate back to the computer. In fact, between work, the biz and other stuff, if I am not on the 'puter for 14 - 16 hours a day, I feel deprived!

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