On a daily basis, we face problems and situations that should be evaluated and solved, and we are challenged to understand different perspectives to think about these situations. Most of us are building our cognitive thinking based on previous similar situations or experiences. However, this may not guarantee a better solution for a problem, as our decision may be affected by emotions, non-prioritized facts, or other external influences that reflect on the final decision. Therefore, critical thinking tends to build a rational, open-mined process that depends on information and empirical evidence.
The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as an “intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” The process tends to help us judge and evaluate situations based on understanding the related data, analyze it, build a clear understanding of the problem, choose the proper solution, and take actions based on the established solution.
The critical thinking process prevents our minds from jumping directly to conclusions. Instead, it guides the mind through logical steps that tend to widen the range of perspectives, accept findings, put aside personal biases, and consider reasonable possibilities. This can be achieved through six steps: knowledge, comprehension, application, analyze, synthesis, and take action. Below is a brief description of each step and how to implement them.
Step 1: Knowledge
For every problem, clear vision puts us on the right path to solve it. This step identifies the argument or the problem that needs to be solved. Questions should be asked to acquire a deep understanding about the problem. In some cases, there is no actual problem, thus no need to move forward with other steps in the critical thinking model. The questions in this stage should be open-ended to allow the chance to discuss and explore main reasons. At this stage, two main questions need to be addressed: What is the problem? And why do we need to solve it?
Step 2: Comprehension
Once the problem is identified, the next step is to understand the situation and the facts aligned with it. The data is collected about the problem using any of the research methods that can be adopted depending on the problem, the type of the data available, and the deadline required to solve it.
Step 3: Application
This step continues the previous one to complete the understanding of different facts and resources required to solve the problem by building a linkage between the information and resources. Mind maps can be used to analyze the situation, build a relation between it and the core problem, and determine the best way to move forward.
Step 4: Analyze
Once the information is collected and linkages are built between it the main problems, the situation is analyzed in order to identify the situation, the strong points, the weak points, and the challenges faced while solving the problem. The priorities are set for the main causes and determine how they can be addressed in the solution. One of the commonly used tools that can be deployed to analyze the problem and the circumstances around it is the cause effect diagram, which divides the problem from its causes and aims to identify the different causes and categorize them based on their type and impact on the problem.
Step 5: Synthesis
In this stage, once the problem is fully analyzed and all the related information is considered, a decision should be formed about how to solve the problem and the initial routes to follow to take this decision into action. If there are number of solutions, they should be evaluated and prioritized in order to find the most advantageous solution. One of the tools that contribute choosing the problem solution is the SWOT analysis that tends to identify the solution’s strength, weakness, opportunity, and threats.
Step 6: Take Action
The final step is to build an evaluation about the problem that can be put into action. The result of critical thinking should be transferred into action steps. If the decision involves a specific project or team, a plan of action could be implemented to ensure that the solution is adopted and executed as planned.
The critical thinking method can be adopted to replace emotions and perusal biases when trying to think about a situation or a problem. The time for adopting critical thinking varies based on the problem; it may take few minutes to number of days. The advantage of deploying critical thinking is that it contributes to widening our perspectives about situations and broadening our thinking possibilities. However, these steps should be translated into a plan of action that ensures that the decided resolution is well achieved and integrated between all the involved bodies.
Reichenbach: An Introduction to Critical Thinking
Critical thinking involves the use of a group of interconnected skills to analyze, creatively integrate, and evaluate what you read and hear. To become a critical thinker you must be able to decide whether an author�s opinions are true or false, whether he or she has adequately defended those ideas, whether certain recommendations are practical, as well as whether particular solutions will be effective.
Critical Thinking Dispositions
Critical thinking involves certain dispositions. A disposition is a tendency to act or think in a certain way. Review the list of dispositions that are characteristic of critical thinkers.
To learn how to think critically, one must learn skills that build upon each other. Only by concentrating on and practicing these basic skills can mastery of critical thinking be achieved. The author lists three basic characteristics of the skills required to think critically: they are interconnected (review a sample list of these skills), they build on each other, and they are goal-oriented in that we can constantly apply them to situations in everyday life.
- Characteristics of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking involves the use of a kind of thinking called reasoning, in which we construct and/or evaluate reasons to support beliefs. Critical thinking also involves reflection � the examination and evaluation of our own and others� thoughts and ideas. Finally critical thinking is practical. Actions are more rational if they are based on beliefs that we take to be justified. Critical thinking then, is the careful, deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject or suspend judgement about the truth of a claim or a recommendation to act in a certain way.
Review what the guiding model of the text. This model is discussed in steps or stages. For each step note the specific headings to help you identify the level discussed.
Step 1: Knowledge
In terms of critical thinking, the basic level of acquisition of knowledge requires that you be able to identify what is being said: the topic, the issue, the thesis, and the main points. See Chapter Three.
Step 2: Comprehension
Comprehension means understanding the material read, heard or seen. In comprehending, you make the new knowledge that you have acquired your own by relating it to what you already know. The better you are involved with the information, the better you will comprehend it. As always, the primary test of whether you have comprehended something is whether you can put what you have read or heard into your own words. Review some key words that help you identify when comprehension is called for. Remember that comprehending something implies that you can go beyond merely parroting the material back but instead that you can give the material your own significance.
Step 3: Application
Application requires that you know what you have read, heard, or seen, that you comprehend it, and that you carry out some task to apply what you comprehend to an actual situation. Review the some tasks that require application.
Step 4: Analysis
Analysis involves breaking what you read or hear into its component parts, in order to make clear how the ideas are ordered, related, or connected to other ideas. Analysis deals with both form and content. Reviewhow critical thinkers analyze form. Reviewhow critical thinkers analyze content.
- Step 5: Synthesis
Synthesis involves the ability to put together the parts you analyzed with other information to create something original. Review some key words that help you identify when synthesis is called for.
Step 6: Evaluation
Evaluation occurs once we have understood and analyzed what is said or written and the reasons offered to support it. Then we can appraise this information in order to decide whether you can give or withhold belief, and whether or not to take a particular action. Review some key words that help you identify when synthesis is called for. Never put evaluation ahead of the other steps in critical thinking steps; otherwise, you will be guilty of a "rush to judgement." When emotion substitutes for reasons, evaluation incorrectly precedes analysis.
- Who was the author of the Declaration of Independence? Answer
- Compare and contrast the themes of Jack London�s Call of the Wild and White Fang. Answer
- design. Answer
- with the others? Siren, Kelpie, Lorelei, Amazon. Answer
- Combining the theories of John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, and John Rawls, sketch out your own theory of social justice. Answer
- Using Question 7, give three ways Congress could implement your theory of social justice. Answer
- Write a critique of last night�s drama department performance of Twelfth Night. Answer
- Define and explain the term, "a priori." Answer
- On the cadaver of the fetal pig in the biology laboratory, identify the aorta, the heart and the lungs. Answer
- On the map at the front of the class, identify the country of Indonesia. Answer
- Clarification Abilities�the ability to discern the thesis and main points of what you read and hear. See Chapter Three.
- Inference-related Abilities�making an inference that some true statements provide reasons to think that other statements are true. Review some requirements for working with inferences.
- Ability to Employ Strategies�adapting to unique situations and problems effectively in a carefully reasoned way. Review what the ability to employ strategies enables you to do.
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