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A Beginner’s Guide To Critical Thinking

In this fast-paced, ever-changing world, people have a tendency to make quick fixes in terms of problem-solving and decision making. However, there is also the possibility of dealing with negative consequences as a short or long-term effect of too much simplification. Major concerns, therefore, need critical thinking.

In 1987, the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking came up with formal definitions of critical thinking as:

  • the 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
  • something based on, in its exemplary form, universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness
  • entailing the examination of those structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue; assumptions; concepts; empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from alternative viewpoints; and frame of reference
  • being incorporated in a family of interwoven modes of thinking, among them: scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, and philosophical thinking

History has it that the philosopher Socrates paved the way for critical thinking some 2,500 years ago. He is the man behind the Socratic Questioning, the teaching method in critical thinking being referred to as “the importance of seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications not only of what is said but of what is done as well”. Another known philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, stressed the importance and power of critical thinking during the Middle Ages in his writings and teachings, which expounded that critical thinkers would only question beliefs that are established yet weak in reason and basis. European scholars in the Renaissance period such as Erasmus, Colet and Moore followed suit as a new breed of critical thinking practitioners, while Francis Bacon of England strongly suggested that gathering information is way better than allowing the mind think naturally. Other noteworthy personalities that contributed to the development of critical thinking through the years include the likes of Descartes (Rules For the Direction of the Mind), Sir Thomas Moore (Utopia), Machiavelli (The Prince), Hobbes, Locke, Robert Boyle (Sceptical Chymist), Sir Isaac Newton, Bayle, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations), Comte, Spencer, Charles Darwin (Descent of Man), Sigmund Freud, William Graham Sumner (Folkways), John Dewey, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Apart from Socratic Questioning, Bloom’s Taxonomy can also be a guide to proper critical thinking by developing necessary skills such as formulating the best questions. It is composed of three domains: Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor. The Cognitive domain gets people to think at an advanced level, Affective makes them react positively by developing a keen interest in learning, and Psychomotor is about turning their ingenuity ideas into action.

Critical thinking is essential in daily living, especially in school and at work. It occurs early in childhood as a young individual’s motivation to learn about himself and his environment is driven by curiosity, considering his sponge-like mind (learning through play or from experience). In a bigger picture like the corporate world, employees of any rank are expected to be mature and level-headed in creating solutions to problems and decisions when it comes to projects and job promotion offers – leading to possible outcomes e.g. a more harmonious relationship within an organization. Best examples of critical thinkers are entrepreneurs and people working in courts and the government. Forbes.com enumerates critical thinking as one of the most in-demand skills among employers in hiring professionals.

Improving one’s critical thinking skills involves eight basic steps: 1.) Self-questioning (how you’d cope if you have no options available to do what needs to be done), 2.) Understanding own purpose, 3.) Analyzing another person’s purpose with empathy, 4.) Being aware and in-the-know about helpful alternatives, 5.) Being more logical in making every analysis, 6.) Learning critical jargon for a more concrete and focused critique, 7.) List down good, bad and interesting (GBI technique) points, and 8.) Justify and offer suggestions for improvement every time you are not in favor of an idea, concept or method. These ten simple exercises in developing critical thinking would be of great help as well:

By scenario

  1. If you were to die tomorrow, ten things you would do today
  2. You are left stranded on an island. God grants you three things that can be kept with you when alone. What would they be?
  3. If you were given the chance to exchange roles with your best friend/partner, would you like it? Why?

Math

  1. Connect the dots
  2. Count the shapes within a shape

Socratic Thinking (Choose a particular national or global issue)

  1. Making counter-arguments
  2. Creating and justifying opinions

Others

  1. Fact or perception?
  2. Sorting and grouping
  3. Compare and contrast

(22) Comments

  • Krizzalie Paras January 27, 2015 @ 10:52 pm

    “Being a critical thinker is the very first quality one must have in order to be a scientist”, this phrase has been taught to us during my elementary years. Aside from being a critical thinker, one must not ignore the facts and be open-minded. A lot of us, when we are under a lot of pressure, we make a lot of impulsive decisions which are not the best choices for a circumstance. This article helps us in making critical thinking a habit that in order to arrive to the best decision, we must think, think and weigh the pros and cons of every choice thrown on us.

  • Emma Claire P. Claveria January 30, 2015 @ 5:47 pm

    Critical thinking is being able to weigh scenarios/situations for the benefit of the many. It is the ability that involves one’s trust and confidence in calling the shot even under pressure.

    The above article is actually well-researched and very informative.

  • Emma Claire P. Claveria February 2, 2015 @ 5:11 pm

    Critical thinking is a process of being able to weigh scenarios/situations for the benefit of the many. It is the ability that involves one’s trust and confidence in calling the shot even under pressure.

    The above article is actually well-researched and very informative that it can be used is several scenarios that may come our way. The steps in critical thinking presented in the article can help one develop to do so.

  • Renee Evangeline M. Granadino February 2, 2015 @ 5:16 pm

    In a nutshell, critical thinking is the ability to understand the logical connections between ideas, rationalize, and think clearly even under pressure. I do agree that with the changing technology, we people, tend to become impatient and make short-term solutions to issues and situations. We forget to stop, analyze, and think deeper on the sensible answers to our questions. We should never overlook on the beauty of reflection and evaluation.

  • Hazel Faye S. Cuba February 2, 2015 @ 8:06 pm

    Critical thinking allows us to decide and reason considering all angles in a situations. It opens up our mind to other options, other than a simple choice between A and B. We explore alternatives and learn to choose what will be the most beneficial. We develop new ideas and we find ways to apply them. The enumerated exercises are actually very common but very effective in developing critical thinking.

  • Roderick Aguisanda February 7, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

    Critical thinking is often associated to people whose train of thought is rendered exceptional or even unmatched, especially with his theories and solutions. Critical thinking is about using the information you are able to gather and some stock knowledge in order to solve a problem in the best way possible or it can also be about generating an idea that is acceptable for the current situation.

  • Nina Galang February 8, 2015 @ 4:45 am

    Critical thinking is the habit of analyzing or characterizing of the issues, problems or situation that needed to give an answer or solution. It will exercise your mind to think deeper than your usual depth of thinking. It can help you to have the best solutions or answers if you practice doing it.

  • Marie Therese A. Bahala February 8, 2015 @ 3:00 pm

    Critical thinking is “thinking outside the box”. Rather than coming up with quick solutions, a decision must be thought over before finalizing. First things first, never panic. Panicking leads to immature decisions and can have long term effects. However, there will always be situations wherein we’re under pressure and we only have an ample time to make haste decisions. Always remember to think outside the box, think of the possibilities and the consequences, the pros and the cons, what works and what doesn’t. Surely, the best decision will prevail.

  • Joel O. Rosuman February 8, 2015 @ 3:55 pm

    Developing our critical thinking is our guide to daily living. Life is a full of decisions to be made and what we think is what we get. Hence, to be successful in our journey of life, we must always think critically. This article give us effective guide to use and adopt so that we can continue developing our way of deciding things at work, at home and to everything we do.

  • Nelbem J. Santillan February 8, 2015 @ 4:41 pm

    Critical thinking as defined and i quote, “thinking about thinking”. People has always been a thinker and that’s our nature. We conceptualize, apply, analyze,synthesize and evaluate information. Yes, I agree that our “curiosity” drives us to explore and learn more about things around us. In the corporate world where I belong, everything that we do requires us to think first especially in decision making and I think the eight basic steps will help me improve my critical thinking skills.

  • Josephine Tolentino February 9, 2015 @ 10:21 am

    I believe that critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself
    or herself. Critical thinking can help us acquire knowledge, improve our theories, and strengthen arguments. May be we can use it to enhance work processes and improve our social well being. I may associate it with thinking “out-of-the-box”. If anything, critical thinking is an essential part of creativity because we need critical thinking to evaluate and improve our creative ideas.

  • Annabie Galaura February 9, 2015 @ 1:31 pm

    Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. It is our way to understand the logical connections between ideas. We figure out how to use what we already know in order to go beyond to what we already think. I find the article very educational as it helps me gain more knowledge, regulates my judgment, improves my theories in solving problems systematically which I believe is an asset for any career. And more importantly it promotes creativity.

  • Leo Wilfred R. Caban February 9, 2015 @ 4:30 pm

    Learning is considered a continuous and a life-long process. Nobody is restricted from gaining knowledge that is essential to everyday life. However, as a beginner, basic ideas or knowledge gained through experiences should be enhanced and geared up toward higher level and more complex responsibility. What have been learned or taught during the initial or first pursuit in our job must be developed and completely associated with what we are doing right now and in the next phase of our existence. Thus, as human being with plans for higher achievements, we must continuously improve our knowledge and skills through continuous education.

  • Annabelle G. Mercado February 9, 2015 @ 5:54 pm

    Critical thinking is the ability to deduce, rationalize and discern beyond the happenings that comes in our way.

  • Pamela G. Mendoza February 9, 2015 @ 7:04 pm

    I agree that people tends to make quick fixes in terms of problem solving and decision making. Critical thinking helps us to be mature and level headed in creating solutions to problems, how to arrived at a decision and considering the effect of such action. This is particularly true when we tend to make haste decision without thinking of the consequences. It helps us to be rational in making decision and taking into consideration its effect.

  • ARNEL T. GALLOR February 9, 2015 @ 7:07 pm

    For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, this is Newton’s Third Law of Motion which can be used as a great example that in everything you think or do there is always a positive or negative effect that is why critical thinking is very important in your every decision. I also noticed the Four Way Test on road signs that says 1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?, this is a good checklist to follow.

  • ARNEL T. GALLOR February 10, 2015 @ 11:28 am

    For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, this is Newton’s Third Law of Motion. We can relate this in everything we think or do, that there will always be a positive or negative effect for our decisions. I also noticed The Four Way Test on road signs that says 1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? which is a very good guide in our daily decision making.

  • Ma. Loida A. Rosario February 10, 2015 @ 7:21 pm

    It’s been nature and quality of an individual to be a critical thinker. Critical Thinking is that being able to think/plan/find solution when a particular problem or big problem arises. The qualities of person to be critical thinker are being resourceful, open-minded, and curious and a decision maker.

  • Chrischelle Mae R. Jumarang February 10, 2015 @ 7:27 pm

    Based on my own perception, Critical thinking is the matter of evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion in one thing. It also creates a new possibilities for the development of knowledge,skills and ideas.

  • Krizia Karla A. Tanqueco February 10, 2015 @ 8:10 pm

    I agree with the article above. It helps the readers when they need to have a quick decision and in times of problem solving. “Critical Thinking” is essential to take into consideration the possible outcome to be able to have a good decision even in the short period of time.

  • mylene dominguez February 10, 2015 @ 10:18 pm

    Critical thinking is important in order to come up with the right judgment of how things are.
    People are disturbed with the things happening around the world and critical thinking is required for everyone.

  • JUANITO U. UROLAZA JR February 10, 2015 @ 10:34 pm

    Critical thinking can help us enhanced and strengthens all acquired knowledge. Out of our curiosity, we tend to learn from gaining ideas and accumulating information to all the things around us. Also, it teaches us how to analyze people’s arguments and explains the main “fallacies” that are used to deceive and confuse.

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