Critical Thinking and its Process

Critical thinking can mean many things to many different people. Some would consider themselves to be advanced in the art of critical thinking, while the people around them, such as their bosses, might be hesitant about their skill level. Some people would go as far as saying that an attack on the skills of critical thinking is one of the most fundamental attacks on freedom. Across the board, people have failed to teach and value critical thinking.

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In order to critically think, people must make reasoned judgments that are thought out and logical. Critical thinking is not about being right when it comes to an argument. Critical thinking is focused on improving thinking abilities. To critically think, people must be self-directed, self-disciplined, and self monitored. Critical thinking has more to it than most people believe. It takes discipline and the ability to put bias to the side to come to a sound and reasonable conclusion.

Defining Critical Thinking

The word “critical” has been most often used with a negative connotation. People often hear the word “critical” and immediately associate it with the word “criticize,” but when talking about critical thinking, the connotation takes a neutral meaning. When people begin to think critically, they are not trying to find a problem with the subject. Critical thinking is simply the act of gaining jurisdiction over thoughts. It is the refusal to accept a concept just because someone said it to be true or because people are weary to ask questions (Pearson).

Critical thinking is thought to be of the upmost importance for academic success. Critical thinking pushes people to use intellectual standards to enhance thinking while using criteria and rational justifications to come to a conclusion. Therefore, those that use critical thinking are more apt to clarify their thinking or render it more accurate and logical (Thomas and Walker, 1997).

The Critical Thinking Process

Many people may have been turned away from critical thinking because of the exertion of energy and depth of thinking that it requires. It would be effortless for people to simply adopt the ideas and opinions of parents or influential people around them. It seems easier to not go against the common denominator and stick with opinions that blend in with the rest, but critical thinking can be less painful than expected. There is a five-step process that helps to enhance peoples’ abilities to think critically. Before people can think critically, they must know what they are trying to form an opinion on. To do this, people must formulate a question, deciding what is relevant. The second step is gathering information. Once information is gathered, people are able to use data and answers to weigh different options. This helps to move one step closer to the answer that subjects are seeking.

Once information has been gathered, the information that has been collected must be applied. To do this, people must ask critical questions to decide what concepts are at work. Also, this application helps people decide what assumptions exist and if interpretation of the information is logically sound. Then the implications and long-term effects of the subject that is being studied must be considered. Lastly, it is necessary to explore other points of view. Even if critical thinkers cannot find any common ground with the opposite side of the argument, they must seek out why so many people are drawn to the opposition. This allows thinkers to explore alternatives, evaluate choices, and make more informed decisions (Agoos, 2016).

Impediments to Critical Thinking

Impediments in learning to think critically can be found around every corner. Everyone has an opinion, and people cannot avoid hearing them. Whether people turn on the TV to watch a movie, open a magazine or newspaper, or drive down the road and see billboards, opinions are everywhere, and they cannot be avoided. When people are constantly hearing opinions from media, advertisements, magazines, or commercials, it is virtually impossible not to unconsciously form an opinion based on the information around them. This is considered an impediment to critical thinking.

There are, also, the All-or-Nothing thinking, Us-versus-Them thinking, and stereotyping, which all come between people and their ability to critically think efficiently. These ways of thinking oversimplify reality, which is extremely complex. Even more than people’s thoughts being skewed by medias’ opinions and the opinions of other people, some educational systems reduce the level of critical thinking done by students. Students spend their educational careers memorizing and regurgitating information onto a multiple-choice test that does not require any deeper thought.

There are, also, four deeper impediments that find themselves interwoven into the thoughts of every person. These impediments can never be completely overcome. These impediments include egocentrism, developmental patterns of thinking, and personal experience. Each person puts themselves at the center of their lives and experiences. Experiences are highly influenced by the desire to have what is wanted and what is thought to be true, leaving people in a realm of egocentrism. People, also, develop ways of thinking as they age. Children’s actions are highly influenced by the need to feel safe and be loved, which carries over into different aspects of life. Lastly, people form opinions based on personal experience or the lack of. Due to personal experiences, people are often biased in their thinking about different topics (Nosich, 2012).

Role of Emotion

Emotions tend to have a negative connotation. People believe that thinking with emotion leads to illogical conclusions, but emotions can play a vital role in critical thinking. Emotions give data, and being logical is linked to having feelings. A person must be able to monitor feelings and emotions while being able to discriminate among them for use in guiding thinking and actions. This is known as emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability of people to understand their emotions and others feelings and using this ability effectively in our relationships.

There are four parts of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skills. Self-awareness is being aware of someone’s emotions and how they feel. Self-management is how people manage their own emotions and actions. Social awareness is the understanding of other people’s feelings and concerns. Lastly, social skills are peoples’ abilities to proficiently interact and communicate with others in a social setting. These four factors come together to form emotional intelligence, which plays a key role in success for the critical thinker.

Critical Thinking Self-Assessment

I answered a majority of the questions on the critical thinking self-assessment correctly. One of my key issues during the assessment was my inability to take my time while applying the information. I tend to excel when gathering information because I am good at examining information and asking questions, but my critical thinking evaluation score would have been higher if I would have taken my time applying it. With more practice in this skill, my critical thinking skills would increase and my assessment score would go up.

Conclusion

Critical thinking is an important aspect in success. It takes self-discipline and deeper levels of thinking. People must use their emotional intelligence while being careful not to use bias or fall prisoner to other impediments that come between people and their success in critical thinking. While some might excel in critical thinking, it is a lost skill that can be improved across the board.

References

  1. Agoos, S. (2016, March 15). 5 steps to improve your critical thinking. [Video file] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dItUGF8GdTw
  2. Nosich, G. M. (2012). Chapter 1: What is critical thinking? In G. M. Nosich’s, Learning to think things through: A guide to critical thinking across the curriculum (4th ed.). Pearson
  3. Education. Retrieved from https://www.pearsonhighered.com/assets/samplechapter/0/1/3/7/0137085141.pdf
  4. Pearson (n.d.). What is critical thinking? Retrieved from http://wps.pearsoncustom.com/wps/media/objects/3388/3469470/ch05.pdf
  5. Thomas, C., & Walker, P. C. (1997). A critical look at critical thinking. Western Journal of Black Studies,21(4), 221. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=6&sid=8c4d71fe-6b72-4da5-81f0-e4cd41bfdbcf@sessionmgr4007 
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