Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following :
- understand the logical connections between ideas
- identify, construct and evaluate arguments
- detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
- solve problems systematically
- identify the relevance and importance of ideas
- reflect on the justification of one's own beliefs and values
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.
Critical thinking should not be confused with being argumentative or being critical of other people. Although critical thinking skills can be used in exposing fallacies and bad reasoning, critical thinking can also play an important role in cooperative reasoning and constructive tasks. Critical thinking can help us acquire knowledge, improve our theories, and strengthen arguments. We can use critical thinking to enhance work processes and improve social institutions.
Some people believe that critical thinking hinders creativity because it requires following the rules of logic and rationality, but creativity might require breaking rules. This is a misconception. Critical thinking is quite compatible with thinking "out-of-the-box", challenging consensus and pursuing less popular approaches. If anything, critical thinking is an essential part of creativity because we need critical thinking to evaluate and improve our creative ideas.
§1. The importance of critical thinking
Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. The ability to think clearly and rationally is important whatever we choose to do. If you work in education, research, finance, management or the legal profession, then critical thinking is obviously important. But critical thinking skills are not restricted to a particular subject area. Being able to think well and solve problems systematically is an asset for any career.
Critical thinking is very important in the new knowledge economy. The global knowledge economy is driven by information and technology. One has to be able to deal with changes quickly and effectively. The new economy places increasing demands on flexible intellectual skills, and the ability to analyse information and integrate diverse sources of knowledge in solving problems. Good critical thinking promotes such thinking skills, and is very important in the fast-changing workplace.
Critical thinking enhances language and presentation skills. Thinking clearly and systematically can improve the way we express our ideas. In learning how to analyse the logical structure of texts, critical thinking also improves comprehension abilities.
Critical thinking promotes creativity. To come up with a creative solution to a problem involves not just having new ideas. It must also be the case that the new ideas being generated are useful and relevant to the task at hand. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in evaluating new ideas, selecting the best ones and modifying them if necessary
Critical thinking is crucial for self-reflection. In order to live a meaningful life and to structure our lives accordingly, we need to justify and reflect on our values and decisions. Critical thinking provides the tools for this process of self-evaluation.
Good critical thinking is the foundation of science and democracy. Science requires the critical use of reason in experimentation and theory confirmation. The proper functioning of a liberal democracy requires citizens who can think critically about social issues to inform their judgments about proper governance and to overcome biases and prejudice.
§2. The future of critical thinking
In January 2016, the World Economic Forum issued a report "The Future of Jobs". It says:
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets over the next five years, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape.
The top three skills that supposed to be most relevant are thinking skills related to critical thinking, creativity, and their practical application. These are the cognitive skills that our website focuses on.
§3. For teachers
- The ideas on this page were discussed in a blog post on edutopia. The author uses the critical thinking framework here to apply to K-12 education. Very relevant to school teachers!
Critical Thinking is more than just a concept, it is a real-life model upon which you can build successful and efficient problem solving skills, skills that prove highly valuable in the workplace and beyond.
This technique, with its roots in Greek philosophy, is the application of logic to enable better, more reasoned decision-making. It can revolutionise your everyday life, by improving how you interpret opinions, rationalisations and problem solving practices.
Critical Thinking is a system that is often misjudged as criticism, but rather it focuses on the ability to follow logical steps and arrive at a decisive and appropriate conclusion.
With some careful and structured training, you too can become a more informed, reasoned decision maker.
- Approach. With Critical Thinking, one of the crucial learning developments is an awareness of differing approaches to a problem, alongside an ability to assess those approaches critically. Rather than relying on a standard, uniform problem-solving method, you can learn how to identify other, often more valuable, approaches, inevitably increasing your success.
- Save time with a Critical Thinking mindset. You will already know that not all information is relevant to your decision-making, but often we do not know how to filter out the irrelevant from the relevant. Critical Thinking teaches you how to prioritise your time and resources by analysing what is essential to the process. This also helps you to know that a decision is ultimately a good one.
- An appreciationof differing worldviews is a direct result of learning how to empathise with other points of view. Critical Thinking enables you to see beyond, not judge, cultural norms and learn how to understand other factors that can influence decision-making. This empathy and understanding is crucial to effective teamwork and leadership.
- Enhanced Communication. By teaching you to analyse and build your evidence for any given premise, Critical Thinking can make you a more effective communicator. Consistent and relevant points to support your theory are pivotal in communicating a proposal or idea proficiently. When you know your stuff, so will they.
- Decision-making abilities are transformed with a Critical Thinking approach, and made a lot easier. You leave intuition or guesswork decision-making behind, and begin to work on a more analytical and considered basis, resulting in sounder decisions.
- Reason. Not only will you become a more reasoned and balanced problem solver, you will learn the two types of reasoning – inductive and deductive – and when it is appropriate to use one over the other. Grounding decisions in reason and logic over emotion or instinct makes for effectual problem solving.
Filtered is an award-winning online training platform which personalizes learning material for each user. By asking users questions about their role, aspiration and proficiency, the platform’s machine learning algorithm is able to pinpoint skills gaps and filter out material that the user doesn’t need or already knows. This minimises time spent training, maximises the impact of learning and increases productivity.
Over 800,000 users have studied our Microsoft and Business skills courses and our clients include many blue chip firms. We also have a learning recommendation engine - globalfilter - which connects content to learners based on role, career aspirations and organisational priorities, in less than 30 seconds.