Critical thinking refers to the process of actively analyzing, assessing, synthesizing, evaluating and reflecting on information gathered from observation, experience, or communication. It is thinking in a clear, logical, reasoned, and reflective manner to solve problems or make decisions. Basically, critical thinking is taking a hard look at something to understand what it really means.
Critical thinkers do not simply accept all ideas, theories, and conclusions as facts. They have a mindset of questioning ideas and conclusions. They make reasoned judgments that are logical and well thought out by assessing the evidence that supports a specific theory or conclusion.
When presented with a new piece of new information, critical thinkers may ask questions such as;
“What information supports that?”
“How was this information obtained?”
“Who obtained the information?”
“How do we know the information is valid?”
“Why is it that way?”
“What makes it do that?”
“How do we know that?”
“Are there other possibilities?”
Combination of Analytical and Creative Thinking
Many people perceive critical thinking just as analytical thinking. However, critical thinking incorporates both analytical thinking and creative thinking. Critical thinking does involve breaking down information into parts and analyzing the parts in a logical, step-by-step manner. However, it also involves challenging consensus to formulate new creative ideas and generate innovative solutions. It is critical thinking that helps to evaluate and improve your creative ideas.
Elements of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking involves:
- Gathering relevant information
- Evaluating information
- Asking questions
- Assessing bias or unsubstantiated assumptions
- Making inferences from the information and filling in gaps
- Using abstract ideas to interpret information
- Formulating ideas
- Weighing opinions
- Reaching well-reasoned conclusions
- Considering alternative possibilities
- Testing conclusions
- Verifying if evidence/argument support the conclusions
Developing Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking is considered a higher order thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, deduction, inference, reason, and evaluation. In order to demonstrate critical thinking, you would need to develop skills in;
Interpreting: understanding the significance or meaning of information
Analyzing: breaking information down into its parts
Connecting: making connections between related items or pieces of information.
Integrating: connecting and combining information to better understand the relationship between the information.
Evaluating: judging the value, credibility, or strength of something
Reasoning: creating an argument through logical steps
Deducing: forming a logical opinion about something based on the information or evidence that is available
Inferring: figuring something out through reasoning based on assumptions and ideas
Generating: producing new information, ideas, products, or ways of viewing things.
Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised
Strategies for Critical Thinking and Synthesizing (con't)
- Reading Skills (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill ) Weekly tips, how to, and student resource handouts to teach the following: Active Reading in the Classroom; Analytic Reading; Graphic Organizers; Three-step Approach to Reading; Reading Success with Expository Texts
- Review, Write, Rate and Revise - elementary research process tutorial from the Oregon State Library System
- Review Your Notes ... elemetary research process tutorial from the Oregon State Library System
- Revise! - secondary research process tutorial from the Oregon State Library System
- Secondary Literacy: Classroom Literacy Strategies/Resources (Ministry of Education, Wellington, New Zealand ) Great bibliography of web resources to teach literacy.
- ( Arizona State University West ) ...a very practical guide using Post-It notes and a clustering process. See benefits of this model.
- 7 Critical Reading Strategies Previewing, contextualizing, questioning to understand and remember, reflecting, and others.
- The Reading Lady.com - Mosaic Reading Tools - This source includes a WEALTH of resource for all kinds of ideas and strategies to increase student reading comprehension competencies. Resources include lesson plans, assessments, worksheets, and even PowerPoint presentation.
- SQ3R(Learning Object -© 2005 Wisc-Online) This activity explains the SQ3R technique which learners can apply immediately in their reading of text assignments. It explains independent and cooperative learning strategies to support retention of the material.
- Strategies for Effective Use of Science Reading Materials ( Salt Lake City School District) Includes before, during, and after strategies for K-6, 7-8, and 9-12.
- Summary Writing (Learning Object -© 2005 Wisc-Online) Students demonstrate an understanding of summary writing by reading step-by-step instructions and then summarizing short paragraphs. Examples of summaries that are poorly written, as well as those that are written well, are included.
- Technology Integration Resources for [Reading Comprehension] Strategies That Work (Harvey and Goudvis) Outstanding resource that provides web and print resources to teach the following reading strategies to primary, intermediate, and upper level students: Making Connections, Questioning, Visualizing; Inferring, Determining Importance, Synthesizing. Includes links to examples, handouts, articles, and lessons.
- Time to Create! ... elementary research process tutorial from the Oregon State Library Information System
- Twenty Best-Practices to Teach Reading Strategies (Journey North) Activate Prior Knowledge | Adjust Reading Rate/Rereading | Ask Questions: Before, During, and After Reading | Classify or Categorize Information | Compare and Contrast Ideas | Distinguish Facts from Opinions | Identify and Analyze Text Structure | Identify Author’s Purpose: Why Did the Author Write the Selection? | Identify Author’s Viewpoint: What Does the Author Think? | Identify Main Ideas and Supporting Details | Make Inferences and Draw Conclusions | Make Generalizations | Make and Refine Predictions | Paraphrase/Retell | Recognize Cause and Effect Relationships | Sequence Events | Summarize Information | Synthesize New Information
- Introduction to Syntheses Michigan State University
- Write What You've Learned - elementary research process tutoiral from the Oregon State Library System
- Writer's Toolbox For Building Arguments (Allyn & Bacon) A great source that prompts students to think critically about what they read. Checklists are provided to assist with preparing arguments in preparation for writing. Some are Analyzing Sources of Disagreement | Determining the Core of an Argument | Determining Claim Types.
- Writing a Topic Outline(Learning Object -© 2001 Wisc-Online) Students will read a mini-lesson and apply information from the mini-lesson to an activity using the outline template provided. As a result, the learner will develop and submit a word-processed outline for a speech.
Reading Research and Articles