We keep hearing about critical thinking and the importance of developing critical thinking skills. The importance given to the topic might have the opposite effect on us, however, discouraging us from pursuing improvement in this area.
The truth, however, is that there is nothing intimidating about critical thinking. Critical thinking refers to the ability to judge things clearly and rationally, an ability each of us theoretically possesses. It’s basically an intentional thought process which is based around a number of critical thinking skills, and which results in making an informed decision as to what to do about the respective issue.
There are seven main critical thinking skills:
1. Analysis skills, that is being able to dissect a problem into its component parts, to understand their nature, their functions, as well as the logical connection between these ideas, facts, or processes.
2. Standardizing, which refers to applying consistent standards (be they personal, professional, or social standards) when judging situations.
3. Discriminating among things or situations, recognizing both similarities and differences, and also identifying their importance and relevance to solving a certain situation.
4. Searching for relevant information that might help understand a situation, identifying relevant sources, and collecting relevant information which can provide evidence or knowledge of a fact.
5. Logical reasoning, which refers to the ability to detect inconsistencies, as well as to draw conclusions based on facts and evidences.
6. Prediction skills – being able to create a plan of action that you know will work, and predicting the consequences.
7. Adapting information you already had. This can allow you to transfer experience in a certain area to the present situation, and has the benefit of using already verified methods, which gives you a better starting position.
Although critical thinking is a pretty straightforward process, simply being aware of the skills necessary is not enough. As with any other structured though process, it requires discipline, awareness, and responsibility, but you also need to be able to look for additional information, to adapt it and use it independently, and to draw personal conclusions based on the entire process.