Developing critical thinking in college programs

Teaching Critical Thinking Why is it Important?

Developing critical thinking in college programs

Developing your critical thinking skills is something that takes concentrated work. It can be best to begin by exploring the definition of critical thinking and the skills it includes—once you do, you can then venture toward the crucial question at hand: How can I improve?

This is no easy task, which is why we aimed to help break down the basic elements of critical thinking and offer suggestions on how you can hone your skills and become a better critical thinker. What is critical thinking? Critical thinking is the analysis of an issue or situation and the facts, data or evidence related to it.

Developing critical thinking in college programs

Ideally, critical thinking is to be done objectively—meaning without influence from personal feelings, opinions or biases—and it focuses solely on factual information.

Critical thinking is a skill that allows you to make logical and informed decisions to the best of your ability. For example, a child who has not yet developed such skills might believe the Tooth Fairy left money under their pillow based on stories their parents told them.

A critical thinker, however, can quickly conclude that the existence of such a thing is probably unlikely—even if there are a few bucks under their pillow.

Focusing on these can put you on the path to becoming an exceptional critical thinker. Identification The first step in the critical thinking process is to identify the situation or problem as well as the factors that may influence it.

Once you have a clear picture of the situation and the people, groups or factors that may be influenced, you can then begin to dive deeper into an issue and its potential solutions. When facing any new situation, question or scenario, stop to take a mental inventory of the state of affairs and ask the following questions: Who is doing what?

What seems to be the reason for this happening? What are the end results, and how could they change? Research When comparing arguments about an issue, independent research ability is key. Arguments are meant to be persuasive—that means the facts and figures presented in their favor might be lacking in context or come from questionable sources.

The best way to combat this is independent verification; find the source of the information and evaluate. It can be helpful to develop an eye for unsourced claims.

Does the person posing the argument offer where they got this information from? Identifying biases This skill can be exceedingly difficult, as even the smartest among us can fail to recognize biases.

Strong critical thinkers do their best to evaluate information objectively. It is equally important—and arguably more difficult—to learn how to set aside your own personal biases that may cloud your judgement. First and foremost, you must be aware that bias exists. When evaluating information or an argument, ask yourself the following: Who does this benefit?

Does the source of this information appear to have an agenda? Inference The ability to infer and draw conclusions based on the information presented to you is another important skill for mastering critical thinking.

The ability to infer allows you to extrapolate and discover potential outcomes when assessing a scenario. It is also important to note that not all inferences will be correct. For example, if you read that someone weighs pounds, you might infer they are overweight or unhealthy.

Other data points like height and body composition, however, may alter that conclusion. An inference is an educated guess, and your ability to infer correctly can be polished by making a conscious effort to gather as much information as possible before jumping to conclusions.

When faced with a new scenario or situation to evaluate, first try skimming for clues—things like headlines, images and prominently featured statistics—and then make a point to ask yourself what you think is going on.

Determining relevance One of the most challenging parts of thinking critically during a challenging scenario is figuring out what information is the most important for your consideration. Are you tasked with finding a solution? Should you be identifying a trend?

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Developing Critical Thinking Skills