understandable, the meaning can be grasped
free from errors or distortions, true
exact to the necessary level of detail
relating to the matter at hand
containing complexities and multiple interrelationships
encompassing multiple viewpoints
the parts make sense together, no contradictions
focusing on the important, not trivial
Justifiable, not self-serving or one-sided
There are numerous other standards that may be applied to elements on a contextual basis. Here are just a few:
Completeness, Validity, Rationality, Sufficiency, Necessity, Feasabilty, Consistency, Authenticity, Effectiveness, Efficiency
Can you identify others standards relevant to your situation?
Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. If we want to think well, we must understand at least the rudiments of thought, the most basic structures out of which all thinking is made. We must learn how to take thinking apart.
All Thinking Is Defined by the Eight Elements That Make It Up. Eight basic structures are present in all thinking: Whenever we think, we think for a purpose within a point of view based on assumptions leading to implications and consequences. We use concepts, ideas and theories to interpret data, facts, and experiences in order to answer questions, solve problems, and resolve issues.Thinking, then:
- generates purposes
- raises questions
- uses information
- utilizes concepts
- makes inferences
- makes assumptions
- generates implications
- embodies a point of view
Element: Purpose All reasoning has a PURPOSE.
Element: Question All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some QUESTION, to solve some problem.
Element: Information All reasoning is based on DATA, INFORMATION and EVIDENCE.
Element: Interpretation and Inference All reasoning contains INFERENCES or INTERPRETATIONS by which we draw CONCLUSIONS and give meaning to data.
Element: Concepts All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, CONCEPTS and IDEAS.
All reasoning is based on ASSUMPTIONS.
Element: Implications All reasoning leads somewhere or has IMPLICATIONS and CONSEQUENCES.
Element: Point Of View All reasoning is done from some POINT OF VIEW.
Think About... PurposeYour purpose is your goal, your objective,
what you are trying to accomplish. We also use the term to include functions, motives, and intentions.
You should be clear about your purpose, and your purpose should be justifiable.
Questions which target purpose
State the QuestionThe question lays out the problem or issue and
guides our thinking. When the question is vague, our thinking will lack clarity and distinctness.
The question should be clear and precise enough to productively guide our thinking.
Questions which target the question
Gather... InformationInformation includes the facts, data, evidence, or experiences we use to figure things out. It does not necessarily imply accuracy or correctness.
The information you use should be accurate and relevant to the question or issue you are addressing.
Questions which target information
Watch Your... InferencesInferences are interpretations or conclusions you come to. Inferring is what the mind does in figuring something out.
Inferences should logically follow from the evidence. Infer no more or less than what is implied in the situation.
Questions to check your inferences
Clarify Your... ConceptsConcepts are ideas, theories, laws, principles, or hypotheses we use in thinking to make sense of things.
Be clear about the concepts you are using and use them justifiably.
Questions you can ask about concepts
Check Your... Assumptions
Assumptions are beliefs you take for granted. They usually operate at the subconscious or unconscious level of thought.
Make sure that you are clear about your assumptions and they are justified by sound evidence.
Questions you can ask about assumptions
Think Through the...
Implications and Consequences
Implications are inherent in your thoughts, whether you see them or not. The best thinkers think through the logical implications in a situation before acting.
Questions you can ask about implications
Point of View
view something. It includes what you are looking at and the way you are seeing it.
Make sure you understand the limitations of your point of view and that you fully consider other relevant viewpoints.
Questions to check your point of view
It entails the examination of those structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue; assumptions; concepts; empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from alternative viewpoints; and frame of reference. Critical thinking — in being responsive to variable subject matter, issues, and purposes — is incorporated in a family of interwoven modes of thinking, among them: scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, and philosophical thinking.
Critical thinking can be seen as having two components: 1) a set of information and belief generating and processing skills, and 2) the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior. It is thus to be contrasted with: 1) the mere acquisition and retention of information alone, because it involves a particular way in which information is sought and treated; 2) the mere possession of a set of skills, because it involves the continual use of them; and 3) the mere use of those skills ("as an exercise") without acceptance of their results.
Critical thinking varies according to the motivation underlying it. When grounded in selfish motives, it is often manifested in the skillful manipulation of ideas in service of one’s own, or one's groups’, vested interest. As such it is typically intellectually flawed, however pragmatically successful it might be. When grounded in fairmindedness and intellectual integrity, it is typically of a higher order intellectually, though subject to the charge of "idealism" by those habituated to its selfish use.
Critical thinking of any kind is never universal in any individual; everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought. Its quality is therefore typically a matter of degree and dependent on, among other things, the quality and depth of experience in a given domain of thinking or with respect to a particular class of questions. No one is a critical thinker through-and-through, but only to such-and-such a degree, with such-and-such insights and blind spots, subject to such-and-such tendencies towards self-delusion. For this reason, the development of critical thinking skills and dispositions is a life-long endeavor.
Another Brief Conceptualization of Critical Thinking
Why Critical Thinking?
Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced. Yet the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated.
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking - about any subject, content, or problem - in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and
imposing intellectual standards upon them.
A well cultivated critical thinker:
- raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
- gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
- thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
- communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.
Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.
(Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008)
Critical Thinking Defined by Edward Glaser
In a seminal study on critical thinking and education in 1941, Edward Glaser defines critical thinking as follows “The ability to think critically, as conceived in this volume, involves three things: ( 1 ) an attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one's experiences, (2) knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and (3) some skill in applying those methods. Critical thinking calls for a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends. It also generally requires ability to recognize problems, to find workable means for meeting those problems, to gather and marshal pertinent information, to recognize unstated assumptions and values, to comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity, and discrimination, to interpret data, to appraise evidence and evaluate arguments, to recognize the existence (or non-existence) of logical relationships between propositions, to draw warranted conclusions and generalizations, to put to test the conclusions and generalizations at which one arrives, to reconstruct one's patterns of beliefs on the basis of wider experience, and to render accurate judgments about specific things and qualities in everyday life.
(Edward M. Glaser, An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking, Teacher’s College, Columbia University, 1941)
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