Reichenbach: An Introduction to Critical Thinking
Critical thinking involves the use of a group of interconnected skills to analyze, creatively integrate, and evaluate what you read and hear. To become a critical thinker you must be able to decide whether an author�s opinions are true or false, whether he or she has adequately defended those ideas, whether certain recommendations are practical, as well as whether particular solutions will be effective.
Critical Thinking Dispositions
Critical thinking involves certain dispositions. A disposition is a tendency to act or think in a certain way. Review the list of dispositions that are characteristic of critical thinkers.
To learn how to think critically, one must learn skills that build upon each other. Only by concentrating on and practicing these basic skills can mastery of critical thinking be achieved. The author lists three basic characteristics of the skills required to think critically: they are interconnected (review a sample list of these skills), they build on each other, and they are goal-oriented in that we can constantly apply them to situations in everyday life.
- Characteristics of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking involves the use of a kind of thinking called reasoning, in which we construct and/or evaluate reasons to support beliefs. Critical thinking also involves reflection � the examination and evaluation of our own and others� thoughts and ideas. Finally critical thinking is practical. Actions are more rational if they are based on beliefs that we take to be justified. Critical thinking then, is the careful, deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject or suspend judgement about the truth of a claim or a recommendation to act in a certain way.
Review what the guiding model of the text. This model is discussed in steps or stages. For each step note the specific headings to help you identify the level discussed.
Step 1: Knowledge
In terms of critical thinking, the basic level of acquisition of knowledge requires that you be able to identify what is being said: the topic, the issue, the thesis, and the main points. See Chapter Three.
Step 2: Comprehension
Comprehension means understanding the material read, heard or seen. In comprehending, you make the new knowledge that you have acquired your own by relating it to what you already know. The better you are involved with the information, the better you will comprehend it. As always, the primary test of whether you have comprehended something is whether you can put what you have read or heard into your own words. Review some key words that help you identify when comprehension is called for. Remember that comprehending something implies that you can go beyond merely parroting the material back but instead that you can give the material your own significance.
Step 3: Application
Application requires that you know what you have read, heard, or seen, that you comprehend it, and that you carry out some task to apply what you comprehend to an actual situation. Review the some tasks that require application.
Step 4: Analysis
Analysis involves breaking what you read or hear into its component parts, in order to make clear how the ideas are ordered, related, or connected to other ideas. Analysis deals with both form and content. Reviewhow critical thinkers analyze form. Reviewhow critical thinkers analyze content.
- Step 5: Synthesis
Synthesis involves the ability to put together the parts you analyzed with other information to create something original. Review some key words that help you identify when synthesis is called for.
Step 6: Evaluation
Evaluation occurs once we have understood and analyzed what is said or written and the reasons offered to support it. Then we can appraise this information in order to decide whether you can give or withhold belief, and whether or not to take a particular action. Review some key words that help you identify when synthesis is called for. Never put evaluation ahead of the other steps in critical thinking steps; otherwise, you will be guilty of a "rush to judgement." When emotion substitutes for reasons, evaluation incorrectly precedes analysis.
- Who was the author of the Declaration of Independence? Answer
- Compare and contrast the themes of Jack London�s Call of the Wild and White Fang. Answer
- design. Answer
- with the others? Siren, Kelpie, Lorelei, Amazon. Answer
- Combining the theories of John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, and John Rawls, sketch out your own theory of social justice. Answer
- Using Question 7, give three ways Congress could implement your theory of social justice. Answer
- Write a critique of last night�s drama department performance of Twelfth Night. Answer
- Define and explain the term, "a priori." Answer
- On the cadaver of the fetal pig in the biology laboratory, identify the aorta, the heart and the lungs. Answer
- On the map at the front of the class, identify the country of Indonesia. Answer
- Clarification Abilities�the ability to discern the thesis and main points of what you read and hear. See Chapter Three.
- Inference-related Abilities�making an inference that some true statements provide reasons to think that other statements are true. Review some requirements for working with inferences.
- Ability to Employ Strategies�adapting to unique situations and problems effectively in a carefully reasoned way. Review what the ability to employ strategies enables you to do.
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Chapter 5. The First Four Stages of Development: What Level Thinker Are You?
Most of us are not what we could be. We are less. We have great capacity, but most of it is dormant and undeveloped. Improvement in thinking is like improvement in basketball, ballet, or playing the saxophone. It is unlikely to take place in the absence of a conscious commitment to learn. As long as we take our thinking for granted, we don't do the work required for improvement.
Development in thinking is a gradual process requiring plateaus of learning and just plain hard work. It is not possible to become an excellent thinker by simply taking a beginning course. Changing one's habits of thought is a long-range project, happening over years, not weeks or months. The essential traits of a critical thinker, which we examined briefly in Chapter 3, require an extended period of development.
Here are the stages we go through if we aspire to develop as thinkers (Figure 5.1):
Stage 1 The Unreflective Thinker (we are unaware of significant problems in our thinking)
Stage 2 The Challenged Thinker (we become aware of problems in our thinking)
Stage 3 The Beginning Thinker (we try to improve, but without regular practice)
Stage 4 The Practicing Thinker (we recognize the necessity of regular practice)
Stage 5 The Advanced Thinker (we advance in accordance with our practice)
Stage 6 The Master Thinker (skilled and insightful thinking becomes second nature)
In this chapter, we will explain the first four stages with the hope that understanding these stages, even at a provisional level, will help you begin to grasp what is necessary in order to develop as a thinker. Only through years of advanced practice can one become an "advanced" or "master" thinker.