Critical Thinking Skills : Definition, Examples & How to Improve

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June 2, 2020

Reading Time: 7 minutes

In today’s world, critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. The overall concept refers to a careful thought process that is directed towards a specified goal. The process differs based on the type of goal, criteria and norms, resources available, and the competition. 

 

What are critical thinking skills?

In proper terms it may be defined as “the ability to think logically and rationally by understanding the connections between various messages and thoughts. It is the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking.”

Adopting it as an educational goal helps the students to become independent and prepare their path of success. “Critical thinkers” are known for their ability of reasoning. They do not accept things as they are. They try to understand the logic behind in order to derive a result. Including critical thinking as an educational goal have showcased signs of improvement, self-development, and adoption of a systematic approach amongst children. Critical thinking has helped them in their research to come to the best possible conclusion. Therefore, the importance of critical thinking can just not be ignored.

 

Importance of Critical Thinking

Apart from this, some of the other reasons to show the importance of critical thinking are:-

  • It helps to understand the links between the ideas.

  • It helps to follow a step by step approach to a problem.

  • It helps to determine the relevance of arguments and ideas.

  • It helps to identify inconsistencies and errors.

  • It helps to reflect upon the assumptions, beliefs, and values.

  • It is goal-oriented and objective-driven.

  • It ensures the validity of an argument.

  • It helps to analyze the alternatives available and choose amongst them.

  • It simplifies the decision-making process.

  • It helps to identify the mistakes in the steps previously undertaken.

Critical thinking is a continuous process. There isn’t any universal standard as to what critical thinking skills are required in the process. There can be plenty of skills that differ from person to person. So what are these critical thinking skills?

 

Important Critical Thinking Skills

Some of the most important critical thinking skills for students in the critical thinking process are as follows:-

  1. Identification 

It is very important to identify the situation or the problem and the factors that are influencing it. Once we develop a clear picture, only then can we begin to dive deeper to find potential solutions. A very important skill required in this step is asking questions. Questioning will help us understand all the aspects of the scenario.

 

  1. Research

The next step is to undergo independent research on the problem statement. A careful examination of the dataset and information demands analytical skills, decision making and judgmental skills, and skepticism. Verify the sources of information, facts, and figures. Evaluate the various alternatives that are present. Don’t skip an eye from unsourced data. Try to find out these sources, if possible.

 

  1. Identify biases

This could be an extremely difficult step, but one of the smartest to implement. Critical thinkers must be objective-driven. Identify both the sides of a problem statement – for and against. Also keep in mind the bias that each side may possess. Critical thinkers must set aside their own personal biases to arrive at an independent judgment. Take this step to be a challenge to improve your explanation and presentation skills, assessment skills, observation and reflection skills, and prediction skills.

 

  1. Inference 

Inference refers to the ability to interpret and draw conclusions based on the data/information present before you. It is important to carefully undergo steps two and three in order to have a proper inference. It is advised to make proper notes while performing the previously mentioned steps to arrive at a proper decision. For this, you must choose a direction and must know how to conceptualize and draw connections between different things mentioned in the raw data. This will also boost creativity and innovation skills.

 

  1. Determining relevance

Another very important step is to determine the relevance i.e. the importance of a particular point. There may be times when you are presented with information which seems to be important, but is actually not. Therefore, it is always advised to have a proper goal or an objective that will show help to set a  proper direction. 

 

  1. Curiosity

In the end, you can be a good critical thinker only when you are curious to find the hidden agenda behind the topics. Some people are naturally curious, but others have to undergo training for this. This step requires active listening and proper communication. It also demands clarification of the thought process. It will help you to develop an open mind that will foster fairness and independent thinking.

 

Some of the other critical thinking skills that we deem fit for a student are emotional intelligence, adaptability, brainstorming, planning, management, developing relationships, case analysis, swot analysis, quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, teamwork, ongoing improvement, and personal behavior.

 

Critical Thinking Examples in Education

There are various examples critical thinking examples in education Some of these critical thinking examples are mentioned below:-

  • Ask questions — A very important critical thinking skill is questioning. Therefore every student must be encouraged to ask questions. No question must be considered as a bad question. Questioning, especially open-ended questions, will give a chance to students to apply their wits while undergoing research. It will allow them to solve a problem all by themselves and boost their confidence. This will also make them expressive in front of their peers.

  • Decision-making — Teachers must act as a guide in the learning process. Students must be encouraged to apply their knowledge and evaluate alternative solutions and finally arrive at the best option. This will help them understand both sides of the topic. It will also boost them to come out with the best answer along with a proper reason.

  • Group Work — Group projects and group discussions can be an excellent way to inculcate critical thinking skills in a student. This will ensure cooperative learning and will also expose students to the thought process of others. It will help them widen their horizon of thinking. The group members can segregate the task into smaller works and take up individual responsibilities. This will ensure a more detailed analysis.

  • Incorporate different points of view — Students tend to be very creative. Therefore, as a teacher, it is very important to encourage them to think out of the box. A teacher must understand the thought process of the children and provide them with feedback. This will help them to look at the different angles for the same topic and then develop an opinion.

  • Connect the dots — Students must be encouraged to connect different raw data points to come to a meaningful conclusion. Teachers must help them to apply their prior knowledge to new contexts. They can come up with such problems that have multiple answers and then ask students to solve it. This will help the teachers to understand the thought process of the child.

The next question that pops up is, “how to improve critical thinking?” To answer this, we have some tips for you:

 

How to improve critical thinking

  1. Hone your questioning ability 

Questioning is the main skill behind critical thinking. You must basically start questioning everything, be it assumptions or things that you don’t understand. Your questions can be like, “what information about the problem do we have?” or “how do you have that information?” etc. This will help you develop simple solutions before assuming complexities.

 

  1. Create a mind map

Critical thinking is a step by step process to arrive at a conclusion. Therefore, it is very important to create a virtual map which will direct us to the solution of the problem statement. Break your problem statement into small activities. After that rearrange the activities as per their priorities. This will help you focus on each and every step properly.

 

  1. Adjust Your Perspective

Critical thinking demands independence of thoughts. Therefore, it is always recommended to set aside the biases. Don't just follow a particular side (for example, for the topic). It is very much important to analyze and understand the opposite side too (i.e. against the topic). Go through each and every resource available with you to do an in-depth study.

 

  1. Think In Reverse 

This is a fascinating and effective technique for solving puzzles. For example, if A causes B, ask yourself “what if B caused A?” It's like the famous case of the chicken and the egg. Thinking in reverse doesn’t always give you an immediate solution. However, it is useful in developing a pathway.

 

  1. Develop Foresight

It is very important to have an objective. It is towards this objective that your actions must be directed. You must start developing the habit of analyzing the consequences of a particular step undertaken.

 

  1. Reason through logic

Critical thinking is basically logical thinking. Therefore, whenever you ask a question, you must have proper reasons to support your question. The same goes for the answers. It is very important to have a logic and a reason behind the answers that you derive.

 

  1. Collaboration 

Working in groups and group discussions are actually one of the most effective ways of developing and improving critical thinking skills. This will help you understand the thought process of each and every person in your team and come to work with a collaborative solution.

 

People who are good with mathematics are often good with all the critical thinking skills that are mentioned above. It is the first subject that a student starts learning which is actually directed towards critical thinking abilities. Therefore, it is very important to build a strong foundation in mathematics. 

Mathematics is considered to be a hallmark subject for improving logical reasoning and critical thinking. Numeracy refers to the ability to apply mathematics in day to day life. One of the most basic reasons for developing mathematical skills is that it has both simple and complex problems which allows an individual to navigate through a step-by-step process of learning it. In many countries mathematics is considered to be a mandatory subject in school education. 

This adds to the problem-solving ability, reasoning, fluency, and understanding. It involves both critical and creative thinking. Mathematics is the subject which is always supported by facts and reasons. It has several approaches to come to an answer. In Mathematics each topic is related to some other topics. It provides an opportunity for higher-level thinking with meaningful reasons, deciding between the alternatives, problem-solving, and decision making. 

Teachers must carefully provide their feedback and allow students to explore and investigate. They must encourage students to practice mathematics on a regular basis. 

Cuemath is an online platform that teaches mathematics to students from class KG to class 10. It believes in developing a strong foundation and hence starts teaching from the very beginning. Students who learn out of our platform showcases 2X times better results when compared to their peers. The only reason behind this is that Cuemath encourages reasoning and thinking amongst its students. Our teachers act as a guide for our students. Instead of solving a problem by themselves, they encourage students to do the same. Once the students come up with an answer, our teachers provide them with their reviews, corrections, and feedback. Through our online platform and a maths application, we try to be in contact with your child at every moment. This helps us understand the decision-making ability and thought process of the child. Not only this, but our assignments are also very well prepared for students to evaluate each and every alternative answer and come up with the best one. This way, through a proper understanding and teaching of mathematics, we try to develop the various critical thinking abilities and skills that are required by an individual. Join us for a better learning and a bright future. 

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