“Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts” – William Bruce Cameron
Critical thinking is a rich concept that has been developing throughout the past 2500 years. This is a widely accepted educational goals. The use of the term critical thinking has been dated back to the teachings of Socrates recorded by Plato. Socrates maintained that for an individual to have a good life or to have one that is worth living, he must be a critical questioner and possess an interrogative soul.
According to Barry K. Beyer (1995), critical thinking means making clear, reasoned judgements.
Critical thinking is the process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion. It is an appraisal based on careful analytical evaluation. This is a type of thinking pattern that requires people to be reflective and pay attention to decision- making which guides their beliefs and actions. The thinker thinks about his thinking in a manner that is designed to organize, clarify and recognize errors and biases in one’s own thinking.
There is a general agreement to all definitions of critical thinking and that is the desire to reach a satisfactory result.
Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas. It is about being an active learner and not a passive receptor of information.
WHO IS A CRITICAL THINKER?
Critical thinkers are self- guided and self- disciplined; they are people who think critically consistently and attempt to live rationally, reasonably and empathically. They are keenly aware of the imperfect nature of human thinking when left unchecked. These people try to diminish the power of their egocentric and sociocentric tendencies. Critical thinkers are balanced thinkers. They try to moderate their thinking so as to make sure they are not overthinking or under thinking. They are focus on destinations and not dramas.
Critical thinkers gathers and assess relevant information using abstract ideas to interpreted it effectively, comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions and test them. Critical thinkers use the illectual tools that critical thinking provides; concepts and principles that enable them to analyze, assess and improve thinking. They recognize the complexities in developing as thinkers and commit themselves to practice towards self- improvement. They also take others into consideration and try to understand the reason for people’s action as everybody understands things from their own perspective.
As a critical thinker, you should realize that no matter how profound you are as a thinker, you can always get better in your reasoning abilities and you will at times make mistakes in reasoning due to prejudices, self- interest, distortion, human irrationality and biases. You should strive to improve your world in whatever way that you can. You should think open- mindedly recognizing assumptions and implications, communicate effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.
10 FEATURES OF A CRITICAL THINKER
A critical thinker portrays many features as these features help them think and act rationally. Some of the features are:
- A critical thinker observes and has a high level of awareness
The awareness skill is very vital in helping to think critically. This characteristic allows you to know when to use critical thinking. It is impossible to understand every aspect of a problem or a situation. Observation is the best way of learning about the world, its limitations and laws. The more you use this skill as a critical thinker, the more experienced you become. Experience tends to build out potential to observe the smallest details and analyze them critically.
- A critical thinker is a curious person
Being curious about your surroundings, environment and the world makes you want to change things around you. Curious people ask questions and begin to look for answers. They want to know more, they are really inquisitive.
If you think critically, you must not settle for the facts. This process helps you to learn new things and discover new sides to your knowledge. This inquisitive and curious nature will help you to keep an open mind and channel you to gain deeper knowledge. It is crucial for a critical thinker.
- A critical thinker employs introspection in his dealings
Introspection refers to the process through which we can analyze our thoughts. This is thinking about how you think about things. It relates to self- reflection. It will give you this level of alertness and attentiveness and scrutinizes your biases. It is very important in critical thinking. Meditation allows you to question yourself and your perspective of life.
“The essence of independent mind does not lie in what you think but in how you think” -Christopher Hitchens
- A critical thinker is analytical in thinking
This feature helps you break information down to its component parts and evaluate how well those parts function together and separately. As a critical thinker, you should look at various forms of information and analyze it.
When analyzing, you approach all sides of an issue. This is essential to understand the best line of action. Analyses rely on observation; on gathering and evaluating evidence so you can come to a meaningful conclusion.
- A critical thinker identifies biases
This is one relevant feature of a critical thinker. No one is free from bias. When thinking critically, you must challenge your attitude towards a problem. This helps in giving a better solution to any problem that you face.
You have to identify the evidence that forms your beliefs and assess whether or not the sources are credible, understand your biases and question your preconceived notions. You will understand soon that the information you have received is not complete and could be improved.
- A critical thinker tries to determine the relevance of information
It should be noted that you cannot use all the data and information provided to you. You should have the ability to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information. A large amount of unfiltered information makes your work ambiguous and baseless and you could be misguided.
To grow this skill, put together what information is the most important, meaningful and relevant to your situation. In most cases, information could be meaningful and relevant, but might not be important in solving the current issues. You will have to be able to look at the source information and identify unnecessary details easily.
- A critical thinker is compassionate and shows empathy
Though we have being asked to keep emotions in check when making important decisions. Compassion and empathy are two qualities that can significantly help your decision- making skills.
Critical thinking is not totally about having a lot of intelligence. It is important to note that we are still human and we have emotions. Everyone have gone through different challenges and have passed through hurdles that have shaped their lives into who they are today. We should always think of the well-being and betterment of the people around us.
As a critical thinker, you should celebrate the uniqueness of everyone.
- A critical thinker never settles for less
Critical thinkers question their status quo. They never settle for things that do not satisfy them. As a critical thinker, you should question your sense of judgement and continue to improve even when you feel satisfied. You need to examine the practices which are prevalent to build something new. You need to keep adding innovations to old methods. This will boost your creativity and productivity.
- A critical thinker is open- minded
A critical thinker wants to hear all perspectives and not jump into conclusions. They embrace other’s opinions and views. As a critical thinker, you have to see all the sides of the issue at hand and not fix your mind on a particular aspect.
You shouldn’t be biased or take sides when solving problems. Always review all possible ideas and opinions before determining the results and action to take.
“Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought”
- A critical thinker listens attentively
Listening to others and analyzing the information helps you arrive at conclusions that couldn’t have reached on your own. Critical thinkers don’t just want to get their point across to others, they are also careful to engage in active listening. They ask questions to help them distinguish facts from assumption and gathers information and seek to gain insight by asking open- ended question.
BENEFITS OF CRITICAL THINKING
In critical thinking, we do not only accumulate information well, we also know how to use the information to deduce important facts and outcome.
Here are some benefits of critical thinking:
- Critical thinking will help to improve your skill of decision making
Critical thinkers are known for making the best choices. Critical thinking will help you deal with everyday problems as they come your way. Making big-life changing decision needs analysis and rational thinking. This process will help you think independently and trust your gut feeling.
- Critical thinking is a key to career success
Critical thinking is very important for many careers. Almost every career be it a doctor, lawyer, engineer and many others all use critical thinking. It is a very desirable skill to have in the workplace as it will enable you to think outside the box, solve problems innovatively and plan systematically.
- Enhances problem solving skills
Solving problems is part of a critical thinker’s basic and natural instinct. These people are committed to solving problems and they are patient. They have the potential to change the world they live.
“No problem is solved by the same consciousness that created it. We need to see the world anew” – Albert Einstein
- It creates room for independence
Thinking critically will make you trust yourself and judgement. This process is key to creating independence and self- reliance and students should be encouraged to make their own decision and form their own opinions.
- It promotes curiosity
Critical thinkers are constantly curious about life and many things about life and also have a wide range of interest. As a critical thinker, you ask questions constantly and want to know more and broaden your horizon about everything that happens around you. They do not take anything at face value.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning” – Albert Einstein
- It promotes and improves creativity
When you think critically, you are allowing yourself not to only solve problems, but also come up with new and unique ways to solve the problems. Critical thinkers are also highly creative thinkers and are unlimited when it comes to possibilities. The ability of this category of thinkers to consider and analyze different point of view and opinions makes them stand out and become creative.
“The human mind once stretched by a new idea never goes back to its original dimension” – Oliver Wendell Homes
- It can make you happier
When you allow yourself to think critically, you will have a deep understanding of why you think the way you think. Critical thinking will help you understand yourself better and switch off any kind of negative thought and limiting beliefs. As a critical thinker, you will learn to focus on your strengths and this will increase the quality of your life and in turn make you happy.
6 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS AS A YOUTH
Here are some tips to improve your critical thinking skills:
- Define your question and goals
- Gather relevant information
- Ask the right questions
- Explore and analyze all sides
- Evaluate the existing evidence
- Remember to think of yourself and know that everyone cannot think critically 100% all the time
As it has been said, it is very important to think critically and analyze matters at hand very well. Youths are encouraged to start engaging in critical thinking as it helps them channel their mind appropriately. Critical thinking isn’t all about gathering information, analyzing the information and using them to make decision and fix problems is what makes you a critical thinker. It is not really easy but one can improve on the skill. If you want to evaluate your critical thinking skill, you can test the skill by questioning your abilities, self- reflection and keep an open mind. You start by defining your goals, and knowing what you are trying to achieve. When you know what you want to achieve, you can now foresee your solution (foresight) to your problem and look at all perspectives of solving the issue.
Take this home
“With a smile, we should instruct our youth” – Jean Baptiste Moliere
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