Tip #10: Critical Thinking

In Becoming a Critical Thinker, Sherry Diestler defines a critical thinker as “someone who uses specific criteria to evaluate reasoning and make decisions.”

In other words, someone who thinks critically does not accept information at face value. He or she approaches information with the intent to determine accuracy, validity, and logic before deciding that the information is usable. In a democracy, people need to develop the ability to see through propaganda and think critically in order to participate in the economic and political processes as responsible citizens.

Why is critical thinking important?

Thinking that is not critical is partial, uninformed, biased, distorted, or prejudiced, but critical thinking produces high quality papers, work, and lives.

Elements of critical thinking

In The Community College Experience, Amy Baldwin offers six critical thinking steps to solve any problem:

  1. Clearly identify the problem.
  2.  Brainstorm possible solutions to the problem.
  3.  Evaluate the viability of each solution.
  4.  Make a list of pros and cons of each solution.
  5.  Choose the solution that potentially works the best.
  6.  Evaluate the solution after it is in place.

In Becoming a Master Student, Dave Ellis provides some suggestions for becoming a critical thinker:

  1. Be willing to say, “I don’t know.”
  2.  Define your terms.
  3.  Practice tolerance.
  4.  Understand before criticizing.
  5.  Watch for hot spots (topics that provoke strong opinions and feelings).
  6.  Consider the source.
  7.  Seek out alternative views.
  8.  Ask questions.
  9.  Look for at least three answers.
  10.  Lay your ideas on the table for open inquiry.
  11.  Write about it.
  12.  Accept your changing perspective.
  13.  Combine perspectives.

Tips for critical thinking

In Becoming a Master Student, Dave Ellis reveals six common mistakes in logic:

  1. Jump to conclusions.
  2.  Attack the person.
  3.  Appeal to authority.
  4.  Point to a false cause.
  5.  Think in all-or-nothing terms.
  6.  Base arguments on emotion.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Benjamin Bloom developed this theory of learning which identifies six levels of thinking, with Level 6 being high. As we think at the higher levels, we are thinking critically.

>Bloom’s Taxonomy Levels and Actions
Level 1KnowledgeDefine, list, describe, identify, show, name, quote
Level 2ComprehensionExplain, describe, summarize, differentiate, discuss, interpret
Level 3ApplicationIllustrate, use the information, apply, demonstrate, show, solve, classify, discover
Level 4AnalysisBreakdown, distinguish,  infer, prioritize, order, justify, classify, arrange, divide
Level 5SynthesisIntegrate, modify, rearrange, substitute, plan, create, design, invent, incorporate,
Level 6EvaluateDecide, rank, test, measure, recommend, support, conclude, compare, appraise, defend

Critical Thinking Courses

Below are the courses accepted for the “Critical Thinking English Composition” requirement according to the IGETC agreement with both UC and CSU systems for 2010 – 2011 (note that IGETC agreements may change every year).

  • Communication Studies 316
  • English Writing 301
  • English Writing 302
  • English Writing 482
  • Philosophy 322
  • Sociology 305
  • Internal Links for Critical Thinking

    The Learning Skills and Tutoring Center offers College Success Workshops that address critical thinking skills.

    The Writing Center offers workshops that address critical thinking skills.

  • External Links for Critical Thinking

    The Foundation for Critical Thinking offers

    35 dimensions of critical thought.

    Study Skills and Strategies offers several handouts on critical thinking.

  • Sources

    The Community College Experience by Amy Baldwin (Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005).

    Cornerstone: Building on Your Best, 4th Ed., by Robert M. Sherfield, Rhonda J. Montgomery, and Patricia G. Moody (Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005).

    Becoming a Master Student, 10th Ed., by Dave Ellis (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003).

    Study Guides and Strategies

    Dartmouth’s Academic Skills Center

    Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools by Richard Paul and Linda Elder (The Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2006).