Your professors expect you to think critically when working on writing assignments, but none of them has ever bothered to explain what it means. School teachers and college professors require us to develop the skills automatically and without their guidance on how to think critically. If you are tired of this approach and want to master the ability to use in school and beyond, read on.
What Does Critical Thinking Mean?
This critical thinking definition by the Foundation for Critical Thinking is wordy and confusing to understand at first glance. It just means that it’s an act of deliberately processing of information to make better decisions. The information may come from various sources, including observations, experience, communication, and reflections.
The art of critical thinking relies on the use of specific methods you should master. So what are critical thinking skills? The basic set includes:
Right now you might think developing these will take too much time and effort. To motivate your self-growth, let’s go over the ways they can help you in class and after graduation.
Why Do You Need Critical Thinking Skills?
You can’t think critically every moment of every day. Your brain will not handle the strain of thinking about the heartbeat, breathing, and solving mathematical equations at the same time. Luckily, you don’t have to concentrate the full potential of your mind on every little problem. But sometimes critical thinking will let you stand out. With its power at your command, you will:
- Get better grades in high school and college. When assigning an essay, professors expect you to provide personal insight and in-depth analysis of the primary and secondary sources. Without critical thinking, you will fall into the trap of summarising and rewriting the others’ work instead of generating personal input. Once you become a master thinker, your grades will improve significantly without you having to put in an extra effort.
- Make better decisions. We have to choose one of the multiple options every day when we select the route to school or work, think of trying out a new diet or who to give the vote in the elections. Critical thinking helps to view the information without emotional interference and outside influences clouding our judgment.
- Avoid malicious manipulation. Mass media, social media, news websites, and advertising promote specific ways of life, choices, and products. Critical thinking will protect you from the adverse effects of manipulators by allowing you to assess the situation from all angles and choose whom you can trust.
- Get a great job. Employers seek people who solve the problems no one has ever thought about instead of being stumped when stuck without detailed instructions. If you showcase your critical thinking skills during the interview, your chances of getting hired will increase.
If these critical thinking examples in everyday life have convinced you to become a master thinker, let’s move on from theory to practice!
How to Improve Critical Thinking?
There are some basic guidelines for developing critical thinking skills. Let’s go through them first and explore simple exercises for you to practice the skills every day.
When you face any problem that seems insurmountable, stop and consider which information you have by asking simple questions:
- What do I know and how do I know it?
- What do I want to achieve?
- What do I need to fulfill my goal?
Answering these questions will help you structure and organize the data you possess and realize what extra information you need, and how to proceed. Open-ended questions work best, especially when you question basic assumptions. This is also a valuable skill in research, scientific, and creative environments. Once you evaluate your knowledge and beliefs, you will come up with innovative ideas and solutions.
Consider the Consequences
Imagine yourself traveling into the future to see the implications of your decision before you make it. Be logical and objective, without painting the picture too pessimistic or too pessimistic. For example, if you decide to lease a car, imagine yourself three months from now. Consider how much money you will have to pay for the lease, petrol, parking, and more. This glimpse of the consequences will save you many regrets.
Gather Information from Different Sources
When you come across the study describing the health benefits of eating chocolate every day, research its authors. If the representatives of Nestle wrote it, it is hardly unbiased. Review the opposing points of view before making the final decision. This technique will help you write excellent essays and avoid fake news online. Three trustworthy and unbiased sources are the golden standard for reliable information.
Applying these skills is the hardest part of becoming a master thinker, so here are cool exercises for you to develop them:
- Explain to an alien. Imagine you meet an alien who has no knowledge of Earth beside the English language. Explain to your new friend some everyday concepts, like the game of football, drinking coffee or college. Then take on the role of the alien and ask questions about the same concepts like you have never heard about them.
- Link the posts. Open your Facebook or Instagram feed and skim the latest 5 posts. Now think what links them together even if they are from different people and on opposite topics. Increase the number of posts as you become better at this exercise.
- Five Why's. When you read an exciting story or a news article, ask why something happened. Answer and ask the “Why” question again. Repeat five times, or until you run out of steam. This fun exercise will help you analyze the information you receive on a deeper level.
The Best Critical Thinking Books
There are many great manuscripts out there. I have selected a few I find useful and intriguing for those who want to learn more about critical thinking. However, I won’t go into detail about each of the books. Practice your critical thinking and choose the ones you like from my humble list:
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Critical Thinking: Proven Strategies To Improve Decision-Making Skills, Increase Intuition And Think Smarter by Simon Bradley
- Critical Thinking by Brooke Noel Moore
- The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger
- Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era by Daniel J. Levitin
- Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life by Richard Paul
- Critical Thinking: A Beginner's Guide to Critical Thinking, Better Decision Making, and Problem Solving by Jennifer Wilson
- A Workbook for Arguments, Second Edition: A Complete Course in Critical Thinking by David R. Morrow and Anthony Weston
I hope that by now you understand why critical thinking is vital for anyone who wishes to succeed in school and beyond. This short guide can’t impart all the necessary knowledge and techniques, but try using the methods and exercises I’ve mentioned and share your results with the rest of us!