What is Critical Thinking?
22 October 2015
What is Critical Thinking?
Many situations in life today require a bit of critical thinking to get through. In almost every job advert, critical thinking is one of the required skills; especially for young applicants with little or no experience in the job (Paul and Elder 5). However, what that requirement means, and how to quantify it is not clear to many people. Many employers lament about how colleges produce half-baked graduates with very little or no “problem solving” techniques at all. The bosses claim that these graduates cannot join the dots to complete a puzzle when a situation gets complex (Paul and Elder 6). However, when these very bosses are cornered to try and explain what the critical thinking they require in the fresh employees is, they stumble (Paul and Elder 6). Most bosses cannot clearly spell out what skills are required of someone to qualify as a critical thinker in that job which they seek. This paper gives a holistic definition of critical thinking and sheds some light on the various skills that make up critical thinking.
According to Ennis (3), critical thinking can be defined as “The intelligently organized process of active and skillful conceptualization, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of information gathered from observation, reflection, experience or reasoning as a guide to action.” In its emblematic form, critical thinking is anchored on global intellectual values that cut across the divisions of subject matter (Ennis 4). A critical thought requires accuracy, clarity, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, precision as well as deep and good reasoning (Ennis 7). It involves proper examination of a situation, mental deliberation about the situation based on the available evidence and drawing meaningful conclusions (Ennis 7). After drawing careful conclusions about a problem, critical thinking requires one to come up with alternative solutions based on objective viewpoints (Ennis 10).
On a more concise note, critical thinking is seen to have two aspects: first, a sense of belief and information that is helpful in developing certain skills, and secondly, a habit anchored on intellectual discipline to use those skills to channel one’s behavior (Fisher n.pag.). The process of critical thinking is biased according to motivation (Fisher n.pag.). When critical thinking is limited to selfish reasons, it is every so often expressed by skillfully manipulating ideas in ones’ own favor. In such a case, the critical thought process is intellectually unsound (Fisher n.pag.). However, when the process is grounded within the spirit of integrity and fairmindedness, it is usually fruitful and of a higher intellectual order (Fisher n.pag.). No kind of critical thinking is ever universal in any person; every individual is prone to periods of undisciplined thought. Therefore, its quality is practically a matter of the degree of deviation from the ideal definition (Fisher n.pag.).
In conclusion, critical thinking as a skill requires a lot of elements; many of which have been mentioned in this paper. The capacity of learning institutions to mold thinkers out of academicians has been hotly debated in recent times (Ennis 6). Memorizing and regurgitating information about a subject does not mean that a person is well equipped to solve any problem that might arise from the subject in question. Some problems are too new and complex for their solutions to be generated from memorized information alone. Such problems require critical thinking for them to be solved. One has to maintain an open mind, think clearly and come up with a solution informed by the evidence in front of them. These elements are what it makes a critical thinker.
Ennis, Robert H. “Critical Thinking.” The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education (2015). Print.
Fisher, Alec. Critical thinking: An introduction. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Paul, Richard, and Linda Elder. Critical Thinking: Pearson New International Edition: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life. Pearson Higher Ed, 2013.