Critical Thinking Skills

Read these four tutorials on critical thinking. As you read, compare the abilities that a person acquires after becoming a critical thinker with your own goals as a student, as well as with your future career and life goals.

Defining Critical Thinking

There are many different definitions of critical thinking. Here we list some of the well-known ones. It can be seen that they all emphasize the importance of clarity and rationality. Here we will look at some well-known definitions in chronological order.

Many people traced the importance of critical thinking in education to Dewey. But Dewey did not make very extensive use of the term "critical thinking". Instead, in his book How We Think, he argued for the importance of what he called "reflective thinking":

... [when] the ground or basis for a belief is deliberately sought and its adequacy to support the belief examined. This process is called reflective thought; it alone is truly educative in value ...
Active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends, constitutes reflective thought.

There is however one passage where Dewey explicitly uses the term "critical thinking":

The essence of critical thinking is suspended judgment; and the essence of this suspense is inquiry to determine the nature of the problem before proceeding to attempts at its solution. This, more than any other thing, transforms mere inference into tested inference, suggested conclusions into proof.
Dewey (1910) How We Think, p74.

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