Critical Thinking: Why?

by | September 1, 2009

Why is critical thinking necessary? According to Elder (2004) critical thinking “should be the guiding force behind any and all professional development”. As stated in my earlier blog about the subject (see Critical Thinking: What?), I expressed that critical thinking is about thinking how to think. Elder agrees: “Content is a product of thinking and can be learned only through thinking” (2004). Elder goes on to challenge that the ideal learning environment must include understanding of what an educated person is; what skills and abilities they should possess; what are their dispositions; and what differences exist in the thinking of educated persons versus uneducated persons.

As learners begin to think more critically they develop proficiency in historical, mathematical, and scientific thinking (Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009). In fact, the Foundation for Critical Thinking adds that critical thinking impacts reading, writing, speaking, listening, reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving, and the ability to analyze and evaluate emotions and values (Foundations for Critical Thinking, 2009). Additionally, making intelligent civic and personal choices are influenced by one’s ability to think critically.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the critical thinker is developing the ability to assess their own work. Understanding the Socratic method of inquiry is a key element to this end: critical thinkers are disciplined and focused; they probe, analyze, and then summarize what they have discussed (Paul & Elder, 1997). Learners (especially in dissertation) must know that the role of faculty is to challenge and question what the learner has produced, and the role of the learner is to evaluate and assess their own work to incorporate those thoughts of the faculty that are salient.

As you progress in your program, ask yourself how strongly you are able to evaluate your own work, and how readily you accept and embrace the questions you receive about your work. How you respond to feedback, how you incorporate it, and how you manage the skills necessary for an advanced degree all largely link to your critical thinking.

If you want to improve your critical thinking, start by asking yourself to think. Sounds silly, but thinking about how you think is exactly how to develop into a critical thinker.

Elder, L. (2004). A Professional Development Model for Colleges and Universities that Fosters Critical Thinking. Retrieved on September 1, 2009 from

Foundation for Critical Thinking. (2009). Professional development for higher education. Retrieved on September 1, 2009 from

Paul, R. and Elder, L. (1997). Socratic Teaching. Retrieved on September 1, 2009 from

One Response to "Critical Thinking: Why?"

  1. Britta Milner says:

    I believe that critical thinking is necessary for any person to be able to evaluate their own work as well as the work of others. The way mind works, I actualy can tend to over-anayalize if I’m not careful. However when I find myself over-anayalizing, I pause; and stop to think this is not the simpliest way to think. To keep reminding me not to over-anaylize, I think of lines from song. I find music very theraputic. So, a line I think of is from a Paul Simon song. “I know what I know.” And being a musician myself, sometime I will just sing. I’ve always appreciated other people’s feed-back. It gives me a basis to keep going with my work. When I worked as a designer I knew critics we’re coming to see my work so having myself as a critique and other’s was useful.
    A lot of what I have been thinking about recently is my family. My mother is getting well more than senile, we’ve progressed past that stage. My brother is on chemo-therapy for a rare form of an auto-immune disease called AS a type of rhuemotode athristis. I don’t have to like the realities of either of the out comes of these two things. And I have some good people I know I can bring them too, when I am up to it and they are up to it. Because although my brother is on his second wife and she looks after him, my mother and my brother are alone in their house together a lot.
    My job is not to fix the world. I cannot even pretend or will not delude myself into thinking is. But I am perfectly aware of when people I love have issues. It’s just when is it up to me to address these issues. My mother has no one else to address these with. My brother who loved to text, in general responds to none. Now, I cannot fix the world but I feel I have an obligation as a sister and a daugher and now an Aunt to my brother’s daughter to be as supportive to my family as I can. Because for a long time I knew I couldn’t say anything to them. There are somethings a person says. it cannot ever be unsaid. So, now I avoid going to the hospital with the training I have. So I can be there for them when they need to go. And I’m going to have to address the issue with my sister-in-law that someone, a professional, is going to need to be hired to take care of both them. Not yet. But at some point. And I don’t have to like that either. At least I have supportive people who can guide me through this.