by Johnna Williams | 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 http://www.criticalthinking.org/professionalDev/model-for-colleges.cfm
Foundation for Critical Thinking. (2009). Professional development for higher education. Retrieved on September 1, 2009 from http://www.criticalthinking.org/professionalDev/higherEducation.cfm
Paul, R. and Elder, L. (1997). Socratic Teaching. Retrieved on September 1, 2009 from http://www.criticalthinking.org/resources/HE/socratic-teaching.cfm