Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally.
Critical Thinking is a meta-thinking skill. It requires careful reflection on the good principles of reasoning, making a conscious effort to internalize them and applying them in daily life. This is not easy and calls for assiduous practice.
This prime intellectual and practical skill seems to be something that majority of students coming into higher education and the workforce are not only lacking in application, but also in concept. Often, Critical Thinking has been overlooked at the elementary, middle, and high school levels where the primary focus is on rote learning of concepts rather than skillful application of ideas. When these students make it to the level of higher education or the corporate workforce, the educators/trainers are compelled to begin by teaching the basics of Critical Thinking as opposed to sharing complex information that need analysis.
Learning requires effort, but Critical Thinking requires maximum exertion of intellectual capacity. Many times students and teachers alike find Critical Thinking discomforting because it demands personal reflection. Hence, much of the Critical Thinking concept remains not only to be taught but; most importantly, to be aptly utilized in our day-to-day lives.
4 Reasons why Critical Thinking should be introduced in Higher Education-Campus Curriculum:
- Logical Thinking and Problem Solving is an asset across careers: Critical Thinking is a domain-agnostic skill. Irrespective of whether one chooses to work in the field of education, research, finance, management or a legal profession, Critical Thinking is indispensable. Critical Thinking is not isolated but a seminal goal, the hub around which all other educational fields converge. As students learn to think more critically, they become more proficient at historical, scientific, and mathematical thinking. They develop skills, abilities and values critical for success in everyday life.
- It is what is required in today’s times – Today in the internet era, access to reading material is not a privilege of those few enrolled in select institutions. Hence it is the disposition to enquiry and ability to think critically that is the real requirement of the current times.
- CT enhances language and presentation skills: Thinking in a structured manner can improve the way in which we express our ideas. In learning how to analyze the logical structure of texts, Critical Thinking improves comprehension abilities. It is the soul of effective communication.
- Critical Thinking also promotes creativity: Creative problem-solving mandates the generation of feasible and relevant ideas. Critical Thinking plays a crucial role in evaluating new ideas, selecting the best ones and improvising on them, as required. Creativity and Critical thinking go hand-in-hand.
So what is critical thinking anyway?
It’s not ‘what’ to think rather ‘how’ to think. It includes the ability to engage in independent, reflective thinking. A critical thinker should be able to do the following with ease:
- Identify the relevance and importance of ideas
- Understand the logical connections and establish linkages between ideas
- Identify, construct and evaluate arguments
- Detect inconsistencies and common mistakes (fallacies) in reasoning
- Solve problems systematically
- Reflect on the accuracy of one’s own beliefs and values
A Critical Thinker is NOT:
- An information hoarder. S/he knows how to utilize information wisely to solve problems.
- Critical of others. Although Critical Thinking skills can be used in exposing fallacies/bad reasoning, it facilitates cooperative and constructive reasoning.
Good critical thinking might be seen as the foundation of science and a liberal democratic society. Science requires the critical use of reason in experimentation and theory validation. The seamless functioning of a liberal democracy is wanting of able citizens who can think critically about social issues; confidently voice their opinions about governance while not falling prey to personal prejudice.