Developing Critical Thinking Skills

(taken from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/developing-critical-thinking-skills.html)

The process of thinking involving an analytical evaluation of a situation is known as critical thinking. It consists of a delicate discrimination between different points of view associated with a situation, followed by an analysis of every possibility of solving the problem. Critical thinking skills refer to an ability of weighing substantial and insubstantial as well as concrete and abstract factors governing a situation, in order to derive the best possible solution to a problem. How can you develop critical thinking skills? Are there any exercises that can help you improve on critical thinking? Let us find out.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking refers to a process of judgment taken after an analytical evaluation of a problem. It can be developed through the practice of intentional analyzing of every situation in life. Critical thinking skills can be developed by inculcating a habit of analytical and strategic thinking. If you can get yourself into the habit of analyzing every situation critically, you will gradually acquire critical thinking skills.

Your educational background plays a major role in the development of your thinking skills. Education that requires you to think analytically, the education that instills in you the principles of analytical thinking and reasoning leads you to become a critical thinker. The development of problem solving and reasoning skills since an early age is an excellent way of developing critical thinking skills. Fields that require you to acquire and evaluate information before reaching a conclusion indeed help in the development of critical thinking skills. Exposing yourself to questions that stimulate thinking can develop critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking is of great importance in many professions. Analytical thinking is many a time an attribute sought for, in a number of different professions. Certain jobs require a person to be a critical thinker. Engineers, information and system analysts, researchers, editors and critics should possess an ability of critical thinking to execute their jobs efficiently.

Are there any exercises that can help one develop critical thinking abilities? Yes, why not? Exercise is not always about physical fitness! There are a number of mind games and thinking exercises that can help you enhance your thinking abilities. Let us look at some of the critical thinking exercises.

Text Analysis: For this activity, the students are given a textual passage that can be in the form of a set of occurrences or a story. They are asked to explain the logical connection between the events of the story. They are also asked to suggest a title of a sign-off line for the passage and add to it a little content of their own. This activity requires the students to think logically and reason every possible occurrence that can connect with the story. A slight variation to this exercise is to ask the students to extend the story by adding to it characters and incidents that can be linked with it.

Socratic Thinking: It is a process of disciplined questioning that triggers thinking. It can be implemented by challenging the students with questions on complex issues and hypothetical problems. The students are asked to analyze the concepts, distinguish between facts and assumptions and devise optimal solutions.

Think Out-of-the-Box: Puzzles and questions that encourage the students to think creatively are sure to help them enhance their thinking skills and develop critical thinking. A simple example can be to ask the students to draw a certain number of dots in a certain predefined manner and then ask them to connect the dots with minimum number of straight lines. You can vary this critical thinking exercise by introducing different dot patterns or by devising other such games and aptitude tests that require them to think out of the box!

Giving the students hypothetical situations and asking them how they would react to them is an excellent exercise that helps them develop critical thinking. It is important for the questioner to apply creativity in devising questions of this type.

Critical thinking is not only about thinking analytically but also about thinking differently. It is about coming up with a variety of ways to solve a problem. Critical analysis not only dissects a problem, but also helps finds a way to go the root of the matter. It is always important to understand the problem in order to overcome it.
By Manali Oak
Published: 11/21/2008

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