ï»¿SOME DEFINITIONS OF CRITICAL THINKING
1. "Active, persistent and careful consideration of a belief or supposed form of
knowledge in light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions
to which it tends." (John Dewey, 1909)
2. "Reasonable reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.
In addition to 12 CT abilities, CT also includes 14 dispositions. Namely: to seek a clear
statement of the thesis or question; to seek reasons; to try to be well informed; to use
credible sources and mention them; to take into account the total situation; to try to remain
relevant to the main point; to keep in mind the original or basic concern; ...view middle of the document...
(Browne and Keeley, 2000). 2
What Is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is what is sometimes termed a â€œvirtue phraseâ€, one that everyone embraces
eagerly and, unfortunately, reflexively. It shares this awkward status with freedom, creative
thinking, and cooperation.
Critical thinking is a set of skills and attitudes that are deployed selectively to evaluate
arguments (reasons and their companion conclusions) according to explicit standards of rationality.
Like any definition of a complex idea, this one contains knotty ambiguity. For instance, just how
broad-minded is this idea of rationality? What is the role of emotional commitments and the moral
dimension in these rational standards? These questions are extremely important; they certainly
perplex all of us. But letâ€™s focus on a shared recognition that critical thinking begins after an
argument has been made and ends with a judgment about the worth of the argument.
As a virtue word, critical thinking is commonly conflated with current practice, whatever that
practice may be. Teachers usually think that they should be encouraging critical thinking, so they
are tempted to declare victory in that endeavor based on their current form of teaching, again
whatever that current practice may be. To resist that tendency and to try to provide greater clarity, I
want to suggest what critical thinking is NOT.
Critical Thinking Is Not:
just THINKING--- What silliness is afoot here? Of course, it is â€œthinkingâ€; even the words are
almost identical! Critical thinking IS most certainly a form of cognition, but
thinking occurs in many useful forms. Critical thinking is just one of these.
Who cares? If critical thinking is a special form of thinking, as we tend to think
it is, then it can and does often get ignored in a learning setting where
â€œthinkingâ€ is being taught. For example, comprehension is an important
dimension of thinking, but it is quite distinct from critical thinking in tone and
Problem solving--- The starting point for this important set of skills is a problem. This problem
requires a solution. We wonder: How can we optimally solve the problem?
While critical thinking will certainly come into play as soon as someone offers
a tentative solution and the attendant rationale, those of us who want to solve
a problem need many skills that extend beyond critical thinking. In fact, the
premature use of critical thinking skills and attitudes can hinder problem
solving by providing impediments to the generative process through which
multiple possible solutions are put forward.
Negative thinking--- Critical thinking bears a burden. It just does not sound nice. Who wants to
be, or associate regularly with anyone who is, grouchy or picky? A recent
Dean of our College would often castigate such people by relegating them to
the social dumpster with a sneering...