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CRITICAL THINKING The aim of this tutorial is to help you learn the basics of critical thinking, and be able to identify common barriers to effective critical.

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Presentation on theme: "CRITICAL THINKING The aim of this tutorial is to help you learn the basics of critical thinking, and be able to identify common barriers to effective critical."— Presentation transcript:

1 CRITICAL THINKING The aim of this tutorial is to help you learn the basics of critical thinking, and be able to identify common barriers to effective critical thought.

2 Critical thinking is a vital skill  Critical thinking provides us with a crucial set of skills we need to make decisions and resolve issues that arise in our everyday lives.  Critical thinking, like logic, requires learning how to think rather than simply what to think. The word “critical” is derived from the Greek word kritikos, which means “discernment,” “the ability to judge,” or “decision making.” 2 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

3 Logic  Logic is a crucial part of critical thinking, and requires good analytical skills. Logic is defined as “the study of the methods and principles used in distinguishing correct (good) arguments from incorrect (bad) arguments.”  Critical thinking requires applying the rules of logic as well as gathering evidence surrounding an issue, evaluating it, and coming up with a plan of action. 3 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

4 Logic vs. opinion  In contrast to arguments based on logic, arguments based on opinion are defined as “beliefs based solely on personal feelings rather than reason or facts.”  While we are all entitled to our opinions, arguments based solely on opinion are not necessarily reasonable, and may encourage us to make poor choices or act in ways we may later regret. Sometimes uninformed opinions can be harmful, both to us and to society. 4 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

5 Cognitive development in college students  Educational researcher William Perry, Jr. ( ) identified several stages of cognitive development in college students. Later researchers simplified his findings into three separate developmental stages: dualism, relativism, and commitment. 5 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

6 Stage one – Dualism  Dualism is the first stage of cognitive development, and is common among freshmen and many sophomores. It involves the assimilation of knowledge and experience in a simple, “dualistic” way, viewing issues as either right or wrong. Dualistic thinkers see knowledge as outside themselves and look to authority figures for answers. When researching an issue, dualistic students often exhibit confirmation bias, which involves only seeking out evidence that supports their views, and dismissing or ignoring contradictory evidence. 6 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

7 Stage two - Relativism  Rather than accepting that ambiguity may be unavoidable, relativistic thinkers reject the dualistic viewpoint and move to the opposite extreme, arguing that all truth is relative or just a matter of opinion. People at this stage believe that stating one’s opinion is the proper form of communication, and they look down on challenging others’ opinions as judgmental and even disrespectful. Despite their outward relativism, however, they still look to authority figures, such as professors, to confirm their opinions. 7 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

8 Stage three - Commitment  As students mature, they come to the realization that not all thinking is equally valid. Not only can authority figures be mistaken, but a certain level of uncertainty and ambiguity is unavoidable. When students at this stage experience uncertainty, they are now able to make decisions and commit to particular positions on the basis of reason and the best evidence available. At the same time, as independent thinkers they are open to challenge and are flexible enough to change their positions as new evidence becomes available. 8 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

9 Characteristics of a good critical thinker Critical thinking is not a single skill. Rather, it is a collection of skills that enhance and reinforce each other. These skills include:  Analytical skills – your ability to analyze and provide logical support for your beliefs  Communication and literacy skills – your ability to listen, speak, and write effectively, and the awareness of your own communication style  Research and inquiry skills – your ability to gather, evaluate and synthesize supporting evidence 9 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

10 Characteristics of a good critical thinker (continued)  Flexibility and tolerance of ambiguity – the ability to flexibly adapt to changing situations and to recognize the inherent ambiguity of human existence  Open-minded skepticism – the ability to overcome personal prejudices and biases and critically examine all sides of an issue before coming to a decision; often this involves the method of doubt, first proposed by French philosopher René Descartes ( ), which involves setting aside our preconceptions and adopting a default position of skepticism 10 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

11 Characteristics of a good critical thinker (continued)  Creative problem solving skills – the ability to view problems from multiple perspectives and to come up with original solutions to complex problems  Attentiveness, mindfulness, and curiosity – the ability to remain curious and attentive to the world, and to respect diversity and consider multiple opinions  Collaborative learning skills – the ability to recognize and anticipate the reactions of others, and a willingness to collaborate with others to share and gain knowledge 11 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

12 Critical thinking and self-development Critical thinking is not just about abstract thought. It is also about self-improvement and your whole development as a person. Self examination is an important part of this process. Good critical thinkers take charge of their lives and choices. By contrast, poor critical thinkers allow themselves to be controlled by circumstances and often deal ineffectively with problems, which often results in depression, anger, or other emotional problems. Developing a rational life plan is an effective way of avoiding these problems. 12 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

13 Other features of good critical thinkers  Effective critical thinkers exhibit other traits and characteristics. These include:  The ability to challenge social injustices, as well as being able to respond intelligently and thoughtfully to challenges to our own belief systems  The cultivation of high self-esteem, proactiveness, and self-direction, traits common in autonomous critical thinking  Involvement in democratic politics and the ability to critically analyze political actors and issues 13 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

14 Barriers to effective critical thinking  Effective critical thinking involves sharpening our resistance to irrational or narrow-minded arguments. Recognizing these irrational or narrow-minded approaches can sharpen our critical thinking skills and help devise effective strategies to counter them. 14 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

15 The three-tiered model of thinking  The processes used in critical thinking can be broken down into three tiers, or levels: experience, interpretation, and analysis.  Experience, the foundational level of critical thinking, involves firsthand experience, as well as empirical facts derived from other sources  Interpretation involves trying to make sense of our experiences  Analysis involves raising our level of thinking and critically analyzing our interpretations of an experience 15 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

16 Resistance  None of us like to be wrong, and when we are challenged, we often exhibit resistance, which is defined as “the use of immature defense mechanisms that are rigid, impulsive, maladaptive, and nonanalytical.” Resistance acts as a barrier to effective critical thinking. 16 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

17 Types of resistance There are several types of resistance; they include avoidance, anger, clichés, denial, ignorance, conformity, struggling, and distractions.  Avoidance involves escaping or intentionally avoiding certain people and situations  Anger involves responding to challenges with threatening physical or verbal cues  Clichés are oft-repeated statements that sidetrack the real issues and prevent effective critical thought  Denial involves ignoring or refuting challenging viewpoints or evidence 17 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

18 Types of resistance (continued)  Ignorance is a type of resistance where we intentionally avoid learning about a particular issue  Conformity involves going along with group or peer viewpoints even when you disagree with them  Struggling involves getting so caught up in the minute details of an issue that nothing gets accomplished  Distractions are hindrances that prevent clear thinking and effective critical analysis 18 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

19 Narrow-mindedness Like resistance, narrow-mindedness and rigid beliefs, such as absolutism, egocentrism, fear of challenge, ethnocentrism and anthropocentrism all act as barriers to effective critical thinking.  Absolutism is a perspective that sees the world in “black and white” absolutes  Egocentrism is a perspective that sees the self as the center of all things  Fear of Challenge involves reluctance to stand up to others who we believe may have different opinions 19 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

20 Narrow-mindedness (continued)  Ethnocentrism is an uncritical and unjustified belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own group or culture  Anthropocentrism is a belief that humans are the central or the most significant entity in the universe 20 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

21 Rationalization and doublethink When we are faced with difficult choices or decisions, we often engage in rationalization to justify our decisions made on the basis of personal opinion or bias. Because rationalization involves ignoring competing claims, people who engage in it often get caught up in doublethink, defined as holding two contradictory views, or “double standards,” at the same time, and believing both to be true. 21 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

22 Cognitive and social dissonance We are most likely to modify or critically analyze our views when we encounter cognitive or social dissonance, which occurs when we encounter new ideas or social behavior that contradicts or conflicts with our world-views. Evidence suggests that when people change their behavior, changes in their beliefs follow. 22 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

23 Conclusions As the previous slides have shown, effective critical thinking requires development of a collection of skills, including attentiveness, open-mindedness, and strong communication, analytical, research, and problem-solving skills. Critical thinkers also need to be aware of barriers to effective critical thinking, such as habitual use of resistance, and different types of narrow-mindedness. 23 © 2010, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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