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Human thought is amazing, but the speed and automation with which it happens can be a disadvantage when we’re trying to think critically.
The “chicken and egg problem” a classic example of this.
At first, it seems obvious that the chicken had to come first. But then you quickly realize that the chicken had to come from somewhere, and since chickens come from eggs, the egg must have come first. Even if it turns out that the reverse When you’re trying to solve a problem, it’s always helpful to look at other work that has been done in the same area.
While I venture that a lot of us did learn it, I prefer to approach learning deliberately, and so I decided to investigate critical thinking for myself.
What is it, how do we do it, why is it important, and how can we get better at it? In addition to answering these questions, I’ll also offer seven ways that you can start thinking more critically today, both in and outside of class.“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”– The Foundation for Critical Thinking The above definition from the Foundation for Critical Thinking website is pretty wordy, but critical thinking, in essence, is not that complex. If we had to think deliberately about every single action (such as breathing, for instance), we wouldn’t have any cognitive energy left for the important stuff like D&D. We can run into problems, though, when we let our automatic mental processes govern important decisions.
Despite hearing so much about critical thinking all these years, I realized that I still couldn’t give a concrete definition of it, and I certainly couldn’t explain how to do it.
It seemed like something that my teachers just expected us to pick up in the course of our studies.Critical thinking is just deliberately and systematically processing information so that you can make better decisions and generally understand things better. Without critical thinking, it’s easy for people to manipulate us and for all sorts of catastrophes to result.The above definition includes so many words because critical thinking requires you to apply diverse intellectual tools to diverse information. Anywhere that some form of fundamentalism led to tragedy (the Holocaust is a textbook example), critical thinking was sorely lacking.Asking open-ended, engaging questions is a great way to get to know your students and for them to get to know each other.Use these ones as discussion prompts or as writing prompts for journals or notebooks. What they will expect, though, is for you to be able to think; to know how to make connections between ideas and evaluate information critically.And now that I’m in college, my professors often mention that the ability to think through and solve difficult problems matters more in the “real world” than specific content.From Newton to Einstein to Yitang Zhang, questioning assumptions is where innovation happens. All these things can be a reality if you just question your assumptions and critically evaluate your beliefs about what’s prudent, appropriate, or possible.You don’t even have to be an aspiring Einstein to benefit from questioning your assumptions. If you’re looking for some help with this process, then check out Oblique Strategies.Once you get out into the real world, critical thinking matters even more.This is because: With a proper productivity system, nothing ever slips through the cracks.