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A Short Guide to Building Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills
- Matt Plummer
Critical thinking isn’t an innate skill. It can be learned.
Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess critical thinking skills and most managers don’t know how to provide specific instruction to team members in need of becoming better thinkers. Instead, most managers employ a sink-or-swim approach, ultimately creating work-arounds to keep those who can’t figure out how to “swim” from making important decisions. But it doesn’t have to be this way. To demystify what critical thinking is and how it is developed, the author’s team turned to three research-backed models: The Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment, Pearson’s RED Critical Thinking Model, and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Using these models, they developed the Critical Thinking Roadmap, a framework that breaks critical thinking down into four measurable phases: the ability to execute, synthesize, recommend, and generate.
With critical thinking ranking among the most in-demand skills for job candidates , you would think that educational institutions would prepare candidates well to be exceptional thinkers, and employers would be adept at developing such skills in existing employees. Unfortunately, both are largely untrue.
- Matt Plummer (@mtplummer) is the founder of Zarvana, which offers online programs and coaching services to help working professionals become more productive by developing time-saving habits. Before starting Zarvana, Matt spent six years at Bain & Company spin-out, The Bridgespan Group, a strategy and management consulting firm for nonprofits, foundations, and philanthropists.
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- What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples
What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples
Published on May 30, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.
Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment .
To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources .
Critical thinking skills help you to:
- Identify credible sources
- Evaluate and respond to arguments
- Assess alternative viewpoints
- Test hypotheses against relevant criteria
Table of contents
Why is critical thinking important, critical thinking examples, how to think critically, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about critical thinking.
Critical thinking is important for making judgments about sources of information and forming your own arguments. It emphasizes a rational, objective, and self-aware approach that can help you to identify credible sources and strengthen your conclusions.
Critical thinking is important in all disciplines and throughout all stages of the research process . The types of evidence used in the sciences and in the humanities may differ, but critical thinking skills are relevant to both.
In academic writing , critical thinking can help you to determine whether a source:
- Is free from research bias
- Provides evidence to support its research findings
- Considers alternative viewpoints
Outside of academia, critical thinking goes hand in hand with information literacy to help you form opinions rationally and engage independently and critically with popular media.
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Critical thinking can help you to identify reliable sources of information that you can cite in your research paper . It can also guide your own research methods and inform your own arguments.
Outside of academia, critical thinking can help you to be aware of both your own and others’ biases and assumptions.
However, when you compare the findings of the study with other current research, you determine that the results seem improbable. You analyze the paper again, consulting the sources it cites.
You notice that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical company that created the treatment. Because of this, you view its results skeptically and determine that more independent research is necessary to confirm or refute them. Example: Poor critical thinking in an academic context You’re researching a paper on the impact wireless technology has had on developing countries that previously did not have large-scale communications infrastructure. You read an article that seems to confirm your hypothesis: the impact is mainly positive. Rather than evaluating the research methodology, you accept the findings uncritically.
However, you decide to compare this review article with consumer reviews on a different site. You find that these reviews are not as positive. Some customers have had problems installing the alarm, and some have noted that it activates for no apparent reason.
You revisit the original review article. You notice that the words “sponsored content” appear in small print under the article title. Based on this, you conclude that the review is advertising and is therefore not an unbiased source. Example: Poor critical thinking in a nonacademic context You support a candidate in an upcoming election. You visit an online news site affiliated with their political party and read an article that criticizes their opponent. The article claims that the opponent is inexperienced in politics. You accept this without evidence, because it fits your preconceptions about the opponent.
There is no single way to think critically. How you engage with information will depend on the type of source you’re using and the information you need.
However, you can engage with sources in a systematic and critical way by asking certain questions when you encounter information. Like the CRAAP test , these questions focus on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.
When encountering information, ask:
- Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?
- What do they say? Is their argument clear? Can you summarize it?
- When did they say this? Is the source current?
- Where is the information published? Is it an academic article? Is it peer-reviewed ?
- Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
- How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence? Does it rely on opinion, speculation, or appeals to emotion ? Do they address alternative arguments?
Critical thinking also involves being aware of your own biases, not only those of others. When you make an argument or draw your own conclusions, you can ask similar questions about your own writing:
- Am I only considering evidence that supports my preconceptions?
- Is my argument expressed clearly and backed up with credible sources?
- Would I be convinced by this argument coming from someone else?
If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- ChatGPT vs human editor
- ChatGPT citations
- Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
- Using ChatGPT for your studies
- What is ChatGPT?
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- Types of plagiarism
- Avoiding plagiarism
- Academic integrity
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Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.
Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.
Critical thinking skills include the ability to:
You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.
Ask questions such as:
- Who is the author? Are they an expert?
- How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?
A credible source should pass the CRAAP test and follow these guidelines:
- The information should be up to date and current.
- The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
- The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
- For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.
Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.
Being information literate means that you:
- Know how to find credible sources
- Use relevant sources to inform your research
- Understand what constitutes plagiarism
- Know how to cite your sources correctly
Confirmation bias is the tendency to search, interpret, and recall information in a way that aligns with our pre-existing values, opinions, or beliefs. It refers to the ability to recollect information best when it amplifies what we already believe. Relatedly, we tend to forget information that contradicts our opinions.
Although selective recall is a component of confirmation bias, it should not be confused with recall bias.
On the other hand, recall bias refers to the differences in the ability between study participants to recall past events when self-reporting is used. This difference in accuracy or completeness of recollection is not related to beliefs or opinions. Rather, recall bias relates to other factors, such as the length of the recall period, age, and the characteristics of the disease under investigation.
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I found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for the study of Truth . . . with desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order . . . being a man that neither affects what is new nor admires what is old, and that hates every kind of imposture.
~ francis bacon (1605), our mission.
For more than 40 years, our goal has been to promote essential change in education and society by cultivating fairminded critical thinking — thinking which embodies intellectual empathy, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, intellectual integrity, and intellectual responsibility.
Critical thinking definition
Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.
Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process, which is why it's often used in education and academics.
Some even may view it as a backbone of modern thought.
However, it's a skill, and skills must be trained and encouraged to be used at its full potential.
People turn up to various approaches in improving their critical thinking, like:
- Developing technical and problem-solving skills
- Engaging in more active listening
- Actively questioning their assumptions and beliefs
- Seeking out more diversity of thought
- Opening up their curiosity in an intellectual way etc.
Is critical thinking useful in writing?
Critical thinking can help in planning your paper and making it more concise, but it's not obvious at first. We carefully pinpointed some the questions you should ask yourself when boosting critical thinking in writing:
- What information should be included?
- Which information resources should the author look to?
- What degree of technical knowledge should the report assume its audience has?
- What is the most effective way to show information?
- How should the report be organized?
- How should it be designed?
- What tone and level of language difficulty should the document have?
Usage of critical thinking comes down not only to the outline of your paper, it also begs the question: How can we use critical thinking solving problems in our writing's topic?
Let's say, you have a Powerpoint on how critical thinking can reduce poverty in the United States. You'll primarily have to define critical thinking for the viewers, as well as use a lot of critical thinking questions and synonyms to get them to be familiar with your methods and start the thinking process behind it.
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Humanising Health, Safety and Risk
The Need for Critical Thinking in Safety
November 5, 2019 by Dr Rob Long 4 Comments
This is one of the problems with the binary constructs that plague the safety world. Its how the industry ends up with a global mantra of zero in the denial of fallibility.
The trouble is, without a sense of critical thinking all kinds of safety propaganda that masquerades as safety, gets endorsed and results in a naïve industry that wonders why nothing gets better. A recent example of this is the discourse associated with facial recognition technology (FRT).
The propaganda of facial recognition technology is being trotted out lately (https://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/dutton-pushes-on-with-facial-recognition/news-story/81849b8ddfd9abec1bec06751a37b11d) as a good move that will make Australian society safer. The home affairs minister Dutton wants government agencies, banks and phone companies to use the technology. What this means is a mass surveillance scheme rolled out under the guise of safety. The language of safety propaganda is masked by appeals for protection and safety. The recent push by government for the Identity-Matching Services Bill 2019 ( https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Intelligence_and_Security/Identity-Matching2019 ) was rejected but this was only a first effort, Dutton will get his police state soon ( https://www.9news.com.au/national/peter-dutton-facial-recognition-laws-concerns-for-mass-surveillance/d76444fe-4581-4566-9b6b-aee9c31e366e ). There is nothing that cannot get through easier than propaganda masked as safety.
The trouble is the home of facial recognition technology (FRT) San Francisco, where FRT was developed, has just outlawed the technology ( https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-48276660 ). In San Francisco FRT has been rejected because ‘it will put people’s safety at risk!’ What do the developers of FRT know that dumb down Dutton doesn’t know? They even call it ‘facial surveillance technology’.
Why is it that one group can invoke safety to justify surveillance and another group can invoke safety to reject surveillance? This demonstrates the naivety of the general populace to being paralyzed by the invocation of safety language to justify any outcome.
If ever there was a need for critical thinking it is in the safety industry. Unfortunately such study, which is a critical part of understanding politics and ethics, is not part of any safety qualification ( https://safetyrisk.net/isnt-it-time-we-reformed-the-whs-curriculum/ ). So, we can march through any initiative, invoke the word ‘safety’ and all critical thinking ceases. This is the way of safety orthodoxy. It’s how will end up with a surveillance state and then wonder why people are abused by Safety.
The real challenge of critical thinking is knowing how to interrogate the unquestioned assumptions of propaganda and a naivety that says ‘anything in the name of safety must be good’. A lack of critical thinking ensures we end up with offensive and dumb initiatives like Hazardman, Mums for Safety Campaign (https://www.lendlease.com/au/company/about-us/safety/mums-for-safety/) , the Dumb Ways to Die Campaign ( http://www.dumbwaystodie.com/ ) and a recent video for a safety symposium ( https://vimeo.com/368739751 ). Just scratch under the surface of any of these examples and just ask some simple questions about assumptions, trajectories and what is being normalized.
The unquestioned assumptions in these campaigns/videos demonstrates the need for critical thinking in the sector more than ever. Here is Safety rejoicing and celebrating dumbness and the Emperor marches by with no clothes on!
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February 13, 2020 at 6:29 PM
Critical thinking or discernment is way beyond most corporate safety managers, especially amongst tier one contractors. Most of them are as dumb as a box of rocks and remain bamboozled by the risk matrix and the hierarchy of controls.
If you mentioned names such as Orwell, Huxley, Montaigne, Swift or HG Wells they would think it was a Melbourne Cup sweep
Rob long says
February 13, 2020 at 7:32 PM
Bernard, myopic safety defines itself by PPE and regulation. The video from the safety symposium shows just how myopic the industry is. Meanwhile, Dutton rules supreme because obedience and compliance are the archetype of safety.
November 5, 2019 at 11:37 AM
November 5, 2019 at 5:47 PM
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