When studying you are expected to think for yourself; to access and evaluate new approaches and ideas; to contribute to your knowledge base; and to develop or create new, fresh ideas.
You will be challenged to stretch your skills and knowledge base through critical and creative thinking. You will be required to develop and use a variety of thinking skills you seldom used in your daily life.
In the 1950s, Benjamin Bloom developed a classification of thinking skills that is still helpful today; it is known as Bloom’s taxonomy.
He lists six types of thinking skills, ranked in order of complexity:
Lower level skills (yellow) you will have learned as a child.The midlevel skills (orange) are skills you will get a lot of practice with. The higher-level thinking skills (red) are the most demanding.
In today’s environment, it is not so critical to know a great deal of information. The internet, TV and published media provide information we can easily access.
In fact, the abundance of information might be the greater challenge. Your success will depend on what you can do with the information, not just on what you know.
How we filter and use that abundance of data is the reason critical thinking has become so important today.
The critical thinking process is really nothing more than asking the right questions to understand a problem or issue and then gathering the data you need to complete the decision or take sides on an issue. What is the problem or issue I am considering really about?
What is the objective? A position? A decision?
Understanding these, is key to successful critical thinking.
For example, if you are evaluating a quotation on the health-care system for use in a paper, your objective might be to decide to use the quotation or not.
But before you can make that decision you need to understand what the writer is really saying.
If a term like “family” is used, for example, does it mean direct relations or extended family?
What are my options?
What are the choices that are available to you (if you are making a decision), or what are the “sides” (in the case of a position) you might choose to agree with? What are their differences? What are the likely consequences of each option?
Examining different points of view is very important; there may be dozens of alternative viewpoints to a particular issue-and the validity of each can change depending on circumstances.
First, make sure you have all the information about each option.
Do you have all the information to support each of your likely options? What is still missing? Where can you get the information you need?
Keep an open mind and don’t dismiss supporting information before you evaluate it carefully.
Now it’s time to evaluate the quality of the support of each option or point of view.
Evaluate the strengths and the weaknesses of each piece of supporting evidence. Are all the relevant
facts presented? Are some facts presented in misleading ways? Are enough examples presented
to support the premise?
Consider the source of the supporting information. Who is the expert presenting the facts?
Tips for Critical Thinking
Consider all points of view; seriously consider more than two (look for grey areas).
Keep an open mind.
Answer three questions about your supporting data:
1. Is it enough support?
2. Is it the right support?
3. Is it credible?
Look for evidence that contradicts your point of view.
Pretend to disagree with the position you are supporting. What parts of your argument are weak? Do you have the supporting facts to overcome that evidence?
Create a set of criteria you will use to evaluate the strength of information you want to use to support your argument.
Make sure that your assumptions and points of view are supported by facts, not opinions.
Learn what types of fallacies you use habitually, and then be on the lookout for them. Writers will often rely on certain types of arguments as a matter of habit. Review some of your old papers to identify which fallacies you need to avoid. Question your characterizations of others. Are those authorities truly competent in the area you are considering?
Be careful of broad generalizations.
One of the most consistent uses for critical thinking in regard to your studies is in considering the value of research material and deciding how to use it. The Internet gives you access to an almost unlimited amount of data, and you must choose what to use carefully.
The following are some guidelines.
Look at the URL, the Web address. It can give you important information about the reliability and intentions of the site.
Start with the page publisher. Have you heard of this source before? If so, would you consider it a reliable source for the kind of material you are about to read?
Are you dealing with a company or the Web site of an individual-and how might that affect the quality of the information on that site?
Consider what others are saying about the site.
Does the author offer references, reviews, or quotations about the material? What do they say?
Check the blogosphere to see what other people think of the author or Web site.
What can you learn from poking around with navigation tabs or buttons, and what do they tell you about the objective of the Web site?
Look for a tab labeled “About Us” or “Biography.”
Trust your own impressions about the material. Is the information consistent?
Ask yourself why the Web site was written.
To provide data or facts?
To sell something?
To promote a cause?
Based on what you learned, ask yourself if the information is reliable for your needs.
Part of critical thinking is the ability to look at things from a new perspective, Creative thinking, to come up with fresh solutions to problems.
It is a deliberate process that allows you to think in ways that improve the likelihood of generating new ideas or thoughts. Developing your creative thinking skills will position you for lifelong success in whatever career you choose.
Creativity is an inherited skill. Creativity is not something people are born with but is a skill that is developed over time with consistent practice.
It can be argued that people you think were born creative because their parents were creative, too,
are creative simply because they have been practicing creative thinking since childhood, stimulated by their parents’ questions,discussions
Creativity is free-form thinking. While you may want to free yourself from all preconceived notions, there is a recognizable structure to creative thinking.
Rules and requirements do not limit creative thinking-they provide the scaffolding on which truly creative solutions can be built.
Free-form thinking often lacks direction or an objective; creative thinking is aimed at producing a defined outcome or solution.
Creative thinking involves coming up with new or original ideas; it is the process of seeing the same things others see but seeing them differently.
You use skills such as examining associations and relationships, flexibility, elaboration, modification, imagery, and metaphorical thinking.
In the process, you will stimulate your curiosity, come up with new approaches to things.
Creative people make a habit of gathering information, because they never know when they might put it to good use.
Creativity in critical thinking is often as much about rearranging known ideas as it is about creating a completely new concept. The more known ideas you have been exposed to, the more options you’ll have for combining them into new concepts. The following are some tips for creative thinking.
Develop your flexibility by looking for a second right answer. There is often more than one “right” answer. Examine all the possibilities.
The value of an idea can only be determined by comparing it with another. Multiple ideas will also help you generate new approaches by combining elements from a variety of right answers.
Don’t just try to develop new ideas, try to combine old ideas in new but unlikely ways.
Train yourself to think “out of the box.” Ask yourself questions like, “What is the most ridiculous solution
I can come up with for this problem?”
Metaphors are useful to describe complex ideas; they are also useful in making problems more familiar and in stimulating possible solutions.
For example, if you were a partner in a company about to take on investors, you might use the pie metaphor to clarify your options (a smaller slice of
a bigger pie versus a larger slice of a smaller pie).
A creative thinker questions the way things are:
Why are we doing things this way?
What were the objectives and the assumptions made when we developed the process?
Are they still valid?
What if we changed certain aspects?
What if our circumstances changed?
Would we need to change the process? How?
Get in the habit of asking questions-lots of questions.
Much of your college and professional life will be spent solving problems; some will be complex, such as deciding on a career, and require time and effort to come up with a solution.
Others will be small, such as deciding what to eat for lunch, and will allow you to make a quick decision based entirely on your own experience. But, in either case, when coming up with the solution and deciding what to do, follow the same basic steps.
Define the Problem
Use your analytical skills. What is the real issue? Why is it a problem? What are the root causes? What kinds of outcomes or actions do you expect to generate to solve the problem?
For more complex problems, it helps to actually
write out the problem and the answers to these questions.
Can you clarify your understanding of the problem by using metaphors to illustrate the issue?
Narrow the problem
Many problems are made up of a series of smaller problems, each requiring its own solution.
Can you break the problem into different facets? What aspects of the current issue are noise that should not be considered in the problem solution?
Use critical thinking to separate the facts from opinion when dealing with this step.
Generate possible solutions
List all your options. Use your creative thinking skills in this phase.
Can any answers be combined into a stronger solution?
What past or existing solutions can be adapted or combined to solve the problem?
You will be called on to make many decisions in your life.
Some will be personal or career based, other times you will be making decisions on behalf of others.To be effective it is helpful to understand the basic principles of the decision making process: Input, Definition and Approval.
Understanding the role of input is very important for good decisions.
Input is sought or given due to experience or expertise, but it is up to the decision maker to weigh the input and decide whether and how to use it.
Input should be fact based, or if offering an opinion, it should be clearly stated as such.
When working in a group there needs to be a clear understanding of the decision-making process and who is in charge, otherwise there will be conflict and frustration on the team.
If the decision maker is clearly defined upfront, however, and the input is thoughtfully given and considered, a good decision can be made and the team can get behind the decision and work together to complete the project.
Finally, there is the approval role in decisions. This is very common in business decisions but often occurs in college work as well (the professor needs to approve the theme of the team project, for example).
Approval decisions are usually based on availability of resources, legality, history, or policy.
Brainstorming is a process of generating ideas for solutions in a group. This method is very effective because ideas from one person will trigger additional ideas from another.
The following guidelines make for an effective brainstorming session:
Decide who should moderate the session. That person may participate, but his main role is to keep the discussion flowing.
Define the problem to be discussed and the time you will allow to consider it.
Write all ideas down on a board or flip chart for all participants to see.
Encourage everyone to speak.
Do not allow criticism of ideas. All ideas are good during a brainstorm. Suspend disbelief until after the session. Remember a wildly impossible idea may trigger a creative and feasible solution to a problem.
Where you study can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your study efforts. Choose and organize your space to your advantage.
How you control your study space can help you prevent distractions, especially those caused by other people or your personal technology.
Attempting to multitask while studying diminishes the quality of your study time and results in a loss of time.
Control your study space to prevent or manage potential interruptions from family members or roommates.
People “use” time very differently. To develop strategies for managing your time, discover your time personality and observe how much time you spend in different activities in the course of a week. Plan your schedule with two hours of study time for each hour in class. Use your most alert times of day, break up large tasks into smaller pieces and stages, take breaks to help you stay focused, avoid distractions, and reward yourself for successful accomplishments.
Procrastination has many different causes for different people but is a problem for most students. Different techniques can help you battle procrastination so you can get the job done.
Use a weekly calendar planner to block out study times and plan well ahead for examinations and key assignments to achieve success in school.
Use a daily to-do list along with your weekly planner to avoid overlooking even smaller tasks and to make the most of your time throughout the day.
Log in to save your progress and obtain a certificate in Alison’s free Study Skills online course
Sign up to save your progress and obtain a certificate in Alison’s free Study Skills online course
Please enter you email address and we will mail you a link to reset your password.