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Critical Thinking: Trend Followers Are Scientists at Their Root

In the book Critical Thinking, the essential thought processes of a trend follower are outlined:

Dispositions: Critical thinkers have dispositions that are skeptical and open-minded. They value fair-mindedness, respect evidence and reasoning, respect clarity and precision, look at different points of view, and will change positions when reason leads them to do so.

Criteria: To think critically, you must apply criteria. This means you need to set conditions that must be met for you to judge something as believable.

Argument: Is a statement or proposition with supporting evidence. Critical thinking involves identifying, evaluating, and constructing arguments.

Reasoning: You have the ability to infer a conclusion from one or multiple premises. To do so requires examining logical relationships among statements or data.

Point of View: POV is the way you view the world, which shapes your construction of meaning. In a search for understanding, critical thinkers view phenomena from many different points of view.

Procedures for Applying Criteria: Other types of thinking use a general procedure. Critical thinking makes use of many procedures. These procedures include asking questions, making judgments, and identifying assumptions.

Force Feeding the Students

Excerpts below taken from

Mindless memorization: Like fattening a goose before slaughter, force feeding students endless content in the form of declarative sentences and then asking them to remember the content is mindless teaching at its best, and mental torture at its worst.

The art of the question: We need questions to jumpstart our intellectual engines. Questions generate more questions until the student takes ownership of the material and focuses thinking on a process to gain the answer. The questions we ask determine where our thinking goes. When learners are asked to memorize facts, it’s as if they were told to repeatedly step on the brakes in a vehicle that is parked. Their mind goes nowhere.

Go below the surface: Deep questions drive our thoughts below the surface of things and force us to deal with the complexity of what is real.

Define the task: Purposeful questions force us to define our task. We must begin to evaluate information instead of mindlessly accepting it as truth. We begin to look at our sources of information as well as the quality.

Find Meaning: Questions of interpretation force us to examine how we are organizing or giving meaning to information.

Discover the facts: Questions of assumption force us to examine what we are taking for granted.

Show Direction: Questions of implication force us to follow through on where our thinking is going.

Find Context: Questions of point of view force us to examine our point of view and to consider other relevant points of view.

Focus: Questions of relevance force us to discriminate what does and what does not bear on a question.

Look for truth: Questions of accuracy force us to evaluate and test for truth and correctness.

Look for detail: Questions of precision force us to define details and be precise.

Self examine: Questions of consistency force us to examine our thinking for contradictions.

Put it all together: Questions of logic force us to consider how we are putting the whole of our thought together, to make sure that it all adds up and makes sense within a reasonable system.

Deadening Questions Create Dead Minds

Unfortunately, most students ask virtually none of these types of questions. Instead they ask deadening questions like, Is this going to be on the test?. Their questions imply they have no desire to think. Or they ask no questions, sitting in silence; their minds on both pause and mute. As a result the questions they do have tend to be superficial and ill-informed because they have not taken ownership of the content. At the same time, most teachers are not generators of enlivening and energetic questions. Most are not seriously engaged in thinking through or rethinking through their own subjects. It is easier for them to teach as purveyors of the questions and answers of other teachers, usually the authors of a textbook. We must continually remind ourselves that critical thinking about any type of content whatsoever, whether it is trading, history, biology or how to sail a boat only begins when questions are generated by both teachers and students. No questions equals no understanding. Superficial questions equals superficial understanding. If we want to think critically, we must stimulate our intellect with questions that lead us to even further questions. We must overcome what our previous schooling has done to our way of learning. We must resuscitate minds that are dead when we interact with them either as teachers or fellow students. We must give ourselves and our students what could be called artificial cogitation, the intellectual equivalent of artificial respiration to make dead minds come to life again.

Critical Thinking Quotes

“Critical thinking is deciding rationally what to or what not to believe.”
Norris, Stephen P. Synthesis of Research on Critical Thinking.

“Critical thinking is the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. It is used to describe thinking that is purposeful, reasoned and goal directed – the kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions when the thinker is using skills that are thoughtful and effective for the particular context and type of thinking task. Critical thinking also involves evaluating the thinking process – the reasoning that went into the conclusion we’ve arrived at the kinds of factors considered in making a decision. Critical thinking is sometimes called directed thinking because it focuses on a desired outcome.”
Halpern, Diane F. Thought and Knowledge.

“The purpose of critical thinking is, therefore, to achieve understanding, evaluate view points, and solve problems. Since all three areas involve the asking of questions, we can say that critical thinking is the questioning or inquiry we engage in when we seek to understand, evaluate, or resolve.”
Maiorana, Victor P. Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum.

“Broadly speaking, critical thinking is concerned with reason, intellectual honesty, and open-mindedness, as opposed too emotionalism, intellectual laziness, and closed-mindedness. Thus, critical thinking involves: following evidence where it leads; considering all possibilities; relying on reason rather than emotion; being precise; considering a variety of possible viewpoints and explanations; weighing the effects of motives and biases; being concerned more with finding the truth than with being right; not rejecting unpopular views out of hand; being aware of one’s own prejudices and biases, and not allowing them to sway one’s judgment.”
Kurland, Daniel J. I Know What It Says . . . What does it Mean?

“Critical thinking is a process which stresses an attitude of suspended judgment, incorporates logical inquiry and problem solving, and leads to an evaluative decision or action.”
NCTE Committee on Critical Thinking and the Language Arts.

“Critical thinking includes the ability to respond to material by distinguishing between facts and opinions or personal feelings, judgments and inferences, inductive and deductive arguments, and the objective and subjective. It also includes the ability to generate questions, construct, and recognize the structure of arguments, and adequately support arguments; define, analyze, and devise solutions for problems and issues; sort, organize, classify, correlate, and analyze materials and data; integrate information and see relationships; evaluate information, materials, and data by drawing inferences, arriving at reasonable and informed conclusions, applying understanding and knowledge to new and different problems, developing rational and reasonable interpretations, suspending beliefs and remaining open to new information, methods, cultural systems, values and beliefs and by assimilating information.”
MCC General Education Initiatives

MCC General Education Initiatives uses of critical thinking:

  • Underlies reading, writing, speaking, and listening . . . the basic elements of communication
  • Plays an important part in social change . . . institutions in any society – courts, governments, schools, businesses – are the products of a certain way of thinking.
  • Helps us uncover bias and prejudice.
  • Is a path to freedom form half-truths and deceptions.
  • The willingness to change one point of view as we continue to examine and re-examine ideas that may seem obvious. Such thinking takes time and the willingness to say three subversive words: I don’t know.

“Critical thinkers: distinguish between fact and opinion; ask questions; make detailed observations; uncover assumptions and define their terms; and make assertions based on sound logic and solid evidence.”
Ellis, D. Becoming a Master Student

Critical Readers Are:

  • Willing to spend time reflecting on the ideas presented in their reading assignments
  • Able to evaluate and solve problems while reading rather than merely compile a set of facts to be memorized
  • Logical thinkers
  • Diligent in seeking out the truth
  • eager to express their thoughts on a topic
  • seekers of alternative views on a topic
  • Open to new ideas that may not necessarily agree with their previous thought on a topic
  • Able to base their judgments on ideas and evidence
  • Able to recognize errors in thought and persuasion as well as to recognize good arguments
  • Willing to take a critical stance on issues
  • Able to ask penetrating and thought-provoking questions to evaluate ideas
  • In touch with their personal thoughts and ideas about a topic
  • Willing to reassess their views when new or discordant evidence is introduced and evaluated
  • Able to identify arguments and issues
  • Able to see connections between topics and use knowledge from other disciplines to enhance their reading and learning experiences
    Schumm, J. S. and Post, S. A. Executive Learning

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