- What is critical thinking?
- Importance and benefits of critical thinking
- How to improve and develop critical thinking skills in students.
When you hear the word critical what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
Someone serious in the hospital?
Something very important and crucial?
Expressing disapproval over a certain judgment?
Or analysing the merits or demerits of a certain piece of work?
Well, you are right in thinking that the word critical has all these different connotations.
However, for the sake of aiding students, we shall think of the word critical to mean the last one, that is, analysing the merits and demerits of a certain piece of work.
So if we take this meaning let us look at what is critical thinking skills for students and how critical thinking skills benefit students
What is Critical Thinking Skills?
Critical thinking skills can be defined as that set of skills which allows you to understand a problem, analyse it and finally be able to arrive at an appropriate conclusion.
Critical thinking is like thinking like no one else has. To understand better, let’s make a critical thinking example out of this definition.
You want to find out if using coconut oil in cooking is beneficial for health.
Your first step is to log in to any search engine and find out the benefits of using coconut oil in cooking.
You find out the following information:
- Contains healthy fatty acids
- Raises HDL or good cholesterol.
- Good for skin, hair and teeth.
Now the second thing you will do is find out why coconut oil is bad for your health.
- Contains saturated fat which is bad for health
- Increases cardiovascular risks
Now what you realise here is that there is a conflict of information.This is where critical thinking comes into play.
The point of critical thinking is to understand the problem, then analyse the pros and cons and finally arrive at a logical solution to the issue.
Critical thinking is a skill that must be developed with practice. It is very important for students to possess this skill for greater understanding of problems and issues that may arise during their careers.
According to an article published in the Forbes under the heading 10 most important job skills that every company will be looking for, written by Berbard Marr, Critical thinking is one of the 10 most important job skills.
The article reads: There’s no shortage of information and data, but individuals with the ability to discern what information is trustworthy among the abundant mix of misinformation such as fake news, deep fakes, propaganda, and more will be critical to an organization’s success.
Critical thinking doesn’t imply being negative; it’s about being able to objectively evaluate information and how it should be used or even if it should be trusted by an organization.
Employees who are open-minded, yet able to judge the quality of information inundating us will be valued.
Now that we know how important critical thinking is, let’s now try to learn some of the ways of how to develop critical thinking skills in students.
Critical thinking is not only a skill required in school, college, or in your job. It is a skill that you may require and use in your daily life.
That is why it is important for every individual to develop these skills. Critical thinking skills is not a skill that can be developed overnight. It requires practice and efficient processes of the brain power to achieve it.
7 Awesome Ways to Improve Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills:
1. Read and Read Again
A single reading or hearing of the problem may not give you every detail of the problem. Each read may lead you to different interpretations of the same problem. Gather all your interpretations and place them before you.
2. Understand What Is Required
By this we mean, understand the underlying issue at hand. If we take the same example above- the underlying question is coconut oil good for health? The underlying question has now been identified.
However, many times the question or issue may not be so straightforward. Understanding the issue itself will require research and investigation.
In an article published in lumen “Effective learning strategies” the brain and information process has been detailed. Here, the author has identified ways in which you can know what to know. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/austincc-learningframeworks/chapter/chapter-9-memory-and-information-processing/
Understanding or knowing what to known is one of the important steps in how to develop critical thinking skills in students
3. Collect Information
Once you have the problem before you, and have understood what is required from the problem, it is time to collect information that may lead to a possible solution.
This involves a lot of research. The information you gather at this stage must have data, statistics, details and opinions.
Do not restrict yourself to one sided opinions. It is best to gather all possible information and collect different opinions at this stage. This gives you a more in depth analysis of the issue.
4. Examine and Inspect
The next step of how to develop critical thinking skills in students is to examine and inspect all information that you have gathered in the previous stage.
On analysing the data, you can ascertain certain details, like is the information you have gathered based on facts or assumptions.
If it is based on assumptions, can these assumptions be further researched so as to convert them into facts. Are the facts scientifically proven or proven by general opinion?
5. Divide the Information
After you have analysed the information, you must be able to divide all the details of the information into various categories like scientifically proven facts, presumptions, majority opinion and conclusions.
This division of information is important even when trying to establish if the information is needed or not. This is the stage you determine if the data collected is significant to arrive at a logical solution to the problem.
6. Arrive at a Conclusion
The most important stage in critical thinking is to arrive at a solution. With all the information gathered you are now at a position to make a conclusion or at least arrive at a logical deduction.
Here, it is important to note that there may be more than one conclusion. You can even present the solutions in a flowchart pattern which is a pictorial representation of your conclusion.
A flowchart is a sequence of events in a complex system or activity. It may lead to various possible outcomes based on the input and may not necessarily lead to a single solution.
7. Communicating Your Findings
Critical thinking skills are not independent of communication skills. The two skills are interrelated. While you possess excellent critical thinking skills, it will be of no use if you are unable to communicate your findings.
Therefore, developing great communication skills along with critical thinking skills is an important aspect of how to develop critical thinking skills in students.
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4 Amazing Benefits of Critical Thinking Skills:
Now that we know what critical thinking skills are and how to improve and develop critical thinking and problem solving skills in students, we will now let you know the benefits of critical thinking skills and how it aids students.
1. Critical Thinking Makes You Inquisitive
One of the benefits of critical thinking is that it makes you question everything around you. Being able to question everything and anything around you makes you think scientifically.
Critical thinkers are curious and ask many questions like what, where, why, when and how. These inquisitive questions bring about curiosity of the mind and keeps the mind active at all times.
2. Ability to Problem Solve
Critical thinkers are better at problem solving than those who are passive thinkers. As critical thinkers are inquisitive and curious at all times, they are able to use their skills for effective problem solving.
3. Creativity at It’s Best
Creativity is born from critical thinking. Critical thinkers are innovative and inspired individuals. Creative thinkers are always active. They are able to bring innovation and invention in their actions.
4. Creative Thinkers Are Agile
When we use the term agile we mean to say active in mind and body. As creative thinkers are curious, creative and innovative, they use various talents at all times.
Communication skills improve, brain activity is vigorous and fine motor skills are at its best.
5. A Skill for Life
An important benefit of critical thinking is that it is a skill for life and cannot be forgotten over the years. Once you have developed critical thinking skills it remains with you forever.
The more you apply critical thinking in all areas of your life, the more you sharpen the skill.
How Do You Inform Others of Your Super Power: Critical Thinking?
One of the foremost questions that may come to your mind is how do you let others know that you have the ability to think critically?
You may want to inform your interviewer that you can think critically. It is evident that you can not simply mention that you are a critical thinker. So, how do you let the other person know?
Here are some examples of sentences you can use to let others know you are a critical thinker.
- I have surveyed the issue and have come up with the defects and two possible solutions
- I have developed a new strategy to increase sales and profits for the company
- Conveyed the information to members of the team.
These are just some sentences that you can use to convey to the listener that you possess critical thinking skills.
Quoting Martin Luther King “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”