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Critical thinking – A skill and a process

Updated Wednesday 15th November 2017

To be successful at learning we need to do more than just remember information - critical thinking is essential. Anne Wesemann explains the benefits...

angels with a book statue Learning appears to be a process of information intake and digestion. We read, hear or see something and our brain processes what it was confronted with. Ideally, we’ll remember that piece of information and are able to use it in an appropriate situation in the future.

Now, that oversimplified approach to learning certainly is the first step to studying as well. However, in order to be successful in our studies, we need to do more than just contain and repeat information. We need to be able to assess the value of the information, its correctness, and its contribution to any given debate. Ideally, we are able to put it into context with other aspects of our knowledge, too. This is what makes us students, this is what makes us critical thinkers.

Critical thinking is not just one skill, rather it is the result of a number of skills applied effectively. In order to be able to think critically, you’ll need to be able reason. You’ll need to be able to assess the source of the information you’re given and you’ll be able to reflect on its accuracy or validity, depending on your task.

By thinking critically, you are applying each of those skills in order to evaluate the information in front of you. This can be a theory, a new research result, or even a news item. Critical thinking allows you to apply an objective approach to your learning, rather than subjectively following either the proposed information you’re given, or your own opinion rather than clear and convincing arguments and facts.

Critical thinking is a process of continuing evaluation and reflection. It is most powerful, when leading to a change of view in ourselves or in others.

This is where critical thinking becomes relevant outside the world of studying. By being critical of what we read, hear and see, we are engaging with the society we live in actively. We are not perceiving anything as given, but are rather reflecting on the value and correctness of the way society works.

This helps us to be better employees, by reflecting on where processes and ways of working can be improved. It helps us to more engaged citizens, as we are reflecting on political campaigns and their truthfulness and value for us when we are asked to participate in an election. Critical thinking pushes ourselves and our environment to continuously adapt and improve.

When you think critically, you open up a whole new way of engaging with the world around you.

 

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