Critical thinking is a vital skill that involves analyzing available facts, evidence, observations, and arguments in order to form a judgment. It requires rational, skeptical, and unbiased analysis and evaluation. This skill allows individuals to examine information from various sources, reflect on their own thought processes, and make informed decisions.
Critical thinking has been a topic of study for over 2,500 years and has been defined and discussed in various ways. The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines it as the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values such as clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness. It involves examining the structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning, including purpose, problem or question-at-issue, assumptions, concepts, empirical grounding, reasoning leading to conclusions, implications and consequences, objections from alternative viewpoints, and frame of reference.
Critical thinking requires higher-order thinking skills beyond simple recall of information. It involves questioning, testing assumptions, recognizing ambiguity, examining and interpreting information, evaluating, reasoning, reflecting, making informed judgments and decisions, and clarifying, articulating, and justifying positions. It also encompasses various activities that develop these skills, including analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information.
The ability to think critically is highly valued by employers. Employers seek candidates who can evaluate situations using logical thought and offer the best solutions. Critical thinkers can be trusted to make decisions independently and do not require constant supervision. These skills are essential in almost every industry and workplace.
There are many examples of critical thinking in different industries. For instance, a triage nurse analyzes cases and decides the order in which patients should be treated. A plumber evaluates materials to determine which ones are best suited for a particular job. An attorney reviews evidence and devises a winning strategy for a case or decides whether to settle out of court. A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses the information to develop a customer service training session for employees.
In summary, critical thinking is a skill that involves analyzing information, evaluating its validity and relevance, and making informed judgments and decisions. It is an intellectually disciplined process that requires higher-order thinking skills and the application of universal intellectual values. Critical thinking is highly valued by employers and is essential in various industries and workplaces.