Steven L. Barker Jr.
Although the term, ‘Critical Thinking’ is in widespread use today, it wasn’t a popular term until relatively recently. Critical thinking became a hot topic over the last decade because of concerns that were expressed by international educators, business leaders, and other organizations. They were concerned that students weren’t being prepared for real life in the 21st century. This spurred education leaders to add critical thinking skills development courses to curriculums around the world (Hogan, 2012). Even though a person can get by without thinking too much about everyday issues, developing critical thinking skills is important for academic and societal success because people make important decisions every day and making well informed and thought out decisions is critical for any kind of success.
The term might be unfamiliar to some but the practice of using critical thinking skills is actually quite common. People use critical thinking skills every day to help them make important legal, financial, and medical decisions, as well as the more mundane stuff like what time to go to the gym, or “should I buy those new sneakers”? There appear to be as many definitions for the term as there are commentators about the topic. According to Scriven and Paul (2013) at the Foundation for Critical Thinking, the definition of critical thinking is:
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. (Scriven & Paul, 2013)
So what does it actually mean? The term can best be understood by learning the critical thinking process. To think critically, a person must be willing to seek out knowledge while keeping their mind open to new ideas and different points of view. Once the mind is accepting of new ideas, the knowledge gained must be remembered and understood. Comprehension of what has been seen, heard, read, or experienced will lead a person to be able to apply what they have learned to an actual situation. Analysis of what is learned is critical to the process as well. Being able to break down an idea to its most basic components and apply logic tools to the information will enable the critical