The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills
The key to a good education is not about memorizing content, but to take new information and finding creative ways to apply it. For instance, a child could memorize a poem, but it does not necessarily mean that they know what it actually means. Developing good critical thinking skills is essential for making new scientific discoveries and inventing products that change the world. Think about it: without possessing critical thinking skills, the world’s most successful people would not be where they are today.
What Is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is a skill that good leaders and innovators must possess. It involves gathering information through different approaches and synthesizing, analyzing and evaluating it in order to make a judgment.
By utilizing the critical thinking model, individuals can process information through the following ways:
- Solving a problem by asking clear questions and finding purpose in those potential solutions;
- Using observation, experience, communication and other methods in order to gather and assess information;
- Addressing the subject matter in terms of alternative or opposing views;
- Questioning any assumptions and considering all of the implications both positive and negative;
- Using reasoning in order to achieve the expected outcomes;
Success is not just about possessing knowledge; it is about knowing what to do with that information. By using critical thinking skills, a person makes it a habit to use this knowledge in ways that are different from everyday thinking. It does not take information for granted but instead involves asking questions, making new discoveries, determining purposes, coming up with conclusions and implementing ideas using empirical evidence.
Advantages of Thinking Critically
Using critical thinking in everyday life – especially in your day-to-day job – eliminates making the typical mistakes that individuals often commit. For instance, people have a tendency to make assumptions based on ignorance or have the idea that there is only one real way to approach a problem. Utilizing critical thinking makes it possible to reduce attitudes associated with naive relativism and allows people to realize that not all arguments are equal and that some build a better case than others.
The benefits of critical thinking cannot be understated. There is a misconception among some that critical thinking is only relevant for solving homework assignments, but is not applicable in the real world. This is definitely not the case. Throughout your life, you will encounter problems that require solutions, and you will need to rely on critical thought in order to solve them.
Remember that nothing in life is as easy as it seems. There are many times when the difficult decisions you make require critical thinking skills. You need to be able to weigh the advantages and disadvantages in any important decision including the kind of job you seek, the places where you want to live, and especially in terms of your finances. It is simply not the case that you can forget about ever using critical thinking again after you have graduated from college. Your success in life – not to mention potential failures – depend on it!
For example, critical thinking helps you avoid situations in which you could be manipulated and even cheated. There are plenty of people who prey on those with poor decision-making abilities. As a result, people actually lose their life savings because they failed to consider the pros and cons of an important decision. While some might feel intimidated at the idea of using critical thinking in their everyday lives, if you make it a habit it does not have to be a challenge.
Self-awareness is a very important attribute when it comes to critical thinking. All of us are inclined to make decisions based on our biases and prejudices whether they are based on our political attitudes, religious beliefs, or socioeconomic background, or simply our life experiences. However, it is essential that you evaluate a situation from different points of view. Consider how somebody who has lived a completely different life might be affected by your decisions.
Having an opinion is very important, but the key is that it needs to be well informed. You need to be able to think for yourself and make convincing arguments, but it must nonetheless be fact-based. A good example of this is when writing a movie critique. Your goal is to evaluate the quality of a film based on the different elements such as plot, lighting, musical accompaniment, camera angles, and how it compares to different movies of the same genre. Simply stating that you like a movie is not enough; you need to collect information both within the film itself – dialogue, scenes, plot devices – and secondary sources – research journals about filmmaking – in order to reach conclusions based on reliable evidence. While critiquing a movie is not a life-or-death situation, understanding how the critical thinking process works can literally save your life.
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Nothing highlights this better example of this than the COVID-19 pandemic. People have actually died from using Chloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria – because people who are not in the field of medicine have claimed it to be effective against COVID-19. Actual medical professionals, on the other hand, have warned that not enough evidence exists to confirm this. This highlights the real dangers of making assumptions without first evaluating the situation in a critical way. When making decisions based on critical thought, you need to examine the evidence. You need to ask questions like, “Who gathered this information?” “What methods did they use?” “What was their incentive for doing so?” This will allow you to seek knowledge in an objective, reliable way.
Along with the same likes, you can never conclude that assumptions are always the truth. A perfect example of this was the commonly held belief by medieval scholars and the Catholic Church that the Earth was the center of the entire universe. This would seem to be logical on two levels: it appeared that everything from the Sun, stars, and other planets moved around a stationary Earth; and Earth had to be at the center of the universe because human civilization – having been created by God – is the most important thing in existence. However, Nicolaus Copernicus did not make this assumption for granted. Instead, he was open to the idea that the universe is far more sophisticated than this, and used proper scientific methods to prove the Earth rotated around the Sun.
When addressing a problem, do not rush through it. Patience is a virtue. When you are dealing with a complicated challenge, it is important to take time to do the research and find several possible solutions rather than immediately choosing the first one that comes up. Another important strategy is to look at things from different angles. If you find yourself stumped, it might be a good idea to examine it from a cause-effect standpoint. It might seem evident that one causes the other, but what if the underlying conditions of the consequence are actually the cause rather than the effect?
Finally, do not become obsessed with the idea that critical thinking is important for literally every aspect of your life. If there are no long term consequences to the action – such as being indecisive when it comes to figuring out what to order for lunch – it is a waste of time to ponder the possibilities. There are also cases when you should live by the “if it feels good, do it” philosophy. Just be responsible!
How Teachers Can Help Students
Students need to use their critical thinking skills in order to thrive in their academic environment. This will come into play once they reach college and will be incorporated into their daily learning at the graduate school level. So how can teachers help young learners prepare for the rigors of an education that requires critical thinking skills?
Introduce new approaches to examining literature. Reading Shakespeare is an inevitable part of the high school experience. However, a class should be more than just reading the literature and answering questions about the plot. For instance, students can be encouraged to use their creativity and write a new ending to a Shakespeare play.
Make it a collaborative experience.
Having students work together fosters both critical thinking and teamwork skills. Present them with a problem and allow them to propose a solution. Having different views is a great way for the entire group to understand where each is coming from and to think about things in ways they might not have otherwise considered.
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Remind students that life is a journey and that they should always thirst to know more. Learning does not end after graduation; people will continue to learn throughout their lives because of personal experiences. They should be encouraged to gather new facts and be open to perceiving things in a new way. Whether they are the CEO of a company or flipping burgers at a fast-food restaurant, they will always be required to make strategic decisions.
Critical thinking is not merely a classroom exercise. In life, it is important to break mental barriers and avoid reaching conclusions without first investigating problems. Critical thinking allows human civilization to grow. What could be better motivation than that?