Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?
--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Critical Thinking

Much of what you are about to read comes from a meeting I went to in May 1996 called the Oregon State System of Higher Education Critical Thinking Summit. Professors were sent to the summit to represent their various community colleges, colleges, centers, and univeristies. It was an interesting mix of people and disciplines that ranged from nursing to philosphy.

Our two "imported" guest speakers were Dr. James Ratcliff, Director, National Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, The Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Peter A. Facione of Santa Clara University.

First, how do we define critical thinking? At first, it would seem that this is easy to do, but as might be expected from a gathering of academics a definition is fraught with doubts and concerns about meanings. However, a definition was used and it is as follows:

"We understand critical thinking to be purposeful, self-regulating judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based...."(from the APA Delphi Report, 1990)

Dr. Facione pointed out from his book [*citation below] that core cognitive critical thinking skills interact recursively and include

Further he went on to point out that there are seven factors that dispose a person toward using critical thinking:

*Critical Thinking in the Classroom: Developing the Skills and Nurturing the Habits of Mind The California Academic Press, 217 La Cruz Ave., Millbrae CA 94030. Phone & FAX (415) 697-5628
Information and Email: www.calpress.com




Here is a break down of some critical thinking skills

Critical Thinking Cognitive Skills and Sub-Skills

Interpretation:

- Categorization
- Decoding Sentences
- Clarifying Meaning

Analysis:

- Examining Ideas
- Identifying Arguments
- Analyzing Arguments

Evaluation:

- Assessing Claims
- Assessing Arguments

Inference:

- Querying Evidence
- Conjecturing Alternatives
- Drawing Conclusions

Explanations:

- Stating Results
- Justifying Procedures
- Presenting Arguments

Self-Regulation:

- Self Examination
- Self Correction


The Disposition Toward Critical Thinking

Seven Factor Analysis

- Truthseeking: A courageous desire for the best knowledge, even if such knowledge fails to support or undermine one's preconceptions, beliefs or self interests.
- Open-Mindedness: Tolerance to divergent views, self-monitoring for possible bias.
- Analyticity: Demanding the application of reason and evidence, alert to problematic situations, inclined to anticipate consequences.
- Systematicity: Valuing organization, focus and diligence to approach problems of all levels of complexity.
- CT Self-Confidence: Trusting of one's own reasoning skills and seeing oneself as a good thinker.
- Inquisitiveness: Curious and eager to acquire knowledge and learn explanations even when the applications of the knowledge are not immediately apparent.
- Maturity: Prudence in making, suspending, or revising judgment. An awareness that multiple solutions can be acceptable. An appreciation of the need to reach closure even in the absence of complete knowledge.

From: "The California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory": (C) Facione, N.C. & Facione, P.A. (1992). Critical Thinking: An Integrated Approach Some Generic Question Formats

______________________________________________

In the context of the given problem where one will use critical thinking to make a judgment:
- What are the central concepts and relationships?
- What are the assumptions underlying the statement of the problem?
- Are the assumptions valid?
- What are the main arguments (positions) being advanced?
- WHY are the arguments being made?
- What evidence (theories, criteria, contextual factors) exists in support of the arguments? - What evidence exists for doubting the arguments?
- Are there other positions (choices, alternative conclusions) that should be considered? What are they?
- Which of these possible conclusions should be accepted and WHY?
- What other knowledge is needed to make a sound judgment?
- What are the probable consequences of the accepted conclusions)?

Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric
by Facione and Facione [yes.It is in reverse order!]


4. Consistently does all or almost all of the following:
Accurately interprets evidence, statements, graphics, questions, etc. Identifies the salient arguments (reasons and claims) pro and con. Thoughtfully analyzes and evaluates major alternative points of view. Draws warranted, judicious, non-fallacious conclusions. Justifies key results and procedures, explains assumptions and reasons. Fair-mindedly follows where evidence and reasons lead.

3. Does most or many of the following:
Accurately interprets evidence, statements, graphics, questions, etc. Identifies relevant arguments (reasons and claims) pro and con. Offers analyses and evaluations of obvious alternative points of view. Draws warranted, non-fallacious conclusions. Justifies some results or procedures, explains reasons. Fair-mindedly follows where evidence and reasons lead.

2. Does most or many of the following:
Misinterprets evidence, statements, graphics, questions, etc. Fails to identify strong, relevant counter-arguments. Ignores or superficially evaluates obvious alternative points of view. Draws unwarranted or fallacious conclusions. Justifies few results or procedures, seldom explains reasons. Regardless of the evidence or reasons, maintains or defends views based on self-interest or preconceptions.

1. Consistently does all or almost all of the following:
Offers biased interpretations of evidence, statements, graphics, questions, information, or the points of view of others. Fails to identify or hastily dismisses strong, relevant counter-arguments. Ignores or superficially evaluates obvious alternative points of view. Argues using fallacious or irrelevant reasons, and unwarranted claims. Does not justify results or procedures, nor explain reasons. Regardless of the evidence or reasons, maintains or defends views based on self-interest or preconceptions. Exhibits close-mindedness or hostility to reason.

So What!

Critical thinking is a skill that anyone can learn. Good critical thinking skills give all of us the ability to think more clearly and see 'things' for what they really are. Critical thinking can be used in both positive and negative ways. While doing a paper we might decide subconsciously that we do not really want to do this paper and proceed to use our critical thinking skills to figure out how to get out of it. On the other hand, we might decide subconsciously that we like doing this, but do not have a lot of time...so we use critical thing to work out a logical path to get the job done as best we can. Of course, if we are really using some of the points above we may come to realize what our subconscious is trying to do. "Consciousness" is a much overworked term especially as it is applied to the mystical and occult, yet it does have much to do with our ability to evaluate. The entire point is to be AWARE of what you are doing when you are studying for an exam, be aware of what you are doing as you try to write a paper, and be aware of your thought processes.


"FRISCO"

"I use this word to help students remember some of the standards of good thinking.
Focus, Reasons, Inference, Situation, Clarity, Overview"

Bob Ennis, University of Illinois

Cezanne or Monet?