thinking is the ability to think about one's thinking and writing
in such a way as to
Such thinking about one's thinking involves the ability to identify
the basic elements of thought (purpose, question, information, assumption,
interpretation, concepts, implications, point of view) and assess those elements
using universal intellectual criteria and standards (clarity, accuracy,
precision, relevance, depth, breadth, and logicalness).
The most significant
critical thinking ideas are:
- CLARITY: Could you elaborate further on that
point? Could you express that point in another way? Could you give me
an illustration? Could you give me an example?
Clarity is the gateway standard. If a statement is unclear, we cannot
determine whether it is accurate or relevant. In fact, we cannot tell
anything about it because we don't yet know what it is saying.
example, the question, "What can be done about the education system in
America?" is unclear. In order to address the question adequately, we
would need to have a clearer understanding of what the person asking
the question is considering the "problem" to be. A clearer question
might be "What can educators do to ensure that students learn the
skills and abilities which help them function successfully on the job
and in their daily decision-making?"
- ACCURACY: Is that really true? How could we check
that? How could we find out if that is true?
A statement can be clear but not accurate, as in "Most dogs are over
300 pounds in weight."
- PRECISION: Could you give more details? Could you
be more specific?
A statement can be both clear and accurate, but not precise, as in
"Jack is overweight." (We don't know how overweight Jack is, one pound
or 500 pounds.)
- RELEVANCE: How is that connected to the question?
How does that bear on the issue? A statement can be clear, accurate, and
precise, but not relevant to
the question at issue.
For example, students often think that the
amount of effort they put into a course should be used in raising their
grade in a course. Often, however, the "effort" does not measure the
quality of student learning, and when this is so, effort is
irrelevant to their appropriate grade.
- DEPTH: How does your answer address the
complexities in the question? How are you taking into account the
problems in the question? Is that dealing with the most significant
factors? A statement can be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant, but
superficial (that is, lack depth).
For example, the statement "Just say
No" which is often used to discourage children and teens from using
drugs, is clear, accurate, precise, and relevant. Nevertheless, it
lacks depth because it treats an extremely complex issue, the pervasive
problem of drug use among young people, superficially. It fails to deal
with the complexities of the issue.
- BREADTH: Do we need to consider another point of
view? Is there another way to look at this question? What would this
look like from a conservative standpoint? What would this look like
from the point of view of...?
A line of reasoning may be clear accurate, precise, relevant, and deep,
but lack breadth (as in an argument from either the conservative or
liberal standpoint which gets deeply into an issue, but only recognizes
the insights of one side of the question.)
- LOGIC: Does this really make sense? Does that
follow from what you said? How does that follow? But before you implied
this and now you are saying that; how can both be true?
When we think, we bring a variety of thoughts together into some order.
When the combination of thoughts are mutually supporting and make sense
in combination, the thinking is "logical." When the combination is not
mutually supporting, is contradictory in some sense, or does not "make
sense," the combination is not logical.
Center For Critical Thinking -- Richard Paul, Ph.D., Linda Elder,
The Center and Foundation For Critical
Thinking, 4655 Sonoma Mountain Road,
Santa Rosa, CA 95404