critical thinking 101 aka 7 core critical thinking skills

hola!

so to start with this undoubtedly interesting string of blog posts, i thought i’d begin by sharing what general academia tells me are the 7 core critical thinking skills. broadly defined and put into my own words, *daniel cook voice* here they are!:

  1. analyzing
    – breaking down ideas, events, or concepts to discover their significance, function and relationships.
  2. applying standards
    – judging according to established or agreed upon personal, professional, or social rules and criteria. 
  3. discriminating
    – comparing and contrasting ideas, events, and concepts, and distinguishing significance or purpose 
  4.  information seeking
    – finding evidence, facts, or knowledge by seeking out relevant and appropriate sources and gathering various types of information (objective, subjective, historical, and current) from multiple reliable sources. 
  5. logical reasoning
    – inferencing or drawing conclusions that are supported and justified by relevant and appropriate evidence 
  6.  predicting
    – considering an event, concept, or idea and its potential impact and consequences 
  7. transforming knowledge
    – altering or reinventing the circumstance, significance, details, or function of specific concepts, events, and knowledge and applying these alterations in various contexts to assess the changed outcome

with all of these in mind, i think they reinforce my idea of using critical thinking as an integral part of metacognitive function in students.

when we talk about learning about how we learn, we are essentially participating in the analyzing step of this list; we’re trying to understand ourselves enough to articulate our needs.

next, we begin to decide if our ways of thinking, knowing, doing, feeling, etcetera, fit within a certain frame of values, such as: will my teacher allow me to use a laptop to take notes? will i get to do hands on projects? will we be working independently or in groups? so on an so forth. this process easily fits in with step two (aka applying standards.)

of course, not every student learns the same way, and most students learn in different ways for different types of subjects and situations. when we teach students how to recognize and acknowledge these variances we’re basically discriminating between our own ways of learning, knowing, doing, and feeling. this can also happen when we look at group work: who does what job (alternatively said: who serves what function in this setting?), how do we use everyone’s strengths to make this project work (alternatively: what makes the most sense in this context?)

number four (information seeking) is a bit trickier to work in. if we continue to zoom in even more, we (i) could (and will) argue that this step is related to how we consume and process information. if we know how we learn best, and what contexts our different learning styles apply to, we can begin to understand how we know what we know, why we do what we do, why we think what we think; we can begin to pick apart how we’ve come to know things by analyzing what we’ve prioritized in our learning journey. this isn’t quite as literal and easy to connect as the other ideas, but if you focus on the emphasis of gathering information, you can see how the connection between understanding ourselves influences how and why we consume certain media and behave in interactions. with all the groundwork from steps 1-3, we can start to understand ourselves so well to a point we can recognize personal bias and how to remove (or add!) our subjective opinions to relate and contrast with information. this is also tied to logical reasoning in that we are using (or setting aside) previous knowledge and taking in new information to come to a new conclusion.

when we are able to think about our thinking with this much naunce, we will begin to recognize patterns in our thoughts, behaviours, beliefs, and actions. this is very obviously linked to predicting. in other circles it’s called intuition, especially when we refer to feelings we have about certain ideas, situations, and people. the idea that this is an innate feeling is somewhat misleading; we aren’t born knowing how to sense danger and something suspicious at the same cognitive level as we do as full-grown humans. it’s primarily nurtured over time through various lived experiences and life lessons.

and then of course, step seven (transforming knowledge) is what i (we) are doing right now! knowing how i learn best means i can talk about how i think and alter my circumstances. this isn’t something that is easy to do, or rather, it’s not something you just grow into. critical thinking skills need to be taught and practiced just like any other skill and learning outcome. by doing this intentionally (rather than stumbling across a miraculous *LeArNiNg OpPoUrTuNiTy*) you’re better setting up your students for success in the long term.

how? how does it work? how do we teach it? well that’s what you and i (mostly me, tbh) are going to figure out!

until next post, pals…

mj

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