Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information and make reasoned decisions. It involves suspended judgment, open-mindedness, and clarity of thought.
It involves considering different viewpoints and weighing evidence carefully. It is essential for solving complex problems and making good decisions.
People who think critically are able to see the world in a more nuanced way and understand the interconnectedness of things. They are also better able to adapt to change and handle uncertainty.
In today’s fast-paced world, the ability to think critically is more important than ever and necessary for students and employees alike.
Critical Thinking Examples
1. Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses
Critical thinkers don’t just take things at face value. They stand back and contemplate the potential strengths and weaknesses of something and then make a decision after contemplation.
This helps you to avoid excessive bias and identify possible problems ahead of time.
For example, a boxer about to get in the ring will likely need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent. He might learn that his opponent’s left hook is very strong, but his opponent also gets tired after the third round. With this knowledge, he can go into the bout with strong defenses in the first three rounds before going on the offense.
Here, the boxer’s critical thinking skills will help him win his match.
2. Creating a Hypothesis based on Limited Data
When scientists set out to test a new theory, they first need to develop a hypothesis. This is an educated guess about how things work, based on what is already known.
Once a hypothesis has been developed, experiments can be designed to test it.
However, sometimes scientists may find themselves working with limited data. In such cases, they may need to make some assumptions in order to form a hypothesis.
For example, if they are studying a phenomenon that occurs infrequently, they may need to extrapolate from the data they do have in order to form a hypothesis.
Here, the scientist is engaged in critical thinking: they use the limited data to come up with a tentative judgment.
3. Moderating a Debate
A debate moderator needs to have strong critical thinking skills. They need to use objective evaluations, analysis, and critique to keep the discussion on track and ensure that all sides are heard fairly.
This means being able to identify when a point has been made sufficiently, or when someone is beginning to veer off topic and being able to direct the conversation accordingly.
Similarly, they need to be able to assess each argument objectively and consider its merits, rather than getting caught up in the emotion of the debate. If someone is using an unfair point or one that is not factual, the moderator needs to be switched on and identify this.
By remaining calm and impartial, the moderator can help to ensure that a debate is productive and respectful.
4. Judging and Adjudicating
A judge or adjudicator needs to weigh the evidence and make a determination based on the facts.
This requires the adjudicator to be able to try to see both sides of an argument. They need the ability to see past personal biases and to critically evaluate the credibility of all sides.
In addition, judges and adjudicators must be able to think quickly and make sound decisions in the face of complex issues.
For example, if you were to be adjudicating the above debate, you need to hear both sides of the argument and then decide who won. It’s your job to evaluate, see strengths and weaknesses in arguments, and come to a conclusion.
5. Grading an Essay
Teachers need critical thinking skills when grading essays so that they can effectively assess the quality of the writing. By critically analyzing the essay, teachers can identify any errors or weaknesses in the argument.
Furthermore, they can also determine whether the essay meets the required standards for the assignment. Even a very well-written essay may deserve a lower grade if the essay doesn’t directly answer the essay question.
A teacher needs to be able to read an essay and understand not only what the student is trying to say, but also how well they are making their argument. Are they using evidence effectively? Are they drawing valid conclusions? A teacher needs to be able to evaluate an essay holistically in order to give a fair grade.
In order to properly evaluate an essay, teachers need to be able to think critically about the writing. Only then can they provide an accurate assessment of the work.
6. Active Reading
Active reading is a skill that requires the reader to be engaged with the text in order to fully understand it. This means not only being able to read the words on the page, but also being able to interpret the meaning behind them.
In order to do this, active readers need to have good critical thinking skills.
They need to be able to ask questions about the text and look for evidence to support their answers. Additionally, active readers need to be able to make connections between the text and their own experiences.
Active reading leads to better comprehension and retention of information.
7. Deciding Whether or Not to Believe Something
When trying to determine whether or not to believe something, you’re engaging in critical thinking.
For example, you might need to consider the source of the information. If the information comes from a reliable source, such as a reputable news organization or a trusted friend, then it is more likely to be accurate.
However, if the source is less reliable, such as an anonymous website or a person with a known bias, then the information should be viewed with more skepticism.
In addition, it is important to consider the evidence that is being presented. If the evidence is well-supported and logically presented, then it is more likely to be true. However, if the evidence is weak or relies on fallacious reasoning, then the claim is less likely to be true.
8. Determining the Best Solution to a Situation
Determining the best solution to a problem generally requires you to critique the different options. There are often many different factors to consider, and it can be difficult to know where to start.
However, there are some general guidelines that can help to make the process a little easier.
For example, if you have a few possible solutions to the problem, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of each one. Consider both the short-term and long-term effects of each option before making a decision.
Furthermore, it is important to be aware of your own biases. Be sure to consider all of the options objectively, without letting your personal preferences get in the way.
9. Giving Formative Feedback
Formative feedback is feedback that you give to someone part-way through a learning experience. To do this, you need to think critically.
For example, one thing you need to do is see where the student’s strengths and weaknesses like. Perhaps the student is doing extremely well at a task, so your feedback might be that they should try to extend themselves by adding more complexity to the task.
Or, perhaps the student is struggling, so you suggest to them that they approach the learning experience from a different angle.
10. Giving Summative Feedback
Summative feedback occurs at the end of a learning scenario. For example, the written feedback at the end of an essay or on a report card is summative.
When providing summative feedback, it is important to take a step back and consider the situation from multiple perspectives. What are areas for improvement and where exactly might the student have missed some key points? How could the student have done better?
Asking yourself these questions is all part of the process of giving feedback, and they can all be considered examples of critical thinking. You’re literally critiquing the student’s work and identifying opportunities for improvement.
11. Evaluating Evidence
When evaluating evidence, critical thinkers take a step back and look at the bigger picture. They consider all of the available information and weigh it up. They look at logical flaws, the reliability of the evidence, and its validity.
This process allows them to arrive at a conclusion that is based on sound reasoning, rather than emotion or personal bias.
For example, when a social scientist looks at the evidence from his study, he needs to evaluate whether the data was corrupted and ensure the methodology was sound in order to determine if the evidence is valuable or not.
12. Media Literacy
Media literacy seems to be in short supply these days. Too many people take information off the internet or television and just assume it is true.
A person with media literacy, however, will not just trust what they see and read. Instead, they look at the data and weigh up the evidence. They will see if there was a sound study to back up claims. They will see if there is bias in the media source and whether it’s just following an ideological line.
Furthermore, they will make sure they seek out trustworthy media sources. These are not just media sources you like or that confirm your own point of view. They need to be sources that do their own research, find solid data, and don’t pursue one blind agenda.
13. Asking your Own Questions
Asking your own questions is an important part of critical thinking. When you ask questions, you are forcing yourself to think more deeply about the information you are considering.
Asking questions also allows you to gather more information from others who may have different perspectives.
This helps you to better understand the issue and to come up with your own conclusions.
So, often at schools, we give students a list of questions to ask about something in order to dig deeper into it. For example, in a book review lesson, the teacher might give a list of questions to ask about the book’s characters and plot.
14. Conducting Rigorous Research
Research is a process of inquiry that encompasses the gathering of data, interpretation of findings, and communication of results. The researcher needs to engage in critical thinking throughout the process, but most importantly, when designing their methodology.
Research can be done through a variety of methods, such as experiments, surveys, interviews, and observations. Each method has strengths and weaknesses.
Once the data has been collected, it must be analyzed and interpreted. This is often done through statistical methods or qualitative analysis.
Research is an essential tool for discovering new knowledge and for solving problems, but researchers need to think critically about how valid and reliable their data truly is.
15. Examining your own Beliefs and Prejudices
It’s important to examine your own beliefs and prejudices in order to ensure that they are fair and accurate. People who don’t examine their own beliefs have not truly critically examined their lives.
One way to do this is to take the time to consider why you believe what you do. What experiences have you had that have led you to this belief? Are there other ways to interpret these experiences? It’s also important to be aware of the potential for confirmation bias, which is when we seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs, while ignoring information that contradicts them.
This can lead us to hold onto inaccurate or unfair beliefs even when presented with evidence to the contrary.
To avoid this, it’s important to seek out diverse perspectives, and to be open-minded when considering new information. By taking these steps, you can help ensure that your beliefs are fair and accurate.
16. Looking at a Situation from Multiple Perspectives
One of the most important critical thinking skills that you can learn in life is how to look at a situation from multiple perspectives.
Being able to see things from different angles can help you to understand complex issues, spot potential problems, and find creative solutions. It can also help you to build better relationships, as you will be able to see where others are coming from and find common ground.
There are a few simple techniques that you can use to develop this skill.
First, try to imagine how someone else would feel in the same situation.
Second, put yourself in their shoes and try to see things from their point of view.
Finally, ask yourself what other factors may be influencing their perspective. By taking the time to view things from multiple angles, you will be better prepared to deal with whatever life throws your way.
17. Considering Implications before Taking Action
When faced with a difficult decision, it is important to consider the implications of each possible action before settling on a course of action.
This is because the consequences of our actions can be far-reaching and often unforeseen.
For example, a seemingly small decision like whether to attend a party or not might have much larger implications. If we decide to go to the party, we might miss an important deadline at work.
However, if we stay home, we might miss out on an opportunity to meet new people and make valuable connections.
In either case, our choice can have a significant impact on our lives.
Fortunately, critical thinking can help people to make well-informed decisions that could have a positive impact on their lives.
For example, you might have to weight up the pros and cons of attending the party and identify potential downsides, like whether you might be in a car with an impaired driver, and whether the party is really worth losing your job.
Having weighed up the potential outcomes, you can make a more rational and informed decision.
18. Reflective Practice
Reflecting on your actions is an important part of critical thinking. When you take the time to reflect, you are able to step back and examine your choices and their consequences more objectively.
This allows you to learn from your mistakes and make better decisions in the future.
In order to reflect effectively, it is important to be honest with yourself and open to learning new things. You must also be willing to question your own beliefs and assumptions. By taking these steps, you can develop the critical thinking skills that are essential for making sound decisions next time.
This will also, fortunately, help you to constantly improve upon yourself.
Problem-solving requires the ability to think critically in order to accurately assess a situation and determine the best course of action.
This means being able to identify the root cause of a problem, as well as any potential obstacles that may stand in the way of a solution. It also involves breaking down a problem into smaller, more manageable pieces in order to more easily find a workable solution.
In addition, critical thinking skills also require the ability to think creatively in order to come up with original solutions to these problems.
Go Deeper: Problem-Solving Examples
20. Brainstorming New Solutions
When brainstorming new solutions, critical thinking skills are essential in order to generate fresh ideas and identify potential issues.
For example, the ability to identify the problems with the last solution you tried is important in order to come up with better solutions this time. Similarly, analytical thinking is necessary in order to evaluate the feasibility of each idea. Furthermore, it is also necessary to consider different perspectives and adapt to changing circumstances.
By utilizing all of these critical thinking skills, it will be possible to develop innovative solutions that are both practical and effective.
21. Reserving Judgment
A key part of critical thinking is reserving judgment. This means that we should not rush to conclusions, but instead take the time to consider all the evidence before making up our minds.
By reserving judgment, we can avoid making premature decisions that we might later regret. We can also avoid falling victim to confirmation bias, which is the tendency to only pay attention to information that supports our existing beliefs.
Instead, by keeping an open mind and considering all the evidence, we can make better decisions and reach more accurate conclusions.
22. Identifying Deceit
Critical thinking is an important skill to have in any situation, but it is especially important when trying to identify deceit.
There are a few key things to look for when using critical thinking to identify deceit.
First, pay attention to the person’s body language. Second, listen closely to what the person is saying and look for any inconsistencies. Finally, try to get a sense of the person’s motive – why would they want to deceive you?
Each of these questions helps you to not just take things at their face value. Instead, you’re critiquing the situation and coming to a conclusion using all of your intellect and senses, rather than just believing what you’re told.
23. Being Open-Minded to New Evidence that Contradicts your Beliefs
People with critical thinking skills are more open-minded because they are willing to consider different points of view and evidence.
They also realize that their own beliefs may be wrong and are willing to change their minds if new information is presented.
Similarly, people who are not critical thinkers tend to be close-minded because they fail to critique themselves and challenge their own mindset. This can lead to conflicts, as closed-minded people are not willing to budge on their beliefs even when presented with contradictory evidence.
Critical thinkers, on the other hand, are able to have more productive conversations as they are willing to listen to others and consider different viewpoints. Ultimately, being open-minded and willing to change one’s mind is a sign of intelligence and maturity.
24. Accounting for Bias
We all have biases, based on our individual experiences, perspectives, and beliefs. These can lead us to see the world in a certain way and to interpret information in a way that supports our existing views.
However, if we want to truly understand an issue, it is important to try to put aside our personal biases and look at the evidence objectively.
This is where critical thinking skills come in.
By using critical thinking, we can examine the evidence dispassionately and assess different arguments without letting our own prejudices get in the way. Start by looking at weaknesses and logical flaws in your own thinking.
Play the devil’s advocate.
In this way, you can start to get a more accurate picture of an issue and make more informed decisions.
25. Basing your Beliefs on Logic and Reasoning
In order to lead a successful and fulfilling life, it is important to base your beliefs on logic and reasoning.
This does not mean that you should never believe in something without evidence, but it does mean that you should be thoughtful and intentional about the things that you choose to believe.
One way to ensure that your beliefs are based on logic and reasoning is to seek out reliable sources of information. Another method is to use thought games to follow all your thoughts to their logical conclusions.
By basing your beliefs on logic and reasoning, you will be more likely to make sound decisions, and less likely to be swayed by emotions or misinformation.
Critical thinking is an important skill for anyone who wants to be successful in the modern world. It allows us to evaluate information and make reasoned decisions, rather than simply accepting things at face value.
Thus, employers often want to employ people with strong critical thinking skills. These employees will be able to solve problems by themselves and identify ways to improve the workplace. They will be able to push back against bad decisions and use their own minds to make good decisions.
Furthermore, critical thinking skills are important for students. This is because they need to be able to evaluate information and think through problems with a critical mindset in order to learn and improve.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]