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Critical Thinking

Miguel A. Tejada
Critical thinking is a very old term, the greek philosophers
tried to establish the frameworks of thinking, beginning with
Socrates 2500 years ago.

Critical thinking is a purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which

results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference,
as well as explanation of the considerations upon which that
judgment is based (Facione, 1990, p.2).

Critical thinking is essential as a tool of inquiry.

Critical thinking skills entail the abilities of mental processes of
discernment, analysis and evaluation applied to information
in order to achieve a logical final understanding and
judgment (Akyuz & Samsa, 2009).

Critical thinking is the ability and willingness to assess claims

and make objectives judgments on the basis of well supported
reasons and evidence rather than emotion or anecdote.

It includes the ability to be creative and constructive- the ability

to come up with alternative explanations for events, think of
implications of research findings, and apply new knowledge to
social and personal problems (Wade & Tavris, 2008, p.7).
Cognitive skills in critical thinking
Interpretation is to determine how much is the understanding and
identification about the central argument, the reasons that support
the argument, and assessing the available information for clarity
(Finn, 2011).

Evaluation is to determine how acceptable the argument is in

view of the reasons provided, the quality of the inferences
to the argument’s conclusion, and the examination of the quality of
the evidence (Finn, 2011).

Metacognitive skills monitor the relevancy of interpreting and

evaluating the argument, being aware and checking the biases and
assumptions relative to the argument, and applying and monitoring
thinking strategies to the most effective evaluation of the argument
(Finn, 2011).
Characteristics of good critical thinking
Conceptualize critical thinking in terms of skills, processes,
procedures, and practices, or equates critical thinking
with certain mental processes that can be improved through
practice is a misconception.

When critical thinking is seen apart from the development of

knowledge, understanding, and attitudes, and then
transferred to or applied in different contexts, this configure
a misconception (Bailin, Case, Coombs, and Daniels, 1999a).

Background knowledge in the particular area is a precondition

for critical thinking (Bailin et al., 1999a).
Interpretation vary greatly depending on the context, and with
the different kinds of knowledge and understanding necessary
for completion of this task; the knowledge of certain
critical concepts which enable one to make distinction is central
to critical thinking (Bailin et al., 1999a).

What drives increased competence in thinking is the mastery

of the standards for judging an appropriate direction to take in a
particular context, not learning pre-programmed, supposedly
generalizable procedures (Bailin et al., 1999a).
The main characteristic of thinking is the quality of the reasoning:

background knowledge relevant to the context,

knowledge of the principles and standards of argumentation
and inquiry,
knowledge of critical concepts, and
knowledge of relevant strategies and heuristics
(Bailin et al., 1999a).

Creativity plays an important role in thinking critically, often

requires imagining possible consequences, generating original
approaches and identifying alternative perspectives
(Bailin et al., 1999b).
Critical thinking includes appropriate deliberation or reflection,
must involve responsible assessment of reasons and arguments,
deliberation of plausible alternatives, and responding
constructively to reasons and arguments given by others in the
context of discussion (Bailin et al., 1999b).
Elements of reasoning as part of critical thinking
Understand the parts of thinking or elements of reasoning:
settle some question or solve some problem,
information base,
points of view,
expression through concepts and ideas, and
implications or consequences
(Elder & Paul, 2002; Celuch & Slama, 1999).

An inference is an intellectual act by which one concludes that

something is true in light of something else´s being true, or
seeming to be true (Elder & Paul, 2002).
An assumption is something taken for granted or presupposed,
usually it is something previously learned, it is part of our beliefs;
the assumptions and beliefs are used to interpret the world.

People use their beliefs as assumptions and make inferences

based on those assumptions (Elder & Paul, 2002).

Different people make different inferences because they bring to

situations different viewpoints; they make different assumptions
about what they see (Elder & Paul, 2002)

Good critical thinkers notice the inferences they are making,

the assumptions upon which they are basing those inferences,
and the point of view about the world they are developing.
(Elder & Paul, 2002)
It is important to learn to make accurate assumptions about the
content under study, and become practiced in making
justifiable inferences within that content (Elder & Paul, 2002)

A critical thinker must become the master of his or her own

conceptualizations; humans can give meaning by the power
of their minds to create a conceptualization and to make inferences
on the basis of it; once conceptualized a thing is integrated by us
in a network of ideas.

Only when people conceptualize a thing in some way, only then,

they can think about it (Elder & Paul, 2001).
Attributes of critical thinkers

Criteria for determining what attributes are important for

critical thinkers:

background knowledge,
standards of critical assessment, and
habits of mind or cognitive styles

The background and depth of knowledge, understanding, and

experience have a person in a particular area of study or practice
is a significant determinant for the capacity of critical thinking
in that area (Bailin et al., 1999b).
Standards for judging the adequacy of claims about meaning,
the credibility of statements made by authorities, the reliability of
reports made by observers, the validity of deductive arguments,
the strength of inductive arguments, and the adequacy of moral,
legal, and aesthetic reasons (Bailin et al., 1999b).

Relevant principles are:

(a) consider as many plausible alternative courses of action in the
context of the decision,
(b) attempt to discover and to take into account as much relevant
information about each alternative, and
(c) awareness of the point of view considering the possible biases
(Bailin et al., 1999b).
Habits of mind or cognitive styles are considered moderators
of critical thinking, they do not affect directly the ability to
implement critical thinking, rather they influence the
direction and strength of that thinking (Nickerson, 2008).

Examples of cognitive styles are (Finn, 2011; Bailin et al.,

open mindedness,
fair mindedness,
counterfactual thinking,
independent mindedness,
commitment to critical discussion,
inquiring attitude,
respect for legitimate intellectual authority,
respect for reasons and trust.