Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. It is a form of directed, problem-focused thinking. In which the individual tests ideas or possible solutions for errors or drawbacks.
Critical thinking defined in various ways by philosophers and thinkers across time. It will be useful to think of three essential features of critical thinking.
Firstly, critical thinking involves thinking about the ‘why’ question, or the set of assumptions and biases that influence any thought or action. Why does a consumer want to buy a specific product from the market?
Secondly, critical thinking means one looks at the available evidence and evaluates it. It is not possible to find an answer to a question just on the basis of the opinions of one’s friends and family. That may be quite misleading. Instead, it is important to consider all possible evidence. For example, data gathered through primary research, information available in existing research, perspectives of different experts and stakeholders.
Thirdly, critical thinking involves interpretation and analysis of different problems and issues one comes across in everyday life. These issues range from interpersonal conflicts to policy problems.
How can one observe and identify better? Now there is no one formula for every situation, of course. However, to identify the causes for any situation or problem, you will need to do at least three things: closely observe the problem, coherently describe the problem, and frame the problem.
A. Observing The Problem: Critical Thinking.
You have to observe the behavioral and working patterns of your colleague’s right from the beginning, and offer them reminders and encouragement to work.
Second, you have to observe why they are not able to do their work properly. Is it because of family issues or issues with their work ethic or something else? Are they not able to do the work because of lack of training or confidence? Based on the observation of the problem, different kinds of support may have to be given to them. Alternately, the work may have to be structured more tightly, so that all three members talk regularly and are accountable to each other.
In other words, observation helps you finetune your understanding of the problem and learn what factors create and sustain the problem.
B. Describing The Problem
Observation is usually followed by description, where you begin to detail the different components of the problem. Through description, you can unpack the different layers of a problem, identify and articulate the finer details of what you observe and sense.
To describe the problem, you’ll first have to articulate what you observe. For example, what do students exactly do in the classroom? Are they taking notes, looking at their textbooks, making any eye contact with you? Are they sitting towards the back or the front of the classroom, do they regularly attend classes or are some of them irregular?
This will help you concretely identify the behavior and conduct of students in the classroom. This is important because you need to be sure that your observations are not illusory or incomplete.
C. Framing The Problem.
After having observed and described the problem, we are left with many details. But sometimes there is too much detail to work with, especially if we do not organize and categorize it.
Once you have framed and organized the reasons within particular categories, it will be easier to work on solutions. You have to rethink the content being taught or how it is presented; work on creating a safe, comfortable space for students to express themselves; address the language needs of students via speaking, writing, and listening exercises.
In other words, framing the problem, based on your observation and description, helps you respond to the problem in more practical and meaningful ways.
Critical Interpretation in Critical thinking.
Interpretation, in simple terms, refers to making sense of anything you observe and experience. As you read a book, you interpret its meaning or what it is trying to say. As you watch a film, you interpret various things such as the presentation of characters. Interpretation is unavoidable. Whether you are talking to someone or doing a specialized task in a project, you will have to interpret what is going on in order to respond, interact, and act.
For our purposes, however, we will distinguish between functional and critical interpretation. Function interpretation refers to a surface-level understanding of what you observe. Critical interpretation goes a step (or many steps) further, reflecting on the observation or experience in more detail.
For example, imagine you are listening to a song that you really enjoy. A functional interpretation would be the following: This song is fun because it has nice beats and an enjoyable melody.
On the other hand, a critical interpretation would sound something like: This song played at a high tempo, and the groove produced by the use of the tabla along with the bongo. The beat creatively fuses Hindustani classical rhythms with Latin rhythms. The melody is soothing yet passionate; it first establishes a central melody and then improvises itself to provide a sense of expansion and movement.
Reflection refers to the act of introspecting about what you read and observe. It involves asking how and why things happen the way they do and cultivating a deeper engagement with what we read and observe. Synthesis refers to the act of connecting our responses and reflections into a coherent narrative or argument.
- Anderson, J. R. (2015). Cognitive psychology and its implications. New York: Worth Publishers
- Galloti, K. M. (2004). Cognitive psychology in and out of the laboratory. USA: Thomson Wadsworth.
- Matlin, M. (1994). Cognition. Bangalore: Harcourt Brace Pub.