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Formal approaches to critical thinking incredibly emphasize the development and implementation of analytical skills during school years. The idea is to enable students to have the capacity to understand claims properly, develop and follow through various arguments logically, deploying a bigger picture while looking for answers, which are consistent with the right paths of reasoning. Harris (1998) defines critical thinking as “the process that people use to reflect on, assess, and judge the assumption underlying their own and other people’s ideas and efforts” (Para.2).
In this perspective, critical thinking comprises the process deployed by people in their attempts to think about their own thinking or the conscious scrutiny of their thoughts. According to Ennis (1962), one can view “critical thinking as a way of becoming aware of and taking control of one’s thinking processes to think more effectively” (p.5). During this process, people interrogate themselves, evaluate evidence suitable for supporting their arguments, attempt to provide logical explanations to complex problems and arrive at witty decisions.
On the other hand, Hashemi (2011) looks at creative thinking as “the process that people employ to develop ideas that are unique, useful and worthy for further elaboration” (p.65). However, according to Harris (1998), there “…is another thinking, one that focuses on exploring ideas, generating possibilities and looking for many right answers rather than just one” (Para.3). This thinking is what scholars refer to as creative thinking.
Opposed to critical thinking, creative thinking comes into play during an individual’s career life. What precedes the other between creativity and criticality in thinking? Both kinds of thinking are crucial in a problem-solving process. However, “First, one must analyze the problem; then he/she must generate possible solutions; next, he/she must choose and implement the best solution; and finally, he/she must evaluate the effectiveness of the solution” (Harris, 1998, Para.10). These kinds of thinking operate together and cannot principally separate apart.
Personal experience in critical thinking
In my working life, I have involved myself in the teaching profession. One of the purposes of teaching and training people is to inculcate the ability to think and argue out coherently without the slightest form of biasness. As a teacher, I had to work and provide avenues for the achievement of preset goals. Therefore, I had to reason critically to ensure the provision of judging and reasoning opportunities for students.
During this time, I had to appreciate that people can solve problems in several ways. As a repercussion, I had to make provisions to ensure that I consider the views of the entire student, reasoning through to unveil any loopholes, which would otherwise force me to apply the rules of logical thinking to come out with probabilities as to why such solutions were not eloquent. This way, it was possible to uphold critical-thinking features, which encompass “studying all hypothesis and criticisms and ensure that there are no prejudices about some results” (Hashemi, 2011, p.69). The spirit of providing room for criticisms was a requirement rather than an option.
Importance and benefits of critical thinking
Inculcating the spirit of critical thinking can enable an individual to ensure that people do not make decisions without giving ardent attention to one’s way of thinking. This aims at ensuring that they do not arrive at decisions before exploring a myriad of other possibilities. Without knowing critical thinking, one can’t think of other likely alternatives and other possible scenarios, which are not obvious as “being part of the solution of the problem” (Harris, 1998, Para. 3) at hand.
Inclining towards critical thinking has a certain benefit since it makes an individual more honest with their own thinking. This means that, in situations where one is not truly sure of something, he or she can come out without fear and admit that or she does not know. The beliefs that people subscribe to would principally be those that they have developed themselves through reasoning. These beliefs should be free from prejudices, coercion, or any other form of manipulation. Also, critical thinking helps foster the spirit of empathy and appreciation of other people’s varying perspectives of viewing things, not from the way one sees the same issue in an open-minded manner.
Critical thinking also enables people to think first before acting in a manner, resulting in hurting one’s emotions later. As Haynes (1991) puts it, by thinking critically, “we would strive for better understanding of issues, resisting quick-fix solutions and develop ways to sort through our feelings and constructively harness our emotions” (p.121). Settling on attempts to improve an individual’s way of thinking is essential. Perhaps, there are no other self-help endeavors with such illustrious fruits in one’s life.
Ennis, R. (1962). The Concept of Critical Thinking. Harvard Educational Review, 46(47), pp. 1-56.
Harris, R. (1998). Introduction to Creative and Critical Thinking. Web.
Hashemi, S. (2011). The use of critical thinking in social science textbooks of high school: a field’s study of Fars province in Iran. International Journal of Instruction, 4(1), pp. 63-77.
Haynes, F. (1991). Archaeology of Thinking. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 23(1), p. 121.