Differentpeople understand and define the concept of critical thinking indifferent ways. Different scholars and researchers have providedoverlapping definitions of critical thinking for the last 2,500 yearsduring which the concept has been developed (Glaser, 2013). Most ofthe definitions given by scholars consider critical thinking as one`sability to reason rationally and clearly. On my part I would definecritical thinking as an intellectual process that involves skillfuland active conceptualization, synthesis, analysis, and evaluation ofinformation that has been generated through reflection, observation,or experience. In other words, critical thinking is based on someuniversal intellectual values that tend to transcend divisions of thesubject matter.
Acritical thinker has five major characteristics. First, a criticalthinker relies on reason instead as opposed to emotions. Kurlands(2015) stated, “Critical thinking requires evidence, ignorance ofno known evidence, and the follow-up of evidence where it leads”(1). The statement emphasizes on the significance of rationality incritical thinking. Secondly, critical thinking calls forself-awareness, which requires one to weigh potential influences ofbias and motives. Third, people think critically when they recognizeself motives, emotional impulses, and nefarious purposes, all ofwhich are elements that determine honesty. The fourth characteristicis open mindedness, which requires a critical thinker to evaluate allinferences that available within their reasoning capacity. Lastly,judgment distinguishes critical thinkers from non-critical thinkers.A critical thinker is able to merit alternative perceptions andassumptions.
Someonewith the ability to think critically can do several things that thosewho cannot think critically. A critical thinker, unlike an ordinarythinker is able to establish connection between different ideas.Connecting different ideas is what leads to the identification ofviable solutions. In addition, a critical thinker determines therelevance as well as the significance of different ideas beforeengaging in the intellectual reasoning on those ideas (Glaser, 2013).Therefore, a critical thinker is likely to engage only on ideas thatwill lead to some solutions or important conclusions. Moreover,critical thinking involves the justification of one’s values andbeliefs.
Inmost cases, people tend to confuse being argumentative and being acritical thinker. This is because even people without theintellectual capacity to engage in critical thinking can still makesome arguments. Critical thinking is not just a matter ofaccumulating data and information. For example, a person with a lotof facts and a good memory may not necessarily be a good criticalthinker (Willingham, 2007). Critical thinkers are able to go beyondthe surface structure and deduce consequences or outcomes by usingthe facts they already have to solve some problems or find relevantsources of information that can inform them better. In other works,critical thinking leads to informed arguments, but not all argumentsprove ones to be a critical thinker.
Inconclusion, different people comprehend the idea of critical thinkingin different ways, but it is unanimously agreed that criticalreasoning occurs when one is able to think clearly and rationally. Amore comprehensive definition should consider critical thinking as anintellectual process that requires skillful and activeconceptualization of information that one collects from reflection orobservation. Some of the key features of a critical thinker includerationality, honesty, self-awareness, fair judgment, andopen-mindedness. The ability to deduce consequences using limitedfacts distinguishes a critical thinker from an argumentative person.
Glaser,M. (2013). Definingcritical thinking.Tomales, CA: The Community.
Kurlands,D. (2015). How language really works: The fundamentals of criticalthinking and effective writing. CriticalThinking.Retrieved May 10, 2015, fromhttp://www.criticalreading.com/critical_thinking.htm
Willingham,T. (2007). Criticalthinking: Why is it so hard to teach?Virginia: University of Virginia.