Critical Thinking

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Critical Thinking
We are all capable of thinking and reasoning as part of our human being nature, but to what extent the decisions that we make, the actions that we take, and the explanations that we give are based on facts? Can we defend our points of view, or provide a wise opinion in a social conversation with our friends or in a meeting with our co-workers?. All these questions are associated to what critical thinking is. Our intention is to describe what skills an individual has to learn and practice, and the stages or process that the person needs to go through, to become a critical thinker. The skills that the individual obtains during the development process shall be transferred to our lifestyles in order to be effective in our society. According to Richard Paul and Michael Scriven (2004) "critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action". Critical thinking (CT) is a cognitive process in which we take nothing for granted, but instead we reflect on the information we receive and establish our own judgment. We are the ones who decide what to and what not to believe or do. Critical Thinking Skills

Every person is capable of being a critical thinker, but CT is a process that we need to learn, develop and put into practice. As part of this process, experts agree on a number of skills that are the foundation and are part of the definition of CT: (a) listening (gather the information), (b) interpretation, (c) analysis, (d) evaluation, (e) inference, (f) explanation and (g) self-regulation.

A critical thinker needs to learn how to listen in order to get all the possible information. In this listening exercise, the individual is observing the gestures, mood, tone of voice and so forth, of the person sending the information. This exercise still applies when the critical thinker is reading, instead of listening, because he or she still needs to know the mood, tone or circumstances when the originator wrote the information. The next skill is to know how to interpret. The critical thinker needs to internalize and understand the meaning of all the information that he or she received before doing an analysis of it. In the analysis, the critical thinker must take a close look at the content of the information and should be able to separate the facts from the inferences. The next step or skill in CT is to evaluate the information. The critical thinker needs to evaluate the information by judging the evidence or premises of the information, which had a conclusion or opinion within it. Another skill that a critical thinker needs to learn is to make inferences or hypotheses. The individual creates possible scenarios that he or she will examine and will help to reach a conclusion. After the critical thinker gathered, interpreted, analyzed and evaluated all the information, and once the individual made possible scenarios, the critical thinker is ready to explain and defend a point of view. The last skill on the list, self-regulation, is the one that makes us start again. Self-regulation invites the critical thinkers to take their explanations or conclusions as the input information to the aforementioned chronological list of skills. It is a self-improving way of inquiring and reflecting on their previous conclusions.

Now the critical thinker has the necessary skills that facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the CT process. In order to complement these skills, the critical thinker shall endeavor to incorporate the reasoning elements and the intellectual traits and virtues that shaping the critical thinker skills. The reasoning elements and intellectual virtues and traits are dimensions that allow the thinker to empower ideas and viewpoint in such away...
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