Critical thinking includes the component skills of analyzing arguments, making inferences using inductive or deductive reasoning, judging or evaluating, and making decisions or solving problems when evaluating academic content. Background knowledge is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for enabling critical thought within a given subject. Critical thinking involves both cognitive skills and dispositions. These dispositions, which can be seen as attitudes or habits of mind, include open- and fair-mindedness, inquisitiveness, flexibility, a propensity to seek reason, a desire to be well-informed, and a respect for and willingness to entertain diverse viewpoints. There are both general- and domain-specific aspects of critical thinking. Empirical research suggests that people begin developing critical thinking competencies at a very young age. Although adults often exhibit deficient reasoning, in theory all people can be taught to think critically. Instructors are urged to provide explicit instruction in critical thinking, to teach how to transfer to new contexts, and to use cooperative or collaborative learning methods and constructivist approaches that place students at the center of the learning process. In constructing assessments of critical thinking, educators should use open-ended tasks, real-world or “authentic” problem contexts, and ill-structured problems that require students to go beyond recalling or restating previously learned information. Such tasks should have more than one defensible solution and embed adequate collateral materials to support multiple perspectives. Finally, such assessment tasks should make student reasoning visible by requiring students to provide evidence or logical arguments in support of judgments, choices, claims, or assertions.
Critical thinking is an important element of all professional fields and academic disciplines when evaluating academic content. Within the framework of scientific skepticism,