can you increase critical thinking

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can you increase critical thinking

How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

It’s simple in theory, but tougher in practice – here are five tips to get you started.

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Have you heard the riddle about two coins that equal thirty cents, but one of them is not a nickel? What about the one where a surgeon says they can’t operate on their own son?

Those brain teasers tap into your critical thinking skills. But your ability to think critically isn’t just helpful for solving those random puzzles – it plays a big role in your career. 

An impressive 81% of employers say critical thinking carries a lot of weight when they’re evaluating job candidates. It ranks as the top competency companies consider when hiring recent graduates (even ahead of communication ). Plus, once you’re hired, several studies show that critical thinking skills are highly correlated with better job performance.

So what exactly are critical thinking skills? And even more importantly, how do you build and improve them? 

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate facts and information, remain objective, and make a sound decision about how to move forward.

Does that sound like how you approach every decision or problem? Not so fast. Critical thinking seems simple in theory but is much tougher in practice, which helps explain why 65% of employers say their organization has a need for more critical thinking. 

In reality, critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. In order to do it well, you need to:

  • Remain open-minded and inquisitive, rather than relying on assumptions or jumping to conclusions
  • Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value
  • Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible
  • Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation

So, critical thinking isn’t just being intelligent or analytical. In many ways, it requires you to step outside of yourself, let go of your own preconceived notions, and approach a problem or situation with curiosity and fairness.

It’s a challenge, but it’s well worth it. Critical thinking skills will help you connect ideas, make reasonable decisions, and solve complex problems.

7 critical thinking skills to help you dig deeper

Critical thinking is often labeled as a skill itself (you’ll see it bulleted as a desired trait in a variety of job descriptions). But it’s better to think of critical thinking less as a distinct skill and more as a collection or category of skills. 

To think critically, you’ll need to tap into a bunch of your other soft skills. Here are seven of the most important. 


It’s important to kick off the critical thinking process with the idea that anything is possible. The more you’re able to set aside your own suspicions, beliefs, and agenda, the better prepared you are to approach the situation with the level of inquisitiveness you need. 

That means not closing yourself off to any possibilities and allowing yourself the space to pull on every thread – yes, even the ones that seem totally implausible.

As Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D. writes in a piece for Psychology Today , “Even if an idea appears foolish, sometimes its consideration can lead to an intelligent, critically considered conclusion.” He goes on to compare the critical thinking process to brainstorming . Sometimes the “bad” ideas are what lay the foundation for the good ones. 

Open-mindedness is challenging because it requires more effort and mental bandwidth than sticking with your own perceptions. Approaching problems or situations with true impartiality often means:

  • Practicing self-regulation : Giving yourself a pause between when you feel something and when you actually react or take action.
  • Challenging your own biases: Acknowledging your biases and seeking feedback are two powerful ways to get a broader understanding. 

Critical thinking example

In a team meeting, your boss mentioned that your company newsletter signups have been decreasing and she wants to figure out why.

At first, you feel offended and defensive – it feels like she’s blaming you for the dip in subscribers. You recognize and rationalize that emotion before thinking about potential causes. You have a hunch about what’s happening, but you will explore all possibilities and contributions from your team members.


Observation is, of course, your ability to notice and process the details all around you (even the subtle or seemingly inconsequential ones). Critical thinking demands that you’re flexible and willing to go beyond surface-level information, and solid observation skills help you do that.

Your observations help you pick up on clues from a variety of sources and experiences, all of which help you draw a final conclusion. After all, sometimes it’s the most minuscule realization that leads you to the strongest conclusion.

Over the next week or so, you keep a close eye on your company’s website and newsletter analytics to see if numbers are in fact declining or if your boss’s concerns were just a fluke. 

Critical thinking hinges on objectivity. And, to be objective, you need to base your judgments on the facts – which you collect through research. You’ll lean on your research skills to gather as much information as possible that’s relevant to your problem or situation. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the quantity of information – quality matters too. You want to find data and details from a variety of trusted sources to drill past the surface and build a deeper understanding of what’s happening. 

You dig into your email and website analytics to identify trends in bounce rates, time on page, conversions, and more. You also review recent newsletters and email promotions to understand what customers have received, look through current customer feedback, and connect with your customer support team to learn what they’re hearing in their conversations with customers.

The critical thinking process is sort of like a treasure hunt – you’ll find some nuggets that are fundamental for your final conclusion and some that might be interesting but aren’t pertinent to the problem at hand.

That’s why you need analytical skills. They’re what help you separate the wheat from the chaff, prioritize information, identify trends or themes, and draw conclusions based on the most relevant and influential facts. 

It’s easy to confuse analytical thinking with critical thinking itself, and it’s true there is a lot of overlap between the two. But analytical thinking is just a piece of critical thinking. It focuses strictly on the facts and data, while critical thinking incorporates other factors like emotions, opinions, and experiences. 

As you analyze your research, you notice that one specific webpage has contributed to a significant decline in newsletter signups. While all of the other sources have stayed fairly steady with regard to conversions, that one has sharply decreased.

You decide to move on from your other hypotheses about newsletter quality and dig deeper into the analytics. 

One of the traps of critical thinking is that it’s easy to feel like you’re never done. There’s always more information you could collect and more rabbit holes you could fall down.

But at some point, you need to accept that you’ve done your due diligence and make a decision about how to move forward. That’s where inference comes in. It’s your ability to look at the evidence and facts available to you and draw an informed conclusion based on those. 

When you’re so focused on staying objective and pursuing all possibilities, inference can feel like the antithesis of critical thinking. But ultimately, it’s your inference skills that allow you to move out of the thinking process and onto the action steps. 

You dig deeper into the analytics for the page that hasn’t been converting and notice that the sharp drop-off happened around the same time you switched email providers.

After looking more into the backend, you realize that the signup form on that page isn’t correctly connected to your newsletter platform. It seems like anybody who has signed up on that page hasn’t been fed to your email list. 


3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

If and when you identify a solution or answer, you can’t keep it close to the vest. You’ll need to use your communication skills to share your findings with the relevant stakeholders – like your boss, team members, or anybody who needs to be involved in the next steps.

Your analysis skills will come in handy here too, as they’ll help you determine what information other people need to know so you can avoid bogging them down with unnecessary details. 

In your next team meeting, you pull up the analytics and show your team the sharp drop-off as well as the missing connection between that page and your email platform. You ask the web team to reinstall and double-check that connection and you also ask a member of the marketing team to draft an apology email to the subscribers who were missed. 


Critical thinking and problem-solving are two more terms that are frequently confused. After all, when you think critically, you’re often doing so with the objective of solving a problem.

The best way to understand how problem-solving and critical thinking differ is to think of problem-solving as much more narrow. You’re focused on finding a solution.

In contrast, you can use critical thinking for a variety of use cases beyond solving a problem – like answering questions or identifying opportunities for improvement. Even so, within the critical thinking process, you’ll flex your problem-solving skills when it comes time to take action. 

Once the fix is implemented, you monitor the analytics to see if subscribers continue to increase. If not (or if they increase at a slower rate than you anticipated), you’ll roll out some other tests like changing the CTA language or the placement of the subscribe form on the page.

5 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Think critically about critical thinking and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not as instinctive as you’d like it to be. Fortunately, your critical thinking skills are learned competencies and not inherent gifts – and that means you can improve them. Here’s how:

  • Practice active listening: Active listening helps you process and understand what other people share. That’s crucial as you aim to be open-minded and inquisitive.
  • Ask open-ended questions: If your critical thinking process involves collecting feedback and opinions from others, ask open-ended questions (meaning, questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”). Doing so will give you more valuable information and also prevent your own biases from influencing people’s input.
  • Scrutinize your sources: Figuring out what to trust and prioritize is crucial for critical thinking. Boosting your media literacy and asking more questions will help you be more discerning about what to factor in. It’s hard to strike a balance between skepticism and open-mindedness, but approaching information with questions (rather than unquestioning trust) will help you draw better conclusions. 
  • Play a game: Remember those riddles we mentioned at the beginning? As trivial as they might seem, games and exercises like those can help you boost your critical thinking skills. There are plenty of critical thinking exercises you can do individually or as a team . 
  • Give yourself time: Research shows that rushed decisions are often regrettable ones. That’s likely because critical thinking takes time – you can’t do it under the wire. So, for big decisions or hairy problems, give yourself enough time and breathing room to work through the process. It’s hard enough to think critically without a countdown ticking in your brain. 

Critical thinking really is critical

The ability to think critically is important, but it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s just easier to stick with biases, assumptions, and surface-level information. 

But that route often leads you to rash judgments, shaky conclusions, and disappointing decisions. So here’s a conclusion we can draw without any more noodling: Even if it is more demanding on your mental resources, critical thinking is well worth the effort.

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3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking

  • Helen Lee Bouygues

can you increase critical thinking

But simple doesn’t mean easy.

Too many business leaders are simply not reasoning through pressing issues, and it’s hurting their organizations.  The good news is that critical thinking is a learned behavior. There are three simple things you can do to train yourself to become a more effective critical thinker: question assumptions, reason through logic, and diversify your thought and perspectives. They may sound obvious, but deliberately cultivating these three key habits of mind go a long way in helping you become better at clear and robust reasoning.

A few years ago, a CEO assured me that his company was the market leader. “Clients will not leave for competitors,” he added. “It costs too much for them to switch.” Within weeks, the manufacturing giant Procter & Gamble elected not to renew its contract with the firm. The CEO was shocked — but he shouldn’t have been.

can you increase critical thinking

  • HB Helen Lee Bouygues is the president of the Paris-based Reboot Foundation . A former partner at McKinsey & Company, she has served as interim CEO, CFO, or COO for more than one dozen companies.

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What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

Learn what critical thinking skills are, why they’re important, and how to develop and apply them in your workplace and everyday life.

[Featured Image]:  Project Manager, approaching  and analyzing the latest project with a team member,

We often use critical thinking skills without even realizing it. When you make a decision, such as which cereal to eat for breakfast, you're using critical thinking to determine the best option for you that day.

Critical thinking is like a muscle that can be exercised and built over time. It is a skill that can help propel your career to new heights. You'll be able to solve workplace issues, use trial and error to troubleshoot ideas, and more.

We'll take you through what it is and some examples so you can begin your journey in mastering this skill.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to interpret, evaluate, and analyze facts and information that are available, to form a judgment or decide if something is right or wrong.

More than just being curious about the world around you, critical thinkers make connections between logical ideas to see the bigger picture. Building your critical thinking skills means being able to advocate your ideas and opinions, present them in a logical fashion, and make decisions for improvement.

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Why is critical thinking important?

Critical thinking is useful in many areas of your life, including your career. It makes you a well-rounded individual, one who has looked at all of their options and possible solutions before making a choice.

According to the University of the People in California, having critical thinking skills is important because they are [ 1 ]:

Crucial for the economy

Essential for improving language and presentation skills

Very helpful in promoting creativity

Important for self-reflection

The basis of science and democracy 

Critical thinking skills are used every day in a myriad of ways and can be applied to situations such as a CEO approaching a group project or a nurse deciding in which order to treat their patients.

Examples of common critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills differ from individual to individual and are utilized in various ways. Examples of common critical thinking skills include:

Identification of biases: Identifying biases means knowing there are certain people or things that may have an unfair prejudice or influence on the situation at hand. Pointing out these biases helps to remove them from contention when it comes to solving the problem and allows you to see things from a different perspective.

Research: Researching details and facts allows you to be prepared when presenting your information to people. You’ll know exactly what you’re talking about due to the time you’ve spent with the subject material, and you’ll be well-spoken and know what questions to ask to gain more knowledge. When researching, always use credible sources and factual information.

Open-mindedness: Being open-minded when having a conversation or participating in a group activity is crucial to success. Dismissing someone else’s ideas before you’ve heard them will inhibit you from progressing to a solution, and will often create animosity. If you truly want to solve a problem, you need to be willing to hear everyone’s opinions and ideas if you want them to hear yours.

Analysis: Analyzing your research will lead to you having a better understanding of the things you’ve heard and read. As a true critical thinker, you’ll want to seek out the truth and get to the source of issues. It’s important to avoid taking things at face value and always dig deeper.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving is perhaps the most important skill that critical thinkers can possess. The ability to solve issues and bounce back from conflict is what helps you succeed, be a leader, and effect change. One way to properly solve problems is to first recognize there’s a problem that needs solving. By determining the issue at hand, you can then analyze it and come up with several potential solutions.

How to develop critical thinking skills

You can develop critical thinking skills every day if you approach problems in a logical manner. Here are a few ways you can start your path to improvement:

1. Ask questions.

Be inquisitive about everything. Maintain a neutral perspective and develop a natural curiosity, so you can ask questions that develop your understanding of the situation or task at hand. The more details, facts, and information you have, the better informed you are to make decisions.

2. Practice active listening.

Utilize active listening techniques, which are founded in empathy, to really listen to what the other person is saying. Critical thinking, in part, is the cognitive process of reading the situation: the words coming out of their mouth, their body language, their reactions to your own words. Then, you might paraphrase to clarify what they're saying, so both of you agree you're on the same page.

3. Develop your logic and reasoning.

This is perhaps a more abstract task that requires practice and long-term development. However, think of a schoolteacher assessing the classroom to determine how to energize the lesson. There's options such as playing a game, watching a video, or challenging the students with a reward system. Using logic, you might decide that the reward system will take up too much time and is not an immediate fix. A video is not exactly relevant at this time. So, the teacher decides to play a simple word association game.

Scenarios like this happen every day, so next time, you can be more aware of what will work and what won't. Over time, developing your logic and reasoning will strengthen your critical thinking skills.

Learn tips and tricks on how to become a better critical thinker and problem solver through online courses from notable educational institutions on Coursera. Start with Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking from Duke University or Mindware: Critical Thinking for the Information Age from the University of Michigan.

Article sources

University of the People, “ Why is Critical Thinking Important?: A Survival Guide ,” Accessed May 18, 2023.

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How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)

Julia Martins contributor headshot

Critical thinking is, well, critical. By building these skills, you improve your ability to analyze information and come to the best decision possible. In this article, we cover the basics of critical thinking, as well as the seven steps you can use to implement the full critical thinking process. 

Critical thinking comes from asking the right questions to come to the best conclusion possible. Strong critical thinkers analyze information from a variety of viewpoints in order to identify the best course of action.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have strong critical thinking abilities. In this article, we’ll help you build a foundation for critical thinking so you can absorb, analyze, and make informed decisions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is the ability to collect and analyze information to come to a conclusion. Being able to think critically is important in virtually every industry and applicable across a wide range of positions. That’s because critical thinking isn’t subject-specific—rather, it’s your ability to parse through information, data, statistics, and other details in order to identify a satisfactory solution. 

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Top 8 critical thinking skills

Like most soft skills, critical thinking isn’t something you can take a class to learn. Rather, this skill consists of a variety of interpersonal and analytical skills. Developing critical thinking is more about learning to embrace open-mindedness and bringing analytical thinking to your problem framing process. 

In no particular order, the eight most important critical thinking skills are:

Analytical thinking: Part of critical thinking is evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. Analytical thinking allows people to reject bias and strive to gather and consume information to come to the best conclusion. 

Open-mindedness: This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go and coming to a conclusion based on all of the information. 

Problem solving : Because critical thinking emphasizes coming to the best conclusion based on all of the available information, it’s a key part of problem solving. When used correctly, critical thinking helps you solve any problem—from a workplace challenge to difficulties in everyday life. 

Self-regulation: Self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate your thoughts and set aside any personal biases to come to the best conclusion. In order to be an effective critical thinker, you need to question the information you have and the decisions you favor—only then can you come to the best conclusion. 

Observation: Observation skills help critical thinkers look for things beyond face value. To be a critical thinker you need to embrace multiple points of view, and you can use observation skills to identify potential problems.

Interpretation: Not all data is made equal—and critical thinkers know this. In addition to gathering information, it’s important to evaluate which information is important and relevant to your situation. That way, you can draw the best conclusions from the data you’ve collected. 

Evaluation: When you attempt to answer a hard question, there is rarely an obvious answer. Even though critical thinking emphasizes putting your biases aside, you need to be able to confidently make a decision based on the data you have available. 

Communication: Once a decision has been made, you also need to share this decision with other stakeholders. Effective workplace communication includes presenting evidence and supporting your conclusion—especially if there are a variety of different possible solutions. 

7 steps to critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that you can build by following these seven steps. The seven steps to critical thinking help you ensure you’re approaching a problem from the right angle, considering every alternative, and coming to an unbiased conclusion.

 First things first: When to use the 7 step critical thinking process

There’s a lot that goes into the full critical thinking process, and not every decision needs to be this thought out. Sometimes, it’s enough to put aside bias and approach a process logically. In other, more complex cases, the best way to identify the ideal outcome is to go through the entire critical thinking process. 

The seven-step critical thinking process is useful for complex decisions in areas you are less familiar with. Alternatively, the seven critical thinking steps can help you look at a problem you’re familiar with from a different angle, without any bias. 

If you need to make a less complex decision, consider another problem solving strategy instead. Decision matrices are a great way to identify the best option between different choices. Check out our article on 7 steps to creating a decision matrix .

1. Identify the problem

Before you put those critical thinking skills to work, you first need to identify the problem you’re solving. This step includes taking a look at the problem from a few different perspectives and asking questions like: 

What’s happening? 

Why is this happening? 

What assumptions am I making? 

At first glance, how do I think we can solve this problem? 

A big part of developing your critical thinking skills is learning how to come to unbiased conclusions. In order to do that, you first need to acknowledge the biases that you currently have. Does someone on your team think they know the answer? Are you making assumptions that aren’t necessarily true? Identifying these details helps you later on in the process. 

2. Research

At this point, you likely have a general idea of the problem—but in order to come up with the best solution, you need to dig deeper. 

During the research process, collect information relating to the problem, including data, statistics, historical project information, team input, and more. Make sure you gather information from a variety of sources, especially if those sources go against your personal ideas about what the problem is or how to solve it.

Gathering varied information is essential for your ability to apply the critical thinking process. If you don’t get enough information, your ability to make a final decision will be skewed. Remember that critical thinking is about helping you identify the objective best conclusion. You aren’t going with your gut—you’re doing research to find the best option

3. Determine data relevance

Just as it’s important to gather a variety of information, it is also important to determine how relevant the different information sources are. After all, just because there is data doesn’t mean it’s relevant. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the information, sift through the noise and identify what information is relevant and what information isn’t. Synthesizing all of this information and establishing significance helps you weigh different data sources and come to the best conclusion later on in the critical thinking process. 

To determine data relevance, ask yourself:

How reliable is this information? 

How significant is this information? 

Is this information outdated? Is it specialized in a specific field? 

4. Ask questions

One of the most useful parts of the critical thinking process is coming to a decision without bias. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the process and challenge the assumptions you’re making. 

We all have bias—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unconscious biases (also known as cognitive biases) often serve as mental shortcuts to simplify problem solving and aid decision making. But even when biases aren’t inherently bad, you must be aware of your biases in order to put them aside when necessary. 

Before coming to a solution, ask yourself:

Am I making any assumptions about this information? 

Are there additional variables I haven’t considered? 

Have I evaluated the information from every perspective? 

Are there any viewpoints I missed? 

5. Identify the best solution

Finally, you’re ready to come to a conclusion. To identify the best solution, draw connections between causes and effects. Use the facts you’ve gathered to evaluate the most objective conclusion. 

Keep in mind that there may be more than one solution. Often, the problems you’re facing are complex and intricate. The critical thinking process doesn’t necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 

6. Present your solution

Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers. It isn’t enough to think for yourself—you also need to share your conclusion with other project stakeholders. If there are multiple solutions, present them all. There may be a case where you implement one solution, then test to see if it works before implementing another solution. 

7. Analyze your decision

The seven-step critical thinking process yields a result—and you then need to put that solution into place. After you’ve implemented your decision, evaluate whether or not it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons—whether positive or negative—can you learn from this experience to improve your critical thinking for next time? 

Depending on how your team shares information, consider documenting lessons learned in a central source of truth. That way, team members that are making similar or related decisions in the future can understand why you made the decision you made and what the outcome was. 

Example of critical thinking in the workplace

Imagine you work in user experience design (UX). Your team is focused on pricing and packaging and ensuring customers have a clear understanding of the different services your company offers. Here’s how to apply the critical thinking process in the workplace in seven steps: 

Start by identifying the problem

Your current pricing page isn’t performing as well as you want. You’ve heard from customers that your services aren’t clear, and that the page doesn’t answer the questions they have. This page is really important for your company, since it’s where your customers sign up for your service. You and your team have a few theories about why your current page isn’t performing well, but you decide to apply the critical thinking process to ensure you come to the best decision for the page. 

Gather information about how the problem started

Part of identifying the problem includes understanding how the problem started. The pricing and packaging page is important—so when your team initially designed the page, they certainly put a lot of thought into it. Before you begin researching how to improve the page, ask yourself: 

Why did you design the pricing page the way you did? 

Which stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making process? 

Where are users getting stuck on the page?

Are any features currently working?

Then, you research

In addition to understanding the history of the pricing and packaging page, it’s important to understand what works well. Part of this research means taking a look at what your competitor’s pricing pages look like. 

Ask yourself: 

How have our competitors set up their pricing pages?

Are there any pricing page best practices? 

How does color, positioning, and animation impact navigation? 

Are there any standard page layouts customers expect to see? 

Organize and analyze information

You’ve gathered all of the information you need—now you need to organize and analyze it. What trends, if any, are you noticing? Is there any particularly relevant or important information that you have to consider? 

Ask open-ended questions to reduce bias

In the case of critical thinking, it’s important to address and set bias aside as much as possible. Ask yourself: 

Is there anything I’m missing? 

Have I connected with the right stakeholders? 

Are there any other viewpoints I should consider? 

Determine the best solution for your team

You now have all of the information you need to design the best pricing page. Depending on the complexity of the design, you may want to design a few options to present to a small group of customers or A/B test on the live website.

Present your solution to stakeholders

Critical thinking can help you in every element of your life, but in the workplace, you must also involve key project stakeholders . Stakeholders help you determine next steps, like whether you’ll A/B test the page first. Depending on the complexity of the issue, consider hosting a meeting or sharing a status report to get everyone on the same page. 

Analyze the results

No process is complete without evaluating the results. Once the new page has been live for some time, evaluate whether it did better than the previous page. What worked? What didn’t? This also helps you make better critical decisions later on.

Critically successful 

Critical thinking takes time to build, but with effort and patience you can apply an unbiased, analytical mind to any situation. Critical thinking makes up one of many soft skills that makes you an effective team member, manager, and worker. If you’re looking to hone your skills further, read our article on the 25 project management skills you need to succeed . 

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What are critical thinking skills?

How to develop critical thinking skills: 12 tips, how to practice critical thinking skills at work, become your own best critic.

A client requests a tight deadline on an intense project. Your childcare provider calls in sick on a day full of meetings. Payment from a contract gig is a month behind. 

Your day-to-day will always have challenges, big and small. And no matter the size and urgency, they all ask you to use critical thinking to analyze the situation and arrive at the right solution. 

Critical thinking includes a wide set of soft skills that encourage continuous learning, resilience , and self-reflection. The more you add to your professional toolbelt, the more equipped you’ll be to tackle whatever challenge presents itself. Here’s how to develop critical thinking, with examples explaining how to use it.

Critical thinking skills are the skills you use to analyze information, imagine scenarios holistically, and create rational solutions. It’s a type of emotional intelligence that stimulates effective problem-solving and decision-making . 

When you fine-tune your critical thinking skills, you seek beyond face-value observations and knee-jerk reactions. Instead, you harvest deeper insights and string together ideas and concepts in logical, sometimes out-of-the-box , ways. 

Imagine a team working on a marketing strategy for a new set of services. That team might use critical thinking to balance goals and key performance indicators , like new customer acquisition costs, average monthly sales, and net profit margins. They understand the connections between overlapping factors to build a strategy that stays within budget and attracts new sales. 

Looking for ways to improve critical thinking skills? Start by brushing up on the following soft skills that fall under this umbrella: 

  • Analytical thinking: Approaching problems with an analytical eye includes breaking down complex issues into small chunks and examining their significance. An example could be organizing customer feedback to identify trends and improve your product offerings. 
  • Open-mindedness: Push past cognitive biases and be receptive to different points of view and constructive feedback . Managers and team members who keep an open mind position themselves to hear new ideas that foster innovation . 
  • Creative thinking: With creative thinking , you can develop several ideas to address a single problem, like brainstorming more efficient workflow best practices to boost productivity and employee morale . 
  • Self-reflection: Self-reflection lets you examine your thinking and assumptions to stimulate healthier collaboration and thought processes. Maybe a bad first impression created a negative anchoring bias with a new coworker. Reflecting on your own behavior stirs up empathy and improves the relationship. 
  • Evaluation: With evaluation skills, you tackle the pros and cons of a situation based on logic rather than emotion. When prioritizing tasks , you might be tempted to do the fun or easy ones first, but evaluating their urgency and importance can help you make better decisions. 

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There’s no magic method to change your thinking processes. Improvement happens with small, intentional changes to your everyday habits until a more critical approach to thinking is automatic. 

Here are 12 tips for building stronger self-awareness and learning how to improve critical thinking: 

1. Be cautious

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of skepticism. One of the core principles of critical thinking is asking questions and dissecting the available information. You might surprise yourself at what you find when you stop to think before taking action. 

Before making a decision, use evidence, logic, and deductive reasoning to support your own opinions or challenge ideas. It helps you and your team avoid falling prey to bad information or resistance to change .

2. Ask open-ended questions

“Yes” or “no” questions invite agreement rather than reflection. Instead, ask open-ended questions that force you to engage in analysis and rumination. Digging deeper can help you identify potential biases, uncover assumptions, and arrive at new hypotheses and possible solutions. 

3. Do your research

No matter your proficiency, you can always learn more. Turning to different points of view and information is a great way to develop a comprehensive understanding of a topic and make informed decisions. You’ll prioritize reliable information rather than fall into emotional or automatic decision-making. 


4. Consider several opinions

You might spend so much time on your work that it’s easy to get stuck in your own perspective, especially if you work independently on a remote team . Make an effort to reach out to colleagues to hear different ideas and thought patterns. Their input might surprise you.

If or when you disagree, remember that you and your team share a common goal. Divergent opinions are constructive, so shift the focus to finding solutions rather than defending disagreements. 

5. Learn to be quiet

Active listening is the intentional practice of concentrating on a conversation partner instead of your own thoughts. It’s about paying attention to detail and letting people know you value their opinions, which can open your mind to new perspectives and thought processes.

If you’re brainstorming with your team or having a 1:1 with a coworker , listen, ask clarifying questions, and work to understand other peoples’ viewpoints. Listening to your team will help you find fallacies in arguments to improve possible solutions.

6. Schedule reflection

Whether waking up at 5 am or using a procrastination hack, scheduling time to think puts you in a growth mindset . Your mind has natural cognitive biases to help you simplify decision-making, but squashing them is key to thinking critically and finding new solutions besides the ones you might gravitate toward. Creating time and calm space in your day gives you the chance to step back and visualize the biases that impact your decision-making. 

7. Cultivate curiosity

With so many demands and job responsibilities, it’s easy to seek solace in routine. But getting out of your comfort zone helps spark critical thinking and find more solutions than you usually might.

If curiosity doesn’t come naturally to you, cultivate a thirst for knowledge by reskilling and upskilling . Not only will you add a new skill to your resume , but expanding the limits of your professional knowledge might motivate you to ask more questions. 

You don’t have to develop critical thinking skills exclusively in the office. Whether on your break or finding a hobby to do after work, playing strategic games or filling out crosswords can prime your brain for problem-solving. 


9. Write it down

Recording your thoughts with pen and paper can lead to stronger brain activity than typing them out on a keyboard. If you’re stuck and want to think more critically about a problem, writing your ideas can help you process information more deeply.

The act of recording ideas on paper can also improve your memory . Ideas are more likely to linger in the background of your mind, leading to deeper thinking that informs your decision-making process. 

10. Speak up

Take opportunities to share your opinion, even if it intimidates you. Whether at a networking event with new people or a meeting with close colleagues, try to engage with people who challenge or help you develop your ideas. Having conversations that force you to support your position encourages you to refine your argument and think critically. 

11. Stay humble

Ideas and concepts aren’t the same as real-life actions. There may be such a thing as negative outcomes, but there’s no such thing as a bad idea. At the brainstorming stage , don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Sometimes the best solutions come from off-the-wall, unorthodox decisions. Sit in your creativity , let ideas flow, and don’t be afraid to share them with your colleagues. Putting yourself in a creative mindset helps you see situations from new perspectives and arrive at innovative conclusions. 

12. Embrace discomfort

Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable . It isn’t easy when others challenge your ideas, but sometimes, it’s the only way to see new perspectives and think critically.

By willingly stepping into unfamiliar territory, you foster the resilience and flexibility you need to become a better thinker. You’ll learn how to pick yourself up from failure and approach problems from fresh angles. 


Thinking critically is easier said than done. To help you understand its impact (and how to use it), here are two scenarios that require critical thinking skills and provide teachable moments. 

Scenario #1: Unexpected delays and budget

Imagine your team is working on producing an event. Unexpectedly, a vendor explains they’ll be a week behind on delivering materials. Then another vendor sends a quote that’s more than you can afford. Unless you develop a creative solution, the team will have to push back deadlines and go over budget, potentially costing the client’s trust. 

Here’s how you could approach the situation with creative thinking:

  • Analyze the situation holistically: Determine how the delayed materials and over-budget quote will impact the rest of your timeline and financial resources . That way, you can identify whether you need to build an entirely new plan with new vendors, or if it’s worth it to readjust time and resources. 
  • Identify your alternative options: With careful assessment, your team decides that another vendor can’t provide the same materials in a quicker time frame. You’ll need to rearrange assignment schedules to complete everything on time. 
  • Collaborate and adapt: Your team has an emergency meeting to rearrange your project schedule. You write down each deliverable and determine which ones you can and can’t complete by the deadline. To compensate for lost time, you rearrange your task schedule to complete everything that doesn’t need the delayed materials first, then advance as far as you can on the tasks that do. 
  • Check different resources: In the meantime, you scour through your contact sheet to find alternative vendors that fit your budget. Accounting helps by providing old invoices to determine which vendors have quoted less for previous jobs. After pulling all your sources, you find a vendor that fits your budget. 
  • Maintain open communication: You create a special Slack channel to keep everyone up to date on changes, challenges, and additional delays. Keeping an open line encourages transparency on the team’s progress and boosts everyone’s confidence. 


Scenario #2: Differing opinions 

A conflict arises between two team members on the best approach for a new strategy for a gaming app. One believes that small tweaks to the current content are necessary to maintain user engagement and stay within budget. The other believes a bold revamp is needed to encourage new followers and stronger sales revenue. 

Here’s how critical thinking could help this conflict:

  • Listen actively: Give both team members the opportunity to present their ideas free of interruption. Encourage the entire team to ask open-ended questions to more fully understand and develop each argument. 
  • Flex your analytical skills: After learning more about both ideas, everyone should objectively assess the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. Analyze each idea's risk, merits, and feasibility based on available data and the app’s goals and objectives. 
  • Identify common ground: The team discusses similarities between each approach and brainstorms ways to integrate both idea s, like making small but eye-catching modifications to existing content or using the same visual design in new media formats. 
  • Test new strategy: To test out the potential of a bolder strategy, the team decides to A/B test both approaches. You create a set of criteria to evenly distribute users by different demographics to analyze engagement, revenue, and customer turnover. 
  • Monitor and adapt: After implementing the A/B test, the team closely monitors the results of each strategy. You regroup and optimize the changes that provide stronger results after the testing. That way, all team members understand why you’re making the changes you decide to make.

You can’t think your problems away. But you can equip yourself with skills that help you move through your biggest challenges and find innovative solutions. Learning how to develop critical thinking is the start of honing an adaptable growth mindset. 

Now that you have resources to increase critical thinking skills in your professional development, you can identify whether you embrace change or routine, are open or resistant to feedback, or turn to research or emotion will build self-awareness. From there, tweak and incorporate techniques to be a critical thinker when life presents you with a problem.

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Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

What is lateral thinking? 7 techniques to encourage creative ideas

Critical thinking is the one skillset you can't afford not to master, thinking outside the box: 8 ways to become a creative problem solver, member story: a copilot for the road ahead, member story: career development and shaping my future with intention, effective negotiation tactics to level-up your career, learn to let it go: how to deal with career disappointment, be cool: how to manage your emotions and avoid rage quitting, entrepreneurial mindset: what is it & how to think like an entrepreneur, similar articles, how to be a good team player: tips for becoming the dreamy coworker, what is creative thinking and why does it matter, 6 big picture thinking strategies that you'll actually use, how divergent thinking can drive your creativity, the most critical skills for leaders are fundamentally human, how intrapersonal skills shape teams, plus 5 ways to build them, what’s convergent thinking how to be a better problem-solver, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..

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Article • 8 min read

Critical Thinking

Developing the right mindset and skills.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

We make hundreds of decisions every day and, whether we realize it or not, we're all critical thinkers.

We use critical thinking each time we weigh up our options, prioritize our responsibilities, or think about the likely effects of our actions. It's a crucial skill that helps us to cut out misinformation and make wise decisions. The trouble is, we're not always very good at it!

In this article, we'll explore the key skills that you need to develop your critical thinking skills, and how to adopt a critical thinking mindset, so that you can make well-informed decisions.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well.

Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly valued asset in the workplace. People who score highly in critical thinking assessments are also rated by their managers as having good problem-solving skills, creativity, strong decision-making skills, and good overall performance. [1]

Key Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinkers possess a set of key characteristics which help them to question information and their own thinking. Focus on the following areas to develop your critical thinking skills:

Being willing and able to explore alternative approaches and experimental ideas is crucial. Can you think through "what if" scenarios, create plausible options, and test out your theories? If not, you'll tend to write off ideas and options too soon, so you may miss the best answer to your situation.

To nurture your curiosity, stay up to date with facts and trends. You'll overlook important information if you allow yourself to become "blinkered," so always be open to new information.

But don't stop there! Look for opposing views or evidence to challenge your information, and seek clarification when things are unclear. This will help you to reassess your beliefs and make a well-informed decision later. Read our article, Opening Closed Minds , for more ways to stay receptive.

Logical Thinking

You must be skilled at reasoning and extending logic to come up with plausible options or outcomes.

It's also important to emphasize logic over emotion. Emotion can be motivating but it can also lead you to take hasty and unwise action, so control your emotions and be cautious in your judgments. Know when a conclusion is "fact" and when it is not. "Could-be-true" conclusions are based on assumptions and must be tested further. Read our article, Logical Fallacies , for help with this.

Use creative problem solving to balance cold logic. By thinking outside of the box you can identify new possible outcomes by using pieces of information that you already have.


Many of the decisions we make in life are subtly informed by our values and beliefs. These influences are called cognitive biases and it can be difficult to identify them in ourselves because they're often subconscious.

Practicing self-awareness will allow you to reflect on the beliefs you have and the choices you make. You'll then be better equipped to challenge your own thinking and make improved, unbiased decisions.

One particularly useful tool for critical thinking is the Ladder of Inference . It allows you to test and validate your thinking process, rather than jumping to poorly supported conclusions.

Developing a Critical Thinking Mindset

Combine the above skills with the right mindset so that you can make better decisions and adopt more effective courses of action. You can develop your critical thinking mindset by following this process:

Gather Information

First, collect data, opinions and facts on the issue that you need to solve. Draw on what you already know, and turn to new sources of information to help inform your understanding. Consider what gaps there are in your knowledge and seek to fill them. And look for information that challenges your assumptions and beliefs.

Be sure to verify the authority and authenticity of your sources. Not everything you read is true! Use this checklist to ensure that your information is valid:

  • Are your information sources trustworthy ? (For example, well-respected authors, trusted colleagues or peers, recognized industry publications, websites, blogs, etc.)
  • Is the information you have gathered up to date ?
  • Has the information received any direct criticism ?
  • Does the information have any errors or inaccuracies ?
  • Is there any evidence to support or corroborate the information you have gathered?
  • Is the information you have gathered subjective or biased in any way? (For example, is it based on opinion, rather than fact? Is any of the information you have gathered designed to promote a particular service or organization?)

If any information appears to be irrelevant or invalid, don't include it in your decision making. But don't omit information just because you disagree with it, or your final decision will be flawed and bias.

Now observe the information you have gathered, and interpret it. What are the key findings and main takeaways? What does the evidence point to? Start to build one or two possible arguments based on what you have found.

You'll need to look for the details within the mass of information, so use your powers of observation to identify any patterns or similarities. You can then analyze and extend these trends to make sensible predictions about the future.

To help you to sift through the multiple ideas and theories, it can be useful to group and order items according to their characteristics. From here, you can compare and contrast the different items. And once you've determined how similar or different things are from one another, Paired Comparison Analysis can help you to analyze them.

The final step involves challenging the information and rationalizing its arguments.

Apply the laws of reason (induction, deduction, analogy) to judge an argument and determine its merits. To do this, it's essential that you can determine the significance and validity of an argument to put it in the correct perspective. Take a look at our article, Rational Thinking , for more information about how to do this.

Once you have considered all of the arguments and options rationally, you can finally make an informed decision.

Afterward, take time to reflect on what you have learned and what you found challenging. Step back from the detail of your decision or problem, and look at the bigger picture. Record what you've learned from your observations and experience.

Critical thinking involves rigorously and skilfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions and beliefs. It's a useful skill in the workplace and in life.

You'll need to be curious and creative to explore alternative possibilities, but rational to apply logic, and self-aware to identify when your beliefs could affect your decisions or actions.

You can demonstrate a high level of critical thinking by validating your information, analyzing its meaning, and finally evaluating the argument.

Critical Thinking Infographic

See Critical Thinking represented in our infographic: An Elementary Guide to Critical Thinking .

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can you increase critical thinking

How Critical Thinking Can Empower You to Do More and Succeed

  • August 31, 2023

AI-generated image of a man using critical thinking while looking at the computer

Do you consider yourself a critical thinker? Are you able to solve problems rationally, evaluate information objectively, and arrive at conclusions based on factual evidence?

Critical thinking is a skill—one that can be honed and developed with practice and time.

Whether you inherently possess this talent or not, rest assured that you, too, can foster your own critical thinking abilities.

Jim Kwik , brain coach and trainer of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Quest, says, “ It’s not about mental intelligence; it’s about mental fitness .”

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly, logically, and objectively. It’s the ability to analyze and evaluate information in a methodical way.

For example, imagine being handed a jigsaw puzzle. With your critical thinking skills, you’d be able to study each piece, figure out where it goes, and see the bigger picture. And when it comes down to it, it’s not accepting things at face value.

So what’s the big deal about it anyway? Simply put, developing critical thinking skills can help you make better decisions in everyday life. Whether you’re deciding which car to buy or which movie to watch, a little bit of analytical thought can go a long way. Remember: it’s all about weighing up the evidence, considering different perspectives, and drawing conclusions based on that information.

Now, don’t feel pressured to become a master detective overnight. Developing this skill takes time and practice. So every time you’re faced with a question or puzzling topic, take a step back and think critically about it.

Learn more: 7 Most Common Types of Thinking & How to Identify Yours

Why Is Critical Thinking Important?

Critical thinking skills encourage you to operate without prejudice or bias, to keep the facts straight, and to arrive at logical, fact-based solutions.

As Vishen , the founder of Mindvalley, says, “ If you want to be the best you can be, you’ll need to be willing to make a change or two. ”

In today’s world, where there’s a ton of information and things are changing superfast, being able to think critically feels like a superpower.

Making smart choices and thinking carefully about stuff becomes easier if you work on these skills. It’s like having a clear map to find your way through all the confusing stuff out there.

Now, in what ways can critical thinking be beneficial to you?

  • Versatile Skill: Critical thinking navigates professional diversity.
  • Effective Problem-Solving: It tackles multifaceted challenges adeptly.
  • Personal Growth: Self-reflection fuels the evolution of beliefs and perceptions.

AI-generated image of a woman in thinking pose

10 Critical Thinking Skills to Thrive in a Dynamic World

Having sharp critical thinking skills has become more important than ever. By sharpening them, you’ll have the ability to make smart choices using trustworthy information and logical thinking. 

Here are ten to highlight:

1. Analysis 

You use a systematic approach to understand underlying concepts and relationships through the breakdown of information or a situation.

Real-life example: To analyze a piece of literature, you would first break it down into its component parts, such as the plot, characters, setting, and themes. Then, you would look for patterns and relationships between these parts. This would help you understand the underlying meaning of the work.

2. Evaluation 

You make well-informed judgments and sound decisions when you evaluate the credibility, relevance, and reliability of information or arguments.

Real-life example: A triage nurse in an emergency room assesses the severity of patients’ conditions and determines which patients should be seen by a physician first.

3. Inference 

You use available evidence and prior knowledge to draw logical conclusions.

Real-life example: Imagine a warm day in July. You see a person with a red face who is sweating profusely. You conclude that they are probably hot—as simple as that!

4. Interpretation 

You have a coherent and meaningful way of understanding and communicating information, data, or ideas. Real-life example: Think of how a doctor interprets the results of a medical test by considering the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and other test results. This allows the doctor to communicate the meaning of the test results in a way that is understandable to the patient and their family.

5. Explanation 

You use clarity and logical reasoning and allow others to understand and evaluate your reasoning. Real-life example: Just like in school, when a teacher explains a complex mathematical concept to their students by breaking it down into smaller, easier-to-understand steps. This allows the students to follow the teacher’s reasoning and understand how the concept works.

6. Self-regulation

You identify and rectify cognitive biases and monitor and adjust your thinking consciously. Real-life example: A salesperson who is good at self-regulation may be able to identify and correct their own tendency to make assumptions about potential customers. They may also be able to monitor their own thinking during a sales pitch and adjust it accordingly, such as by asking more questions or by being more open-minded.

7. Creativity 

You use imagination and innovative thinking to generate original solutions, ideas, or approaches to problems and challenges. Real-life example: Creative artists may be able to come up with new and innovative ways to express themselves. For example, they can create a new type of painting or a new form of music.

8. Open-mindedness

You’re receptive to different perspectives, ideas, and viewpoints and are willing to consider and evaluate alternative possibilities without immediate judgment. Real-life example: At a team meeting, a colleague suggests a new, unconventional approach to a project. Instead of dismissing it, you listen, ask questions, and consider its potential. Your open-mindedness and critical thinking led you to adopt elements of the idea, resulting in a successful project outcome that benefits from diverse perspectives.

9. Problem-solving

You have the capacity to identify, define, and address challenges or obstacles in a systematic and effective manner. Real-life example: Consider a software engineer who is good at problem-solving. They may be able to identify and define a bug in a piece of software, develop a systematic approach to fixing the bug, and test the software to ensure that the bug has been fixed.

10. Adaptability 

You’re flexible and responsive to new information, situations, or perspectives. Real-life example: A student who is adaptable may be able to adjust their study habits if the material becomes more challenging or if the teaching style changes. They could change their major or their career goals if they discover that they are not interested in the original path.

By embracing and refining these critical thinking skills, you’ll become more proficient in your cognitive abilities.

10 Questions That Boost Critical Thinking

Asking thought-provoking questions is one of the most effective ways to encourage critical thinking.

Questions that challenge assumptions, require evidence, or promote deeper thinking can help people see things from different perspectives and come up with their own conclusions.

Let’s look at the top ten:

1. How did you get this information?

By asking someone—or even yourself—this question, you set the stage for the source of the information to be examined. Did the information reach us by word of mouth? Through some random, unsigned article or through a confirmed source?

2. From a different perspective, how would you view the matter?

To correct an opponent’s arguments, you must thoughtfully anticipate their arguments in order to counter them. This question challenges everyone to think from an opposing person’s perspective. 

This means that you need to try to understand the other person’s point of view, even if you disagree with it. This can be a difficult task, but it is important to try to do it if you want to understand the larger situation.

3. What would you do to solve this issue?

Creating practical, creative solutions to problems is a significant life skill. This question provides an exceptional opportunity to encourage people to do so.

4. Why do you agree? Why do you disagree?

The process of choosing a side in any debate requires you to consider both perspectives, weigh the arguments, and make an informed decision. So, go on, and ask the question.

5. Why, why, why?

You should relive the experience you had when you were a child by pushing ourselves beyond a simple first, second, and third answer to reach the core of the matter. However, it’s important not to overdo it, as you want your learning experience to be positive.

6. Could this be avoided? How?

Using critical thinking strategies, consider how you can prevent the occurrence of a certain problem from happening again in the future. Repeating a mistake is always a good thing to avoid.

7. Why is this important?

This is an essential concept that needs to be stressed when discussing any topic. It does not matter whether it is about a historical event or a mathematical concept, understanding why the topic is relevant today is crucial.

8. Can you give me an example of this?

When applying critical thinking skills, creating or drawing from examples based on experience is excellent. When you create such cases, you’re forced to think about the issue in a new way. 

You have to come up with a hypothetical situation that illustrates the point you are trying to make. And this can help you see the issue from different perspectives and come up with new solutions.

9. What’s the reason for asking this question?

This question invites people to consider whether the question merits any further consideration instead of answering it at face value. It’s also designed to encourage people to be aware of their own biases. 

When you answer questions, you often bring your own biases to the table. This can lead you to answer questions in a way that supports your own beliefs, even if the question is not clear or relevant.

By being aware of your biases, you can be more objective in your answers.

10. Why is this troubling you?

If you learn how to analyze difficulties rather than just accept them as they are, you’ll be able to develop strong problem-solving abilities.

Learn more: Critical Thinking Questions That Will Blow Your Mind

AI-generated image of a man using his critical thinking skills while reading a book

How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills: Tips From Mindvalley Trainers

If you’d like to hone your critical thinking abilities, then you’re in luck. You’ve assembled five actionable tips and tricks from Mindvalley experts:

1. Examine your biases

Some of the biggest hindrances to your ability to think critically are your own biases, preferences, and beliefs .

Coming to a better, more holistic understanding of your biases can help you look past them to become a more objective, critical thinker.

How can you identify them?

The best way to delve into what makes you tick is by becoming aware of your own reactions. If ever you feel yourself becoming irritable, upset, frustrated, angry, anxious, or distressed, you may want to pay attention to which of your values or beliefs have been impinged upon.

Insight from Marisa Peer , the creator of Rapid Transformational Therapy® (RTT®) and trainer of Mindvalley’s Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy for Abundance Quest:

2. Question everything

The more questions you ask, the more you’re likely to learn. So if you’d like to work on your critical thinking skills, you’ll need to start asking a lot of questions.

It doesn’t mean you need to bombard the people you meet with a barrage of questions, but you should practice active listening skills.

If you pay attention, you can learn a lot, but more often than not, you’re too caught up in your own daydreams.

Be sure to question yourself as well—your own beliefs and ideals. You change as you grow, and your ideas often change as well. And sometimes, people don’t realize how much their ideals have changed until they examine them.

3. Learn to be an investigator

This skill is of ever-increasing importance in a world overflowing with “fake news.” Learning to research and investigate the things you learn is an integral skill that will facilitate your knowledge and success.

When you hear something of interest, don’t accept it at face value.

Ask questions, and dig deeper. Get to the root of the issue. Learn as much as you can, and then learn some more. Practice vigilant research skills and identify reputable resources you can trust.

Ask questions, and then investigate the answers.

Insight from Jim Kwik , brain performance coach and trainer of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Quest:

3. Perform critical thinking exercises

As Jim says, “ We need to understand how our minds work, so we can work our minds better. “

Critical thinking skills can be developed through exercises like the following: data analysis, problem-solving, and abstraction. All these critical thinking exercises are indeed powerful ways to develop and enhance critical thinking skills. 

Let’s elaborate on each one of these:

Reverse the process

A mental block or lack of inspiration can occur after working on a problem for a long time. When this happens, it is crucial to take a fresh look at the situation. When trying to reframe a concern, one of the best ways is to work backward. Try reverse engineering your approach and see if it makes you think more creatively. 

People who like to work their minds and investigate issues from different angles have enjoyed competitive debating for years. Debates occur most often in high school or college, but you can hold them at any age with your friends or family.

Choose a new, unknowing topic, think outside the box, perform some research, structure your arguments, and have a mental workout.

The Ladder of Inference 

By using the Ladder of Inference , one can gain a deeper understanding of how people make decisions based on their beliefs and experiences. 

Take a moment to reflect on a recent decision or opinion you formed and trace your thinking process up a ladder with six rungs representing different phases of thinking: data, observations, selected data, meaning assigned, assumptions made, and conclusions drawn. The exercise encourages self-awareness and helps you identify areas where your critical thinking skills can be improved. 

Assess each step to determine if you missed vital information or jumped to conclusions too quickly.

4. Practice empathy

A lot of what critical thinking points to is the notion that being a critical thinker means removing reactivity and subjectivity from the thinking process. That all sounds a tad cold and detached, doesn’t it? 

But here’s the thing: critical thinking involves an inherent element of empathy . And that can help you connect with others on more intimate and profound levels.

It’s essentially putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s imagining what life is like from another person’s perspective. This detachment from your ideas, your thoughts, and your ego. And it allows you to relocate into the mental space of another person, helping you see beyond yourself. Critical thinking, in a nutshell.

Insight from Jeffrey Allen , energy healer and trainer of Mindvalley’s Duality Quest:

5. Train your brain

If you’d really like to improve your critical thinking skills, there are plenty of games and apps you can download that help improve your cognitive abilities.

Try any of the following for just 15 minutes a day to enjoy a quick and efficient brainpower boost:

You can also check out this 15-minute mind hack to incredibly boost your brainpower, brought to you by Vishen:

Awaken Your Critical Thinking Power

As Jim said, “ Our most precious gift is our brain. You can learn to unlimit and expand your mindset, your motivation, and your methods to create a limitless life. “

So cultivate a world where thoughtful reasoning thrives and navigate life’s complexities with clarity and confidence. 

If you need some inspiration on your journey to boost your critical thinking skills, Mindvalley is the place for you. Your transformation can start with insightful Quests, such as:

  • Be Extraordinary Quest with Vishen
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  • Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy for Abundance Quest with Marisa Peer

By unlocking your FREE Mindvalley access , you can sample classes from these programs as well as many others. What’s more, there are free meditations on a daily basis, some of which are specially designed to help you boost your critical thinking abilities.

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College Info Geek

7 Ways to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

can you increase critical thinking

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can you increase critical thinking

When I was in 7th grade, my U.S. history teacher gave my class the following advice:

Your teachers in high school won’t expect you to remember every little fact about U.S. history. They can fill in the details you’ve forgotten. What they will expect, though, is for you to be able to think ; to know how to make connections between ideas and evaluate information critically.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my teacher was giving a concise summary of critical thinking. My high school teachers gave similar speeches when describing what would be expected of us in college: it’s not about the facts you know, but rather about your ability to evaluate them.

And now that I’m in college, my professors often mention that the ability to think through and solve difficult problems matters more in the “real world” than specific content.

Despite hearing so much about critical thinking all these years, I realized that I still couldn’t give a concrete definition of it, and I certainly couldn’t explain how to do it. It seemed like something that my teachers just expected us to pick up in the course of our studies. While I venture that a lot of us did learn it, I prefer to approach learning deliberately, and so I decided to investigate critical thinking for myself.

What is it, how do we do it, why is it important, and how can we get better at it? This post is my attempt to answer those questions.

In addition to answering these questions, I’ll also offer seven ways that you can start thinking more critically today, both in and outside of class.

What Is Critical Thinking?

“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.” – The Foundation for Critical Thinking

The above definition from the Foundation for Critical Thinking website  is pretty wordy, but critical thinking, in essence, is not that complex.

Critical thinking is just deliberately and systematically processing information so that you can make better decisions and generally understand things better. The above definition includes so many words because critical thinking requires you to apply diverse intellectual tools to diverse information.

Ways to critically think about information include:

  • Conceptualizing
  • Synthesizing

That information can come from sources such as:

  • Observation
  • Communication

And all this is meant to guide:

You can also define it this way:

Critical thinking is the opposite of regular, everyday thinking. 

Moment to moment, most thinking happens automatically. When you think critically, you  deliberately  employ any of the above intellectual tools to reach more accurate conclusions than your brain automatically would (more on this in a bit).

This is what critical thinking is. But so what?

Why Does Critical Thinking Matter?


Most of our everyday thinking is uncritical.

If you think about it, this makes sense. If we had to think deliberately about every single action (such as breathing, for instance), we wouldn’t have any cognitive energy left for the important stuff like D&D. It’s good that much of our thinking is automatic.

We can run into problems, though, when we let our automatic mental processes govern important decisions. Without critical thinking, it’s easy for people to manipulate us and for all sorts of catastrophes to result. Anywhere that some form of fundamentalism led to tragedy (the Holocaust is a textbook example), critical thinking was sorely lacking.

Even day to day, it’s easy to get caught in pointless arguments or say stupid things just because you failed to stop and think deliberately.

But you’re reading College Info Geek, so I’m sure you’re interested to know why critical thinking matters in college.

Here’s why:

According to Andrew Roberts, author of The Thinking Student’s Guide to College , c ritical thinking matters in college because students often adopt the wrong attitude to thinking about difficult questions. These attitudes include:

Ignorant Certainty

Ignorant certainty is the belief that there are definite, correct answers to all questions–all you have to do is find the right source (102). It’s understandable that a lot of students come into college thinking this way–it’s enough to get you through most of your high school coursework.

In college and in life, however, the answers to most meaningful questions are rarely straightforward. To get anywhere in college classes (especially upper-level ones), you have to think critically about the material.

Naive Relativism

Naive relativism is the belief that there is no truth and all arguments are equal (102-103). According to Roberts, this is often a view that students adopt once they learn the error of ignorant certainty.

While it’s certainly a more “critical” approach than ignorant certainty, naive relativism is still inadequate since it misses the whole point of critical thinking: arriving at a more complete, “less wrong” answer.

Part of thinking critically is evaluating the validity of arguments (yours and others’). Therefore, to think critically you must accept that some arguments are better (and that some are just plain awful).

Critical thinking also matters in college because:

  • It allows you to form your own opinions and engage with material beyond a superficial level. This is essential to crafting a great essay  and having an intelligent discussion with your professors or classmates. Regurgitating what the textbook says won’t get you far.
  • It allows you to craft worthy arguments and back them up. If you plan to go on to graduate school or pursue a PhD., original, critical thought is crucial
  • It helps you evaluate your own work. This leads to better grades (who doesn’t want those?) and better habits of mind.

Doing college level work without critical is a lot like walking blindfolded: you’ll get  somewhere , but it’s unlikely to be the place you desire.


The value of critical thinking doesn’t stop with college, however. Once you get out into the real world, critical thinking matters even more. This is because:

  • It allows you to continue to develop intellectually after you graduate. Progress shouldn’t stop after graduation –you should keep learning as much as you can. When you encounter new information, knowing how to think critically will help you evaluate and use it.
  • It helps you make hard decisions. I’ve written before about how defining your values  helps you make better decisions. Equally important in the decision-making process is the ability to think critically. Critical thinking allows you compare the pros and cons of your available options, showing that you have more options than you might imagine .
  • People can and will manipulate you . At least, they will if you take everything at face value and allow others to think for you. Just look at ads for the latest fad diet or “miracle” drug–these rely on ignorance and false hope to get people to buy something that is at best useless and at worst harmful. When you evaluate information critically (especially information meant to sell something), you can avoid falling prey to unethical companies and people.
  • It makes you more employable (and better paid). The best employees not only know how to solve existing problems–they also know how to come up with solutions to problems no one ever imagined. To get a great job after graduating , you need to be one of those employees, and critical thinking is the key ingredient to solving difficult, novel problems.

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7 Ways to Think More Critically


Now we come to the part that I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for: how the heck do we get better at critical thinking?  Below, you’ll find seven ways to get started.

1. Ask Basic Questions

“The world is complicated. But does every problem require a complicated solution?” – Stephen J. Dubner

Sometimes an explanation becomes so complex that the original question get lost. To avoid this, continually go back to the basic questions you asked when you set out to solve the problem.

Here are a few key basic question you can ask when approaching any problem:

  • What do you already know?
  • How do you know that?
  • What are you trying to prove, disprove, demonstrated, critique, etc.?
  • What are you overlooking?

Some of the most breathtaking solutions to problems are astounding not because of their complexity, but because of their elegant simplicity.  Seek the simple solution  first.

2. Question Basic Assumptions

“When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”

The above saying holds true when you’re thinking through a problem. it’s quite easy to make an ass of yourself simply by failing to question your basic assumptions.

Some of the greatest innovators in human history were those who simply looked up for a moment and wondered if one of everyone’s general assumptions was wrong. From Newton to Einstein to Yitang Zhang , questioning assumptions is where innovation happens.

You don’t even have to be an aspiring Einstein to benefit from questioning your assumptions. That trip you’ve wanted to take? That hobby you’ve wanted to try? That internship you’ve wanted to get? That attractive person in your World Civilizations class you’ve wanted to talk to?

All these things can be a reality if you just question your assumptions and critically evaluate your beliefs about what’s prudent, appropriate, or possible.

If you’re looking for some help with this process, then check out Oblique Strategies . It’s a tool that musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt created to aid creative problem solving . Some of the “cards” are specific to music, but most work for any time you’re stuck on a problem.

3. Be Aware of Your Mental Processes

Human thought is amazing, but the speed and automation with which it happens can be a disadvantage when we’re trying to think critically. Our brains naturally use heuristics (mental shortcuts) to explain what’s happening around us.

This was beneficial to humans when we were hunting large game and fighting off wild animals, but it can be disastrous when we’re trying to decide who to vote for.

A critical thinker is aware of their cognitive biases   and personal prejudices and how they influence seemingly “objective” decisions and solutions.

All of us have biases in our thinking. Becoming aware of them is what makes critical thinking possible.

4. Try Reversing Things

A great way to get “unstuck” on a hard problem is to try reversing things. It may seem obvious that X causes Y, but what if Y caused X?

The “chicken and egg problem” a classic example of this. At first, it seems obvious that the chicken had to come first. The chicken lays the egg, after all. But then you quickly realize that the chicken had to come from somewhere, and since chickens come from eggs, the egg must have come first.  Or did it?

Even if it turns out that the reverse  isn’t  true, considering it can set you on the path to finding a solution.

5. Evaluate the Existing Evidence

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

When you’re trying to solve a problem, it’s always helpful to look at other work that has been done in the same area. There’s no reason to start solving a problem from scratch when someone has already laid the groundwork.

It’s important, however, to evaluate this information critically, or else you can easily reach the wrong conclusion. Ask the following questions of any evidence you encounter:

  • Who gathered this evidence?
  • How did they gather it?

Take, for example, a study showing the health benefits of a sugary cereal. On paper, the study sounds pretty convincing. That is, until you learn that a sugary cereal company funded it.

You can’t automatically assume that this invalidates the study’s results, but you should certainly question them when a conflict of interests is so apparent.

6. Remember to Think for Yourself

Don’t get so bogged down in research and reading that you forget to think for yourself –sometimes this can be your most powerful tool.

Writing about Einstein’s paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” (the paper that contained the famous equation  E=mc 2 ), C.P. Snow observed that “it was as if Einstein ‘had reached the conclusions by pure thought, unaided, without listening to the opinions of others. To a surprisingly large extent, that is precisely what he had done'”(121).

Don’t be overconfident, but recognize that thinking for yourself is essential to answering tough questions. I find this to be true when writing essays–it’s so easy to get lost in other people’s work that I forget to have my own thoughts. Don’t make this mistake.

For more on the importance of thinking for yourself, check out our article on mental laziness .

7. Understand That No One Thinks Critically 100% of the Time

“Critical thinking of any kind is never universal in any individual; everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought.” – Michael Scriven and Richard Paul

You can’t think critically all the time, and that’s okay. Critical thinking is a tool that you should deploy when you need to make important decisions or solve difficult problems, but you don’t need to think critically about everything.

And even in important matters, you will experience lapses in your reasoning. What matters is that you recognize these lapses and try to avoid them in the future.

Even Isaac Newton, genius that he was, believed that alchemy was a legitimate pursuit .


As I hope you now see, learning to think critically will benefit you both in the classroom and beyond. I hope this post has given you some ideas about how you can think more critically in your own life. Remember: learning to think critically is a lifelong journey, and there’s always more to learn.

For a look at critical thinking principles in action, check out our guide to strategic thinking .

  • The Thinking Student’s Guide to College by Andrew Roberts (the source of several of the seven ways to think more critically)
  • What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain (the source of several of the seven ways to think more critically)
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything   by Bill Bryson (the source for the C.P. Snow quote about Einstein and the information about Isaac Newton).

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Why Is Critical Thinking Important? A Survival Guide


Why is critical thinking important? The decisions that you make affect your quality of life. And if you want to ensure that you live your best, most successful and happy life, you’re going to want to make conscious choices. That can be done with a simple thing known as critical thinking. Here’s how to improve your critical thinking skills and make decisions that you won’t regret.

What Is Critical Thinking?

You’ve surely heard of critical thinking, but you might not be entirely sure what it really means, and that’s because there are many definitions. For the most part, however, we think of critical thinking as the process of analyzing facts in order to form a judgment. Basically, it’s thinking about thinking.

How Has The Definition Evolved Over Time?

The first time critical thinking was documented is believed to be in the teachings of Socrates , recorded by Plato. But throughout history, the definition has changed.

Today it is best understood by philosophers and psychologists and it’s believed to be a highly complex concept. Some insightful modern-day critical thinking definitions include :

  • “Reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.”
  • “Deciding what’s true and what you should do.”

The Importance Of Critical Thinking

Why is critical thinking important? Good question! Here are a few undeniable reasons why it’s crucial to have these skills.

1. Critical Thinking Is Universal

Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. What does this mean? It means that no matter what path or profession you pursue, these skills will always be relevant and will always be beneficial to your success. They are not specific to any field.

2. Crucial For The Economy

Our future depends on technology, information, and innovation. Critical thinking is needed for our fast-growing economies, to solve problems as quickly and as effectively as possible.

3. Improves Language & Presentation Skills

In order to best express ourselves, we need to know how to think clearly and systematically — meaning practice critical thinking! Critical thinking also means knowing how to break down texts, and in turn, improve our ability to comprehend.

4. Promotes Creativity

By practicing critical thinking, we are allowing ourselves not only to solve problems but also to come up with new and creative ideas to do so. Critical thinking allows us to analyze these ideas and adjust them accordingly.

5. Important For Self-Reflection

Without critical thinking, how can we really live a meaningful life? We need this skill to self-reflect and justify our ways of life and opinions. Critical thinking provides us with the tools to evaluate ourselves in the way that we need to.

Woman deep into thought as she looks out the window, using her critical thinking skills to do some self-reflection.

6. The Basis Of Science & Democracy

In order to have a democracy and to prove scientific facts, we need critical thinking in the world. Theories must be backed up with knowledge. In order for a society to effectively function, its citizens need to establish opinions about what’s right and wrong (by using critical thinking!).

Benefits Of Critical Thinking

We know that critical thinking is good for society as a whole, but what are some benefits of critical thinking on an individual level? Why is critical thinking important for us?

1. Key For Career Success

Critical thinking is crucial for many career paths. Not just for scientists, but lawyers , doctors, reporters, engineers , accountants, and analysts (among many others) all have to use critical thinking in their positions. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking is one of the most desirable skills to have in the workforce, as it helps analyze information, think outside the box, solve problems with innovative solutions, and plan systematically.

2. Better Decision Making

There’s no doubt about it — critical thinkers make the best choices. Critical thinking helps us deal with everyday problems as they come our way, and very often this thought process is even done subconsciously. It helps us think independently and trust our gut feeling.

3. Can Make You Happier!

While this often goes unnoticed, being in touch with yourself and having a deep understanding of why you think the way you think can really make you happier. Critical thinking can help you better understand yourself, and in turn, help you avoid any kind of negative or limiting beliefs, and focus more on your strengths. Being able to share your thoughts can increase your quality of life.

4. Form Well-Informed Opinions

There is no shortage of information coming at us from all angles. And that’s exactly why we need to use our critical thinking skills and decide for ourselves what to believe. Critical thinking allows us to ensure that our opinions are based on the facts, and help us sort through all that extra noise.

5. Better Citizens

One of the most inspiring critical thinking quotes is by former US president Thomas Jefferson: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” What Jefferson is stressing to us here is that critical thinkers make better citizens, as they are able to see the entire picture without getting sucked into biases and propaganda.

6. Improves Relationships

While you may be convinced that being a critical thinker is bound to cause you problems in relationships, this really couldn’t be less true! Being a critical thinker can allow you to better understand the perspective of others, and can help you become more open-minded towards different views.

7. Promotes Curiosity

Critical thinkers are constantly curious about all kinds of things in life, and tend to have a wide range of interests. Critical thinking means constantly asking questions and wanting to know more, about why, what, who, where, when, and everything else that can help them make sense of a situation or concept, never taking anything at face value.

8. Allows For Creativity

Critical thinkers are also highly creative thinkers, and see themselves as limitless when it comes to possibilities. They are constantly looking to take things further, which is crucial in the workforce.

9. Enhances Problem Solving Skills

Those with critical thinking skills tend to solve problems as part of their natural instinct. Critical thinkers are patient and committed to solving the problem, similar to Albert Einstein, one of the best critical thinking examples, who said “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Critical thinkers’ enhanced problem-solving skills makes them better at their jobs and better at solving the world’s biggest problems. Like Einstein, they have the potential to literally change the world.

10. An Activity For The Mind

Just like our muscles, in order for them to be strong, our mind also needs to be exercised and challenged. It’s safe to say that critical thinking is almost like an activity for the mind — and it needs to be practiced. Critical thinking encourages the development of many crucial skills such as logical thinking, decision making, and open-mindness.

11. Creates Independence

When we think critically, we think on our own as we trust ourselves more. Critical thinking is key to creating independence, and encouraging students to make their own decisions and form their own opinions.

12. Crucial Life Skill

Critical thinking is crucial not just for learning, but for life overall! Education isn’t just a way to prepare ourselves for life, but it’s pretty much life itself. Learning is a lifelong process that we go through each and every day.

How to Think Critically

Now that you know the benefits of thinking critically, how do you actually do it?

How To Improve Your Critical Thinking

  • Define Your Question: When it comes to critical thinking, it’s important to always keep your goal in mind. Know what you’re trying to achieve, and then figure out how to best get there.
  • Gather Reliable Information: Make sure that you’re using sources you can trust — biases aside. That’s how a real critical thinker operates!
  • Ask The Right Questions: We all know the importance of questions, but be sure that you’re asking the right questions that are going to get you to your answer.
  • Look Short & Long Term: When coming up with solutions, think about both the short- and long-term consequences. Both of them are significant in the equation.
  • Explore All Sides: There is never just one simple answer, and nothing is black or white. Explore all options and think outside of the box before you come to any conclusions.

How Is Critical Thinking Developed At School?

Critical thinking is developed in nearly everything we do. However, much of this important skill is encouraged to be practiced at school, and rightfully so! Critical thinking goes beyond just thinking clearly — it’s also about thinking for yourself.

When a teacher asks a question in class, students are given the chance to answer for themselves and think critically about what they learned and what they believe to be accurate. When students work in groups and are forced to engage in discussion, this is also a great chance to expand their thinking and use their critical thinking skills.

How Does Critical Thinking Apply To Your Career?

Once you’ve finished school and entered the workforce, your critical thinking journey only expands and grows from here!

Impress Your Employer

Employers value employees who are critical thinkers, ask questions, offer creative ideas, and are always ready to offer innovation against the competition. No matter what your position or role in a company may be, critical thinking will always give you the power to stand out and make a difference.

Careers That Require Critical Thinking

Some of many examples of careers that require critical thinking include:

  • Human resources specialist
  • Marketing associate
  • Business analyst

Truth be told however, it’s probably harder to come up with a professional field that doesn’t require any critical thinking!

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What is someone with critical thinking skills capable of doing.

Someone with critical thinking skills is able to think rationally and clearly about what they should or not believe. They are capable of engaging in their own thoughts, and doing some reflection in order to come to a well-informed conclusion.

A critical thinker understands the connections between ideas, and is able to construct arguments based on facts, as well as find mistakes in reasoning.

The Process Of Critical Thinking

The process of critical thinking is highly systematic.

What Are Your Goals?

Critical thinking starts by defining your goals, and knowing what you are ultimately trying to achieve.

Once you know what you are trying to conclude, you can foresee your solution to the problem and play it out in your head from all perspectives.

What Does The Future Of Critical Thinking Hold?

The future of critical thinking is the equivalent of the future of jobs. In 2020, critical thinking was ranked as the 2nd top skill (following complex problem solving) by the World Economic Forum .

We are dealing with constant unprecedented changes, and what success is today, might not be considered success tomorrow — making critical thinking a key skill for the future workforce.

Why Is Critical Thinking So Important?

Why is critical thinking important? Critical thinking is more than just important! It’s one of the most crucial cognitive skills one can develop.

By practicing well-thought-out thinking, both your thoughts and decisions can make a positive change in your life, on both a professional and personal level. You can hugely improve your life by working on your critical thinking skills as often as you can.

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3 critical thinking strategies to enhance your problem-solving skills

3 critical thinking strategies to enhance your problem-solving skills

Think back to the last time you made a big decision.

Maybe you were choosing between two jobs or whether to move across the country.

How did you make your choice? Most likely, you analyzed the pros and cons of each option and chose the one that made the most sense for you.

This decision-making process relied on an important skill we all need: critical thinking.

Critical thinking is usually associated with analyzing complex problems in a corporate boardroom or sitting through a tedious philosophy lecture. While those are undoubtedly valid applications of critical thinking skills, the truth is that everyone thinks critically every day — often without even realizing it.

Critical thinking strategies allow us to objectively evaluate information and make informed decisions based on logic and reason. The critical thinking process is essential for success in many areas, from business to academia to parenting. No matter your profession or lifestyle, learning how to think critically can improve your life in countless ways.

In this article, you'll learn more about critical thinking skills and how to enhance them by following specific, actionable critical thinking strategies.

What is critical thinking?

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There are many ways to interpret the concept of critical thinking. Science, academia, and business all have their own viewpoints. An official definition of critical thinking is difficult to label, and that's logical. After all, the critical thinking process isn't about memorizing generic definitions — it's about asking questions for yourself.

At its simplest, the Foundation for Critical Thinking (FCT) Model defines critical thinking as "...the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it." The critical thinking process is about being objective — seeing different points of view and keeping an open mind when new information contradicts your beliefs and opinions. Critical thinkers prioritize facts over emotions, remove biases, verify information, and use logical reasoning to solve problems.

When is a critical thinking strategy essential?

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Sound reasoning is essential to making good decisions. Since we all make thousands of decisions every day, it can be beneficial to strengthen our reasoning and problem-solving skills.

However, critical thinking skills can be more than just helpful in some situations — they're vital. These instances include:

  • Interpreting the news . Social networking has changed the way we receive information. About half of U.S. adults get their news from social media , and more than a third regularly turn to Facebook as their source. Since anyone can share anything on social networks, fake news spreads quickly , so it's essential to think critically to discern fake news from accurate reporting.
  • In the workplace . According to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking skills are one of the top two skills needed for the future of work as the Fourth Industrial Revolution develops). Indeed, 93% of executives say "a candidate's demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major."
  • Formal education and self-learning . Critical thinking skills help learners engage in the learning process. Thinking critically encourages curiosity, leading us to ask tough questions when faced with challenging situations or material and delve deeper into the new subject matter. As a result, we better understand the information and discover practical ways to integrate it.
  • Parenting . Parenting involves various critical thinking skills, from managing discipline to making care decisions. A constant stream of opinions and trends on social media makes decision-making even more challenging for a modern parent. Asking open-ended questions, researching claims, becoming aware of critical thinking barriers , and being skeptical of trends are necessary to make informed decisions about children's care.

These are just a few examples of situations where critical thinking can be helpful. There are many other areas of life in which critical thinking strategies are beneficial. To use them properly, you'll need to develop a few key critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking skills

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Applying critical thinking strategies requires the use of a few essential skills. Experts identify the core critical thinking skills as:

  • Interpretation is the ability to understand and make sense of information. When we interpret something, we use subskills like categorization and significance to help us clarify the meaning.
  • Analysis refers to breaking down complex ideas and concepts into smaller chunks that can be better understood. This skill requires effectively examining ideas to identify the critical components or problems.
  • Evaluation is the ability to determine whether or not a particular claim or piece of evidence is valid and credible. Subskills like logic and reasoning help us judge the quality or value of something.
  • Inference is the process of drawing logical conclusions from the presented information. This skill helps critical thinkers understand new ideas by looking for patterns and connections between different pieces of information.
  • Explanation refers to effectively communicating in a way that others can easily understand. This entails simplifying complex information to present the findings of your reasoning in a clear way with well-reasoned arguments that look at the big picture.
  • Self-regulation is the ability to monitor your own thinking and behavior to improve performance over time. This skill allows critical thinkers to reflect on their progress and make adjustments to achieve better results.

Developing these skills will lead to better critical thinking. Skill development can occur in a wide variety of situations by practicing specific strategies.

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3 critical thinking strategies to try

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Developing and refining critical thinking skills takes time and practice. If you want to sharpen your problem-solving skills, here are a few critical thinking strategies you can use as a starting point.

Strategy 1: Comprehensive Analysis

A critical approach to any argument should begin with a detailed and systematic examination. When you break down the claim into elements, you can evaluate each segment separately to determine its legitimacy.

Start by analyzing the language of the argument. Analyze the following factors:

  • Make sure that words are used in the correct context by checking their meaning
  • The definition of words within the context of the argument should be accurate
  • Make sure the language being used has clarity and makes sense
  • Verify the accuracy of the language in the statement to ensure it is fair and factual

Evaluating an argument's words and phrases is an essential first step to determining validity.

The next step is to examine the claim's structure. There is a basic structure to all arguments — one or more premises lead to a conclusion. The premise is the statement(s) that provides evidence supporting the conclusion. The conclusion is the claim that is made in the argument, usually highlighted by words like "so" or "therefore." Understanding this basic structure is essential to identify each piece for assessment.


Consider standardizing the argument if necessary. A few situations may require restructuring into a standard structure. When a statement isn't logically arranged, extracting premises and conclusions and rearranging them make them easier to comprehend.

When more than one premise exists for a single conclusion, making two separate assertions with the conclusion makes it easier to assess each assumption separately.

Sometimes, an argument is missing its conclusion because the author implied it. It's often easier to understand an implied conclusion when the structure is broken down into a standardized format. In the same way, a missing premise can occur when part of the element is common knowledge or assumed.


As a final step, classify the argument. All arguments are either deductive or non-deductive. The strategies you will use to evaluate your argument will vary depending on whether your argument is deductive. Deductive arguments contain premises that guarantee their conclusions. The premises of non-deductive arguments cannot guarantee the truth of their findings.

Strategy 2: Utilize Bloom's Taxonomy

Critical thinking strategies: Bloom's Taxonomy

Another strategy that can develop the critical thinking process is Bloom's Taxonomy . Educators worldwide have used the framework created by Benjamin Bloom to define and distinguish different levels of human cognition, like reasoning, learning, and comprehension.

In the original model, there were six main categories:

  • Comprehension
  • Application

In 2001, researchers, educators, and psychologists revised the taxonomy to reflect a more dynamic approach to education, changing the labels to represent the actions taken at each step of the system:

The six levels are arranged in hierarchical form, moving from the simplest level of cognition — thinking — to the highest, most complex level — evaluation.

Bloom's Taxonomy can serve as a useful critical thinking strategy in two ways. Teachers can use the taxonomy to promote critical thinking in their teaching strategies. By assessing the cognition level of their students, teachers can plan and deliver instruction at the appropriate level, ensuring that tasks and assessments align with the objective. Most importantly, they can tailor the types of questions they ask in classroom discussion by using strategic words that challenge students on different levels of cognition.

For classroom students and self-learners, the taxonomy provides a structured framework for decision-making. Students are guided through the process of critical analysis, starting with acquiring knowledge. As learners progress through the steps, they are encouraged to gather more information and examine it analytically before evaluating it to reach a decision.

Strategy 3: Apply the Falsification Theory

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The Falsification Theory is an approach that aims to separate science from non-science proposed by 20th-century philosopher Karl Popper. In short, it implies that a scientific theory or hypothesis is falsifiable if it can be logically refuted by an empirical test. For example, observing a white duck can falsify the hypothesis that "all ducks are yellow."

It can be helpful to use falsification as a critical thinking strategy when evaluating new information or scientific claims. This encourages us to test our assumptions and seek disconfirming evidence. When we actively seek out information that contradicts our beliefs, we can more accurately assess the validity of our ideas by avoiding narrow thinking and removing bias.

The theory isn't without criticism, however. Skeptics argue that it's too simplistic. Some cite scientific theories (like Einstein's theory of relativity) that haven't been proven false yet are still considered scientific. Other people argue that some theories (such as Darwin's theory of evolution) have been tested and found true yet are still being tested and critiqued.

Whether or not the Falsification Theory is a perfect way of distinguishing science from non-science may be debated. Still, it remains a valuable tool for thinking critically about the information we encounter in everyday life.

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Enhance your higher-order thinking skills

Developing higher-order thinking skills and refining the critical thinking process are essential for those who seek personal and professional development. Enhancing your decision-making abilities requires developing essential critical thinking skills and learning how you can apply them.

The three critical thinking strategies shared here are just a sample of the many strategic ways you can use the critical thinking process. Higher-order thinking takes practice, so don't get discouraged if it feels difficult at first. With time and patience, you can become a master critical thinker.

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Classroom Q&A

With larry ferlazzo.

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to [email protected]. Read more from this blog.

Eight Instructional Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking

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(This is the first post in a three-part series.)

The new question-of-the-week is:

What is critical thinking and how can we integrate it into the classroom?

This three-part series will explore what critical thinking is, if it can be specifically taught and, if so, how can teachers do so in their classrooms.

Today’s guests are Dara Laws Savage, Patrick Brown, Meg Riordan, Ph.D., and Dr. PJ Caposey. Dara, Patrick, and Meg were also guests on my 10-minute BAM! Radio Show . You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources On Teaching & Learning Critical Thinking In The Classroom .

Current Events

Dara Laws Savage is an English teacher at the Early College High School at Delaware State University, where she serves as a teacher and instructional coach and lead mentor. Dara has been teaching for 25 years (career preparation, English, photography, yearbook, newspaper, and graphic design) and has presented nationally on project-based learning and technology integration:

There is so much going on right now and there is an overload of information for us to process. Did you ever stop to think how our students are processing current events? They see news feeds, hear news reports, and scan photos and posts, but are they truly thinking about what they are hearing and seeing?

I tell my students that my job is not to give them answers but to teach them how to think about what they read and hear. So what is critical thinking and how can we integrate it into the classroom? There are just as many definitions of critical thinking as there are people trying to define it. However, the Critical Think Consortium focuses on the tools to create a thinking-based classroom rather than a definition: “Shape the climate to support thinking, create opportunities for thinking, build capacity to think, provide guidance to inform thinking.” Using these four criteria and pairing them with current events, teachers easily create learning spaces that thrive on thinking and keep students engaged.

One successful technique I use is the FIRE Write. Students are given a quote, a paragraph, an excerpt, or a photo from the headlines. Students are asked to F ocus and respond to the selection for three minutes. Next, students are asked to I dentify a phrase or section of the photo and write for two minutes. Third, students are asked to R eframe their response around a specific word, phrase, or section within their previous selection. Finally, students E xchange their thoughts with a classmate. Within the exchange, students also talk about how the selection connects to what we are covering in class.

There was a controversial Pepsi ad in 2017 involving Kylie Jenner and a protest with a police presence. The imagery in the photo was strikingly similar to a photo that went viral with a young lady standing opposite a police line. Using that image from a current event engaged my students and gave them the opportunity to critically think about events of the time.

Here are the two photos and a student response:

F - Focus on both photos and respond for three minutes

In the first picture, you see a strong and courageous black female, bravely standing in front of two officers in protest. She is risking her life to do so. Iesha Evans is simply proving to the world she does NOT mean less because she is black … and yet officers are there to stop her. She did not step down. In the picture below, you see Kendall Jenner handing a police officer a Pepsi. Maybe this wouldn’t be a big deal, except this was Pepsi’s weak, pathetic, and outrageous excuse of a commercial that belittles the whole movement of people fighting for their lives.

I - Identify a word or phrase, underline it, then write about it for two minutes

A white, privileged female in place of a fighting black woman was asking for trouble. A struggle we are continuously fighting every day, and they make a mockery of it. “I know what will work! Here Mr. Police Officer! Drink some Pepsi!” As if. Pepsi made a fool of themselves, and now their already dwindling fan base continues to ever shrink smaller.

R - Reframe your thoughts by choosing a different word, then write about that for one minute

You don’t know privilege until it’s gone. You don’t know privilege while it’s there—but you can and will be made accountable and aware. Don’t use it for evil. You are not stupid. Use it to do something. Kendall could’ve NOT done the commercial. Kendall could’ve released another commercial standing behind a black woman. Anything!

Exchange - Remember to discuss how this connects to our school song project and our previous discussions?

This connects two ways - 1) We want to convey a strong message. Be powerful. Show who we are. And Pepsi definitely tried. … Which leads to the second connection. 2) Not mess up and offend anyone, as had the one alma mater had been linked to black minstrels. We want to be amazing, but we have to be smart and careful and make sure we include everyone who goes to our school and everyone who may go to our school.

As a final step, students read and annotate the full article and compare it to their initial response.

Using current events and critical-thinking strategies like FIRE writing helps create a learning space where thinking is the goal rather than a score on a multiple-choice assessment. Critical-thinking skills can cross over to any of students’ other courses and into life outside the classroom. After all, we as teachers want to help the whole student be successful, and critical thinking is an important part of navigating life after they leave our classrooms.



Patrick Brown is the executive director of STEM and CTE for the Fort Zumwalt school district in Missouri and an experienced educator and author :

Planning for critical thinking focuses on teaching the most crucial science concepts, practices, and logical-thinking skills as well as the best use of instructional time. One way to ensure that lessons maintain a focus on critical thinking is to focus on the instructional sequence used to teach.

Explore-before-explain teaching is all about promoting critical thinking for learners to better prepare students for the reality of their world. What having an explore-before-explain mindset means is that in our planning, we prioritize giving students firsthand experiences with data, allow students to construct evidence-based claims that focus on conceptual understanding, and challenge students to discuss and think about the why behind phenomena.

Just think of the critical thinking that has to occur for students to construct a scientific claim. 1) They need the opportunity to collect data, analyze it, and determine how to make sense of what the data may mean. 2) With data in hand, students can begin thinking about the validity and reliability of their experience and information collected. 3) They can consider what differences, if any, they might have if they completed the investigation again. 4) They can scrutinize outlying data points for they may be an artifact of a true difference that merits further exploration of a misstep in the procedure, measuring device, or measurement. All of these intellectual activities help them form more robust understanding and are evidence of their critical thinking.

In explore-before-explain teaching, all of these hard critical-thinking tasks come before teacher explanations of content. Whether we use discovery experiences, problem-based learning, and or inquiry-based activities, strategies that are geared toward helping students construct understanding promote critical thinking because students learn content by doing the practices valued in the field to generate knowledge.


An Issue of Equity

Meg Riordan, Ph.D., is the chief learning officer at The Possible Project, an out-of-school program that collaborates with youth to build entrepreneurial skills and mindsets and provides pathways to careers and long-term economic prosperity. She has been in the field of education for over 25 years as a middle and high school teacher, school coach, college professor, regional director of N.Y.C. Outward Bound Schools, and director of external research with EL Education:

Although critical thinking often defies straightforward definition, most in the education field agree it consists of several components: reasoning, problem-solving, and decisionmaking, plus analysis and evaluation of information, such that multiple sides of an issue can be explored. It also includes dispositions and “the willingness to apply critical-thinking principles, rather than fall back on existing unexamined beliefs, or simply believe what you’re told by authority figures.”

Despite variation in definitions, critical thinking is nonetheless promoted as an essential outcome of students’ learning—we want to see students and adults demonstrate it across all fields, professions, and in their personal lives. Yet there is simultaneously a rationing of opportunities in schools for students of color, students from under-resourced communities, and other historically marginalized groups to deeply learn and practice critical thinking.

For example, many of our most underserved students often spend class time filling out worksheets, promoting high compliance but low engagement, inquiry, critical thinking, or creation of new ideas. At a time in our world when college and careers are critical for participation in society and the global, knowledge-based economy, far too many students struggle within classrooms and schools that reinforce low-expectations and inequity.

If educators aim to prepare all students for an ever-evolving marketplace and develop skills that will be valued no matter what tomorrow’s jobs are, then we must move critical thinking to the forefront of classroom experiences. And educators must design learning to cultivate it.

So, what does that really look like?

Unpack and define critical thinking

To understand critical thinking, educators need to first unpack and define its components. What exactly are we looking for when we speak about reasoning or exploring multiple perspectives on an issue? How does problem-solving show up in English, math, science, art, or other disciplines—and how is it assessed? At Two Rivers, an EL Education school, the faculty identified five constructs of critical thinking, defined each, and created rubrics to generate a shared picture of quality for teachers and students. The rubrics were then adapted across grade levels to indicate students’ learning progressions.

At Avenues World School, critical thinking is one of the Avenues World Elements and is an enduring outcome embedded in students’ early experiences through 12th grade. For instance, a kindergarten student may be expected to “identify cause and effect in familiar contexts,” while an 8th grader should demonstrate the ability to “seek out sufficient evidence before accepting a claim as true,” “identify bias in claims and evidence,” and “reconsider strongly held points of view in light of new evidence.”

When faculty and students embrace a common vision of what critical thinking looks and sounds like and how it is assessed, educators can then explicitly design learning experiences that call for students to employ critical-thinking skills. This kind of work must occur across all schools and programs, especially those serving large numbers of students of color. As Linda Darling-Hammond asserts , “Schools that serve large numbers of students of color are least likely to offer the kind of curriculum needed to ... help students attain the [critical-thinking] skills needed in a knowledge work economy. ”

So, what can it look like to create those kinds of learning experiences?

Designing experiences for critical thinking

After defining a shared understanding of “what” critical thinking is and “how” it shows up across multiple disciplines and grade levels, it is essential to create learning experiences that impel students to cultivate, practice, and apply these skills. There are several levers that offer pathways for teachers to promote critical thinking in lessons:

1.Choose Compelling Topics: Keep it relevant

A key Common Core State Standard asks for students to “write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” That might not sound exciting or culturally relevant. But a learning experience designed for a 12th grade humanities class engaged learners in a compelling topic— policing in America —to analyze and evaluate multiple texts (including primary sources) and share the reasoning for their perspectives through discussion and writing. Students grappled with ideas and their beliefs and employed deep critical-thinking skills to develop arguments for their claims. Embedding critical-thinking skills in curriculum that students care about and connect with can ignite powerful learning experiences.

2. Make Local Connections: Keep it real

At The Possible Project , an out-of-school-time program designed to promote entrepreneurial skills and mindsets, students in a recent summer online program (modified from in-person due to COVID-19) explored the impact of COVID-19 on their communities and local BIPOC-owned businesses. They learned interviewing skills through a partnership with Everyday Boston , conducted virtual interviews with entrepreneurs, evaluated information from their interviews and local data, and examined their previously held beliefs. They created blog posts and videos to reflect on their learning and consider how their mindsets had changed as a result of the experience. In this way, we can design powerful community-based learning and invite students into productive struggle with multiple perspectives.

3. Create Authentic Projects: Keep it rigorous

At Big Picture Learning schools, students engage in internship-based learning experiences as a central part of their schooling. Their school-based adviser and internship-based mentor support them in developing real-world projects that promote deeper learning and critical-thinking skills. Such authentic experiences teach “young people to be thinkers, to be curious, to get from curiosity to creation … and it helps students design a learning experience that answers their questions, [providing an] opportunity to communicate it to a larger audience—a major indicator of postsecondary success.” Even in a remote environment, we can design projects that ask more of students than rote memorization and that spark critical thinking.

Our call to action is this: As educators, we need to make opportunities for critical thinking available not only to the affluent or those fortunate enough to be placed in advanced courses. The tools are available, let’s use them. Let’s interrogate our current curriculum and design learning experiences that engage all students in real, relevant, and rigorous experiences that require critical thinking and prepare them for promising postsecondary pathways.


Critical Thinking & Student Engagement

Dr. PJ Caposey is an award-winning educator, keynote speaker, consultant, and author of seven books who currently serves as the superintendent of schools for the award-winning Meridian CUSD 223 in northwest Illinois. You can find PJ on most social-media platforms as MCUSDSupe:

When I start my keynote on student engagement, I invite two people up on stage and give them each five paper balls to shoot at a garbage can also conveniently placed on stage. Contestant One shoots their shot, and the audience gives approval. Four out of 5 is a heckuva score. Then just before Contestant Two shoots, I blindfold them and start moving the garbage can back and forth. I usually try to ensure that they can at least make one of their shots. Nobody is successful in this unfair environment.

I thank them and send them back to their seats and then explain that this little activity was akin to student engagement. While we all know we want student engagement, we are shooting at different targets. More importantly, for teachers, it is near impossible for them to hit a target that is moving and that they cannot see.

Within the world of education and particularly as educational leaders, we have failed to simplify what student engagement looks like, and it is impossible to define or articulate what student engagement looks like if we cannot clearly articulate what critical thinking is and looks like in a classroom. Because, simply, without critical thought, there is no engagement.

The good news here is that critical thought has been defined and placed into taxonomies for decades already. This is not something new and not something that needs to be redefined. I am a Bloom’s person, but there is nothing wrong with DOK or some of the other taxonomies, either. To be precise, I am a huge fan of Daggett’s Rigor and Relevance Framework. I have used that as a core element of my practice for years, and it has shaped who I am as an instructional leader.

So, in order to explain critical thought, a teacher or a leader must familiarize themselves with these tried and true taxonomies. Easy, right? Yes, sort of. The issue is not understanding what critical thought is; it is the ability to integrate it into the classrooms. In order to do so, there are a four key steps every educator must take.

  • Integrating critical thought/rigor into a lesson does not happen by chance, it happens by design. Planning for critical thought and engagement is much different from planning for a traditional lesson. In order to plan for kids to think critically, you have to provide a base of knowledge and excellent prompts to allow them to explore their own thinking in order to analyze, evaluate, or synthesize information.
  • SIDE NOTE – Bloom’s verbs are a great way to start when writing objectives, but true planning will take you deeper than this.


  • If the questions and prompts given in a classroom have correct answers or if the teacher ends up answering their own questions, the lesson will lack critical thought and rigor.
  • Script five questions forcing higher-order thought prior to every lesson. Experienced teachers may not feel they need this, but it helps to create an effective habit.
  • If lessons are rigorous and assessments are not, students will do well on their assessments, and that may not be an accurate representation of the knowledge and skills they have mastered. If lessons are easy and assessments are rigorous, the exact opposite will happen. When deciding to increase critical thought, it must happen in all three phases of the game: planning, instruction, and assessment.


  • To increase rigor, the teacher must DO LESS. This feels counterintuitive but is accurate. Rigorous lessons involving tons of critical thought must allow for students to work on their own, collaborate with peers, and connect their ideas. This cannot happen in a silent room except for the teacher talking. In order to increase rigor, decrease talk time and become comfortable with less control. Asking questions and giving prompts that lead to no true correct answer also means less control. This is a tough ask for some teachers. Explained differently, if you assign one assignment and get 30 very similar products, you have most likely assigned a low-rigor recipe. If you assign one assignment and get multiple varied products, then the students have had a chance to think deeply, and you have successfully integrated critical thought into your classroom.


Thanks to Dara, Patrick, Meg, and PJ for their contributions!

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Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

15 Things We Have Learned About Critical Thinking

Here are the key issues to consider in critical thinking..

Posted July 27, 2018

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Not long after the publication of my book, Critical Thinking: Conceptual Perspectives and Practical Guidelines , by Cambridge University Press, Psychology Today contacted me and asked me to write a blog on the subject. I never thought I would write a blog, but when presented with the opportunity to keep sharing my thoughts on critical thinking on a regular basis, I thought, why not ? Maybe my writing might help educators, maybe they might help students and maybe they might help people in their day-to-day decision-making . If it can help, then it’s worthwhile.

To recap, critical thinking (CT) is a metacognitive process, consisting of a number of sub-skills and dispositions, that, when applied through purposeful, self-regulatory, reflective judgment, increase the chances of producing a logical solution to a problem or a valid conclusion to an argument (Dwyer, 2017; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2014).

CT, if anything, has become more necessary , in this age of information bombardment and the new knowledge economy (Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2014). It allows students to gain a better understanding of complex information (Dwyer, Hogan, & Stewart, 2012; 2014; Gambrill, 2006; Halpern, 2014); it allows them to achieve higher grades and become more employable, informed and active citizens (Barton & McCully, 2007; Holmes & Clizbe, 1997; National Academy of Sciences, 2005); it facilitates good decision-making and problem-solving in social and interpersonal contexts (Ku, 2009); and it decreases the effects of cognitive biases and heuristic -based thinking (Facione & Facione, 2001; McGuinness, 2013).

It’s now been just over a year since I started writing ‘Thoughts on Thinking’. As I consider my thinking and look over my writing during this period, I thought it would be worthwhile to collate and summarise some of the broader learning that has appeared in my writings. So, here’s what we’ve learned:

  • We all know CT is important, but it may be the case that many educators, as well as students, don’t really know what researchers mean by "critical thinking" and/or simply haven’t researched it themselves.
  • Just as many don’t really know what is meant by "critical thinking", there is also the problem of ensuring consistency across how it is defined/conceptualised, trained and measured , which is no easy task.
  • Without adequate training in CT, it may be the case that mature students’ perceptions of how they approach CT do not match their actual ability - despite potentially enhanced autonomy, student responsibility and locus of control , it may be that an over- optimistic outlook on the benefits of experience (and its associated heuristic-based, intuitive judgment) takes centre-stage above and beyond actual ability.
  • Social media is many things: entertainment, education , networking and much more. It is also, unfortunately, a vehicle for promoting faulty thinking. Being able to recognise persuasion techniques, illogical argumentation and fallacious reasoning , will allow you to better assess arguments presented to you, and help you to present better arguments.
  • Values are unique to each and every individual. Though individuals can certainly share values, there is no guarantee that all of an individual’s values overlap with another’s. On the other hand, using the 'virtue' moniker implies that the individual is right based on some kind of ‘moral correctness’. Though there is nothing wrong with an individual presenting ideas and perspectives that they value, it is ill-conceived and dangerous to treat them as global virtues that everyone else should value too.
  • CT is domain-g eneral, but explicit CT training is necessary if educators want to see CT improve and flourish across domains.
  • A person with a strong willingness to conduct CT has the consistent internal willingness and motivation to engage problems and make decisions by using reflective judgment . Reflective judgment, the recognition of limited knowledge and how this uncertainty can affect decision-making processes, is an important aspect of critical thinking regarding ‘taking a step back’ and thinking about an argument or problem a little bit longer and considering the basis for the reasons and consequences of responding in a particular way.
  • There is a need for general, secondary-school training in bias and statistics. We need to teach CT to the coming generations. When not critically thinking, people don’t listen, and fail to be open-minded and reflect upon the information presented to them; they project their opinions and beliefs regardless of whether or not they have evidence to support their claims.
  • Be open-minded towards others. You don’t have to respect them (respect is earned, it’s not a right); but be courteous (sure, we may be in disagreement; but, hey, we’re still civilised people).
  • A person said what they said, not how you interpret what they said. If you are unclear as to what has been said, ask for clarification. Asking for clarity is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of successful problem-solving.
  • ‘Proof’ is the dirtiest word in critical thinking. Research and science do not prove things, they can only disprove. Be wary when you hear the word ‘prove’ or any of its variants thrown around; but also, be mindful that people feel safer when they are assured and words like ‘proven’ reinforce this feeling of assuredness.
  • Creative thinking isn’t really useful or practical in critical thinking, depending on how you conceptualize it. Critical thinking and creative thinking are very different entities if you treat the latter as something similar to lateral thinking or ‘thinking outside the box’. However, if we conceptualize creative thinking as synthesizing information for the purpose of inferring a logical and feasible conclusion or solution, then it becomes complementary to critical thinking. But then, we are not resorting to creativity alone - all other avenues involving critical thinking must be considered. That is, we can think creatively by synthesizing information we have previously thought about critically (i.e. through analysis and evaluation ) for the purpose of inferring a logical and feasible conclusion or solution. Thus, given this caveat, we can infuse our critical thinking with creative thinking, but we must do so with caution.
  • Changing people’s minds is not easy ; and it’s even more difficult when the person you’re working with believes they have critically thought about it. It may simply boil down to the person you’re trying to educate and their disposition towards critical thinking, but the person’s emotional investment in their stance also plays a significant role.
  • There is no such thing as good or bad CT – you either thought critically or you didn’t. Those who try it in good faith are likely to want to do it ‘properly’; and so, much of whether or not an individual is thinking critically comes down to intellectual humility and intellectual integrity .
  • Finally, there are some general tips that people find useful in applying their critical thinking:
  • Save your critical thinking for things that matter - things you care about.
  • Do it earlier in your day to avoid faulty thinking resulting from decision fatigue.
  • Take a step back and think about a problem a little bit longer, considering the basis for the reasons and consequences of responding in a particular way.
  • Play Devil’s Advocate in order to overcome bias and 'auto-pilot processing' through truly considering alternatives.
  • Leave emotion at the door and remove your beliefs, attitudes, opinions and personal experiences from the equation - all of which are emotionally charged.

Barton, K., & McCully, A. (2007). Teaching controversial issues where controversial issues really matter. Teaching History, 127, 13–19.

Dwyer, C.P. (2017). Critical thinking: Conceptual perspectives and practical guidelines. UK: Cambridge University Press.

Dwyer, C. P., Hogan, M. J., & Stewart, I. (2012). An evaluation of argument mapping as a method of enhancing critical thinking performance in e-learningenvironments. Metacognition and Learning, 7, 219–244.

Dwyer, C.P., Hogan, M.J. & Stewart, I. (2014). An integrated critical thinking framework for the 21st century. Thinking Skills & Creativity, 12, 43-52.

Eigenauer, J.D. (2017). Don’t reinvent the critical thinking wheel: What scholarly literature tells us about critical thinking instruction. Innovation Abstracts, 39, 2.

Facione, P. A., & Facione, N. C. (2001). Analyzing explanations for seemingly irrational choices: Linking argument analysis and cognitive science. International Journal of Applied Philosophy, 15(2), 267–286.

Gambrill, E. (2006). Evidence-based practice and policy: Choices ahead. Research on Social Work Practice, 16(3), 338–357.

Halpern, D.F. (2014). Though and knowledge. UK: Psychology Press.

Holmes, J., & Clizbe, E. (1997). Facing the 21st century. Business Education Forum, 52(1), 33–35.

Ku, K. Y. L. (2009). Assessing students’ critical thinking performance: Urging for measurements using multi-response format. Thinking Skills and Creativity,4(1), 70–76.

McGuinness, C. (2013). Teaching thinking: Learning how to think. Presented at the Psychological Society of Ireland and British Psychological Association’s Public Lecture Series. Galway, Ireland, 6th March.

National Academy of Sciences. (2005). National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine Rising above the gathering storm: Energising and employingAmerica for a brighter economic future. Committee on prospering in the global economy for the 21st century. Washington, DC.

Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the Technological University of the Shannon in Athlone, Ireland.

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Critical Thinking: A Model of Intelligence for Solving Real-World Problems

Diane f. halpern.

1 Department of Psychology, Claremont McKenna College, Emerita, Altadena, CA 91001, USA

Dana S. Dunn

2 Department of Psychology, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA 18018, USA; ude.naivarom@nnud

Most theories of intelligence do not directly address the question of whether people with high intelligence can successfully solve real world problems. A high IQ is correlated with many important outcomes (e.g., academic prominence, reduced crime), but it does not protect against cognitive biases, partisan thinking, reactance, or confirmation bias, among others. There are several newer theories that directly address the question about solving real-world problems. Prominent among them is Sternberg’s adaptive intelligence with “adaptation to the environment” as the central premise, a construct that does not exist on standardized IQ tests. Similarly, some scholars argue that standardized tests of intelligence are not measures of rational thought—the sort of skill/ability that would be needed to address complex real-world problems. Other investigators advocate for critical thinking as a model of intelligence specifically designed for addressing real-world problems. Yes, intelligence (i.e., critical thinking) can be enhanced and used for solving a real-world problem such as COVID-19, which we use as an example of contemporary problems that need a new approach.

1. Introduction

The editors of this Special Issue asked authors to respond to a deceptively simple statement: “How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems.” This statement holds many complexities, including how intelligence is defined and which theories are designed to address real-world problems.

2. The Problem with Using Standardized IQ Measures for Real-World Problems

For the most part, we identify high intelligence as having a high score on a standardized test of intelligence. Like any test score, IQ can only reflect what is on the given test. Most contemporary standardized measures of intelligence include vocabulary, working memory, spatial skills, analogies, processing speed, and puzzle-like elements (e.g., Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale Fourth Edition; see ( Drozdick et al. 2012 )). Measures of IQ correlate with many important outcomes, including academic performance ( Kretzschmar et al. 2016 ), job-related skills ( Hunter and Schmidt 1996 ), reduced likelihood of criminal behavior ( Burhan et al. 2014 ), and for those with exceptionally high IQs, obtaining a doctorate and publishing scholarly articles ( McCabe et al. 2020 ). Gottfredson ( 1997, p. 81 ) summarized these effects when she said the “predictive validity of g is ubiquitous.” More recent research using longitudinal data, found that general mental abilities and specific abilities are good predictors of several work variables including job prestige, and income ( Lang and Kell 2020 ). Although assessments of IQ are useful in many contexts, having a high IQ does not protect against falling for common cognitive fallacies (e.g., blind spot bias, reactance, anecdotal reasoning), relying on biased and blatantly one-sided information sources, failing to consider information that does not conform to one’s preferred view of reality (confirmation bias), resisting pressure to think and act in a certain way, among others. This point was clearly articulated by Stanovich ( 2009, p. 3 ) when he stated that,” IQ tests measure only a small set of the thinking abilities that people need.”

3. Which Theories of Intelligence Are Relevant to the Question?

Most theories of intelligence do not directly address the question of whether people with high intelligence can successfully solve real world problems. For example, Grossmann et al. ( 2013 ) cite many studies in which IQ scores have not predicted well-being, including life satisfaction and longevity. Using a stratified random sample of Americans, these investigators found that wise reasoning is associated with life satisfaction, and that “there was no association between intelligence and well-being” (p. 944). (critical thinking [CT] is often referred to as “wise reasoning” or “rational thinking,”). Similar results were reported by Wirthwein and Rost ( 2011 ) who compared life satisfaction in several domains for gifted adults and adults of average intelligence. There were no differences in any of the measures of subjective well-being, except for leisure, which was significantly lower for the gifted adults. Additional research in a series of experiments by Stanovich and West ( 2008 ) found that participants with high cognitive ability were as likely as others to endorse positions that are consistent with their biases, and they were equally likely to prefer one-sided arguments over those that provided a balanced argument. There are several newer theories that directly address the question about solving real-world problems. Prominent among them is Sternberg’s adaptive intelligence with “adaptation to the environment” as the central premise, a construct that does not exist on standardized IQ tests (e.g., Sternberg 2019 ). Similarly, Stanovich and West ( 2014 ) argue that standardized tests of intelligence are not measures of rational thought—the sort of skill/ability that would be needed to address complex real-world problems. Halpern and Butler ( 2020 ) advocate for CT as a useful model of intelligence for addressing real-world problems because it was designed for this purpose. Although there is much overlap among these more recent theories, often using different terms for similar concepts, we use Halpern and Butler’s conceptualization to make our point: Yes, intelligence (i.e., CT) can be enhanced and used for solving a real-world problem like COVID-19.

4. Critical Thinking as an Applied Model for Intelligence

One definition of intelligence that directly addresses the question about intelligence and real-world problem solving comes from Nickerson ( 2020, p. 205 ): “the ability to learn, to reason well, to solve novel problems, and to deal effectively with novel problems—often unpredictable—that confront one in daily life.” Using this definition, the question of whether intelligent thinking can solve a world problem like the novel coronavirus is a resounding “yes” because solutions to real-world novel problems are part of his definition. This is a popular idea in the general public. For example, over 1000 business managers and hiring executives said that they want employees who can think critically based on the belief that CT skills will help them solve work-related problems ( Hart Research Associates 2018 ).

We define CT as the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. It is used to describe thinking that is purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed--the kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions, when the thinker is using skills that are thoughtful and effective for the particular context and type of thinking task. International surveys conducted by the OECD ( 2019, p. 16 ) established “key information-processing competencies” that are “highly transferable, in that they are relevant to many social contexts and work situations; and ‘learnable’ and therefore subject to the influence of policy.” One of these skills is problem solving, which is one subset of CT skills.

The CT model of intelligence is comprised of two components: (1) understanding information at a deep, meaningful level and (2) appropriate use of CT skills. The underlying idea is that CT skills can be identified, taught, and learned, and when they are recognized and applied in novel settings, the individual is demonstrating intelligent thought. CT skills include judging the credibility of an information source, making cost–benefit calculations, recognizing regression to the mean, understanding the limits of extrapolation, muting reactance responses, using analogical reasoning, rating the strength of reasons that support and fail to support a conclusion, and recognizing hindsight bias or confirmation bias, among others. Critical thinkers use these skills appropriately, without prompting, and usually with conscious intent in a variety of settings.

One of the key concepts in this model is that CT skills transfer in appropriate situations. Thus, assessments using situational judgments are needed to assess whether particular skills have transferred to a novel situation where it is appropriate. In an assessment created by the first author ( Halpern 2018 ), short paragraphs provide information about 20 different everyday scenarios (e.g., A speaker at the meeting of your local school board reported that when drug use rises, grades decline; so schools need to enforce a “war on drugs” to improve student grades); participants provide two response formats for every scenario: (a) constructed responses where they respond with short written responses, followed by (b) forced choice responses (e.g., multiple choice, rating or ranking of alternatives) for the same situations.

There is a large and growing empirical literature to support the assertion that CT skills can be learned and will transfer (when taught for transfer). See for example, Holmes et al. ( 2015 ), who wrote in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , that there was “significant and sustained improvement in students’ critical thinking behavior” (p. 11,199) for students who received CT instruction. Abrami et al. ( 2015, para. 1 ) concluded from a meta-analysis that “there are effective strategies for teaching CT skills, both generic and content specific, and CT dispositions, at all educational levels and across all disciplinary areas.” Abrami et al. ( 2008, para. 1 ), included 341 effect sizes in a meta-analysis. They wrote: “findings make it clear that improvement in students’ CT skills and dispositions cannot be a matter of implicit expectation.” A strong test of whether CT skills can be used for real-word problems comes from research by Butler et al. ( 2017 ). Community adults and college students (N = 244) completed several scales including an assessment of CT, an intelligence test, and an inventory of real-life events. Both CT scores and intelligence scores predicted individual outcomes on the inventory of real-life events, but CT was a stronger predictor.

Heijltjes et al. ( 2015, p. 487 ) randomly assigned participants to either a CT instruction group or one of six other control conditions. They found that “only participants assigned to CT instruction improved their reasoning skills.” Similarly, when Halpern et al. ( 2012 ) used random assignment of participants to either a learning group where they were taught scientific reasoning skills using a game format or a control condition (which also used computerized learning and was similar in length), participants in the scientific skills learning group showed higher proportional learning gains than students who did not play the game. As the body of additional supportive research is too large to report here, interested readers can find additional lists of CT skills and support for the assertion that these skills can be learned and will transfer in Halpern and Dunn ( Forthcoming ). There is a clear need for more high-quality research on the application and transfer of CT and its relationship to IQ.

5. Pandemics: COVID-19 as a Consequential Real-World Problem

A pandemic occurs when a disease runs rampant over an entire country or even the world. Pandemics have occurred throughout history: At the time of writing this article, COVID-19 is a world-wide pandemic whose actual death rate is unknown but estimated with projections of several million over the course of 2021 and beyond ( Mega 2020 ). Although vaccines are available, it will take some time to inoculate most or much of the world’s population. Since March 2020, national and international health agencies have created a list of actions that can slow and hopefully stop the spread of COVID (e.g., wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, avoiding group gatherings), yet many people in the United States and other countries have resisted their advice.

Could instruction in CT encourage more people to accept and comply with simple life-saving measures? There are many possible reasons to believe that by increasing citizens’ CT abilities, this problematic trend can be reversed for, at least, some unknown percentage of the population. We recognize the long history of social and cognitive research showing that changing attitudes and behaviors is difficult, and it would be unrealistic to expect that individuals with extreme beliefs supported by their social group and consistent with their political ideologies are likely to change. For example, an Iranian cleric and an orthodox rabbi both claimed (separately) that the COVID-19 vaccine can make people gay ( Marr 2021 ). These unfounded opinions are based on deeply held prejudicial beliefs that we expect to be resistant to CT. We are targeting those individuals who beliefs are less extreme and may be based on reasonable reservations, such as concern about the hasty development of the vaccine and the lack of long-term data on its effects. There should be some unknown proportion of individuals who can change their COVID-19-related beliefs and actions with appropriate instruction in CT. CT can be a (partial) antidote for the chaos of the modern world with armies of bots creating content on social media, political and other forces deliberately attempting to confuse issues, and almost all media labeled “fake news” by social influencers (i.e., people with followers that sometimes run to millions on various social media). Here, are some CT skills that could be helpful in getting more people to think more critically about pandemic-related issues.

Reasoning by Analogy and Judging the Credibility of the Source of Information

Early communications about the ability of masks to prevent the spread of COVID from national health agencies were not consistent. In many regions of the world, the benefits of wearing masks incited prolonged and acrimonious debates ( Tang 2020 ). However, after the initial confusion, virtually all of the global and national health organizations (e.g., WHO, National Health Service in the U. K., U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) endorse masks as a way to slow the spread of COVID ( Cheng et al. 2020 ; Chu et al. 2020 ). However, as we know, some people do not trust governmental agencies and often cite the conflicting information that was originally given as a reason for not wearing a mask. There are varied reasons for refusing to wear a mask, but the one most often cited is that it is against civil liberties ( Smith 2020 ). Reasoning by analogy is an appropriate CT skill for evaluating this belief (and a key skill in legal thinking). It might be useful to cite some of the many laws that already regulate our behavior such as, requiring health inspections for restaurants, setting speed limits, mandating seat belts when riding in a car, and establishing the age at which someone can consume alcohol. Individuals would be asked to consider how the mandate to wear a mask compares to these and other regulatory laws.

Another reason why some people resist the measures suggested by virtually every health agency concerns questions about whom to believe. Could training in CT change the beliefs and actions of even a small percentage of those opposed to wearing masks? Such training would include considering the following questions with practice across a wide domain of knowledge: (a) Does the source have sufficient expertise? (b) Is the expertise recent and relevant? (c) Is there a potential for gain by the information source, such as financial gain? (d) What would the ideal information source be and how close is the current source to the ideal? (e) Does the information source offer evidence that what they are recommending is likely to be correct? (f) Have you traced URLs to determine if the information in front of you really came from the alleged source?, etc. Of course, not everyone will respond in the same way to each question, so there is little likelihood that we would all think alike, but these questions provide a framework for evaluating credibility. Donovan et al. ( 2015 ) were successful using a similar approach to improve dynamic decision-making by asking participants to reflect on questions that relate to the decision. Imagine the effect of rigorous large-scale education in CT from elementary through secondary schools, as well as at the university-level. As stated above, empirical evidence has shown that people can become better thinkers with appropriate instruction in CT. With training, could we encourage some portion of the population to become more astute at judging the credibility of a source of information? It is an experiment worth trying.

6. Making Cost—Benefit Assessments for Actions That Would Slow the Spread of COVID-19

Historical records show that refusal to wear a mask during a pandemic is not a new reaction. The epidemic of 1918 also included mandates to wear masks, which drew public backlash. Then, as now, many people refused, even when they were told that it was a symbol of “wartime patriotism” because the 1918 pandemic occurred during World War I ( Lovelace 2020 ). CT instruction would include instruction in why and how to compute cost–benefit analyses. Estimates of “lives saved” by wearing a mask can be made meaningful with graphical displays that allow more people to understand large numbers. Gigerenzer ( 2020 ) found that people can understand risk ratios in medicine when the numbers are presented as frequencies instead of probabilities. If this information were used when presenting the likelihood of illness and death from COVID-19, could we increase the numbers of people who understand the severity of this disease? Small scale studies by Gigerenzer have shown that it is possible.

Analyzing Arguments to Determine Degree of Support for a Conclusion

The process of analyzing arguments requires that individuals rate the strength of support for and against a conclusion. By engaging in this practice, they must consider evidence and reasoning that may run counter to a preferred outcome. Kozyreva et al. ( 2020 ) call the deliberate failure to consider both supporting and conflicting data “deliberate ignorance”—avoiding or failing to consider information that could be useful in decision-making because it may collide with an existing belief. When applied to COVID-19, people would have to decide if the evidence for and against wearing a face mask is a reasonable way to stop the spread of this disease, and if they conclude that it is not, what are the costs and benefits of not wearing masks at a time when governmental health organizations are making them mandatory in public spaces? Again, we wonder if rigorous and systematic instruction in argument analysis would result in more positive attitudes and behaviors that relate to wearing a mask or other real-world problems. We believe that it is an experiment worth doing.

7. Conclusions

We believe that teaching CT is a worthwhile approach for educating the general public in order to improve reasoning and motivate actions to address, avert, or ameliorate real-world problems like the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence suggests that CT can guide intelligent responses to societal and global problems. We are NOT claiming that CT skills will be a universal solution for the many real-world problems that we confront in contemporary society, or that everyone will substitute CT for other decision-making practices, but we do believe that systematic education in CT can help many people become better thinkers, and we believe that this is an important step toward creating a society that values and practices routine CT. The challenges are great, but the tools to tackle them are available, if we are willing to use them.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, D.F.H. and D.S.D.; resources, D.F.H.; data curation, writing—original draft preparation, D.F.H.; writing—review and editing, D.F.H. and D.S.D. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

No IRB Review.

Informed Consent Statement

No Informed Consent.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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Strategies to Increase Critical Thinking Skills in students

Matthew Joseph October 2, 2019 Blog , Engage Better , Lesson Plan Better , Personalize Student Learning Better

can you increase critical thinking

In This Post:

  • The importance of helping students increase critical thinking skills.
  • Ways to promote the essential skills needed to analyze and evaluate.
  • Strategies to incorporate critical thinking into your instruction.

We ask our teachers to be “future-ready” or say that we are teaching “for jobs that don’t exist yet.” These are powerful statements. At the same time, they give teachers the impression that we have to drastically change what we are doing .

So how do we plan education for an unknown job market or unknown needs?

My answer: We can’t predict the jobs, but whatever they are, students will need to think critically to do them. So, our job is to teach our students HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

Helping Students Become Critical Thinkers

My answer is rooted in the call to empower our students to be critical thinkers. I believe that to be critical thinkers, educators need to provide students with the strategies they need. And we need to ask more than just surface-level questions.

Questions to students must motivate them to dig up background knowledge. They should inspire them to make connections to real-world scenarios. These make the learning more memorable and meaningful.

Critical thinking is a general term. I believe this term means that students effectively identify, analyze, and evaluate content or skills. In this process, they (the students) will discover and present convincing reasons in support of their answers or thinking.

You can look up critical thinking and get many definitions like this one from Wikipedia: “ Critical thinking consists of a mental process of analyzing or evaluating information, particularly statements or propositions that people have offered as true. ”

Essential Skills for Critical Thinking

In my current role as director of curriculum and instruction, I work to promote the use of 21st-century tools and, more importantly, thinking skills. Some essential skills that are the basis for critical thinking are:

  • Communication and Information skills
  • Thinking and Problem-Solving skills
  • Interpersonal and Self- Directional skills
  • Collaboration skills

These four bullets are skills students are going to need in any field and in all levels of education. Hence my answer to the question. We need to teach our students to think critically and for themselves.

One of the goals of education is to prepare students to learn through discovery . Providing opportunities to practice being critical thinkers will assist students in analyzing others’ thinking and examining the logic of others.

Understanding others is an essential skill in collaboration and in everyday life. Critical thinking will allow students to do more than just memorize knowledge.

Ask Questions

So how do we do this? One recommendation is for educators to work in-depth questioning strategies into a lesson launch.

Ask thoughtful questions to allow for answers with sound reasoning. Then, word conversations and communication to shape students’ thinking. Quick answers often result in very few words and no eye contact, which are skills we don’t want to promote.

When you are asking students questions and they provide a solution, try some of these to promote further thinking:

  • Could you elaborate further on that point?
  • Will you express that point in another way?
  • Can you give me an illustration?
  • Would you give me an example?
  • Will you you provide more details?
  • Could you be more specific?
  • Do we need to consider another point of view?
  • Is there another way to look at this question?

Utilizing critical thinking skills could be seen as a change in the paradigm of teaching and learning. Engagement in education will enhance the collaboration among teachers and students. It will also provide a way for students to succeed even if the school system had to start over.

[scroll down to keep reading]

Promoting critical thinking into all aspects of instruction.

Engagement, application, and collaboration are skills that withstand the test of time. I also promote the integration of critical thinking into every aspect of instruction.

In my experience, I’ve found a few ways to make this happen.

Begin lessons/units with a probing question: It shouldn’t be a question you can answer with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ These questions should inspire discovery learning and problem-solving.

Encourage Creativity: I have seen teachers prepare projects before they give it to their students many times. For example, designing snowmen or other “creative” projects. By doing the design work or by cutting all the circles out beforehand, it removes creativity options.

It may help the classroom run more smoothly if every child’s material is already cut out, but then every student’s project looks the same. Students don’t have to think on their own or problem solve.

Not having everything “glue ready” in advance is a good thing. Instead, give students all the supplies needed to create a snowman, and let them do it on their own.

Giving independence will allow students to become critical thinkers because they will have to create their own product with the supplies you give them. This might be an elementary example, but it’s one we can relate to any grade level or project.

Try not to jump to help too fast – let the students work through a productive struggle .

Build in opportunities for students to find connections in learning.  Encouraging students to make connections to a real-life situation and identify patterns is a great way to practice their critical thinking skills. The use of real-world scenarios will increase rigor, relevance, and critical thinking.

A few other techniques to encourage critical thinking are:

  • Use analogies
  • Promote interaction among students
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Allow reflection time
  • Use real-life problems
  • Allow for thinking practice

Critical thinking prepares students to think for themselves for the rest of their lives. I also believe critical thinkers are less likely to go along with the crowd because they think for themselves.

About Matthew X. Joseph, Ed.D.

Dr. Matthew X. Joseph has been a school and district leader in many capacities in public education over his 25 years in the field. Experiences such as the Director of Digital Learning and Innovation in Milford Public Schools (MA), elementary school principal in Natick, MA and Attleboro, MA, classroom teacher, and district professional development specialist have provided Matt incredible insights on how to best support teaching and learning. This experience has led to nationally publishing articles and opportunities to speak at multiple state and national events. He is the author of Power of Us: Creating Collaborative Schools and co-author of Modern Mentoring , Reimagining Teacher Mentorship (Due out, fall 2019). His master’s degree is in special education and his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Boston College.

Visit Matthew’s Blog

can you increase critical thinking

The Messenger

What You Can Do To Improve Critical-Thinking Skills

In a technology-driven world where we are overwhelmed with information, people often make decisions without thinking things through – and then rue what they have done.

This is because decisions made without data, analysis and facts are decisions made in the dark.

People seem to have forgotten how to check credible sources, access and understand data and look at the facts.

One  study  of millennial and Gen Z workers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan found that people have so much on their minds, so many distractions overwhelming them, that they struggle to think deeply and reflectively.

But poorly thought-out plans and decisions aren’t good for business or for the career prospects of individuals.

Critical thinking is as important as ever – in business and in life – and here are a few things worth knowing about it:

  • It’s possible to train yourself to become a critical thinker, and there are steps you can take that will help. Start with challenging the norm, “We have always done it this way.” Ask these questions: “Why?” “What data supports a different way to look at a problem and come up with a solution?” “How much time have I actually set aside to think?” “How can I look for a solution with the data that I see?”
  • When you have mastered critical thinking, you can apply it to your current career, job and company — or to the next one. Critical thinking allows you to replicate success. Once I am working toward a new goal, I look back on the strategy that made me successful and replicate it.
  • Stepping back and looking at the big picture is an important part of critical thinking — but so is delving into the details and coming up with a plan, especially as it relates to work. Your plan should rely on four key components.  Data : What is it showing me, and where does the success exist?  Total addressable market : How much of the market can I capture?  Competition : Who are my top competitors, and how do I win against them? And finally,  identifying the breaks : Where am I winning and losing, and how can I get better?
  •  In a hectic world, it’s important to carve out time to think, so people should set aside an hour each day when they can be alone without distractions. Without time to think, you are on a hamster wheel, spinning and spinning but never getting ahead. This time to think should happen daily, shutting out all distractions so you can consider such things as: “What worked, what didn’t, and how do I improve?”

The bottom line is when you start to think in terms of data and solutions and strategies, you can start to see patterns and trends elsewhere in your life — and make changes to win at both your career and life.

Puja Bhola Rios  is the author of “ Get It Together: A Winning Formula for Success from the Boss You Need ” and the chief revenue officer for, an Adobe company and the world’s premier video review and collaboration platform. Rios previously spent seven years working at Xerox and 13 years at CareerBuilder as senior vice president of Enterprise Sales and Customer Success. She also has been a chronic pain advocate and blogger, and is author of the Huffington Post feature blog, “ Me vs. Fibromyalgia .”

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How to Evaluate Critical Thinking in the Age of AI

Article Icon

  • Many campuses have taken steps to curtail the use of generative AI tools, often over fears of plagiarism—but these fears overshadow AI’s potential as a pedagogical tool.
  • Because GenAI’s responses are immediate and nonjudgmental, learners can develop their critical thinking processes as they freely reflect on thoughts, responses, and concepts.
  • GenAI has not supplanted the role of instructors in the classroom. Rather, it has become a tool that we can use to teach, inspire, and guide our learners.

Learners have embraced generative artificial intelligence (GenAI), but academic administrators and faculty  appear to be more apprehensive  about using this emerging technology. Since GenAI began taking hold, administrators and faculty have set policies to restrict its use. They have used AI detectors to police plagiarism (despite the inconsistent capabilities of these tools), while their offices of integrity have doled out punishments.

But as educators have learned over the past year, these interventions won’t curtail the use of generative AI by learners. Moreover, we believe there are many reasons that educators should stop resisting this technology and start enjoying the benefits GenAI has to offer.

Before we offered anything close to a salve, we wanted to know: What are some of the  sources of apprehension  among our colleagues? The three of us have had productive conversations on this question with professors from various institutions. Through these conversations, we learned that most faculty were concerned about the same thing: plagiarism.

As we listened, we realized that plagiarism is merely an administrative term used by academic cultures. When we set rules prohibiting plagiarism, we create a policy safety net that allows us to teach and evaluate our students’ critical thinking. We want to know of our students: Is this your own thinking? Are these your own written words?

These questions lie at the heart of our anxiety. How can we evaluate a learner’s critical thinking if the content is AI-generated? While this is a fair question, we should be asking a different one: How can we use generative AI to develop our students’ critical thinking skills?

The Limitation of Traditional Teaching

Our answer here may surprise you. For example, prior to having chatbots in our own classroom, we provided learners with short scenarios focused on ethical dilemmas that entry-level professionals might encounter. Each learner would take 20 minutes to think through the dilemma, generate an overview, identify stakeholders, and decide what course of action to take. We would then spend the rest of the class time in discussion.

Our students enjoyed these thought challenges. As instructors, we recognized the effectiveness in getting future business leaders to think, write, and discuss potential moments of  ethical fading . We never graded these interactions, and learners never asked for points for their participation. Socrates would have been proud. With these class discussions, we had transcended transactional coursework.

In our classes, we encourage students to engage in conversations with the bots. Learners discover that GenAI can serve as a tutor, an intellectual sparring partner, and a personal instructor.

But these assignments had a significant limitation: It was difficult to measure whether all learners had pushed themselves to think critically and reflect deeply about the dilemma. As in any group discussion, some were more vocal than others. Even if called on, some learners would simply parrot previous responses. Moreover, these assignments were not designed to provide students with additional instructional feedback after the in-class discussions were over.

How could we address this limitation? How could we ascertain every learner’s depth of critical thinking through this exercise? Enter ChatGPT.

Conversing With the Bots

In an  October 2023 article  in AACSB Insights , Anthony Hié and Claire Thouary write that “the better students are at communicating with AI, the more likely it is that they will have seamless and rewarding learning experiences as they use AI to deepen their understanding of complex concepts, find solutions to problems, or explore new areas of knowledge.”

Yes, ChatGPT creates content; it can write essays, blogs, and even novels based on a simple prompt. But at the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business and Technology (CoBT) at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, we use it differently. Rather than worrying about how it might replace our teaching, we wanted to figure out  how it could improve student learning .

After all, chatbots are, at their core, dialogical. With this in mind, we guide our learners to engineer effective prompts. We encourage them to learn how to engage in conversations with the bots. In our classes, learners discover that GenAI can serve as a tutor, an intellectual sparring partner, and a personal instructor.

Learning Through Repetition

Let’s look, for instance, at how we now ask students to think through ethical dilemmas in an in-class assignment in our undergraduate business communications course. Before the class session starts, we send students a specific prompt. We instruct them to copy and paste the entire prompt into their own ChatGPT accounts.

It’s important to note that the prompt’s rules and steps tell the bot how to behave. When we write in the prompt, “Now, please follow these steps,” we are instructing the bot to follow those exact steps. The learner is identified as the “user” in this context.

Once the learner submits the prompt, ChatGPT will create an ethical dilemma for the learner, along with the three discussion questions and the required list of components the learner must address. Until the learner has answered the questions and provided the information itemized on the list, the system will continue to request that the learner satisfy all components. (These components are listed a through d , as noted below.)

Once the learner gives the required responses, ChatGPT then will become the expert debater and present a response that questions the learner’s stance by offering the opposite perspective. The student will then respond to that “debate,” and then ChatGPT will evaluate the learner’s final response.

Here is the prompt we use for this assignment:

Act as an expert professor in business ethics. Create an ethical dilemma that involves an entry-level finance employee.

Rule: The dilemma should be complex. Right versus wrong should not be explicit. Please do NOT provide analysis.

Now, please follow these steps:

1. Create three discussion questions.

2. After the user’s response, create three more questions, UNLESS the response does NOT include all the following components:

a) An overview of the ethical situation

b) A list of options

c) A list of stakeholders

d) A recommended action

3. If the responses are missing any of the components, please ask the user to provide the missing component.

4. If all the components are provided, then act as expert debater and present an opposite perspective.

5. Wait for a final statement from the user.

6. Once the user provides the final statement, evaluate the quality of the responses based on the detail of the user’s responses, user’s use of evidence, and ethical validity.

The prompt creates an individual dilemma, and learners must work through that dilemma step by step — this prompt focuses on finance, but we can modify to focus on any industry. The benefit to these in-class conversations with ChatGPT is that learners often go beyond initial levels of thinking about the ethicality of the dilemma.

In fact, learners reach secondary and tertiary levels of thinking. They ask themselves more nuanced questions: Why does a particular response matter? What are the implications of good or bad decisions? What learned concepts can be applied to making ethical decisions and acting ethically?

The point of critically writing through these dilemmas is not to bring about ethical epiphanies, since such epiphanies are hard to sustain. Instead, by regularly assigning these writing exercises, we want students to create muscle memory, as Brooke Deterline describes in her  2012 TED talk  on creating ethical cultures in business. Through such repetition, learners are more likely to acquire ethical reflexes that guard against the potential risks of ethical fading.

Learning Without Judgment

Another important benefit to using generative AI tools for critical thinking in the classroom is that each tool acts as a nonjudgmental collaborator. This means learners can converse with the tool, asking any question they want without the collaborator judging that question as “stupid” or “unworthy.”

GenAI’s nonjudgmental, in-depth responses ultimately help learners develop their own critical thinking processes, because the platform allows them to play with and reflect upon a variety of thoughts, responses, and concepts. They feel free to ask questions, challenge their own perspectives, and allow the bot to help shape and organize their thinking. We cannot overstate the value to learners of playing with questions, thoughts, and concepts.

Generative AI isn’t going away. As Microsoft and Google integrate generative AI into their word processing software, instructors need to adapt.

In a  September 2023 article  published by Harvard Business Publishing–Education, Ethan Mollick and Lilach Mollick note that the instantaneous feedback from ChatGPT adds significant educational benefits. Learners often have attention and distraction issues, but AI tools can instantly generate feedback, which means learners don’t have to wait to see if their responses can be better developed.

Revolutionized, Not Replaced

As we have found, GenAI has not supplanted the role of instructors. On the contrary, after our students’ initial independent conversations with the bots, our facilitated class discussions are much more focused and informed. We can select one dilemma from the group and discuss it in detail, and those discussions are lively and provocative. Now, everyone has self-developed perspectives. We still find room to teach, inspire, and guide our learners.

To further ensure accountability, we require students to submit their conversations to our learning management system, a process that requires just the click of a button. We then can review and evaluate each learner’s response.

At the end of the day, generative AI isn’t going away. As Microsoft and Google integrate generative AI into their word processing software, instructors need to adapt. This is why the CoBT continues to expand its work with this technology. For instance, we have established an AI Lab, and we offer GenAI workshops for the campus and broader communities in Georgia. We continue to bring in industry leaders to engage our campus community on the topic, and we collaborate on AI projects with students and faculty outside the CoBT.

We must continue to innovate to make the best use of all AI has to offer. Let’s use this revolutionary tool to help ourselves and our learners become better thinkers—and better people.

  • artificial intelligence
  • critical thinking
  • digital transformation
  • future of business education
  • learner engagement
  • soft skills

6 Useful ways to encourage critical thinking in children

Kid thinking green background

Lomb | Shutterstock

In today’s fast-paced world, critical thinking skills are more important than ever for children to navigate through the complexities of life with wisdom and discernment. And for Catholics, it is particularly important to nurture these skills in children so they can develop a deeper understanding of their faith and the world around them .

Critical thinking empowers children to question, analyze, and evaluate information, guiding them in making informed decisions aligned with their values and beliefs. Here are six fun ways to encourage critical thinking in children while allowing them to learn more about their faith.

Bible puzzle challenges

Engage children in solving Bible puzzle challenges that require critical thinking skills. You could create crossword puzzles, word searches, or riddles based on biblical stories or teachings. Encourage children to analyze the clues and think critically about the answers, fostering a deeper understanding of scripture while sharpening their problem-solving abilities.

Saintly role-playing games

Organize role-playing games where children take on the roles of different saints or biblical characters. Try getting them to think critically about how these figures faced challenges and made decisions in alignment with their faith. Additionally, prompt children to reflect on the virtues and values exhibited by these saints, inspiring them to apply similar principles in their own lives.

Faith-based discussion club

Establish a faith-based discussion club where children engage in a dialogue around topics related to Catholic teachings and current events. Get them to research, analyze, and present evidence to support their assertions, fostering critical thinking and communication skills. Emphasize the importance of respectful dialogue, especially listening to opposing viewpoints, reflecting the Catholic values of intellectual humility and charity.

Parable puzzlers

Introduce children to the parables of Jesus through interactive puzzle activities. You could create scenarios or dilemmas inspired by parables and challenge children to think critically about the underlying moral lessons. Then encourage them to consider different perspectives and brainstorm creative solutions, fostering empathy and ethical reasoning rooted in Catholic teachings.

Sacred art interpretation

Explore sacred art with children and inspire them to reflect on its symbolism and meaning. Visit churches or museums with religious artwork and guide children in analyzing the colors, symbols, and figures depicted. Finally, encourage them to interpret the artwork from different perspectives, sparking meaningful discussions about faith, culture, and history.

Gospel journaling

Try getting children to keep a journal where they reflect on passages from the Gospels and apply critical thinking skills to their interpretations. Provide prompts or questions to guide their reflections, encouraging them to analyze the deeper meanings behind the teachings of Jesus. And have your children connect these insights to their own lives, fostering a deeper understanding of their faith and personal growth.

Man in office overthinking a problem

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FACT SHEET: President   Biden Cancels Student Debt for more than 150,000 Student Loan Borrowers Ahead of   Schedule

Today, President Biden announced the approval of $1.2 billion in student debt cancellation for almost 153,000 borrowers currently enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) repayment plan. The Biden-Harris Administration has now approved nearly $138 billion in student debt cancellation for almost 3.9 million borrowers through more than two dozen executive actions. The borrowers receiving relief are the first to benefit from a SAVE plan policy that provides debt forgiveness to borrowers who have been in repayment after as little as 10 years and took out $12,000 or less in student loans. Originally planned for July, the Biden-Harris Administration implemented this provision of SAVE and is providing relief to borrowers nearly six months ahead of schedule.

From Day One of his Administration, President Biden vowed to fix the student loan system and make sure higher education is a pathway to the middle class – not a barrier to opportunity. Already, the President has cancelled more student debt than any President in history – delivering lifechanging relief to students and families – and has created the most affordable student loan repayment plan ever: the SAVE plan. While Republicans in Congress and their allies try to block President Biden every step of the way, the Biden-Harris Administration continues to cancel student debt for millions of borrowers, and is leaving no stone unturned in the fight to give more borrowers breathing room on their student loans.

Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration’s SAVE plan, starting today, the Administration will be cancelling debt for borrowers who are enrolled in the SAVE plan, have been in repayment for at least 10 years and took out $12,000 or less in loans for college. For every additional $1,000 a borrower initially borrowed, they will receive relief after an additional year of payments. For example, a borrower enrolled in SAVE who took out $14,000 or less in federal loans to earn an associate’s degree in biotechnology would receive full debt relief starting this week if they have been in repayment for 12 years. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) identified nearly 153,000 borrowers who are enrolled in SAVE plan who will have their debt cancelled starting this week, and those borrowers will receive an email today from President Biden informing them of their imminent relief. Next week, the Department of Education will also be reaching out directly to borrowers who are eligible for early relief but not currently enrolled in the SAVE Plan to encourage them to enroll as soon as possible. This shortened time to forgiveness will particularly help community college and other borrowers with smaller loans and put many on track to being free of student debt faster than ever before. Under the Biden-Harris Administration’s SAVE plan, 85 percent of future community college borrowers will be debt free within 10 years. The Department will continue to regularly identify and discharge other borrowers eligible for relief under this provision on SAVE. Over four million borrowers have a $0 monthly payment under the SAVE Plan Last year, President Biden launched the SAVE plan – the most affordable repayment plan ever. Under the SAVE plan, monthly payments are based on a borrower’s income and family size, not their loan balance. The SAVE plan ensures that if borrowers are making their monthly payments, their balances cannot grow because of unpaid interest. And, starting in July, undergraduate loan payments will be cut in half, capping a borrower’s loan payment at 5% of their discretionary income. Already, 7.5 million borrowers are enrolled in the SAVE Plan, and 4.3 million borrowers have a $0 monthly payment.  

Today, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released an issue brief highlighting how low and middle-income borrowers enrolled in SAVE could see significant saving in terms of interest saved over time and principal forgiven as a result of SAVE’s early forgiveness provisions.

can you increase critical thinking

President Biden’s Administration has approved student debt relief for nearly 3.9 million Americans through various actions

Today’s announcement builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s track record of taking historic action to cancel student debt for millions of borrowers. Since taking office, the Biden-Harris Administration has approved debt cancellation for nearly 3.9 million Americans, totaling almost $138 billion in debt relief through various actions. This relief has given borrowers critical breathing room in their daily lives, allowing them to afford other expenses, buy homes, start businesses, or pursue dreams they had to put on hold because of the burden of student loan debt. President Biden remains committed to providing debt relief to as many borrowers as possible, and won’t stop fighting to deliver relief to more Americans.

The Biden-Harris Administration has also taken historic steps to improve the student loan program and make higher education more affordable for more Americans, including:

  • Achieving the largest increases in Pell Grants in over a decade to help families who earn less than $60,000 a year achieve their higher-education goals.
  • Fixing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program so that borrowers who go into public service get the debt relief they’re entitled to under the law. Before President Biden took office, only 7,000 people ever received debt relief through PSLF. After fixing the program, the Biden-Harris Administration has now cancelled student loan debt for nearly 800,000 public service workers.
  • Cancelling student loan debt for more than 930,000 borrowers who have been in repayment for over 20 years but never got the relief they earned because of administrative failures with Income-Driven Repayment Plans.
  • Pursuing an alternative path to deliver student debt relief to as many borrowers as possible in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Administration’s original debt relief plan. Last week, the Department of Education released proposed regulatory text to cancel student debt for borrowers who are experiencing hardship paying back their student loans, and late last year released proposals to cancel student debt for borrowers who: owe more than they borrowed, first entered repayment 20 or 25 years ago, attended low quality programs, and who would be eligible for loan forgiveness through income-driven repayment programs like SAVE but have not applied.
  • Holding colleges accountable for leaving students with unaffordable debts.

It’s easy to enroll in SAVE. Borrowers should go to to start saving.  

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    1. Critical Thinking Is Universal Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. What does this mean? It means that no matter what path or profession you pursue, these skills will always be relevant and will always be beneficial to your success. They are not specific to any field. 2. Crucial For The Economy

  14. Critical Thinking: What Is It And How Can You Develop This Skill?

    Developing critical thinking is relevant not only for work but also for life—today we're inundated with huge amounts of information every day, and in order to be able to analyze this...

  15. 3 critical thinking strategies to enhance your problem-solving skills

    Strategy 2: Utilize Bloom's Taxonomy. Another strategy that can develop the critical thinking process is Bloom's Taxonomy. Educators worldwide have used the framework created by Benjamin Bloom to define and distinguish different levels of human cognition, like reasoning, learning, and comprehension.

  16. Eight Instructional Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking

    Students grappled with ideas and their beliefs and employed deep critical-thinking skills to develop arguments for their claims. Embedding critical-thinking skills in curriculum that students care ...

  17. 15 Things We Have Learned About Critical Thinking

    A person said what they said, not how you interpret what they said. If you are unclear as to what has been said, ask for clarification. Asking for clarity is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign ...

  18. How To Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work in 6 Steps

    2. Understand your mental process. Identify and evaluate how you receive and process information. Understanding how you listen, then interpret, and finally react to information is vital to becoming more mentally efficient in the workplace. Being a critical thinker means you recognize your prejudices and how they influence solutions and decisions.

  19. Critical Thinking: A Model of Intelligence for Solving Real-World

    Yes, intelligence (i.e., critical thinking) can be enhanced and used for solving a real-world problem such as COVID-19, which we use as an example of contemporary problems that need a new approach. Keywords: critical thinking, intelligence, real-world problems Go to: 1. Introduction

  20. Does College Teach Critical Thinking? A Meta-Analysis

    Numerous interventions have been tested to increase both critical thinking skills and the general disposition toward critical thinking. McMillan (1987) reviewed the literature and concluded that specific interventions to foster critical thinking were not well supported but college attendance itself did appear to have a bolstering effect. Later research has suggested that some college ...

  21. Strategies to Increase Critical Thinking Skills in students

    In This Post: The importance of helping students increase critical thinking skills. Ways to promote the essential skills needed to analyze and evaluate. Strategies to incorporate critical thinking into your instruction. We ask our teachers to be "future-ready" or say that we are teaching "for jobs that don't exist yet."

  22. Strategies to Increase Critical Thinking Skills in students

    1. Ask questions. It is often seen that students hesitate to ask questions in the classroom. It could be the result of a fear of speaking in public or of embarrassment. But don't hold back from asking questions that could help you learn better. Asking questions enhances your critical thinking in learning. You can often wait for your class to ...

  23. What You Can Do To Improve Critical-Thinking Skills

    When you have mastered critical thinking, you can apply it to your current career, job and company — or to the next one. Critical thinking allows you to replicate success. Once I am working ...

  24. How to Evaluate Critical Thinking in the Age of AI

    GenAI's nonjudgmental, in-depth responses ultimately help learners develop their own critical thinking processes, because the platform allows them to play with and reflect upon a variety of thoughts, responses, and concepts. They feel free to ask questions, challenge their own perspectives, and allow the bot to help shape and organize their ...

  25. 6 Useful ways to encourage critical thinking in children

    Engage children in solving Bible puzzle challenges that require critical thinking skills. You could create crossword puzzles, word searches, or riddles based on biblical stories or teachings.

  26. WATCH LIVE: "America Decides" has the latest political news ...

    WATCH LIVE: "America Decides" has the latest political news, analysis and original reporting

  27. Rahym Augustin-Joseph on Instagram: "I was delighted to have been asked

    293 likes, 6 comments - _rahymj on February 15, 2024: "I was delighted to have been asked by the National Principals' Association of Saint Lucia, to d..."

  28. FACT SHEET: President Biden Cancels Student Debt for more than 150,000

    This relief has given borrowers critical breathing room in their daily lives, allowing them to afford other expenses, buy homes, start businesses, or pursue dreams they had to put on hold because ...