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Definitions of "Critical Thinking"
What is critical thinking and how to improve it (pdf file) by Alec Fisher
Nice introductory survey of many of the most well-known or influential definitions of critical thinking. A chapter from Fisher's recent book Critical Thinking: An Introduction. Fisher is one of the leading figures in the field. [12 Dec 02]
Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts (pdf file) by Peter Facione.
"Have you heard business executives, civic leaders, and educators talking about critical thinking and found yourself asking such reasonable questions as, "What is critical thinking?" and "Why is it so important?" So have we. This essay looks at these questions."
Delphi Report - Executive Summary
Expresses the 1990 American Philosophical Association expert consensus statement defining CT. This account has, I think, the best claim to being "the" authoritative definition of critical thinking.
Defining Critical Thinking
"A draft statement by Michael Scriven and Richard Paul for the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking"
Outline of Goals for a Critical Thinking Curriculum and its Assessment by Robert Ennis
"Critical thinking, as the term is generally used these days, roughly means reasonable and reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do. 2 In doing such thinking, one is helped by the employment of a set of critical thinking dispositions and abilities that I shall outline, and that can serve as a set of comprehensive goals for a critical thinking curriculum and its assessment. Pedagogical usefulness, not elegance or mutual exclusiveness, is the purpose of this outline."
A Super-Streamlined Conception of Critical Thinking by Robert H. Ennis.
"Critical thinking, as the term is generally used these days, roughly means reasonable and reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do. In doing such thinking, one is helped by the employment of a set of critical thinking dispositions and abilities that I shall outline, and that can serve as a set of comprehensive goals for a critical thinking curriculum and its assessment. Pedagogical usefulness, not elegance or mutual exclusiveness, is the purpose of this outline."
Critical Thinking Definitions
"The following are definitions of Critical Thinking is according to the people who write textbooks and articles on the subject..." [sic]
Reflective Judgment Model
Not presented as a definition of critical thinking, but obviously closely related.
Definitions of Critical Thinking Terminology - Links
Critical Thinking Glossary.
"An Educator's Guide to Critical Thinking Terms and Concepts."
The Skeptic's Dictionary
"over 338 skeptical definitions and essays on occult, paranormal, supernatural and pseudoscientific ideas and practices with references to the best skeptical literature"
"We understand critical thinking to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based. CT is essential as a tool of inquiry. As such, CT is a liberating force in education and a powerful resource in one's personal and civic life. While not synonymous with good thinking, CT is a pervasive and self-rectifying human phenomenon. The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit. Thus, educating good critical thinkers means working toward this ideal. It combines developing CT skills with nurturing those dispositions which consistently yield useful insights and which are the basis of a rational and democratic society."
A little reformatting helps make this definition more comprehensible:
We understand critical thinking to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment
which results in
as well as explanation of the
- criteriological [whatever that is! - TvG]
considerations upon which that judgment is based.
'active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends' (Dewey 1933: 118).
"reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or what to do."
Fisher and Scriven (1997, p.21)
Critical thinking is the skilled and active interpretation and evaluation of observations and communications, information and argumentation.
Facione, P. (1986, p.222)
the ability to properly construct and evaluate arguments.
(1) an attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one's experiences, (2) knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and (3) some skill in applying those methods. Critical thinking calls for a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Glaser 1941, pp. 5-6).
Abilities include: "(a) to recognise problems, (b) to find workable means for meeting those problems, (c) to gather and marshal pertinent information, (d) to recognise unstated assumptions and values, (e) to comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity and discrimination, (f) to interpret data, (g) to appraise evidence and evaluate statements, (h) to recognise the existence of logical relationships between propositions, (i) to draw warranted conclusions and generalisations, (j) to put to test the generalisations and conclusions at which one arrives, (k) to reconstruct one's patterns of beliefs on the basis of wider experience; and (l) to render accurate judgements about specific things and qualities in everyday life." (p.6)
Dianne Halpern, American Psychologist, 1998.
"The use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome - in the long run, critical thinkers will have more desirable outcomes than 'noncritical' thinkers (where 'desirable' is defined by the individual, such as making good career choices or wise financial investments)."
MCC General Education Initiatives
"Critical thinking includes the ability to respond to material by distinguishing between facts and opinions or personal feelings, judgments and inferences, inductive and deductive arguments, and the objective and subjective. It also includes the ability to generate questions, construct, and recognize the structure of arguments, and adequately support arguments; define, analyze, and devise solutions for problems and issues; sort, organize, classify, correlate, and analyze materials and data; integrate information and see relationships; evaluate information, materials, and data by drawing inferences, arriving at reasonable and informed conclusions, applying understanding and knowledge to new and different problems, developing rational and reasonable interpretations, suspending beliefs and remaining open to new information, methods, cultural systems, values and beliefs and by assimilating information."
McPeck (1981, p.8)
The propensity and skill to engage in an activity with reflective skepticism.
Nickerson, Perkins and Smith (1985)
the ability to judge the plausibility of specific assertions, to weigh evidence, to assess the logical soundness of inferences, to construct counter-arguments and alternative hypotheses.
Moore and Parker, Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking is "the careful, deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject, or suspend judgment about a claim, and the degree of confidence with which we accept or reject it."
Paul, Binker, Adamson, and Martin (1989)
"the art of thinking about your thinking while you are thinking in order to make your thinking better: more clear, more accurate, or more defensible."
Sumner, William Graham
"Criticism is the examination and test of propositions of any kind which are offered for acceptance, in order to find out whether they correspond to reality or not. The critical faculty is a product of education and training. It is a mental habit and power. It is a prime condition of human welfare that men and women should be trained in it. It is our only guarantee against delusion, deception, superstition, and misapprehension of ourselves and our earthly circumstances. Education is good just so far as it produces well-developed critical faculty. ...A teacher of any subject who insists on accuracy and a rational control of all processes and methods, and who holds everything open to unlimited verification and revision is cultivating that method as a habit in the pupils. Men educated in it cannot be stampeded...They are slow to believe. They can hold things as possible or probable in all degrees, without certainty and without pain. They can wait for evidence and weigh evidence...They can resist appeals to their dearest prejudices...Education in the critical faculty is the only education of which it can be truly said that it makes good citizens (1906 pp. 632, 633)."
from Gold et al, Management Learning 2002
Last updated: 19 Jun 2007