Critical Thinking in the Information Age (Part I)

S. Alease Ferguson , Ph. D, LPCC

 Why Critical Thinking ?

This is the first of three stories which will explore critical thinking and help strengthen your ability to be a sharp thinker.

My concerns about this matter hinges on my observations as a supervisor and a business owner, who has seen steady declines in the “critical thinking” abilities in recent high school and college graduates year after year. I see it as a lack of interest and curiosity, know-how, imagination, foresight, creativity, ingenuity, and problem-solving ability. It has a lot to do with the ability to think well on one’s toes. It is also hard to trace down how we got here. There may be some connections to changes in how we interact, parent, educate in the schools, and the societal trend towards wanting everything quick and easy.  

However, I am also one of those community folk who wants to see the next generation positively influence our changing world and the evolution of global business technologies. More than ever, we need people who are passionate about their purpose and ready to be a value-added. In today’s fast-paced society, we need to strengthen our critical thinking skills. Sharpening these skills can make the difference in becoming a stellar entrepreneur and/or a standout valued employee and team member capable of rising up through the ranks. Better still, those who are keen critical thinkers live happier and more balanced lives.  

Critical Thinking Defined 

Let’s take a deep dive into the subject of “Critical Thinking,” which dates back to the time of Socrates and Plato. The Oxford Dictionary (2019) defines it as “clear and disciplined thinking that is rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.” Demonstrating your core critical thinking skills involves:

  • Ø Observation (taking notice of people, places, and things)
  • Ø Interpretation (finding a way of explaining meaning)
  • Ø Analysis (giving a detailed examination of the elements or structure of   something)
  • Ø Inference (a conclusion based upon rational information)
  • Ø Evaluation (making a judgment or assessment of something) and Explanation (a clarifying statement)
  • Ø Metacognition (understanding of one’s thoughts)

Overall, implementing our critical thinking skills requires thinking about better ways to solve everyday problems. It also means never giving up on new ways to think, and finding solutions to challenging problems.

Here’s how to Sharpen Your Thought Processes:

  • Ø Be aware of your thinking processes
  • Ø Reflect on difficult experiences and learn from them
  • Ø Ask basic questions about everything
  • Ø Try to learn “mechanics” and how things work
  • Ø Use multiple sources of data and information and use the technology as a learning tool
  • Ø Examine how many times you accept an idea or concept at face value without ever questioning it
  • Ø Evaluate the evidence before deciding and look for differing sources and sets of facts to support your decision
  • Ø Mix your research and information-gathering activities with your thoughts, ideas, and experiences before making a decision
  • Ø Define your values which can help you make decisions
  • Ø Be a solution-oriented thinker. Problem solvers get things done, and they earn more money!

Next time we will talk more about creative approaches to strengthening our Critical Thinking skills through practice.