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Developing Critical Thinking – What Works?

There are effective strategies for thinking critical thinking

A guest post by Peter A Facione, Measured Reasons LLC.

“How can we develop critical thinking in... ?”

This is a question I hear a lot from business leaders, military personnel, and educators.  The good news: We know how to improve critical thinking.  And, we can measure the gains.

To learn what works, Philip Abrami and colleagues reviewed 341 publications documenting experimental and quasi-experimental studies using standardized measures of critical thinking.  If you want to see the research yourself, check out “Strategies for Teaching Students to Think Critically: A Meta-Analysis,” Abrami, P. et. al, Review of Educational Research, June 2015, Vol. 85, No. 2, pp. 275–314.

What did Abrami’s team conclude?  He and his colleagues found that

“there are effective strategies for teaching critical thinking at all educational levels and across all disciplinary areas.  Notably, the opportunity for dialogue, exposure to authentic or situated problems and examples, and mentoring had positive effects on critical thinking skills.” 

This means that the organization itself, including the trainers, mid-level managers, and top-level leaders, need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  The organizational culture must encourage the kinds of “why” questions that require managers, employees, and leaders to explain their reasons and state their evidence, not spout rote answers.  

The magic here is in the doing. 

An organization does not need to spend millions and millions of dollars on glitzy technology. The organization needs, instead, to infuse some critical thinking into account in hiring, it needs to train its people to use some easily applied critical thinking development techniques in its educational programs and, just as important, it needs to infuse thoughtful critical thinking questions and practices into its deliberative processes. 

Yes, critical thinking is reflective.  Yes, it takes time for an individual or a group to think well about a problem or a decision.  Shooting from the hip is not critical thinking.  Going with our gut is not critical thinking.  Bluff and bluster are not critical thinking strategies.  For many years I worked with combat veteran senior enlisted Special Ops E9 personnel.  We quickly recognized the important difference between “excellent training to react instinctively in a fire fight” and “critical thinking for when there was time to problem-solve and plan.” Both are vital. Repeat, both.

Critical thinking cannot substitute for knowledge.  It cannot substitute for the expertise developed by years of thoughtful practice. To diagnose situations well and to figure out what course of action is best, experts at the top of their game use all three:  knowledge, thoughtful practice, and, critical thinking.   

To learn more download “Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts.”

The go to organization for tools to develop and to assess critical thinking is Insight Assessment .

Dr. Peter A. Facione, Ph.D. is a leading figure in the quest to demonstrate empirically that a consensus understanding of critical thinking could be attained and that the core cognitive skills and centrally important dispositional habits of mind of critical thinking could be learned, taught, and assessed.  Dr. Peter A  (Pete) Facione is a Senior Researcher at Insight Assessment and  a principal at Measured Reasons LLC , a Los Angeles based research and consulting firm supporting excellence in strategic thinking and leadership decision making.

Good thinking is in demand. Download Critical Thinking Insight from your app store today:

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