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Science and Engineering are Grounded in Critical Thinking

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The engineering and scientist workforce is grounded in critical thinking.  

Imagine the reasoning processes that will be needed for any of the following list of projects: engineering for an urban multimodal public transportation hub,  designing an ultra-high-speed sub-zero integrated electronic circuit, developing the effective annual flu vaccine, creating a new biomechanical interface to enhance touch or auditory perception, improving molecular bonding adhesive for construction, assuring safe driverless transport, or tailoring environmentally sustainable consumer goods.  Without critical thinking skills and mindset attributes these challenges cannot be successfully met. 

Science and engineering professionals rely on a specific set of thinking processes in their work: 

  • They ask relevant questions, EVALUATE the possible problems they see, and more carefully define them.  
  • This REFLECTIVE CRITICAL THINKING process enables them to determine the kind of data they will need to study the problem and explore solutions. 
  • They gather those data, and then ANALYZE AND INTERPRET those data.  
  • They use models and analogies to help them INFER possible solutions and then they evaluate those potential solutions in the light of the available evidence and standards.
  • When numerical contexts are involved, which is almost always, they use QUANTITATIVE REASONING to confidently draw INDUCTIVE and DEDUCTIVE INFERENCES as precisely as the evidence allows.
  • They organize their findings and make evidence-based arguments to EVALUATE solution options.
  • As their professions demand, they are ready to carefully EXPLAIN their findings and recommendations. 

This approach is self-monitoring and self-corrective because most the important consideration for professional scientists and engineers is to achieve an optimal resolution based on solid evidence. The capitalized words show the many places that critical thinking and quantitative reasoning are vital skills for these professionals.  They must have strengths in analysis, Interpretation, deductive inference, inductive inference, evaluation, explanation, and numeracy.  They must be reflective, monitor their own thinking processes, and make any adjustments to their preliminary conclusions which the evidence demands.

Engineering and science professionals cannot succeed without those skills, but to engage those skills effectively requires a certain mindset:

  • That mindset includes being TRUTH-SEEKING, which means being committed to following reasons and evidence wherever they may lead. 
  • They must be OPEN-MINDED about alternative possible ways of defining the problem and alternative possible solutions, so that they can explore those possibilities objectively. 
  • They must have the FORESIGHT to anticipate the kinds of evidence that will be needed, and they must be SYSTEMATIC and focused in gathering those data.
  • Science and engineering demand CONFIDENCE IN REASONING, and the demonstrated successes of scientists and engineers engender and inspire other to have confidence in their work.
  • Scientists and engineers are INQUISITIVE people, they strive to understand why and how things work.  They look for causes so that they can explain, predict, and, where possible, control phenomena. 
  • They are RESOURCEFUL and COLLABORATIVE people by nature because the problems they embrace are large, complex, and important.
  • They do not tolerate ill-conceived or over-simplified responses to complex problems.  Instead, they exhibit a timely MATURITY OF JUDGMENT. 

Again, the capitalized words show the importance of a positive critical thinking mindset for success as a professional in science or engineering.  These mindset attributes literally define the best professionals in these fields.

Assessing and training critical thinking

Fortunately, these skills and attributes are being infused in educational programs at all levels. And they can be assessed and trained at all levels.

Insight Assessment provides solutions to the need to build strong critical thinking skills and mindset attributes in schools and in the workforce.  

We offer a comprehensive array of assessment instruments for business professionals, first responders, educators, health science practitioners, military and defense specialists, and legal professionals, staff, and executives These assessments target core critical thinking skills and mindset attributes as they are applied in specific professions.

Contact us to discuss your initiatives to strengthen critical thinking in your students or employees.

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