Critical Thinking Skills are Vital for Life and Work
At all ages of life, where ever purposeful and reflective judgment is needed, critical thinking skills and mindset are essential.
Each of us makes judgments which affect ourselves, our families, our country and our world. In all of these cases, when the stakes are high, critical thinking is vital. Learning demands strength in critical thinking because learning requires the interpretation and integration of new knowledge and its practical and appropriate application when encountering novel situations, problem conditions and innovative opportunities.
Many believe it is obvious who the best thinkers are in a given agency or institution. But these impressions are often based on fortunate happenstance, expressions of self-confidence, and hierarchical position in the group, and hindsight. We can no longer afforded to be mistaken about best thinking, when error rates are already in question, when difficult problems and decisions must be addressed, and where poor judgments can lead to irreparable damage and even cost lives. To read more
Critical thinking is one of the key skills valued by employers, according to recent research. A 2013 survey of 300 CEO’s reported that C-suite executives in private sector for-profit and non-profit organizations saw a candidate’s capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems as more important than their undergraduate major (Hart Research group, Washington, DC). In Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s July 2009 Jobs to Careers, Randall Wilson wrote: “Early assessment of critical thinking maximizes workforce efficiency and increases the potential for learning and educational effectiveness at all levels.” The truth of this claim is even more apparent today. World culture and an information-intensive everyday life invite us to apply critical thinking to interpret, analyze, evaluate, explain, and draw warranted inferences about what to believe and what to do in a stream of novel and too often time-limited or high-stakes, uncertain situations. For the thinking process to be successful, it must be done with the habits of mind that have been identified as supporting strength in critical thinking. Studies, some of which are listed in the research section of the Insight Assessment website, have consistently shown that strength in critical thinking correlates with workplace and academic success, certification and licensure in the most valued professions, and survival of some of life’s most difficult challenges.
We are learning more about how humans actually engage and try to understand problems and how they actually make judgments. Perhaps more importantly, we are learning more about how they make bad judgments, often without realizing it. When objective measures reveal weaknesses in reasoning skills and habits of mind, there are effective training and teaching techniques that can be used to strengthen those skills and to foster more positive dispositions toward thinking and reasoning. An honest and concerned appraisal of the variances in critical thinking skills and dispositions manifested in working adults and students in all programs of study, and focused response to any demonstrated strengths and weakness in critical thinking is a pathway to future growth and achievement for individuals and for society as a whole.
Weak critical thinking skills and mindset show themselves in many ways: dangerous and costly errors, repeated mistakes, bad decisions, failed systems, inaction when action is needed, the giving of bad advice, inaccurate assumptions, the poor design of training programs, the poor evaluation of educational curricula, the lack of anticipated action… the list is long.
Students and workers who enter with weak critical thinking skills and mindset are not prepared to benefit from the educational training program that will be offered to them. Their presence in the classroom or laboratory causes instructors to slow or alter the training of other students and trainees. Their presence in clinics, internships, or field exercises risks increases injuries and liabilities related to likely errors of both inaction and wrong action. Unaddressed weakness in critical thinking skill results in loss of opportunities, of financial resources, of relationships, and even loss of life. There is probably no other attribute more worthy of measure than critical thinking.
Human reasoning and problem solving are highly complex processes, but not impossible to analyze, measure and improve. A measure of critical thinking that describes an individual's comparative strength in critical thinking is a valuable aid in determining a person's capacity to benefit from training or to succeed in their job.
Today, educational programs and workplace training programs are being required to demonstrate that they are effectively improving critical thinking skills and mindset. Individual measures of critical thinking ability (analysis, inference, evaluation, inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning) and mindset (Truth-seeking, open-mindedness, Analyticity, Systematicity, Confidence in Reasoning, Inquisitiveness, and Maturity of Judgment) provide valuable information about potential hires and guidance as to where to dedicate programs of improvement in workers and students.
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