Critical thinking involves the application of reasoning and logic to new ideas, information and situations. Good critical thinking skills prepare students for life in the “real” world and allow them to be smart consumers of everything from education to media to health and career decisions. Critical thinking skills are important for the workplace, too. Employers continually rate the ability to think critically as a skill they seek in their workers. The question is, “How do we foster these skills in our students in any discipline and at every academic level?”
Critical thinking starts with an open-minded approach that allows students to gather information and then make a judgment about what to do with that information. Refraining from an initial reaction allows students to apply reasoning based on facts rather than an emotional response. Critical thinking revolves around this deliberate process of reflection and consideration. Activities that involve the use of empathy provides student with an opportunity to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and experience a problem from a new perspective and see sides of an issue that might be hidden under normal circumstances.
All disciplines can benefit from having students engaged in critical thinking in the classroom. Students should be encouraged to challenge their own assumptions as well as those of their classmates and instructors in ways that are thoughtful and consistent with classroom decorum. When students become critical thinkers they assess what they know and what they need to know to draw a conclusion about new ideas and information. Individuals with critical thinking skills are better at negotiating school, work and life challenges. They begin to question why the world is the way it is, and what needs to happen in order for it to change.