Introduction to Critical ThinkingDeveloping Critical Thinking Skills
What is Critical Thinking?First, lets take a look at the word critical.
Critical commonly has the connotation1 of finding fault in a negative way.
1Instead of the explicit (denoted) meaning, the connoted meaning is suggested or implied.
For example, the word mother means female parent,but it generally connotes love, care, tenderness, etc.
What is Critical Thinking?Hes always criticizing my cooking!I cant stand his negative attitude!
Is this what we mean by Critical Thinking?
What is Critical Thinking?Evaluating & interpretingverbal (spoken) and written expressions e.g. opinions, arguments, observations, etc. in an analytical1 and discerning2 way.
1analytical logical, well-organized, step-by-step2discerning having good judgment; perceptive
What is Critical Thinking?Understanding that we all have our own biases1,we nevertheless try to be as fair and objectiveas possible when we use critical thinking skills.
1Bias: A preference, inclination, prejudice. To have a leaning towards one opinion or way of doing things over another.
What are Critical Thinking Skills?For the purpose of this class, critical thinking skills will involve:1. developing a set of questions, and2. knowing how and when to use them.
How will these skills help me?You will be able to:Evaluate an opinion in a speechInterpret material presented in a textbookForm your own opinions written or verbalParticipate in a class discussion or debate
A Few ObservationsWouldnt it be great if people always expressedtheir opinions clearly, completely, and fairly?
Perhaps. But this is not the reality.
So we must be active listeners, trying to discern whether an opinion makes sense.
A Few ObservationsWe all have our own biases that influence how we view the opinions of other people.
Lets have a discussion now and try to identifysome of the common causes / reasons thatinfluence our biases.
Our personal experiencesSocial status / upbringingEducational levelCulture
A Few ObservationsHow might these biases affect us with regard to evaluating opinions whether or own opinions, or those of others?
A Few ObservationsThese biases will cause us to be emotional in:forming our own opinions, andevaluating the opinions of others.
We should do our best not to accept / reject other peoples opinions solely on the basis of our emotions.
In other words, we must try to be as objective as possible.
OK! Where do we start?The first question to ask when presented with someones opinion is:
What is the main issue?
Other ways to ask this question:What is the main point?What is the point in question?What is the matter of contention?
OK! Where do we start?If we fail to identify the main issue of an argument, we will wander aimlessly in our evaluation of what is said (or written).
First, lets take a look at the two kinds of issues.
Types of Issues1. DescriptiveDescriptive issues force us to consider the accuracy of descriptions of ideas, events, circumstances, etc.
Notice that words including script and scribe have to do with writing down giving a detailed account.
So, these are matter-of-fact issues.
Types of Issues1. DescriptiveWhat causes cancer?
Do couples who live together before getting married have more successful marriages?
How useful is a college degree in finding a job?
Who is responsible for the economic downturn?
Note the key question words: What, Do, How, Who.
Types of Issues1. PrescriptivePrescriptive making or adhering to rules.
Prescriptive questions look for answers about how the world should operate.
In other words, what are the rules and regulations that should govern how our world works?
Types of Issues1. PrescriptiveShould the government restrict cigarette smoking?
What ought to be done about crime in big cities?
What must we do to slow down global climate change?
Finding the issueHow can we identify the issue?
1. The speaker / author may explicity identify it.
2. Look at the speech / written work as a whole. What does everything point to / address?
3. What is the conclusion?
What is the conclusion?Finding the conclusion is important, because this is what the speaker wants us to accept and believe.
Ask yourself, What is the speaker trying to prove?
What is the conclusion?The conclusion is the last step in a reasoning process.
If someone makes a claim that something is true or something should be done without giving any support, this is what we call an opinion.It is not a conclusion.
How to Identify the ConclusionIdentify the issue
Look for key words:ThereforeConsequentlyThusIt follows thatThis proves thatHeres the point.The truth is
Look at the beginning and end.
Sometimes conclusions are implied. Ask yourself,What does the speaker want me to believe?
Identify the Issue and ConclusionHome schooling is a good idea for parents who are well-trained and patient, and who make it their full-time job. However, the truth of the matter is that few parents have this ability.
Parents sometimes pull their kids out of school for the wrong reasons, e.g. discipline issues. Such a motivation predicts a poor outcome if the child is home-schooled. Who is monitoring the parents to make sure they are fulfilling their duties? If these children are not getting the education they need, it is harmful to society.
Identify the ConclusionThe conclusion is in the second sentence:
However, the truth of the matter is
Conclusion:Most parents are not capable of home schooling.
Identify the IssueThe issue is not explicitly stated.It can be inferred:
Issue:Should all parents be allowed to home-school their children?
Is this a descriptive or a prescriptive issue?
It asks what ought to be done Prescriptive
Our First 2 QuestionsWhat is the issue?
What is the conclusion?