Saturday, July 24, 2010

Critical thinking: different perspectives

When we were preparing the grading rubric to assess critical thinking (which is more complicated than you might think), Marianne Staempfli found this very useful resource: The Critical Thinking Community. While the website itself is quaintly old-fashioned, it has a lot of useful information. For instance, a definition:
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.
Based on that and other partly overlapping definitions, they also provide a critical thinking grid. This grid provides descriptions for several objectives related to purpose, problem, information, concepts, assumptions, interpretations, implications, and perspectives. When Marianne and I converted this grid into a more logical structure, the most "contentious" issue was whether to include a category related to point of view or perspective into the grading grid. In the end, we decided that this indeed was something we would evaluate in our teaching, and kept it in the final version of our critical thinking grid. I could give you my rambling reasons, or you could just watch this short video of a presentation by Derek Sivers from my favourite source of examples:  TED .

Different perspectives are an important component of critical thinking, because by explicitly acknowledging them, you
  • increase the amount of information you have on a topic, and thus also potential solutions
  • reduce your inherent subjectivity when studying a topic
  • increase the clarity of your study because you address other points of view explicitly in your explanations

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