IS CRITICAL THINKING?
distinguish between fact and opinion; ask questions; make detailed
observations; uncover assumptions and define their terms; and make
assertions based on sound logic and solid evidence.
D. Becoming a Master Student, 1997
is best understood as the ability of thinkers to take charge of
their own thinking. This requires that they develop sound criteria
and standards for analyzing and assessing their own thinking and
routinely use those criteria and standards to improve its quality.
L. and Paul, R. "Critical thinking: why we must transform our
teaching." Journal of Developmental Education, Fall
OF A CRITICAL THINKER:
- asks pertinent questions
- assesses statements and
- is able to admit a lack
of understanding or information
- has a sense of curiosity
- is interested in finding
- is able to clearly define
a set of criteria for analyzing ideas
- is willing to examine beliefs,
assumptions, and opinions and weigh them against facts
- listens carefully to others
and is able to give feedback
- sees that critical thinking
is a lifelong process of self-assessment
- suspends judgment until
all facts have been gathered and considered
- looks for evidence to support
assumption and beliefs
- is able to adjust opinions
when new facts are found
- looks for proof
- examines problems closely
- is able to reject information
that is incorrect or irrelevant
Ferrett, S. Peak
CRITICAL THINKING TO READING
(from Longview Community
College, Lee's Summit, Missouri)
These seven critical reading
strategies can be learned readily and then applied not only to reading
selections in a Literature class, but also to your other college reading.
Mastering these strategies will help you handle difficult material with
- Annotating: Fundamental
to each of these strategies is annotating directly on the page: underlining
key words, phrases, or sentences; writing comments or questions in the
margins; bracketing important sections of the text; constructing ideas
with lines or arrows; numbering related points in sequence; and making
note of anything that strikes you as interesting, important, or questionable.
- Most readers annotate
in layers, adding further annotations on second and third readings.
- Annotations can be light
or heavy, depending on the reader's purpose and the difficulty of
- Previewing: Learning
about a text before really reading it. Previewing enables readers to
get a sense of what the text is about and how it is organized before
reading it closely. This simple strategy includes seeing what you can
learn from the headnotes or other introductory material, skimming to
get an overview of the content and organization, and identifying the
- Contextualizing: Placing
a text in its historical, biographical, and cultural contexts. When
you read a text, you read it through the lens of your own experience.
- Your understanding of
the words on the page and their significance is informed by what
you have come to know and value from living in a particular time
and place. But the texts you read were all written in the past,
sometimes in a radically different time and place.
- To read critically,
you need to contextualize, to recognize the differences between
your contemporary values and attitudes and those represented in
- Questioning to understand
and remember: Asking questions about the content. As students, you are
accustomed to teachers asking you questions about your reading.
- Questions are designed
to help you understand a reading and respond to it more fully, and
often this technique works.
- When you need to understand
and use new information though it is most beneficial if you write
the questions, as you read the text for the first time.
- With this strategy,
you can write questions any time, but in difficult academic readings,
you will understand the material better and remember it longer if
you write a question for every paragraph or brief section.
- Each question should
focus on a main idea, not on illustrations or details, and each
should be expressed in your own words, not just copied from parts
of the paragraph.
- Reflecting on challenges
to your beliefs and values: Examining your personal responses. The reading
that you do for this class might challenge your attitudes, your unconsciously
held beliefs, or your positions on current issues.
- As you read a text for
the first time, mark an X in the margin at each point where you
fell a personal challenge to your attitudes, beliefs, or status.
- Make a brief note in
the margin about what you feel or about what in the text created
- Now look again at the
places you marked in the text where you felt personally challenged.
- What patterns do you
- Outlining and summarizing:
Identifying the main ideas and restating them in your own words.
- Outlining and summarizing
are especially helpful strategies for understanding the content
and structure of a reading selection.
- Whereas outlining reveals
the basic structure of the text, summarizing synopsizes a selection's
main argument in brief.
- Outlining may be part
of the annotating process, or it may be done separately (as it is
in this class).
- The key to both outlining
and summarizing is being able to distinguish between the main ideas
and the supporting ideas and examples.
- The main ideas form
the backbone, the strand that hold the various parts and pieces
of the text together.
- Outlining the main ideas
helps you to discover this structure.
- When you make an outline,
don't use the text's exact words.
- Summarizing begins
with outlining, but instead of merely listing the main ideas, a summary
recomposes them to form a new text. Whereas outlining depends on a close
analysis of each paragraph, summarizing also requires creative synthesis.
Putting ideas together again -- in your own words and in a condensed
form -- shows how reading critically can lead to deeper understanding
of any text.
- Evaluating an argument
means testing the logic of a text as well as its credibility and
emotional impact. All writers make assertions that want you to accept
- As a critical reader,
you should not accept anything on face value but to recognize every
assertion as an argument that must be carefully evaluated.
- An argument has two
essential parts: a claim and support.
- The claim asserts a
conclusion -- an idea, an opinion, a judgment, or a point of view
- that the writer wants you to accept.
- The support includes
reasons (shared beliefs, assumptions, and values) and evidence (facts,
examples, statistics, and authorities) that give readers the basis
for accepting the conclusion.
- When you assess an argument,
you are concerned with the process of reasoning as well as its truthfulness
(these are not the same thing).
- At the most basic level,
in order for an argument to be acceptable, the support must be appropriate
to the claim and the statements must be consistent with one another.
- Comparing and contrasting
related readings: Exploring likenesses and differences between texts
to understand them better.
Many of the authors on the
subject of thinking critically approach the topic in different ways. Fitting
a text into an ongoing dialectic helps increase understanding of why an
author approached a particular issue or question in the way he or she
CRITICAL THINKING TO AMERICAN HISTORY
FACT, OPINION AND INFERENCE
Being able to distinguish between
a statement of fact, an opinion or an inference is an important skill
to critical thinking. It involves knowing what can be proven directly,
what is a legitimate implication derived from the facts, and what is fair
to conclude from the historical record.
Historians typically interweave
statements of fact, inferences they derive from the facts, and statements
of their own opinion into a seamless historical narrative. Critical thinkers
must be able to distinguish among these three types of communication.
- FACT: reports information
that can be directly observed or can be verified or checked for accuracy.
- OPINION: expresses
an evaluation based on a personal judgment or belief which may or may
not be verifiable.
- INFERENCE: a logical
conclusion or a legitimate implication based on factual information.
Generally, facts are constants
in historical study. But a compendium of facts is inevitably incomplete
and deathly dull to read. Historians construct history by closing the
gaps in their knowledge about the past, enlarge our under- standing, and
enliven their narrative by drawing logical inferences from their assembled
facts. Often, they then use their expertise to arrive at a considered
judgment about the wisdom or significance of past decisions and events.
Distinguishing statements of
fact, opinion, and inference may at first seem difficult to do. That is
because they are often closely interwoven. Develop your own critical thinking
abilities by placing an "F" before each factual statement, an "O"
before each opinion, and an "I" before each inference in the
practice exercise below.
type of critical thinking exercise is used often in quizzes and tests.
_____ 1. The real rulers of
the "black Republican" governments of the South were white "scalawags"
_____2. Scalawags were by far
the more numerous of the two.
_____3. Blacks lacked experience
in politics and were mostly poor and uneducated.
_____4. That blacks should
fail to dominate southern governments is certainly understandable.
_____5. Graft and callous disregard
of the public interest characterized government in all regions and at
every level during the decade after Appomattox.
_____6. However, the corruption
must be seen in perspective.
_____7. The New York City Tweed
Ring probably made off with more money that all the southern thieves,
black and white, combined.
_____8. The evidence does not
justify southern corruption.
_____9. The evidence suggests
that the unique features of Reconstruction politics do not explain it
____10. In fact, Radical southern
governments accomplished much.
World Travel Guide