Obviously, before arriving in Hong Kong for the first Advance of LGP9, it was wise to read Jackie Pullinger’s Chasing the Dragon and Steven Tsang’s Modern History of Hong Kong. While I am unsure of the reasons of the order of the other subsequent texts of DMIN 717, Richard Paul and Linda Elder’s Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, finally hones in on our pursuit of unpacking critical thinking skills. My first thought upon skimming this back-pocket guidebook was, ”Oh, This, is what Dr. Clarke has been talking about!” In honor of our late brother and mentor Eugene Peterson and his book, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society,” I am ruminating on how critical thinking skills are like discipleship. That is, while perhaps tedious and clumsy when practiced initially, yet essential to developing intellectual traits and vivacious Christian living.
This miniature guide is crammed with concepts and tools to be referenced at a moment’s notice to enhance one’s critical thinking skills. I am considering carrying it around with me throughout the day to aid my desire to approach all of my tasks with critical thinking questions (especially in structuring my research.) Instead of a “how to” field manual, I view it as a collection of process flow charts. In coaching, we call these powerful open-ended questions as they are intended to open up the client’s thought processes to produce clarity in the mind of the one being coached so they can accomplish their goals. That is, skilled coaches, partner with clients so that the coach is responsible for the iterative process while the client is responsible for the content.
The Stages of Critical Thinking Development reminds me of the stages of a prospective coaching client or coach. The Unreflective Thinker doesn’t know what he or she doesn’t know. Limited to only their thinking and their perspective, they are oblivious to the flaws of their arguments and therefore simplistic and ineffective in their conclusions. Much like math word problems, if the problem has been initially set up wrong, the resultant answer will inevitably be wrong.
The Challenged Thinker is aware of the complexities of the multi-system question and is challenged in how to proceed. Without outside help (a skilled coach to help) to develop critical thinking skills, they will flounder in seeking answers to the question. They will ultimately become stuck and unable to proceed forward to creative solutions and will abandon the pursuit.
The Beginning Thinker is beginning to acquire and practice critical thinking (coaching) skills. Here is the crucial phase where the thinker will continue to apply critical thinking skills or give up under the strain of clumsily applying newfound skills. The Beginning Thinker needs to continue working with a coach to continue practicing critical thinking skills to gain proficiency and most of all self-confidence in their attempts.
The Practicing Thinker realizes that critical thinking (coaching) skills are like foreign language skills that must be regularly practiced to develop greater proficiency (or conversely will be lost.) Consistent, regular practice of critical thinking (coaching) skills will yield greater proficiency, self-confidence, and fruitfulness. A most effective way to practice critical thinking skills is to begin teaching them to others. The International Coaching Federation certification process would view Practicing Thinkers (i.e., coaches) as candidates for the Associate Certified Coach designation.
The Advanced Thinker realizes that critical thinking skills are not merely an applied exercise but rather a continuous way to think and process the totality of one’s thoughts. Therefore the applied exercises have now morphed to become a consistent way of thinking and processing one’s thoughts. Essential Intellectual Traits are beginning to become internalized. Advanced Thinkers are prime candidates to coach others in critical thinking skills effectively and would be viewed by the International Coaching Federation as potential candidates for the Professional Coaching Certification.
The Accomplished Thinker has given significant time and practice to develop critical thinking (coaching) skills. Their internalized intellectual standards have become second nature and come into play when analyzing and assessing complex challenges (i.e., research) for clients. They continue to develop and enhance their Essential Intellectual Traits. They are both effective coaches as well as trainers of coaches. The would be viewed by the International Coaching Federation as candidates for the Master Coaching Certification.
I plan to utilize Stages of Critical Thinking Development in upcoming coaching tips and skills for training and development of my Vineyard coaches. I find significant common ground in responding to complex multi-system questions between coaching and critical thinking skills. Again, like discipleship, critical thinking (coaching) skills are tedious and clumsy in their initial application, but with consistent, continued practice, eventually, yield internalized intellectual traits.
 Paul, Richard and Linda Elder, Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, rev.ed. (Tomales, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2009) 20.
 Paul, Richard and Linda Elder, Critical Thinking, 14-15.