DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Cultivating Critical Thinking Systematically

Written by: on September 15, 2015

Cultivating Critical Thinking Systematically
In Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, Richard Paul and Linda Elder have put together a miniature (and I do mean miniature) guide book that provides some very insightful material for the serious individual striving to be a critical thinker. They define critical thinking as, “the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it” (Paul and Elder, 2). The onus is on the individual to master this art. The authors inform that critical thinking is, “self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. Since most human thinking is “biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, and prejudiced” the authors indicate that the objective is to make a concerted effort to develop problem solving and communication skills, as well as, to seek to eliminate egocentrism and sociocentrism (Paul and Elder, 2).

The authors make it clear that critical thinking must involve the application of Universal Intellectual Standards to the Elements of Thought in order to ultimately cultivate Essential Intellectual Traits (Paul and Elders, 19). This is a section DMINLGP6 students should especially take note of as we devise our Module Learning Plan and Program Learning Plan, and prepare to embark on the extensive and intensive research this program requires. The authors go to great lengths to spell out the importance of these three aspects in the critical thinking process.
First one must have knowledge of the role of each of the Universal Intellectual Standards before applying them. The standards consist of clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, completeness, and fairness (Paul and Elder, 8-9, 19).
One must also have an understanding of The Elements of Thought processes to which the standards are applied. The thought processes are: purposes=goals and objectives; questions or problems at issue; information=data, facts, reasons, observations, experiences, and evidence; interpretations/inferences=conclusions, and solutions; concepts=theories, definitions, laws, principles, and models; assumptions=presuppositions, axioms, and taking for granted; implications and consequences; and points of view=frames of reference, perspectives, and orientations (Paul and Elder, 3).
One eventually arrives at a stage of critical thinking that incorporates The Essential Intellectual Traits of Humility, Autonomy, Integrity, Courage, Perseverance, Confidence in Reason, Intellectual Empathy, and Fair-mindedness (Paul and Elder, 14-15).

On page six, in “Using the Elements of Thought” in writing a paper etc., the authors pose several questions the writer should ask, most of which I had not considered, even while attempting to propose program learning plans. This really opened my eyes to the complexities and intricacies in producing quality work and how much my analytical and critical thinking skills were wanting. In the plan for my programs I have been so busy trying to come up with an action plan, I never even asked myself the basic questions outlined by the authors. All of which are vital to critical thinking leading to good research. Such as:
“Purpose: What am I trying to accomplish? What is my central aim? My purpose?”
“Question: What questions am I raising? What question am I addressing? Am I considering the complexities in the question?”
“Information: What information am I using in coming to that conclusion? What experience have I had to support this claim? What information do I need to settle the question?”
“Inference/Conclusions: How did I reach this conclusion? Is there another way to interpret the information?”
“Concepts: What is the main idea here? Can I explain this idea?”
“Assumptions: What am I taking for granted? What assumption has led me to that conclusion?”
“Implications/Consequences: If someone accepted my position, what would be the implications? What am I implying?”
“Points of View: From what point of view am I looking at this issue? Is there another point of view I should consider?”

What does the critical thinker look like according to Paul and Elder?
They state, “Critical thinkers are clear as to the purpose at hand and the question at issue. They question information, conclusions, and points of view. They strive to be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant. They gather and assess relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively. They think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing as need be the assumptions and implications. They come to well reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards” (Paul and Elder, front matter).

About the Author

Claire Appiah

9 responses to “Cultivating Critical Thinking Systematically”

  1. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Claire, it was great reading your blog, it is filled with information, as you pointed out the section for DMINLGP6. Thanks for reminding us to focus on that information; because Critical thinking provides students, researchers with intentional challenges and supportive practice in overcoming, the global challenges facing society today and how those challenges using specific intellectual skills.

    The book really is a student’s supplement guide (SSG), it gives insights and tools to help us, as students through the process.It is important for our “DMINLGP6” to use the tool in developing a critical thinking attitude, which consists of a habitual willingness or commitment to engage in effortful deliberation. According to (Halpern, 2003; Nelson, 2005; Paul, 1995), this is the “foundation of critical thinking behavior.
    You are great in getting to the core of the books, thanks…looking forward to meeting you.Rose Maria

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Thanks for your reply and insights. Looking forward to learning more of your wisdom and vast knowledge. Yes, HK is nigh.

  2. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Claire – thanks for the reminder that we WILL need to cultivate intellectual standards in our work.

    • Claire Appiah says:

      I am amazed at the level of critical thinking that is already being exhibited in this cohort. What will we look like when we graduate?

      • mm Marc Andresen says:

        Indeed what will we look like.

        This suddenly makes me think of Scripture talking about having the mind of Christ. I think we can all pray for each other to learn to think critically as Jesus did. Wouldn’t THAT be grand?

  3. Claire, good point!

    You stated, “The onus is on the individual to master this art.” Critical thinking is not indoctrination, but an attitude against indifference. One must be willing to weigh the options, conduct the research and search out a conclusion. This type of solution must be wrought with unyielding courage – courage that’s willing to face the opposing voices with strength and graciousness. Elder and Paul state, “Intellectual courage comes into play here, because inevitably we will come to see some dangerous and absurd, and distortion or falsity in some ideas strongly held in our social group. We need courage to be true to our own thinking in such circumstances. The penalties for nonconformity can be severe.” (Paul, 175). As I read through this week’s assignment, I couldn’t help but wonder if “Intellectual courage” came easier to some than others. I wonder if our personalities come into play when it comes to confronting others with opposing views. Do you believe that our MBTI Personality type colors our comfort with intellectual courage?

    • Claire Appiah says:

      Most definitely! I believe our culture, upbringing, world view, socioeconomic status, religion, and ethnicity among other things that contribute to and shape personality, have much to do with the way one addresses or fails to address critical issues in the world. Intellectual courage is not usually the activity of those who will not challenge the status quo for whatever reason and are not willing to or are fearful of “rocking the boat” in society. A person exercising intellectual courage is not afraid to be a leader or initiator of social change/social reform, and to face the resultant consequences. Paul and Elder indicate, “Intellectual Courage is the antithesis of Intellectual Cowardice” (Paul and Elder, 14).

  4. Hi Claire. I like how you emphasized that critical thinking is an “art.” Reading short books like this make me forget the art component in critical thinking. For me, it reads like a checklist so I appreciate your reminder. Thanks, Aaron

  5. Pablo Morales says:

    Claire, wow. You did a great job summarizing the book. Like you, I also appreciate the fact that the book gives us principles to help us write more intelligently. Thank you for a well-written post!

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