Want to Develop Your Critical Thinking in the New Year?
Critical Thinking Exercise 1
Posted Jan 05, 2021
So, the holidays are over and I imagine many people have made or are in the process of making resolutions for the new year — pandemic or not. Consistent with a post on this blog from a couple years ago about how we make and keep new years’ resolutions, have you considered enhancing your critical thinking in 2021? It may not be an obvious resolution, but just as we often resolve to lose weight, get fit and eat healthier, we must exercise our thinking just as much as our bodies.
Critical thinking (CT) is a metacognitive process, consisting of a number of skills and dispositions, that, when applied through purposeful, self-regulatory, reflective judgment, increases the chances of producing a logical solution to a problem or a valid conclusion to an argument (Dwyer, 2017; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2014). Moreover, critical thinking is important to work to develop in this day and age given the amount of information and misinformation that is generated on a daily basis, be it through conversation, social media, or misinterpretation of the news.
So, what can I do to train myself in critical thinking? Well, the first step is to have the motivation to do so! This self-regulatory aspect of critical thinking — that is, disposition towards critical thinking — is one of the most important predictors of whether or not critical thinking skills will be applied. So, if you’re motivated — if you have the inclination to engage critical thinking, then you’re ready for the next step; and that’s to familiarise yourself with scenarios that require critical thinking and consider how you might start the process. So, the remainder of this post will help you do just that — it will present a number of tasks to get you started. Don’t rush these. Take your time with them. Have a look now and think about them. Come back after a few minutes, a few hours or even a few days and report on your thoughts. Following that, consider how you might make changes to your thinking in light of this new thinking. Remember, when we are given opportunities to think about our thinking, we are engaging our metacognitive processes; and that’s a foundational part of critical thinking!
1. Make a list of statements that you believe to be true, but cannot claim to know are true (i.e. there is no well-established research). This may take some time to consider, so no need to do it in one sitting. Once you’re done considering these, take some time to ask yourself why you believe them.
2. Make a list of statements that you believe to be false, but cannot claim to know are false (i.e. there is no well-established research). Again, this may take some time to consider, so no need to do this in one sitting. Once you’re done considering these, take some time to ask yourself why you believe they’re false.
3. Then, take some time to ask yourself if you have anything to gain from continuing to believe or disbelieve any of the propositions you identified above. Once you consider your motivations and reasons (or lack thereof), take this opportunity to try and de-clutter your mind of beliefs that you can’t justify or hold as a result of bias.
These tasks are a great way to start working on your critical thinking as they help you identify biases and unwarranted beliefs that may otherwise impede your ability and disposition towards critical thinking. When presented with opportunities to think critically, remind yourself to eliminate unsubstantiated premises and claims before further engaging in critical thought. If you enjoyed this set of activities, please let me know; and I’d be happy to work on posting similar activities aimed at helping people develop their critical thinking.