Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms for thinking carefully, and the thinking components on which they focus. The abilities can be identified directly; the dispositions indirectly, by considering what factors contribute to or impede exercise of the abilities. Standardized tests have been developed to assess the degree to which a person possesses such dispositions and abilities. Educational intervention has been shown experimentally to improve them, particularly when it includes dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring.
Behavioral and Cognitive Theories | Lifespan Development
Several years ago some teaching colleagues were talking about the real value of teaching psychology students to think critically. After some heated discussion, the last word was had by a colleague from North Carolina. That observation remains one of my favorites in justifying why teaching critical thinking skills should be an important goal in psychology. However, I believe it captures only a fraction of the real value of teaching students to think critically about behavior. Although there is little agreement about what it means to think critically in psychology, I like the following broad definition: The propensity and skills to engage in activity with reflec tive skepticism focused on deciding what to believe or do.
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Critical thinking requires skill at analyzing the reliability and validity of information, as well as the attitude or disposition to do so. A critical thinker does not necessarily have a negative attitude in the everyday sense of constantly criticizing someone or something. Instead, he or she can be thought of as astute : the critical thinker asks key questions, evaluates the evidence for ideas, reasons for problems both logically and objectively, and expresses ideas and conclusions clearly and precisely. Last but not least , the critical thinker can apply these habits of mind in more than one realm of life or knowledge.