Critical thinking should be one of the goals held by everyone in the field of education including students, teachers, parents, and administrators and society in general. Of what benefit is an education if the successful graduate is not able to solve problems or make decisions that allow them to improve their own lives and/or the society in which they live? Since various studies have been done which show that there is no difference in the learning outcomes between bricks and mortar students and distance learning students, then it means that distance learning students are able to develop their critical thinking skills as well as students in face to face classrooms.
What is critical thinking?
There are many definitions of critical thinking. B.K. Beyer in 1995 in Critical Thinking states that “Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments” (p 8). There are many skills involved in making those reasoned judgments which you need to learn to increase your ability to make better decisions and solve problems. The following are some of the skills involved in critical thinking.
- Analyzing What are the relationships between different pieces of information? What overall consequences are produced by the interactions caused by these relationships? You need to make comparisons, be able to classify the information, and notice patterns in it.
- Effective use of reasoning and logical thinking You must be able to use both deductive and inductive reasoning in critical thinking. Determining cause/effect relationships and the ability to make analogies from the information are skills required here. You also need to be able to detect mistakes in the reasoning of others’ arguments on the subject.
- Synthesizing You must be able to take the knowledge you learn and apply it in new ways to different situations. When you are working on a problem, you need to rearrange, adapt, substitute, or modify the information you have to help solve the present problem. Can you predict what might happen if you follow a course of action? Can you invent a new way of using the information you have to create a solution?
- Evaluation This includes being able to make judgments about the arguments or other information that you have. How relevant is it? How valid is the solution that is being considered for the problem? You must be able to make decisions based on your evaluation of the evidence, claims, and arguments that have been made.
- Self-reflection It is always a good idea to stop and think about how your own beliefs and values may be affecting the decisions you are making or the arguments you are making. Are you at least willing to consider that your beliefs might be wrong or that some else’s might be right? You must think about them so that you can continue to learn and improve your critical thinking skills. In other words you must critically think about your thinking.
There are a lot of skills required to develop your critical thinking and it usually takes a long time to develop them. Hopefully you began to develop these skills at home and in primary school and continued throughout your secondary school years. They will be very helpful for you in essays and exams in college, in your professional career when you have finished college and in all other areas of your life as well.