Guest Author - Elizabeth Stuttard
In a previous article I talked about the skills that are required for critical thinking. However, you may be wondering why you would need to use those skills. Why and when is critical thinking necessary or advantageous to you?
As a distance learning student you must spend a great deal of time on the internet listening and/or watching lectures or other podcasts and videos for your courses. You must also do a lot of reading, interact with the other students in the course, research for essays, write the essays, and do presentations. Critical thinking can be useful to you when doing any of these tasks. The following are some of the ways that you will find critical thinking advantageous to you in your studies.
While you are reading or listening to the content of your course, you will find that using your analyzing skills will help you to understand the information more easily as you look at the relationships between the pieces of information that are presented. You will quickly see what information you do not understand so that you can ask other students or the instructor questions to clarify it. It will also be easier to remember since you will be consciously paying attention to the consequences and the connections between the ideas and information that you are studying.
While interacting with other students you can use your critical thinking skills to back up your opinions in bulletin board postings. If you are assigned some group work, your critical thinking skills can help the group to make decisions. Using your critical thinking skills, you can help the group to come up with the best solution to the problem rather than taking the easy route and assuming that the most obvious solution is the best one.
While researching for your essays you will use all of the critical thinking skills – analyzing, reasoning and logical thinking, and evaluation to make several decisions. You will need to decide if the book or the website you are using is a credible and reliable source of information. You will need to decide if it is a source you will use in your essay. Then you will need to decide how exactly you will use it in the essay – to back up your thesis, as an alternate opinion, or as an alternate opinion that you will refute.
When preparing presentations, you can use your critical thinking skills to explain your topic and help your audience to understand your arguments. If it is in a seminar you can use your reasoning to support your ideas. Because you will be presenting information more objectively, your presentation will seem to be more professional than an obviously highly biased one.
These are some of the ways that critical thinking can help you to be more successful in your courses. In addition to these advantages, once you have completed your degree and you are looking for work, you will find that employers are looking for employees with good critical thinking skills. By developing these skills over time while working towards your degree, you will be developing skills that are useful for a lifetime.