Strong critical thinkers demonstrate the following characteristics:
- inquisitiveness with regard to a wide range of issues
- concern to become and remain well-informed
- alertness to opportunities to use critical thinking
- self-confidence in one’s own abilities to reason
- open-mindedness regarding divergent world views
- flexibility in considering alternatives and opinions
- understanding of the opinions of other people
- fair-mindedness in appraising reasoning
- honesty in facing one’s own biases, prejudices, stereotypes, or egocentric tendencies
- prudence in suspending, making or altering judgments
- willingness to reconsider and revise views where honest reflection suggests that change is warranted
Based on the APA Expert Consensus Delphi Report description of strong critical thinkers.
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Articles: Master Student Series
Critical thinking is an approach to the world, a way of life that goes beyond skill or technique. Critical thinkers have hearts as well as heads, and their overall attitudes or habits of mind are at least as important as their arsenal of skills.
Critical thinkers trust their own reasoning, give fair-minded consideration to others' points of view, and even approach serious thinking in the spirit of play. As you read "The master student" in Chapter One and as you read the master student profiles throughout the text, you learn about real people who've shown these qualities.
During the late 1980s, the American Philosophical Association explored the qualities of a critical thinker, inviting 46 men and women from throughout the United States and Canada to take part in a research project. These scholars came from the sciences, the humanities, and education. Their task was to agree on answers to two questions: "What is college-level critical thinking?" and "What leads us to conclude that a person is an effective critical thinker?"
After two years of work, this panel emerged with a list of critical thinking dispositions-seven qualities that distinguish effective critical thinkers from other people.
1. Truth-seeking. Critical thinkers want to know truth. In their quest, they are willing to consider and even accept ideas that undermine their assumptions or self-interest. These thinkers follow reason and evidence wherever they lead.
"Critical thinkers are honest with themselves," writes Vincent Ryan Ruggiero, author of Becoming a Critical Thinker. "Through uncritical thinking, people deceive themselves. They pretend that the truth is what they wish it to be. They persuade themselves that they can drive 30 miles per hour over the speed limit without endangering themselves or others. They think drinking a six-pack of beer each day is no signal of a drinking problem, or that missing class has no effect on grades. Critical thinkers avoid such maneuvers."
2. Open-minded. A skilled critical thinker not only recognizes that people disagree-they value this fact. They respect the right of others to express different views. Beyond seeking out a variety of viewpoints, critical thinkers check their speaking and thinking for signs of bias. This skill is crucial for dealing with the diversity of people at school and on the job.
3. Analytical. The critical thinker recognizes statements that call for evidence. They are alert to potential problems. In addition, the critical thinker foresees possible consequences of adopting a particular point of view.
4. Systematic. Staying organized and focused are two more qualities of a critical thinker. They are willing to patiently gather evidence, test ideas, and stay with a tough or complex question.
5. Self-confident. This quality of a critical thinker supports the others. Since they trust their intellectual skills, the critical thinker is willing to seek truth, listen with an open mind, and do the hard and useful work of thinking.
6. Inquisitive. The critical thinker wants to know. They are hungry for facts and concepts. They are willing to explore the universe of ideas even before they knows how to apply the insights they gain.
7. Mature. As a mature person, the critical thinker possesses a wisdom born of experience. They understand that a problem can have several solutions-even solutions that seem to contradict each other. They resist the desire to reach quick, superficial answers, and are willing to suspend judgment when evidence is incomplete. At the same time, they recognize that human beings are often called to act before all the facts are in.