The Elements of Critical Thinking
(Helping Students Assess Their Thinking) by Richard
Paul and Linda Elder
There are two essential
dimensions of thinking that students need to master in order to learn how
to upgrade their thinking. They need to be able to identify the "parts"
of their thinking, and they need to be able to assess their use of these
parts of thinking, as follows:
reasoning has a purpose.
is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some question, to solve
reasoning is based on assumptions.
reasoning is done from some point of view.
reasoning is based on data, information, and evidence.
reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, concepts and ideas.
reasoning contains inferences by which we draw conclusions and give meaning
reasoning leads somewhere, has implications and consequences.
What follows are some guidelines helpful to students
as they work toward developing their reasoning abilities:
All reasoning has a PURPOSE.
time to state your purpose clearly.
your purpose from related purposes.
periodically to be sure you are still on target.
significant and realistic purposes.
All reasoning is an attempt to FIGURE
SOMETHING OUT, TO SETTLE SOME QUESTION, TO SOLVE SOME PROBLEM.
Take time to clearly and precisely state the question at issue.
Express the question in several ways to clarify its meaning and scope.
Break the question into sub questions.
Identify if the question has one right answer, is a matter of opinion,
or requires reasoning from more than one point of view.
All reasoning is based on ASSUMPTIONS.
identify your assumptions and determine whether they are justifiable.
how your assumptions are shaping your point of view.
All reasoning is done from some POINT OF VIEW.
your point of view.
other points of view and identify their strengths as well as weaknesses.
to be fair-minded in evaluating all points of view.
All reasoning is based on DATA, INFORMATION and EVIDENCE.
your claims to those supported by the data you have.
for information that opposes your position as well as information that
sure that all information used is clear, accurate, and relevant to the
question at issue.
sure you have gathered sufficient information.
All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, CONCEPTS and IDEAS.
key concepts and explain them clearly.
alternative concepts or alternative definitions to concepts.
sure you are using concepts with care and precision.
All reasoning contains INFERENCES or INTERPRETATIONS by which we draw CONCLUSIONS
and give meaning to data.
only what the evidence implies.
inferences for their consistency with each other.
assumptions that lead you to your inferences.
All reasoning leads somewhere or has IMPLICATIONS and CONSEQUENCES.
the implications and consequences that follow from your reasoning.
for negative as well as positive implications.
all possible consequences.
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