Critical Thinking

You are engaging in process of critical thinking when –in response to issue questions — you weigh evidence, analyze points of view and perspectives, and evaluate the consequences of a decision. Critical thinking requires you to make reasoned judgement about issues by considering evidence and using clear CRITERIA to guide your decisions.

An effective critical thinker:

  • consider all relevant evidence
  • develops criteria for making reasoned judgments
  • make judgments on the basis of these criteria
  • works on developing the character traits, or habits of mind that promote effective decision making

You make choices every day — at school, at home, with friends, and at work. You may, for example, need to decide wheter to join an after-school activity, whether to support a friend in school elections, or how to plan your courses for the year.

Using criteria to guide your decisions will help you succeed in school. But the benefits of using criteria to guide your decisions go wel beyond the social studies classroom. Developing effective criteria will ensure that you make the most effective choices when faced with challenges in all aspects of your life.

Habits of Mind

Certain character traits — or habits of mind — promote critical thinking and effective decision making. Whether you are completing a social studies assignment or dealing with other challenges, these habits of mind can help you achieve success at school and in life.

What habits of mind or critical thinking you have pursued?

1. I’m an active thinker

  • I explore alternatives and consider their strengths and weekness
  • I persevere. The first — or most obvious — solution is not always the best.
  • I resist pressure to adopt opinions just because they are popular.
  • I think about how I’m thinking about an issue.

2. I am curious

  • I do not take everything at face value. I investigate beyond the obvious.
  • I take time to think about things and explore unanswered questions.
  • I look for various sources of information and expert opinions.

3. I’m flexible

  • I’m willing to change my tactics or approach.
  • I allow my beliefs to change until I have enough evidence to support a definite point of view.
  • I don’t reject ideas just because they are contrary to my point of view.
  • I’m ready to compromise and take my thinking in new directions.

4. I’m open-minded

  • I’m open to the views of others, especially when their views are different from my own.
  • I judge ideas on the basis of their strengths and weeknesses.
  • I identify and examine my own biases.
  • I explore beyond my personal interests and biases.

5. I’m collaborative

  • I’m willing to work with others to brainstorm and combine ideas.
  • I judge the message, not the messenger.
  • I’m prepared to give — and take — constructive feedback.
  • I make sure everyone has opportunities to contribute and share ideas.

6. I’m empathetic

  • I listen to and try to understand others’ points of view.
  • I don’t pass judgment until I’ve gathered enough information.
  • I’m aware of the effecs of my actions on others.
  • I choose my words carefully and try to use respectful language.

7. I’m respectful

  • I listen carefully to others.
  • I’m aware of the limits of my knowledge and avoid claiming to know more than I do.
  • I judge ideas based on their strengths and weaknesses.
  • I understand that there are seldom single correct answers.

8. I’m thoughtful

  • I think before I act. I consider the consequences of various alternatives.
  • I think about my own thinking and examine my biases.
  • I set goals and understand what I’m trying to achieve. I try to visualize what success will look like.
  • I recognize that my success is not based on another’s failure.

Derived from Margaret Hoogeveen 2008. Understanding Nationalism. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Publishing. macgrawhill.ca


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