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How to improve 7 attributes of a positive critical thinking mindset through practice

Cultivating a Critical Thinking Mindset, Part 3. 

The cultivation of a positive critical thinking mindset is both easier and yet more difficult than one might at first believe. Here are specific recommendations about ways to exercise the seven positive thinking attributes discussed in Part 2 of this series. Strong critical thinking skills depend on a strong critical thinking mindset. These recommendations should be practiced daily.

Putting the Positive Critical Thinking Mindset into Practice

  • Truth-seeking – Ask courageous and probing questions. Think deeply about the reasons and evidence for and against a given decision you must make. Pick one or two of your own most cherished beliefs, and ask yourself what reasons and what evidence there are for and against those beliefs.
  • Open-mindedness – Listen patiently to someone who is offering opinions with which you do not agree. As you listen, show respect and tolerance toward the person offering the ideas. Show that you understand (not the same as “agree with”) the opinions being presented.
  • Analyticity – Identify an opportunity to consciously pause to ask yourself about all the foreseeable and likely consequences of a decision you are making. Ask yourself what that choice, whether it is large or small, will mean for your future life and behavior.
  • Systematicity – Focus on getting more organized. Make lists of your most urgent work, family and educational responsibilities, and your assignments. Make lists of the most important priorities and obligations as well. Compare the urgent with the important. Budget your time to take a systematic and methodical approach to fulfilling obligations.
  • Critical Thinking Confidence – Commit to resolve a challenging problem by reasoning it through. Embrace a question, problem, or issue that calls for a reasoned decision, and begin working on it yourself or in collaboration with others.
  • Inquisitiveness – Learn something new. Go out and seek information about any topic of interest, but not one that you must learn about for work, and let the world surprise you with its variety and complexity.
  • Judiciousness – Revisit a decision you made recently and consider whether it is still the right decision. See if any relevant new information has come to light. Ask if the results that had been anticipated are being realized. If warranted, revise the decision to better suit your new understanding of the state of affairs.

To learn more, you can find the entire essay Cultivating A Critical Thinking Mindset (Peter A. Facione, Carol A. Gittens and Noreen C. Facione) as well as the seminal essay Critical Thinking: What it is and Why it Counts in the Insight Assessment Resources library. 

We hope this series has been informative, helpful and has engaged you in reflecting on ways you can be a better critical thinker. We are passionate about the impact of growing, measuring and promoting good thinking worldwide.   Insight Assessment provides assessment programs validated research based tools such as the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory , which measures each of these seven critical thinking habits of mind and the  California Critical Thinking Skills Test which reports on overall thinking and five components of critical thinking skill. Contact us to discuss your assessment needs.

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Be sure you exercise your thinking skills today.  “A mind stretched by a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Insight Assessment: Cultivate seven positive attributes of a critical thinking mindset: Insight Assessment

Cultivating a Critical Thinking Mindset Part 2.

A strong critical thinking mindset is the product of the interaction of key attributes and mental disciplines.  

Seven measurable critical thinking habits of mind:

Researchers have identified seven measurable aspects within the overall disposition toward critical thinking. Based on this research, we can describe someone who has all seven positive critical thinking habits of mind as a person who is:

  • Truth-seeking—meaning that the person has intellectual integrity and a courageous desire to actively strive for the best possible knowledge in any given situation. A truth-seeker asks probing questions and follows reasons and evidence wherever they lead, even if the results go against his or her cherished beliefs.
  • Open-minded—meaning that the person is tolerant of divergent views and sensitive to the possibility of his or her own possible biases. An open-minded person respects the right of others to have different opinions.
  • Analytical—meaning that the person is habitually alert to potential problems and vigilant in anticipating consequences and trying to foresee short-term and long-term outcomes of events, decisions, and actions. Another word to describe this habit of mind might be “foresightful.”
  • Systematic—meaning that the person consistently endeavors to take an organized and thorough approach to identifying and resolving problems. The systematic person is orderly, focused, persistent, and diligent in his or her approach to problem solving, learning, and inquiry
  • Confident in reasoning—meaning that the person is trustful of his or her own reasoning skills to yield good judgments. A person’s or a group’s confidence in their own critical thinking may or may not be warranted, which is another matter.
  • Inquisitive—meaning that the person habitually strives to be well informed, wants to know how things work, and seeks to learn new things about a wide range of topics, even if the immediate utility of knowing those things is not directly evident. The inquisitive person has a strong sense of intellectual curiosity.
  • Judicious—meaning that the person approaches problems with a sense that some are ill structured and some can have more than one plausible solution. The judicious person has the cognitive maturity to realize that many questions and issues are not black and white and that, at times, judgments must be made in contexts of uncertainty.

Internalizing critical thinking habits of mind

In Cultivating a Critical Thinking Mindset Part 1 you explored your disposition toward critical thinking by using the Critical Thinking Mindset Self-Rating Form. If you described yourself honestly, you have a rough idea if consistently apply critical thinking skills to problems, question, or issue is at hand.  

The good news is that it is possible to strengthen your critical thinking mindset.  Positive critical thinking habits of mind can be nurtured by internalizing the values that they embody and by reaffirming the intention each day to live by those values

  • Be Alert for Opportunities. Each day we should be watch for opportunities to make decisions and solve problems reflectively. Rather than just reacting, take some time each day to be as reflective and thoughtful as possible in addressing at least one of the many problems or decisions of the day.  10 Positive Examples of Critical Thinking.
  • For a thinking process to be successful, it must be done with the habits of mind that have been identified as supporting strength in critical thinking. To learn more, you can find the entire essay Cultivating A Critical Thinking Mindset (Peter A. Facione, Carol A. Gittens and Noreen C. Facione) in the Insight Assessment Resources library.
Critical thinking mindset attributes can be objectively measured.

Many educational and professional programs use Insight Assessment validated research based test instruments such as the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) , which reports on each of the seven critical thinking habits of mind and the  California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) which gives scores on overall thinking and 5 components of thinking skill.

Want to learn more?

Cultivate seven positive attributes of a critical thinking mindset: Insight Assessment

Cultivating a Critical Thinking Mindset Part 1.

Having strong critical thinking skills is only half the equation. You can be skilled at thinking but if you don’t chose to apply those skills to learning and problem solving, the quality of your decisions suffer. Critical thinking mindset attributes lead to the consistent intention to apply critical thinking skills.

Do you have strong thinking habits of mind?

Here’s a self-rating form developed by researchers and authors, Peter A. Facione, Carol A. Gittens and Noreen C. Facione. This measure does not assess critical thinking skills. Instead you are asked to reflect on whether your own behavior over the past two days manifested a positive, ambivalent, or negative tendency toward engaging in thoughtful, reflective, and fair-minded judgments about what to believe or what to do.

Critical Thinking Mindset Self-Rating Form

Answer yes or no to each statement.

Can I name any specific instances over the past two days when I:

  1. was courageous enough to ask tough questions about some of my longest held and most cherished beliefs?
  2. backed away from questions that might undercut some of my longest held and most cherished beliefs?
  3. showed tolerance toward the beliefs, ideas, or opinions of someone with whom I disagreed?
  4. tried to find information to build up my side of an argument but not the other side?
  5. tried to think ahead and anticipate the consequences of various options?
  6. laughed at what other people said and made fun of their beliefs, values, opinion, or points of views?
  7. made a serious effort to be analytical about the foreseeable outcomes of my decisions?
  8. manipulated information to suit my own purposes?
  9. encouraged peers not to dismiss out of hand the opinions and ideas other people offered?
  10. acted with disregard for the possible adverse consequences of my choices?
  11. organized for myself a thoughtfully systematic approach to a question or issue?
  12. jumped in and tried to solve a problem without first thinking about how to approach it?
  13. approached a challenging problem with confidence that I could think it through?
  14. instead of working through a question for myself, took the easy way out and asked someone else for the answer?
  15. read a report, newspaper, or book chapter or watched the world news or a documentary just to learn something new?
  16. put zero effort into learning something new until I saw the immediate utility in doing so?
  17. showed how strong I was by being willing to honestly reconsider a decision?
  18. showed how strong I was by refusing to change my mind?
  19. attended to variations in circumstances, contexts, and situations in coming to a decision?
  20. refused to reconsider my position on an issue in light of differences in context, situations, or circumstances?
  • Give yourself 5 points for every “Yes” on odd numbered items and for every “No” on even numbered items. If your total is 70 or above, you are rating your disposition toward critical thinking over the past two days as generally positive. Scores of 50 or lower indicate a self-rating that is averse or hostile toward critical thinking over the past two days. Scores between 50 and 70 show that you would rate yourself as displaying an ambivalent or mixed overall disposition toward critical thinking over the past two days. 

This article is adapted with permission from  Cultivating A Critical Thinking Mindset (Peter A. Facione, Carol A. Gittens and Noreen C. Facione, Measured Reasons ). More resources, including  Characteristics of Strong Critical Thinkers can be found in the  Insight Assessment Resources library .

Insight Assessment provides validated research based multilingual tools such as the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) , which measures seven critical thinking habits of mind and the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) which gives scores on overall thinking and five components of thinking skill. We are proud of our uniquely comprehensive array of thinking skills and mindset assessments calibrated specifically for educational, professional, business, health care, defense and legal uses.

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