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Top 10 Critical Thinking FAQS

1. Can experts agree on a definition of “critical thinking?”

Yes. And they have. An international panel of more than forty-five experts achieved this consensus:  Critical thinking is the process of purposeful reflective judgment. This process gives reasoned consideration to the relevant evidence, contextual factors, methods of inquiry, standards of knowledge, and concepts in order to decide what to believe or what to do. 

Basically, critical thinking is a process.  Its purpose is to use reasoning to make critically important decisions and to understand and solve problems of all kinds. 

For details, see “Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts.”   Today this consensus conceptualization is used throughout the world across multiple professional fields and academic disciplines.


2. Who benefits from developing strong critical thinking?

Only those who have problems to solve, decisions to make, and a desire to know what is true.  Yes, that would be just about everyone – children and adults, individuals and groups, leaders and followers. 

Think of the word “critical” in the expression “critical thinking” as meaning “important.” 

If any of these reasons are important to you, then you would benefit by strengthening your critical thinking skills and forming the consistent intention to apply those skills:

(a) determining whether you understand situations correctly,

(b) figuring out if you are being deceived or taken advantage of, or

(c) determining what course of action you should take to achieve your goals or solve your problems.


Chalkboard explainingwe should think of the word "critical" in the expression "critical thinking" as meaning" important" - Peter Facione Ph.D

3. What skills are used in thinking critically?

Interpretation, analysis, inference, evaluation, explanation, and self-regulation. 

Interpretation is determining what something means and what is being communicated, using all the textual, contextual, physical, and emotional cues. 

Analysis is determining what the question or problem is by looking at its elements and how they go together.

Inference is determining the consequences of various options, whether those consequences be certain, probable, or only possible.

Evaluation is assessing the credibility of a claim, including the credibility of the source of the claim. Evaluation also includes assessing the strength of inferences, explanations and arguments. 

Explanation is the skill of presenting, in a fair-minded manner, the basis upon which a decision about what to believe or what to do was made.  Explanation includes giving the reasons, describing the evidence, telling why a given approach or method was applied, how a set of standards for success were selected and used. Explanation can include defining key concepts and sharing what factors in the context made a difference.

Self-regulation is evaluating our own thinking and, where appropriate, correcting our own thinking.  To do this we must courageously apply evaluation to our own interpretations, analyses, inferences, and explanations. And, if we find any shortcomings, we must then make necessary corrections. 


4. What about creativity and emotion – are they part of critical thinking?  

Yes.  Both are essential when a human being or group of people is engaged in a serious and sincere effort to reason through the practical question of what to believe or what to do.  It takes creativity, empathy, and emotional sensitivity to interpret people and situations correctly; to confidently analyze with accuracy what the real problem or problems are; to discover and to systematically sort through all of our viable options when addressing a difficulty problem, and to come up with ways to search for and find the evidence needed to decide what to believe or what to do. 

Human thinking is not like machine thinking.  Reason and emotion are linked in the human mind.  Creativity and imagination are as much a part of sound reasoning as are logic, rigor, and maturity of judgment.


Creativity & imagination are as much a part a part of sound reasoning as are logic, rigor and maturity of judgment--Peter Facione, Ph.D

5. “Courageously,” “systematically,” “confidently,” and “maturity of judgment,” suggest that critical thinking is more than just skills.

Correct. Critical thinking is a process which requires strong skills. But, like anything that requires strong skills to achieve success, the human person or team of people engaging in that process must have the motivation to apply their skills to reach their goal. 

Like making music, playing a sport, cooking, or running a business, we need to exercise and strengthen our skills. We must consistently nurture a positive intention to use those skills. Internalized, this mindset toward critical thinking becomes a set of mental habits or disciplines. They drive us to think as well as we are able whenever we have problems to solve, decisions to make, and questions about what to believe and whom to trust.


6. What are critical thinking habits or disciplines of mind?

Truth-seeking is the most important one. Truth-seeking is the courageous and driving desire to follow reasons and evidence wherever they lead, even if doing so calls into question one’s preconceptions or cherished beliefs.  The opposite is bias and intellectual dishonesty. 

Three additional mental disciplines are Open-mindedness, making the effort to approach problems in an organized and systematic manner, and Foresight, meaning trying to anticipate consequences. All are vital for strong critical thinking.

The opposites of these habits of mind would be intolerance or closed-mindedness, disorganized thinking, and indifference with regard to what might happen next. 

Confidence in the use of reasoning is an important habit of mind. People with a positive critical thinking mindset see the application of scientific strategies and the powers of human reasoning as the best way of seeking knowledge and determining what policies and courses of action to pursue.  The opposite would be to be ruled by superstition and ignorance. 

 Inquisitiveness, a driving curiosity that leads us to learn and to grow, is another positive critical thinking habit of mind. 

Maturity of judgment means going deeply enough into problems to get beyond a superficial “black or white” analysis, seeing shades of gray. And, having the maturity to change your mind when the facts show that a change is needed, or holding firm to a well-reasoned judgment even if it is unpopular or difficult.


Share how you think, not just what you think - Peter Facione, Ph.D.

7.  Can we teach critical thinking?

Yes. Three things work at every educational level and across all subjects.

Ask questions that evoke the skills. Ask questions that demand that sound interpretations, careful analyses, solid inferences, accurate evaluations, and thoughtful explanations be made.  Teach critical thinking by asking why.  Insist that the answers are fair-minded and thorough in the ways that they draw on the evidence and express the reasons for those judgements. 

The demands for demonstration of critical thinking increase, naturally, as the educational levels advance.  But there is no level, including pre-school, that is too soon.  And, no level, including post-doctoral research, is is too late to continually strengthen critical thinking.  There is no subject matter or field of study or topic of discussion that cannot be used as the framework for teaching critical thinking. 

Beyond asking questions, demonstrate by your own behavior that you use your critical thinking skills and practice positive habits of mind, like truth-seeking and maturity of judgment. Share how you think, not just what you think. And, third, take the time to coach and mentor strong critical thinking.

8. What about just using experience and intuition?

Intuition and experience are linked. Intuition is nearly instantaneous pattern-recognition that enables us to decide quickly and, for the most part, correctly what to think or do in each situation where we have acquired practical expertise. 

Intuition, in other words, is learned. It is well-trained. It comes through repeatedly applying critical thinking to our experiences, and, over the years, refining each time how we interpret, analyze, evaluate, explain, and infer the proper course of action. Intuition is learning that has been refined by reflection and repetition.

Intuition is learned.. It comes through repeatedly applying our critical thinking to our experiences


9. Are you saying snap judgments cannot be good judgments too?

Snap judgments often are good judgments.  Our minds, unlike machines, have two decision-making engines, or systems for decision making. System 1 is reactive, holistic, quick, instinctive, automatic.  System 2 is reflective, detailed, thoughtful, cerebral, and deliberative. System 1 is as easy as riding a bicycle; System 2 lets us think about a problem at work while we are using System 1 to ride that bicycle. 

Generally, our two systems work reasonably well together. But, as we all have experienced, at times they can push and pull us in opposite directions.  Along with our two decision-making systems, through natural selection our species has inherited decision making shortcuts called “cognitive heuristics.”  The tendency to trust our first affective impressions is one heuristic. It is often right, but it can be wrong. The tendency to divide people into “us vs. them” is an example of one heuristic shortcut we often use to decide who to trust. It can be right in some cases, but it certainly is wrong in others.  The same is true for the other heuristic shortcuts.

When the stakes are high and there is time to consider options, instead of just reacting with a snap System 1 judgment, strong critical thinkers engage in some System 2 reflection before making their decision.


10. Can critical thinking be measured? 

Absolutely.  Today there are valid instruments to reliably assess critical thinking skills and critical thinking habits of mind.  For the information about the best of these visit www.insightassessment.com.

Peter Facione, PhD—Advancing Thinking Worldwide

Facione is the Founder and a Senior Researcher at Insight Assessment, the provider of critical thinking measurement services for more than 30 years.  He has advanced thinking worldwide through creating the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) and INSIGHT Development products used globally in numerous industries as well as academic and government organizations. As a principal at Measured Reasons LLC, a consulting firm supporting excellence in strategic thinking and leadership decision-making, he leads workshops, executive coaching sessions and speaks at conferences and conventions.  A former Provost and Dean, Facione is the author of numerous papers, including “Critical Thinking: What it is and Why It Counts” and coauthor of two books, Think Critically (Pearson, 2016) and Thinking and Reasoning in Human Decision Making (The California Academic Press, 2007).



Group of business students sitting on the grass discussing project

"Harnessing the power of critical thinking is instrumental in the way we will prepare the next generation of leaders, here, at TCU's Neeley School of Business.  Focused, practical inquiry is essential for our students and faculty to work, arm-in-arm, to generate and deploy the insights that will shape the global practice of business.  In this way, we are able to fulfill our promise to unleash human potential with leadership at the core and innovation in our spirit."

Daniel Pullin,

John V. Roach Dean of the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University and

 Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The following is a guest post from Peter A. Facione, Ph.D., after presenting a faculty workshop at the Neeley School of Business, TCU.

Teaching Critical Thinking for Business Majors

The accolades for the Neeley School of Business scroll in images across the home page of their website. No need to dig any deeper than their own promotional messages.  Sometimes, the truth is in the advertising.

The approach of the faculty of the Neeley School of Business is to infuse teaching for critical thinking into all their regular undergraduate and graduate courses.  That is why they invited Insight Assessment to provide a faculty development workshop.

At the workshop, we shared additional techniques and strategies to teach for critical thinking in content-rich business disciplines -- everything from accounting and supply chain management to marketing, MIS, finance, and management.

This year, one of their senior tenured faculty, Professor Robert Rhodes, recognized by the university as Professor of the Year, is introducing what may be the first of its kind critical thinking courses for undergraduate business majors.  He, and his colleagues, hope to introduce a comparable course at the MBA level next year.

In my opinion, this is groundbreaking work. 

A first, certainly, among highly ranked undergraduate and graduate AACSB accredited business programs, if not all business programs. 

The optimal educational model for a professional school is to infuse critical thinking pedagogy in all courses AND to offer all students at least one integrative course explicitly focused on understanding and applying critical thinking in the profession. 

The Neeley School of Business has the prestige, credibility, and confidence in its faculty to be taking a leadership position, nationally, in the development of strong critical thinking skills and positive habits of the mind in all their students. Their curriculum will be the first to teach both ‘for critical thinking’ and ‘about critical thinking’ in business.

The future is now; hand pointed forward in front of a blue cloud

About Peter A. Facione, Ph.D

Dr. Facione is a Co-Founder and a Senior Researcher at Insight Assessment.  He is also a Principal at Measured Reasons LLC, a Los Angeles based firm supporting excellence in organizational consulting.

Assessing Critical Thinking

Many business schools utilize Insight Assessment’s critical thinking tools to evaluate program applicants, learning outcomes, program effectiveness and gather accreditation data. Insight Assessment has published both undergraduate and graduate percentiles in the Business Critical Thinking Skills Test (BCTST) for students enrolled at AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accredited business programs.

This Guest Blog Post by Peter A. Facione, Ph.D., Measured Reasons LLC, is presented as part of Insight Assessment's commitment to advancing critical thinking worldwide.  In it he summarizes his recent keynote speech at the 9th Annual Critical Thinking and Innovative Education Conference in Beijing, China.

This recounting of the 50-year journey to define, teach, and measure critical thinking begins at the end, with assessment.

"Education is nothing more or less, than learning to think" written in English and Chinese

Assessing critical thinking

Empirical data show there are large differences between critical thinking skills even in fairly homogeneous samples, like college students.  The same holds true for the spread of scores on vital critical thinking dispositional attributes, like truth-seeking. 

Educators can gather objective data online using powerful assessment tools like the CCTST, BCTST, HSRT, and CCTDI.   In addition, they can promote critical thinking by incorporating developmental tools such as the Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric.

Learning critical thinking and decision-making

To understand how to teach for critical thinking, we begin by asking how humans learn and how we make decisions in natural contexts. 

The highly formal, top-down, methods of teaching brittle content do not work as methods of teaching for critical thinking.  Critical thinking is developed bottom-up, for reflection on realistic examples and authentic problems. 

Teachers who describe accurately their own thinking process, talking about how they analyze, interpret, explain, and evaluate reflectively, are able to model the positive habits of mind as they demonstrate the skills.  

Teaching critical thinking

To teach for critical thinking, no matter what the subject matter is or the age of the students, effective instructors can be found doing these five things:

  • Creating space during class time for dialogue – demonstrating and eliciting critical thinking;
  • Connecting classroom content to real problems and authentic examples that demand reflective judgment;
  • Making assignments that require critical thinking to earn a high grade.  Using prompts like “analyze, explain, evaluate, interpret, and infer likely outcomes;”
  • Inviting students to evaluate one another’s presentations with the Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric;
  • Giving important examinations which rely more on applying critical thinking and less on memorizing content.

Critical thinking is an active process.  To teach for critical thinking, we must engage students in using critical thinking!

Critical thinking definition from the APA Delphi Consensus Definition


Defining critical thinking

Having shared assessment data and identified effective teaching strategies, the story comes full circle with the Expert Consensus Definition of Critical Thinking which grounds all of our assessment instruments:

Critical thinking is the process of purposeful reflective judgment which manifests itself in reasoned consideration of evidence, context, methods, standards, and conceptualizations in order to decide what to believe or what to do.

Insight Assessment conference participants standing under an arch at the Beijing Foreign Studies Universities

Ariel Yeung and Peter Facione at the 2019 Beijing Critical Thinking Conference

Beijing Conference

Advancing Thinking Worldwide. Peter Facione, PhD is the Founder and Senior Researcher at Insight Assessment, the provider of critical thinking assessments and development programs for more than 30 years.

As a principal at Measured Reasons LLC, a consulting firm supporting excellence in strategic thinking and leadership decision-making, he leads workshops, executive coaching sessions and speaks at conferences and conventions.  

Facione recently spoke at the the 9th Annual Critical Thinking and Innovative Education Conference. Hosted by the Beijing Foreign Studies University, the conference was attended by educators from K-12, graduate and post graduate institutions. During the July 23-24, 2019, conference, there was enthusiastic consensus in the importance of critical thinking. Facione particularly enjoyed the discussions about the role of educators in teaching students how to improve their critical thinking skills.

illuminating lightbulb

Are your employees making good decisions?

Strong critical thinking ability is one of the most needed job skills. 

Business success is based on identifying and supporting people who have the ability to think forward, problem-solve and make good decisions.

Employees with poor thinking skills will not be able to become contributing members of your team. Companies simply cannot afford the costs of employees who lack strong problem-solving and decision-making ability.

10 reasons why business should assess employee thinking skills:

  1. Increase productivity: Assessing thinking is important because strong thinking skills are the most essential job qualification. If employees can’t think well, they won’t be productive.
  2. Reduce costs: Assessing thinking is cheaper than the cost of bad hires or employees who make poor decisions.  Poor thinking costs business money and opportunities for growth.
  3. Prescreen candidates: Assessing thinking helps you identify and build the strongest talent pool.  Save interview time and costs by screening candidates for strength of thinking.
  4. Improve performance: Assessing thinking improves performance and efficiency. Business benefits when good analytical thinking is applied to problem solving and planning.
  5. Target training: Assessing thinking makes strategic professional development possible. Objective assessment data can be used to target identified strengths and weaknesses of individuals, teams and departments.
  6. HR metrics: Assessing thinking provides objective, validated metrics for improvement initiatives.  Employee retention, engagement, training and continuous improvement programs benefit from relevant, reliable data
  7. Performance evaluation: Assessing thinking provides valuable input for employee performance reviews. Gain the ability to recognize employee potential by incorporating objective thinking metrics into the review process.
  8. Competitive edge: Assessing thinking gives you a competitive advantage over other companies who don’t prioritize good thinking. Out-thinking the competition is vital; innovation depends upon strong thinking.
  9. Company Commitment: Assessing thinking demonstrates a corporate commitment to excellent decision-making. Reinforce the advantages of promoting a positive thinking culture at work.  Identify and recognize employees who have winning business mindsets.
  10. Actionable metrics: Assessing thinking with high quality test instruments ensures you get the highest quality actionable individual and group data. Data can be used to develop good thinking throughout your organization.

To sum it up: if you want to grow and maximize competitiveness, you need high quality assessment data analyzing the key problem-solving and decision-making skills of your employees.

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To gain the competitive advantage of critical thinking

INSIGHT assesses the critical thinking skills that pay off in employee growth throughout your organization.

Insight Assessment specializes in objective, user-friendly, validated measurements of critical thinking skills and mindset attributes.  Comprehensive INSIGHT Business Professional individual reports include metrics on test taker strengths and weaknesses in the 15 essential elements of thinking skills and mindset. Individual and group reports are used worldwide for hiring, talent development, training and program evaluation. Flexible test administration is available 24/7.

Strong thinkers deliver results.    Contact us. We're ready to demonstrate how easy it is to get the benefits of assessing thinking with INSIGHT.

Why should I choose Insight Assessment solutions?

Follow our blog, Thinking INSIGHT, for resources and further discussion of the measurement of thinking skills and mindset.

Smiling young man shakes hands at the end of an interview

Your time is too valuable to interview candidates who lack needed skills

Thriving business must build thinking workplaces that keep pace with the needs of innovation and changing customer demands. They do this by hiring employees with strong critical thinking mindset and decision-making skills.

Often, it’s up to the interviewer to elicit and analyze information about the candidate’s critical thinking abilities.  This creates a need to embed some aspect of a critical thinking assessment into the interview process. They have to understand how the candidate approaches engaging important issues and problems with their critical thinking skills.

The one key interview question to elicit candidate’s thinking skills:

“Would you please explain how you use critical thinking in relevant situations?” 

Smart interviewers look for candidates who can answer this question. But the actual interview prompt has several formats. The wording depends on the decision responsibility level of the position.

For positions in senior leadership and c-suite who have ultimate decision responsibility:

“We would like you to talk a bit about your problem-solving style and strategies. Use some examples you can share from your previous positions.”

For positions in mid-level management who have strong decision responsibility:

"Would you share a recent work experience when you made a key decision or resolved an important problem?  Tell us how you reasoned it through.”

For positions in staff or support that require reliable problem identification and adherence to established practices and protocols:

“We’d like you to talk about a recent situation at work when you needed to make a careful decision about what to do next.  What happened as a result?”

Woman in white shirt interviewing a nurse dressed in blue scrubs

How to analyze responses to critical thinking interview questions

Even with a well-designed question, challenges always arise when evaluating responses. The interviewer will need some practice in evaluating the candidate’s response. The key thing is to focus on the reasoning process.

We all know what a stellar performance will sound like, and what a non-thinking response is like. The problem arises when the candidate’s response is underdeveloped or ambiguous. 

After you ask the key interview question, the task of the interviewer is to listen for the description of how the candidate uses their critical thinking skills.

These following questions are provided as suggestions for those who want to embed some aspect of a critical thinking assessment into their company interview process.

What did the candidate say?

  • Did the candidate describe how they identify the important issue/problem (why they know it is a problem)? A strong critical thinker wants their listener to understand the problem.
  • Did the candidate talk about what they see as their possible options and how they determined the best option?
  • Did the candidate discuss the need to balance remaining uncertainty with the need to make a timely judgment? Really difficult problems usually involve time considerations.
  • Did the candidate mention key details that supported their judgments so they could be evaluated by others as well-reasoned? 
  • Did the candidate describe how the issue will be followed going forward (contingency planning)? Or whether there is an expectation of evaluating the actions taken?

Benefits of prescreening for critical thinking

Interviewing is an extremely complex process. Critical thinking is not the only factor being evaluated.

We strongly recommend obtaining a pre-interview assessment of the candidate’s critical thinking skills. Then use the insights provided by individual assessment profile to guide the candidate interview.

Before you interview, you should prescreen candidates for strength in five key skills:

  • Problem analysis
  • Evaluating alternatives
  • Precise contexts
  • Ambiguous contexts
  • Quantitative contexts

This prescreening data can guide your discussions of their approach to engaging important issues and problems with their critical thinking.

Reliable, objective critical thinking data for hiring decisions

Strong critical thinking skills are the basis of strong and potentially innovative solutions. Employees who can quickly and accurately identify significant problems and make well-reasoned decisions are essential.

INSIGHT offers proven assessment tools that provide validated data to be considered in your hiring decisions.  Strengths and weaknesses of skills and mindset attributes are analyzed and reported.  Objective metrics on 15 core components of strong thinking are included.  We specialize in online thinking skills and mindset assessments calibrated for educational, professional, business, health care, defense and legal uses. Our assessment and training tools are used worldwide.  They can be easily integrated into your prescreening and hiring processes.

Your time is too valuable to waste interviewing candidates who don’t have the skills to expand your business.

Call or contact us today.


Smiling young woman wearing a green sweater interviews an older woman job candidate

Human Resource departments must consider critical thinking mindset  

Strong critical thinking skills result in employees who can identify significant problems, make well-reasoned decisions, and develop innovative solutions. The challenge is to know which candidates have the ability and motivation to think well. Critical thinking skills, however, are only half of the equation.

Effective leaders and problem solvers bring key attributes like commitment, focus, tolerance and resourcefulness to every interaction where decision responsibility is involved. Critical thinking mindset matters.

Examples of why employee mindset matters

Employers want practiced learners who are independently motivated to seek innovative ways to improve processes.

Employers want developers who will ask tough questions, investigators who will probe deeply for a full explanation, and decision-makers who will strive to anticipate the consequences of the various options.  

Employers want people who can remain open to other people’s points of view, who are systematic and thorough, and who will not rest until important problems are resolved.

Employers need leaders who continue to evaluate an emerging situation, and who can adjust their directives as new key information emerges.

All of these attributes are examples of the critical thinking mindset.

Evaluating responses to thinking mindset interview questions

It is not easy to evaluate mindset in an interview.

Even for the skilled interviewer, questions that will display the candidate’s thinking mindset can be tricky.  We want to know if our candidate will approach decision-making honorably, open-mindedly, systematically.  Will they be motivated, honest, flexible, resourceful…etc. as they analyze problems, make decisions, and create work expectations for themselves and their peers? 

Interviewers must first provide question prompts that turn the interview to mindset attributes. They then must be able evaluate the meaning and impact of the responses.

Image of two hands. One hand holds a ball with Question written on it; the other holds a ball with Answer written on it.

Three examples of thinking mindset interview questions:

These questions are provided as suggestions for those who want to embed some aspect of a critical thinking assessment into their company interview process

Question 1 focuses on the mindset attribute: FORESIGHT

 “Would you describe yourself as someone who thinks ahead and anticipates consequences?”

  • This question has uncertain results.
  • Ideally our candidate will say “Yes” and go on to provide examples of how they have exhibited foresight.
  • But if the answer is a simple “Yes,” not much has been learned, because this preferred response is too easily anticipated.
  • If the answer to this question is “No,” many would be inclined to terminate the interview.


 “When you see a problem situation, are you likely to jump in and try to solve the problem?”

  • This is another Yes/No example with a more holistic focus on being willing to problem solve:
  • In this case, “Yes” is wildly better than “No,” because we are at least learning that the candidate sees themselves as a problem-solver.
  • But we will not know whether they will approach the problem systematically, and with the need to understand it well before taking action.

Question 3 focuses on whether a candidate is OPEN-MINDED, COLLABORATIVE or TOLERANT.

“What has been your experience in working with others who may not share your perspective on an important issue?”

This question is likely to draw out a lengthy response. The interviewer needs to be planful in terms of how the response will be evaluated for evidence of the desired attribute. For example, it may work to listen for one of these themes to classify the response:

  • I work hard to listen to what the other person is saying so we can work together (desired response);
  • People usually end up agreeing with me;
  • I don’t waste time trying to collaborate;
  • Other.

Goal of critical thinking mindset interview questions

The goal of these questions is to elicit (1) information about some of the candidate’s critical thinking mindset attributes, as well as (2) a description of their approach to engaging important issues and problems with their critical thinking skills.

Given all the goals of the interview process, a comprehensive evaluation of a candidates critical thinking skills and mindset cannot be achieved unless a series of interviews are envisioned. 

Benefits of prescreening candidate critical thinking

One extremely successful hiring practice is to obtain a pre-interview assessment of the candidate’s critical thinking skills and mindset.  The individual profile provides valuable objective data that can be used to guide the candidate interview. You should only interview, hire and promote the best thinkers in the pool.

Get the reliable, objective critical thinking data needed for hiring decisions

It is possible to identify employees with essential job-related thinking skills and the mindset to succeed in your company. You can make data driven decisions

INSIGHT offers proven assessment tools that provide validated data to be considered in your hiring decisions.  Strengths and weaknesses of skills and mindset attributes are analyzed and reported.  Objective metrics on 15 core components of strong thinking are included.  We offer online thinking skills and mindset assessments specifically calibrated for use in numerous industries. Our assessment and training tools are used worldwide.  They can be easily integrated into your hiring processes.        

 Contact us today. We can get you started right away.


Basket ball hoop against blue sky

Critical thinking: Are you born with it or can you learn it?

Leaders in business and the armed services frequently ask, is critical thinking something we are born with or is it something that can be taught and learned? That question reminds me of basketball. I'll tell why in a moment.

Children can develop critical thinking everyday

But first, you have to agree that we all can see some evidence in children, including preschoolers, of the development of critical thinking when they engage in their everyday problem solving and decision making. We notice that they are quick to learn which strategies work and which do not in various contexts and with various people. We adults may not approve of some of the strategies they use. And they learn that too.

There is no doubt that childhood is the time when critical thinking abilities and mental attributes begin to emerge. We see in children the ability to draw simple "if-then" conclusions, to evaluate choices, and to interpret what others are saying and feeling. We see attributes emerging, like persistence, inquisitiveness, and the development of a rudimentary sense that the child can figure things out if they just try a little harder - an attribute we call "confidence in reasoning."

Guiding children toward stronger critical thinking

Strong thinkers use these K-8 Critical Thinking Skills = to analyze, interpret, evaluate, explain, reflect, conclude

Critical thinking can take some big leaps forward in children if their parents and other adults guide them toward trying to solve their problems and to make decisions more thoughtfully. Teaching the how and why of things. Critical thinking can grow when children realize that they have to figure out how to cope for themselves with the everyday problems - skinned knees, boredom, bullies, and getting everyone to agree on the rules of whatever game they want to play. Some of those things may not seem like much to busy adults, but they are important to the kids -- learning how to navigate childhood social interactions with ever more success both demands and develops critical thinking. That's why doing everything for our kids is not an optimal parenting approach - we need to teach them to solve their own problems, which cannot be achieved if we take all their problems from them. Of course, formal schooling can help in the development of critical thinking if the teachers focus on how to analyze, to apply relevant criteria when making an evaluation, and how to explain our points of view using sound reasons and solid evidence.

Basket ball with child under the hoop

Suppressing critical thinking

K-8 Critical Thinking Habits of Mind: curious, creative, engaged organized, fair-minded and focused

All three influences - parents / playground / classroom -- can be negative as well as positive in some situations. Some adult interactions suppress critical thinking, for example when adults always refuse to give reasons or consistently belittle and stifle a child's "Why?" questions. Some playground experiences reinforce more reactive and socially unacceptable responses than thoughtful ones - for example if a child learns that some version of "getting angry and tipping over the checkerboard" is a way to consistently avoid losing. And some methods of formal instruction -- especially those that are based only on memorization, authority, and blind acceptance of dogma -- suppress the natural tendencies we humans have to want to know the why and how of things and not just the what.

The hoops analogy:

Basketball is a game I like to coach and to play. Most of us can improve our shooting if we practice. Our shooting will deteriorate when we lay off too long. Whatever our skill level, decisions about how to compete more effectively are better if we reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition. This enables us to make tactical adjustments in real time, and is often more effective than simply running our standard offense and defense even if they are not working. That is why age and guile often overcome youth and strength in pick-up games worldwide.

Pushing the analogy - a good coach can get the best out of each player individually and out of the team as whole. Everyone can improve their hoops skills. Yes, as all of us who love the game know, 99.999% of us will never be a Magic Johnson, a Lebron James, or a Michael Jordan. Nature sets broad limits, an upper and a lower. What we do within those limits is the reflecting-teaching-learning-and-practice part.

That's true for hoops and for critical thinking.

Nature vs. nurture is a false dichotomy. It's both.

 Dr. Peter A  (Pete) Facione is a Senior Researcher at Insight Assessment and a principal at Measured Reasons LLC , a Los Angeles based research and consulting firm supporting excellence in strategic thinking and leadership decision making.

Nurse Smiling

An investment in increasing the quality of patient care

The effectiveness of nurses depends upon the power of their decision making skills and thinking mindset characteristics.

In hospitals, clinics and office settings, nurses must deal with complex data. They must have the capacity to best utilize it for patient health. When your employees are good thinkers, they make better decisions, fewer errors and are more productive. 

With challenging nurse-to-patient ratios, enhancing high quality thinking skills and motivation provides an excellent ROI.

Woman in white shirt interviewing a nurse dressed in blue scrubs

5 tactics to improve critical thinking skills and mindset 

Make the best use of your efforts and available budget. INSIGHT Health gives you the optics to:

1.  Select current talent with growth potential and plan how to develop them.

2.  Set goals to develop strong thinkers.

  • They are able to make decisions in fast-paced medical environments with fewer mistakes. Strong thinkers strike the careful balance of being in alignment with operational policies and driving innovation.

3.  Assess the status quo, then set up training to attain your goals for better decision making.

  • Once you know your nursing staff’s thinking and reasoning skills, match your goals to training programs that focus on developing the core strengths.

4.  Develop the critical thinking mindset that motivates your top performing nurses.

  • Staff improvement is easier when you start with engaged thinkers.

5.  Evaluate the critical thinking skills and mindset that you have and hire for those you don’t.

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Get the results you need to improve

Insight Assessment consultants have been conducting training and development workshops for decades to advance critical thinking ability for our clients in nursing. Look to INSIGHT solutions to provide the data you’ll need for your hiring, onboarding and continuous improvement plans.

Contact Insight Assessment today.

Dental students observing dentist working on patient

Training critical thinking skills is required for academic and clinical success

For decades, health science educators have been working hard to train critical thinking in students and practicing clinicians. Academic and clinical success are directly related to critical thinking skills and mindset.

The challenge is to admit students who will (1) succeed in their training and licensure examinations, and (2) transition well to jobs that immediately demand strength in problem analysis and decision making.

Many clinical specialty programs receive an extraordinary number of applicants for a limited number of training seats.  The effort to provide thinking clinicians starts at the time of admission. Educating physical therapists, nurses, pharmacists, physicians, and all other clinical specialists requires years of course work as well as extensive clinical practice hours.

The power of critical thinking assessment data

Researchers have been studying the power of critical thinking scores at admission to predict clinical ratings, degree completion and licensure rates.  

Studies in Dentistry, Family Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Audiology, Midwifery, Psychology, Dental Hygiene and others have demonstrated the added value of including a critical thinking assessment as a part of the admission protocol.  Additional investigations are underway for Physician Assistants, Respiratory Therapists, Dieticians, and other specialties. See Admissions, Retention and Licensure for short descriptions of these peer-reviewed, independent research studies using HSRT, CCTST and  CCTDI.

Nursing student in front of nursing simulation mannequin

Evaluating effectiveness of critical thinking training techniques

Specific training techniques have been closely studied for their effectiveness in building critical thinking skills and a thinking mindset.

Significant gains in critical thinking have been related to problem-based learning strategies, the use of patient simulators, cased-based seminars, concept-mapping strategies, experiential learning programs, peer questioning techniques, and reflective writing exercises. Citations and summaries of these investigations can be found on this Training Techniques link.

Comparing admissions and exit scores over time

Following student cohorts over time and collecting a second or third measure of critical thinking skills and mindset at program completion has informed many educational researchers about

  • which particular skills and mindset attributes are commonly seen in admissions cohorts,
  • which skills and mindset attributes are improved in relation to particular training techniques,
  • which skills require attention in curriculum building.

Exit scores provide a baseline comparison when new curriculum is introduced.

Improving thinking requires explicit instruction

One claim is no longer in question: assuring and improving students' critical thinking skills cannot be a matter of implicit expectation.

This is the conclusion Philip Abrami and colleagues who conducted of a meta-study examining 117 published studies comprising 20,698 participants, all documenting the importance of explicitly training critical thinking. The cases improve, that the controls either don’t show improved skills or they improve less. They advise that educators must also make learning objectives clear to students and provide pre-service and in-service training for educators to help them become increasing effective as trainers of critical thinking.

If you would like to read more about these studies, click on the links above, and also on this collection of study summaries on Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Smiling nurse graduate wearing stethoscope

Critical thinking as predictive indicator

International collaborations to create valid and reliable language translations of Insight Assessment test instruments now support a global research effort. Peer-reviewed studies from Hong Kong, Australia, Peoples Republic of China, Ireland, Canada, UAE, Turkey, Australia, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Japan, The Netherlands, Malaysia, USA and many other areas have demonstrated the predictive power of critical thinking skills scores as indicators of an accomplished health science student and practicing clinician.

In summary, Dr. John Eigenauer, reminds us that measurable gains in critical thinking are obtainable by implementing proven methods and best practices, which always include explicit instruction in critical thinking.

Our thanks to all of you educators and scientists who are who are providing evidence of the improvement of health science education internationally through the use of our critical thinking assessments and training programs.

Contact us today to learn how health science programs are using Insight Assessment powerful, nationally benchmarked assessment tools as part of their undergraduate and graduate student admissions process.

A guest post by Peter A Facione, Measured Reasons LLC.- updated March 6, 2019

How Can We Develop Critical Thinking in Our Organizations?

This is a question I hear a lot from business leaders, military personnel, and educators.  The good news: we know how to improve critical thinking.  And, we can measure the gains.

To learn what works, Philip Abrami and colleagues reviewed 341 publications documenting experimental and quasi-experimental studies using standardized measures of critical thinking. 

If you want to see the research yourself, check out “Strategies for Teaching Students to Think Critically: A Meta-Analysis,” Abrami, P. et. al, Review of Educational Research, June 2015, Vol. 85, No. 2, pp. 275–314.

Row of books with spine down on the shelf

What are the Best Approaches for Teaching Critical Thinking? 

“[That] there are effective strategies for teaching critical thinking at all educational levels and across all disciplinary areas.  Notably, the opportunity for dialogue, exposure to authentic or situated problems and examples, and mentoring had positive effects on critical thinking skills.” 

This means that the organization itself, including the trainers, mid-level managers, and top-level leaders, need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  The organizational culture must encourage the kinds of “why” questions that require managers, employees, and leaders to explain their reasons and state their evidence, not spout rote answers.  

The magic here is in the doing. 

An organization does not need to spend millions and millions of dollars on glitzy technology. The organization needs, instead, to infuse some critical thinking into account in hiring, it needs to train its people to use some easily applied critical thinking development techniques in its educational programs and, just as important, it needs to infuse thoughtful critical thinking questions and practices into its deliberative processes. 

Yes, critical thinking is reflective.  Yes, it takes time for an individual or a group to think well about a problem or a decision.  Shooting from the hip is not critical thinking.  Going with our gut is not critical thinking.  Bluff and bluster are not critical thinking strategies. 

Knowledge, Experience and Critical Thinking

For many years I worked with combat veteran senior enlisted Special Ops E9 personnel.  We quickly recognized the important difference between “excellent training to react instinctively in a fire fight” and “critical thinking for when there was time to problem-solve and plan.” Both are vital. Repeat, both.

Critical thinking cannot substitute for knowledge.  It cannot substitute for the expertise developed by years of thoughtful practice. To diagnose situations well and to figure out what course of action is best, experts at the top of their game use all three:  knowledge, thoughtful practice, and, critical thinking.   

To learn more download “Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts.”

The go to organization for tools to develop and to assess critical thinking is Insight Assessment .

Peter Facione, Ph.D. Founder of Insight Assessment

Peter A. Facione, Ph.D.has led the quest to demonstrate empirically that a consensus understanding of critical thinking could be attained. And, that the core cognitive skills and centrally important dispositional habits of mind of critical thinking could be learned, taught, and assessed.  Dr. Peter A  (Pete) Facione is a Senior Researcher at Insight Assessment and  a principal at Measured Reasons LLC , a Los Angeles based research and consulting firm supporting excellence in strategic thinking and leadership decision making.

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