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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).



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.

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

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.


“But, is it really ethical to be teaching young people to think for themselves?”

We all were taken aback when someone at the community forum asked that question. Then the responses started rolling out from everyone else in the room. “Yes!” “By all means!”  “Of course, it is!” 

The springboard for the question was the Washington Post Opinion by Kareem Abdul Jabbar talking about critical thinking in K-12 schools.  His point was that our democracy will flounder if the national discourse is muddled by intentional misinformation, misdirection, and misrepresentation. He worried that too many of us get our “news” from social media and entertainment networks, instead of from sources that emphasize well-informed, responsible, even-handed, and fair-minded journalism.

Without the ability to have sensible, respectful, informed, and productive national conversations we should expect that our pluralistic democracy will fail. And the only way to cultivate that ability is to teach critical thinking from childhood and at every opportunity thereafter. For children especially, fostering the habits of mind may be even more important than drilling the skills.  

Learning happens best in a classroom culture that emphasizes being curious, focused, creative, fair-minded, organized, and engaged. 

Think about it.  Imagine the opposite.  Imagine a teacher that does not model those habits of mind and that does not cultivate them in the classroom. What can we the learners achieve in the negativity of that environment?

Misinterpretations and unrealistic expectations are unhelpful.

Teaching for critical thinking does not require that we should all agree.  There must always be room for reasonable people to disagree about policies and approaches.  But when we have well-established facts, we should use them as a basis for a shared understanding of the nature of our problems and the potential for our solutions. 

There will always be emotionally traumatizing catastrophes that challenge our ability to step back and take a reasoned, focused, and organized approach.  But that only means that we need to work harder to prepare ourselves for those kinds of difficulties. The mental discipline to keep our wits about ourselves can only improve our chances of successfully responding, particularly in moments of crisis.

There will always people who take an over-simplified, us-vs-them, circle-the-wagons, tribal approach. There will always be people, unaware of shades of gray, who cannot get past their naïve black-or-white interpretations and evaluations. There will always be people who seek personal advantage by politicize everything.

But, that does not mean that professional educators are off the hook.  The opposite:

The ethical duty of the professional educator is to foster cognitive growth, to help learners achieve a measure of wisdom in how they respond to problems, in how they interpret situations, and how they balanced their own interests and the interest of the common good. 

Perhaps the question in the community forum should have been:

 “How would it ever be ethical not to teach for critical thinking?”


Professional educators, including industry trainers, who may be interested in tools to enhance their own critical thinking skills and habits of mind may wish to suggest that their employers consider utilizing Insight Development Program . This online program integrates proven instructional modules with a valid assessment of thinking mindset attributes and reasoning skills. Insight Assessment also offers a comprehensive array of test instruments for education, business, health science, K-12 and law uses.

Trash Can of unreliable information- propaganda, boasts, bias, propaganca & baseless opinion

Truth-seeking is vital.

We need our health care providers to be truth-seekers, following our changing health status to be sure therapies are really working, and changing our treatment plans when they don’t deliver the benefits they promise. We need our teachers to be truth-seekers so that they can provide the most up to date information and training. We need our leaders to be truth-seeking so that they will study significant problems thoroughly, and act to resolve them in a timely way.

Which new ideas are true?

The number of new ideas a person hears in a single day is rapidly increasing. The upside is that we can learn more! The downside is determining which of these ideas can be trusted to be reliable information versus baseless opinion or propaganda.

Truth-seekers would prefer to know the most up to date knowledge in any given situation, even if that knowledge conflicts with their current point of view. Notice that we are using the word “truth” to mean ideas that have been evaluated in light of all available evidence. We are not referring to ideas that are proposed or believed, those ideas we would call “beliefs” or “opinions.” When the stakes are high, decisions need to be based on ideas that have been evaluated as true based on available evidence.

As a truth-seeker, you have definitely had the experience of changing your mind about some important issue when you discovered new relevant information. Truth-seekers courageously follow reasons and evidence where-ever they lead. When necessary, they reformulate their point of view, incorporating their new knowledge. They see this behavior as a strength. Refusing to change their mind, stubbornly holding on to some prior belief, would not be honorable. As a truth-seeker, you know that this can be difficult. It means you might find yourself in conflict with people who prefer beliefs that offer them some personal benefit. Nobody said honesty comes easily.

Truth-seeking is a habit of mind. New ideas and bold proclamations are not automatically true. They are ideas and proclamations that need to be evaluated in light of all available evidence. Humans have a long history of collaborating together to develop new knowledge. Truth-seekers know that other truth-seekers will have their backs.  

Fact-based wishful thinking never gets the job done.  Strong critical thinkers decide what to believe and what to do using the best knowledge they can acquire by being vigilant and brave truth-seekers.   

  • Strong critical thinkers are truth-seeking, open-minded, analytical, systematic, confident in reasoning, inquisitive and  judicious

These seven key mindset attributes are measurable. The  California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) reports on strengths and weaknesses in these thinking habits of mind. 

Contact us to learn more about the ways many educational and professional programs use Insight Assessment validated research-based test instruments to assess and develop critical thinking skills and mindset attributes.


Bulldog Artedelgatto

This is a guest post by Peter A Facione, Measured Reasons LLC.

Posing as a Midwestern housewife and using thousands of other fake accounts on Twitter and facebook, lying Russian meddlers reached 126 million Americans during the 2016 election. 

These days all of us need to defend ourselves against blizzards of false information.  We cannot permit our democracy to be buried under our own gullibility. After all, if we didn’t believe the fake news messages, we would not have re-tweeted them. Right?

So, step number one on the road to civic health is for all of us to acknowledge our problem: When we see something in the news that supports our point of view, we “like” it and, without taking sufficient precautions, we pass it along to our friends like a bad cold.

Our problem is double edged. We are drawn to agree with messages that support our point of view, and we prefer to shrug off information that disagrees with our point of view.  How easy it is now for us to sympathize with poor old Galileo. Remember when he said, “But friends and esteemed leaders, there is evidence showing that the Earth is not the center of the Universe.”  Which, of course, caused his friends to double over in laughter at his foolish denial of the “common sense” of their day; and which lead the powers that were to threaten, “Retract what you said or go to Jail.  …  Your choice.”     

Human nature has not changed much in the centuries since, at least not in our response to messages that contradict our current version of “common sense,” or that threaten to undercut the orthodoxy of the powers that be.  We do not like to be wrong!  We do not like it when people disagree with our point of view!  And we hate it when the facts get in the way of our ambitions. 

But none of us has the time or the money (except maybe the idle super rich) to check out every story we see in the media and every message that our friends retweet or post to us.  Life is complex, we are busy. What is a person to do?  

Apply the “Credibility Test”: If the source is not credible, it probably is fake news.

By using our natural critical thinking skills, every one of us can apply the Credibility Test. It is easy.  We only need to ask a few simple Yes-No questions. Every “No” answer is a warning that the source is pedaling fake news.   

1.  Is the source an expert on the topic? 

  • If not, be skeptical. When Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about the acceleration of the expansion of our Universe, I trust what he is saying.  Expertise counts! If my neighbor, a former LA Top-40 radio DJ were to tell me the same thing, I would not take his word for it.  I like the guy, but he is no astrophysicist.  Science is still science, even if people who harbor their contrary “heartfelt beliefs” do not like what the genuine experts have to say.

2.  Is the source relying on firsthand experience? 

  • If not, be skeptical. I trust what Chris Collingsworth says about professional football because I know that he played the game successfully as a professional for years.  But I do not trust what my brother Roger says about football at any level.  Sorry, Rog, you never played a single down.

 3.  Is the source speaking on the right topic?  

  • If the person is out of their element, be skeptical.  Don’t go to Chris Collingsworth for astrophysics information, and don’t go ask Neil deGrasse Tyson for advice about play calling in football.   Experts are experts only when they are on topic.  Which means, don’t buy a car because you like the movie star who is sitting behind the wheel in the TV commercial.

 4.  Is the source’s knowledge up-to-date?  

  • If not, be skeptical. A friend of mine told me that it was safer to stand still than to run during a lightning storm. I asked where the person heard that. She said back in elementary school.  But, when we looked it up, the latest science does not support that advice.  Turns out that the positrons in the Earth are drawn up toward the negatively charged electrons moving down from the storm.  The electrons jump to the closest Earth-bound thing where they can reach the positrons. Boom! Lightning! Don’t climb on top of the roof in a lightning storm or you might become the best target for the bolt, whether you are running around up there or standing still.

5.  Can the source explain the basis for their claim?  

  • If the person cannot, be skeptical.  As a rule, only trust those who can explain the reasons why their opinion is right. Don’t trust people whose only answer is “Trust me, I know.” One reason why people who had to work hard in school became some of the best teachers is because they know from personal experience how to help people learn.  One of the reasons that the greatest athletes often make terrible coaches is because they did not have to be students of the game to experience their success.  And, so, they often cannot explain the how and the why of what they want their players to do.   

 6.  Is the source truthful? 

  • If the person is a known liar, be skeptical. Seems obvious, right? Yet, we catch people lying to us about this or that, and yet we still believe them the next time they tell us something.  A person has a history of violating contracts, and yet we believe them when they tell us that they will keep their promise to us.  A person has a history of throwing others under the bus, and yet we think that we are the one person to whom they will remain loyal.  Who’s the idiot in that scenario?  The circus huckster, or us?  As politicians know, it can be tempting to tell one audience one thing and another audience another thing. Especially if we expect that neither audience is going to know what we said to the other.  Don’t trust people who will tell any lie to gain power, to be loved, to avoid rejection, to close a deal, to get their way.

 7.  Is the source unbiased? 

  • If the person is biased, be skeptical. Biases are lies we tell ourselves about other groups of people.  Like that all 70-year-old White guys are Republicans, or that all Christians are charitable. Be skeptical of opinions based on stereotypes. Just because it was a White guy who opened fire on concertgoers in Las Vegas, or blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma, or killed nine people in a movie theater in Colorado, or attacked first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary, or gunned down 26 church goers in Texas does not mean all White guys are terrorists. 

8.  Is the source free of conflicts of interest?

  • If the person is compromising your interests to advance their own, be very skeptical. Learn to ask, “What’s in it for you?” It is one thing for a person accused of a crime to plead not guilty, it is another for us to believe him. That’s why we have the trial. How many famous people have we seen one day denying wrongdoing only to learn soon after that those tweets and press releases were just propaganda?  I expect my real estate agent, my lawyer, my banker, my mentor, and my friends to give me advice that is in my interest, not theirs. After all, they are supposed to be helping me, not using me to promote their own agendas. If your “news” broadcasts are meant to expand your ratings, gain higher revenue for commercial time, and benefit your stockholders, then you are a fake news entertainment outlet, fun to watch but foolish to believe.

9.  Is the source speaking freely? 

  • If the person is under duress, be skeptical.We have all seen the ISIS videos of captives being forced to “confess” while someone holds a knife to their neck. We all know to be skeptical of whatever that prisoner says.  The person is saying what they are forced to be saying.  Same if the person speaking is drugged, or if their loved one is being held for ransom, or if they are emotionally distraught, or deranged by starvation or disease.  Although it is a less extreme situation, we need to include under this heading the case of a person who is constrained by a legal agreement.  If you signed a non-disclosure agreement with your former employer, your contractual obligations may prevent you from providing us with all you know about a topic.

10.   Is the source mentally stable? 

  • If not, be skeptical. Sadly, we all have been drawn in by stories told to us by people whom we love but who are, unfortunately, mentally unstable. We want to help the person, we may even be torn by guilt if we do not take action.  But, when we do so, we discover that the facts are not as they were presented, and that the real story is not as we first heard it.  Was the person deliberately trying to manipulate us, or did the person really believe what they were saying?  Who’s to know.  But, as a rule of thumb, if you know your relative is a nut case, be skeptical.

If there is one theme running through these ten guidelines, it is this: Be skeptical. Apply your critical thinking skills to test the credibility of the source of the news you see or hear.

Instead of gulping fake news like a trained seal swallowing a mackerel, we all can demand full explanations, reasons, and evidence. We all can be suspicious of messages that come to us from people with something to gain by deceiving us.

And, finally, as a favor to one another, and to strengthen our democracy, we all can check the credibility of the source before we pass along something we heard at work or saw on our social media feed or the Internet.

About the author:  Peter A. Facione, PhD, is recognized internationally as an expert in critical thinking. In this essay he is speaking on that topic, based on decades of experience teaching and researching it. He can explain the basis for each of the ten recommendations in more detail, if asked.  He is speaking truthfully, he is not biased about critical thinking or the many benefits it offers to everyone. Although he holds the copyright, he offers this essay for free distribution to anyone who wishes to download a copy.  When he wrote this essay, he was not under duress and he was of sound mind. 

To download a pdf version of this blog post

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Fall is a busy time for our clients. They are deep into planning and implementing fall critical thinking assessment programs—or wrapping up spring assessment projects, mining their data. Researchers are writing up their results for publication, grants or doctoral proposals. Some clients are looking to optimize their ongoing assessment data management. Project leaders are using data to target the improvement of skills needing improvement.

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Insight Assessment offers practical resources for teaching and training good thinking

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Feel free to download and use these teaching and training tools in your work to promote improved thinking in students and adults:

  1. Critical Thinking: What it is and Why it Counts PDF: The most recent version of Dr. Peter Facione’s essay, explores the meaning and importance of critical thinking in all aspects of life and work.
  2. Characteristics of Strong Critical Thinkers: Based on the APA Expert Consensus Delphi Report description of strong critical thinkers.
  3. Cultivating a Critical Thinking Mindset PDF : Essay suggests specific practices people can do to develop strong critical thinking habits of mind
  4. Ten Positive Examples of Critical Thinking :  10 opportunities in daily life to engage problems and decisions using strong thinking skills and mindset
  5. 18 Ways Strong Thinking Skills are Applied in Business
  6. Effective Techniques for Building Reasoning Skills : ways to engage students & trainees in successful skills development and to reinforce a positive thinking mindset
  7. Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric: A rating measure that can be used to assess observable critical thinking demonstrated by presentations, essays, projects etc
  8. Sample Critical Thinking Questions: Examples that illustrate the types of situations which might appear on a generic adult level reasoning skills test

Be sure to check out the rest of the free Resources on the Insight Assessment website. We make these teaching, training and learning tools available as part of our commitment to supporting the measurement and improvement of good thinking worldwide.

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Don't Even Think About It

At the root of every study of human reasoning and decision making is the question: How can we make people more skilled in critical thinking and more committed to those skills? 

  • Every leader, every health care provider, every business executive, every educator, every coach, every organizer, every first responder, every scientist, every security officer, every person trying to learn something, solves problems or figures out how things work needs critical thinking.  Some people are more skilled, others less so.  Some are more persistent, well-organized, analytical, mature, inquisitive, and truth-seeking in their approach.  Others less so. 

Researchers are focusing more and more attention on effective methods for developing a sustained willingness and ability to engage problems and concerns using critical thinking.

Here are just a few ways that emphasis is expressed in different research projects:

  • How can we develop an increasingly capable human workforce to address the economic needs of the future?
  • Which critical thinking skills and habits of mind are most closely related to personal decisions about healthy eating?
  • How do programs at different educational levels or in different content domains such as robotics, science, mathematics, the creative arts, or the humanities impact the development of critical thinking?
  • What mindset characteristics make some health care providers better diagnosticians? 
  • How can we develop the critical thinking skills of fifth graders in a science magnet program? 
  • What mindset characteristics and thinking skills are needed to lead highly technical business initiatives?
  • Why do people often prefer to avoid a problem, even when they know they will suffer if no solution is found?
  • How can we use critical thinking test scores to empower and encourage more female and minority children to go into STEM programs?
  • How can we train emergency first responders to identify and solve new problems creatively and safely, using well-reasoned approaches?
  • What sort of training best prepares someone to come forward as a reliable and effective problem solver in dangerous, time-limited situations?
  • What is the relationship between people’s confidence in their critical thinking skills and their actual critical thinking skills?  Is the difference, if any, less or more depending on factors such as sex, age, professional field, educational level, discipline, work experience?
  • How can we resist the temptation to ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ instead of being more thoughtful when an emotionally charged decision must be made?
  • What should leaders in the military do to improve group thinking in field operations? 
  • What is the most common source of faulty human decision making and how can they be anticipated and avoided?
Many projects using Insight Assessment instruments to evaluate critical thinking skills and mindset attributes have been awarded funding by major governmental agencies which evaluate highly competitive research grants. In the United States these include the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.  

The Insight Assessment team is proud of our contribution to research studies of human reasoning and decision making.  Insight Assessment has a track record of 30 successful years of supporting higher education in the US and worldwide. We are committed to offering researchers, doctoral students and community service agencies reduced pricing through our internal grant program. Insight Assessment has a track record of 30 successful years of supporting higher education in the US and worldwide.We provide  instruments specifically designed for the objective measurement of critical thinking skills and mindset habits of mind of adults and children.   Insight Assessment solutions include:

Contact us today to discuss your own critical thinking research project.

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.

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