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Critical Thinking Identified As Military Desired Leadership Attribute

Military Decision Making

Critical thinking was specifically identified as one of the six Desired Leadership Attributes for officers.

In 2015 critical thinking was added to the DLAs for enlisted personnel.  This makes the development of critical thinking skills and mindset attributes a priority for professional military education today. And, it makes the objective assessment of those skills and attributes a necessity.

Even before the memoranda from the CJCS, in response to the growing realization that effective leadership and problem solving required the very skills and attributes that comprise strong critical thinking, Insight Assessment developed assessments calibrated for military personnel and trainees.

  • INSIGHT Defense is a suite of professionally oriented tests to assess the essential leadership mindset and reasoning skills, including critical thinking, at all levels of the organization including field operations, senior leadership and business operations
  • Military and Defense Critical Thinking Inventory (MDCTI) is an academically oriented assessment intended for use with undergraduate and graduate level students or applicants to military education programs and colleges

Not only is critical thinking a DLA in its own right, but the elements of strong critical thinking are essential for the achievement of several of the other DLA’s. 

For example:

  • The ability to operate on command intent requires the mindset attributes of professional confidence, teamwork, and the reasoning skills of analysis and interpretation. Leaders must be able to determine intent in order to use initiative to carry out mission objectives.
  • The ability to make sound ethical decisions requires the maturity of judgment, focus, and integrity that are characteristic of strong critical thinking, along with the skills of inference and evaluation to determine what the ethical course of action may be in any given situation. And,
  • The ability to anticipate, communicate and mitigate risks requires the attributes of communicative confidence and foresight, and the reasoning skills of analysis, deduction and induction in order to identify those risks and to anticipate correctly various possible courses of action.

In addition to evaluating the strength of overall critical thinking, each of these more specific attributes and reasoning skills is measured by INSIGHT Defense Professional and the MDCTI .  This enables military educators to identify the strengths of each individual and to focus educational energies on specific attributes and skills that may require more attention.

Working with the advice and support of leaders and experts, civilian and military, retired and active, of the US Air Force, US Marine Corps, US Army, US Navy and Joint Special Operations, INSIGHT Defense and the MDCTI were built upon assessment science. The science of learning tells us that critical thinking is developed through education, often by challenging cherished assumptions, demanding sound and evidence-based explanations for decisions, and insisting on the courageous pursuit of reasons and evidence wherever they may lead. The valid and objective measurement of skills and mindset attributes demands questions that engage a person’s reasoning skills and address the person’s values, intentions, and beliefs.

High stakes thought processes are critical in the military. All branches of our military services have used MDCTI or INSIGHT Defense metrics to target and evaluate educational programs that prioritize developing decisions skills based on solid mindsets.  Contact us to discuss incorporating assessment into your programs.

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