Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about "what to do" and "what to believe".
Here, we list four major critical thinking processes, and provide sample questions to help focus one's thinking about the immediate situation.
1. Contextual awareness and deciding "what to observe and consider": This includes an awareness of what is happening in the context of the situation. Some questions to focus on the issues include:
- What was going on in this situation that may have influences the outcome?
- What else do I need to know? What information is missing?
- What about this situation have I seen before? What is different /dissimilar?
- What is important and what's not important in this situation?
- What is one possible explanation for (insert what is happening)?
- What else would I want to know in this situation?
- Are there others who might be able to help me develop more alternatives?
3. Assumption recognition and analysis: This involves analysing assumptions you are making in the situation and examining the beliefs that underlie your choices.
- Which beliefs/values shaped my assumptions?
- What assumptions contributed to the problem in this situation?
- What rationale supports my assumptions?
4. Reflective skepticism / Deciding what to do: This critical thinking approach involves questioning, analysing, and reflecting on the rational for decisions. Questions include:
- What rationale do I have for my decisions?
- What aspects of this situation require the most careful attention?
- What would I do differently in the future, after reflecting on this situation?
- Brookfield, S. (1987). Developing critical thinkers : challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 1987.
- Brookfield, S. (2012). Teaching for critical thinking tools and techniques to help students question their assumptions. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, c2012. Accessed 14 July 2014.
- Stephen Brookfield’s Four Critical Thinking Processes. Accessed 12 May 2015.
Last updated on 02 May 2017 .