Colleges and universities are always looking for ways to integrate skills that employers look for in the student experience. This helps to prepare graduates for the workforce. One of these essential skills is critical thinking. To identify how important critical thinking is to personal and professional lives, think about how you would define it. When was the last time you were in class and had to put ideas together in new ways? When was the last time you saw someone else's lack of critical thinking?
Critical thinking is the ability to apply logic and problem solving to a problem or situation. It can be difficult to understand what employers are really looking for when they say they want someone with good critical thinking skills. We have broken this concept down into six specific skills that you can act on to practice your critical thinking abilities.
What Is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is using analysis to come to a conclusion. Look at an issue or situation and use the facts, data and evidence to make a decision. While critical thinking can draw on past experiences, it should ultimately be done as objectively as possible.
When you use critical thinking, you show people you can make logical and informed decisions. This is especially important when people may disagree with the decisions you make in the workplace. If you have the data and logic to back up your decisions, people may not like the compromises you make; but they can understand why you took the action.
How to Build Critical Thinking Skills
Since you cannot solve a problem until you determine that there is one, identification is one of the first steps in critical thinking. You will need to identify the problem that needs to be solved and any influencing factors related to the situation. Once you have identified an issue, you can move on to the next critical thinking steps to discover more about the problem and think through potential solutions.
To improve your skill at identification, you should practice noticing when there is a situation or problem that needs to be addressed. Ask yourself who is involved, what is happening, why it seems to be happening and what the end results will be if it continues.
Research is a key skill in the process of critical thinking. Once you have identified a problem or situation, you need to come up with a solution that is based on factual information. In addition, research and facts will help you back up whatever solution or decision you choose. In order to research your solutions, look for information about factors that influence your situation, ensuring that any research you reference is independently verified.
To improve research skills, you will want to practice analyzing sources to ensure you do not reference unsourced claims. Instead, when you are reading research, ask yourself where the person sharing that information retrieved it and if you can validate it yourself.
Since critical thinking relies on facts, opinions and biases they are not going to help you build your case for a solution. Yet, you do need to understand where your biases lay so you can ensure they are not infringing on your decision-making process. It can be difficult to recognize your own biases, but strong critical thinkers always aim to look at information objectively.
To start understanding your own biases, ask yourself if what you believe about a topic can be validated by other credible sources. Also ask yourself who the information benefits and if you or the source of the information seems to have an underlying agenda. Confirmation bias, a common pitfall in critical thinking, refers to only searching for or referencing sources that support the outcome you hope for. Overall, make sure to conduct research on a wide range of opinions and positions.
Inferring and drawing conclusions are major skills related to critical thinking. Sometimes when you are trying to solve a problem or resolve a situation, the information is not summarized in a clear way. In these cases, you will have to assess and gather information from multiple sources, thinking beyond what is written on the page.
Growing inference skills involves making more educated guesses. To improve your inference skills, continue to educate yourself about the topic so that you can read between the lines when you learn new information.
Knowing What Is Relevant
When you are conducting in-depth research, you will be consuming a large amount of data and information. One skill that can make critical thinking easier is identifying relevant information. You have to be able to screen out data and sources that do not help you address the big picture.
To better understand how to determine relevance, you should have a clear goal in mind when you begin the critical thinking process. If you are looking for a solution or tracking a trend, knowing your end goal will help you identify what information can be filtered out of your consideration.
If you have a one-track mind about the solution you are thinking through, you may be leaving out some other potential issues that need to be addressed. In addition, you may not be coming up with the best solution to a problem if you are looking at it in only one way. When you ask questions, your curiosity can help you uncover the real source of a problem or situation.
To work on your curiosity, practice asking open-ended questions about the topic. Simply asking why something is the way it is can help you dive deeper into your analysis.
Critical thinking is important for the workplace and life. After college graduation, critical thinking becomes even more essential as you analyze and evaluate situations and problems in the workforce. If you can build the subskills related to critical thinking, you will be even more valuable to your employers.
At Grand Canyon University, we help you build critical thinking skills in academics through rigorous programming and engaging coursework. Click the Request Info button on this page to learn more about our cutting-edge degree programs and get started on your journey to find your purpose.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.