Situations That Requires Critical Thinking

6 Critical Thinking Questions For Any Situation

by TeachThought Staff

While it’s true that critical thinking is a foundation rather than a brick, how you build that foundation depends on the learning process itself: exposing students to new thinking and promoting interaction with that thinking in a gradual release of responsibility approach.

The following graphic from learningcommons is most useful for its universal applicability via its simplicity–six basic questions that characterize critical thinking.

The questions are general enough that they can be used with almost anything–different age groups, content areas, and various learning contexts.

Whether you’re exploring math theories with a high school classroom, astronomical phenomena in a university, or a picture book in the elementary classroom, the questions can be used with few changes to promote critical thinking.

In addition to 28 Critical Thinking Question Stems For Any Content Area, the questions below might prove useful to you as you help your students better understand what ‘critical thinking’ means and how it can improve their own lives.

6 Critical Thinking Questions For Any Situation

1. What’s happening

Establish the basics and begin forming questions.

2. Why is it important?

Ask yourself why this is or isn’t significant.

3. What don’t I see?

Consider, alone or with others, if there’s any crucial information or perspective you might be missing, or that the ‘thing’ in question is missing.

See also 6 Alternatives To Bloom’s Taxonomy For Teachers

4. How do I know?

Identify how you know what you think you know, and how that meaning was constructed.

5. Who is saying it?

Identify the ‘position’ of the ‘thing’–a speaker and their position on an issue, for example–and then consider how that position could be influencing their thinking.

6. What else? What if?

Ask, ‘What else should we consider?’ and ‘If we consider it, how will it change X or Y?”

6 Critical Thinking Questions For Any Situation; image attribution learningcommons

  • A person trying to interpret an angry friend’s needs, expressed through a rush of emotion and snide comments, to give that friend some help and support.
  • A manager trying to be as objective as possible when settling a dispute by summarizing the alternatives, with fairness to all sides to a disagreement.
  • A team of scientists working with great precision through a complex experiment in an effort to gather and analyze data.
  • A creative writer organizing ideas for the plot of a story and attending to the complex motivations and personalities of the fictional characters.
  • A person running a small business trying to anticipate the possible economic and human consequences of various ways to increase sales or reduce costs.
  • A master sergeant and a captain working out the tactical plans for a dangerous military mission.
  • A soccer coach working during halftime on new tactics for attacking the weaknesses of the other team when the match resumes.
  • A student confidently and correctly explaining exactly to his or her peers the methodology used to reach a particular conclusion, or why and how a certain methodology or standard of proof was applied.
  • An educator using clever questioning to guide a student to new insights.
  • Police detectives, crime scene analysts, lawyers, judges, and juries systematically investigating, interrogating, examining, and evaluating the evidence as they seek justice.
  • A policy analyst reviewing alternative drafts of product safety legislation while determining how to frame the law to benefit the most people at the least cost.
  • An applicant preparing for a job interview thinking about how to explain his or her particular skills and experiences in a way that will be relevant and of value to the prospective employer.
  • Parents anticipating the costs of sending their young child to college, analyzing the family’s projected income, and budgeting projected household expenses in an effort to put aside some money for that child’s future education.
  • A financial planner anticipating the impact of new income tax legislation on a client’s future tax liabilities.
  • A first responder coming upon the scene of an accident and quickly analyzing the situation, evaluating priorities, and inferring what actions to take in what order.

 Examples from Facione, P. & Gittens C. Think Critically, Pearson Education

Measuring critical thinking: Insight Assessment test instruments are calibrated to objectively measure the skills and mindset characteristic of strong critical thinkers. Each assessment is designed to assess how test takers solve problems and make decisions in real world situations. Validated  group and individual reportsprovide comprehensive analysis of strengths and weaknesses in essential aspects of good thinking. Contact us to discuss how our assessment tools are being used across the world to measure and improve thinking.

Improving critical thinking:INSIGHT Development Program is designed to build critical thinking in teams as well as individuals. It provides a series of online thinking skills and mindset enrichment modules with accompanying exercises, access to an assessment metric and performance reporting tools.  Designed to be used as an independent study by employees, it can also be incorporated into existing training programs.

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