The collaborative process of critical thinking requires that students work with others. It requires them to cooperate, communicate, negotiate and problem solve together as a group to reach the ends of the educational experience successfully. Students who do this well are the ones who fare best in college and have a greater likelihood of achieving their goals. The process of cooperative learning and cooperative assessment are two of the tools that professional trainers in psychology uses in the classroom assessment process.
In order for students to effectively use critical thinking skills in the classroom assessment process they need to be engaged in active problem solving. Active problem solving means that students have to actively participate in the discussion with other students. They cannot simply rely on their logic alone, their reasoning may not hold up under scrutiny and so they need to think out of the box. This thinking will make them more intelligent, better problem solvers and better learners.
So how do you think critically? How do you decide what is good, bad or right? The first step is to decide what the desired result will be. Once you know the desired result, you can then put yourself in the shoes of the target audience and what would motivate them to do what you want them to do. For example if you are trying to improve your college GPA’s you might use the critical thinking process described above to determine which argument is valid based upon your observations of what faculty members are actually doing during lecture. You can then apply this logic to the target audience’s response to this argument.
Another way to think critically is to question your assumptions about a topic. Once you understand your assumptions you can then critically evaluate those assumptions. Using the process described above, you can then replace your assumptions with more reasonable ones.
Students are not always truthful; there are some things that just seem factual. This does not mean that the critical thinking process is not beneficial. Rather, what it really means is that you need to look deeper into the facts before you accept something as true simply because it seems factual. Rather than accepting a fact, taking the time to verify it yourself is far better. Doing so helps ensure that you are not being taken advantage of by someone who is misrepresenting information.
Another important way to think critically is to have an open mind. In order to do this, you should be willing to look at all possible solutions to a problem rather than immediately narrowing your attention to one solution. Many students assume that they already know the answer to a problem, and that no further research is needed. This is not the case. If you are going to use critical thinking skills in your coursework, you should be willing to look at all avenues even if those avenues do not seem applicable to you right now.
The fourth way to think critically is to ignore stereotypes. As we have noted earlier, many people assume that those who possess critical thinking skills are dumb or do not have knowledge. While this stereotyping may not be true for all, it is certainly not true for all students. In addition, critical thinking requires that you be open to changing your mind when new information or evidence becomes available. Stereotyping almost always occurs when a stereotype is proven completely false. This means that you should take the time to carefully consider all the possible outcomes before accepting a conclusion just because it seems common.