How would you like to become a better critical thinker? Would you like the same for your students? Sure you would—we all want these things. However, how we go about it needs to be more of a discipline than a mere goal. Lifelong learning is made possible by being a better critical thinker. It’s a life study that involves having a mind as open as it is analytical. It’s about using Solution Fluency and Information Fluency to solve problems that matter and use information well. Above all, it’s about learning to think for oneself in a world that’s constantly telling us how to think.
Sound like a tall order? Take some wisdom from Daniel J. Levitin, Ph.D. in this article called Seven Steps Toward Better Critical Thinking. As a seasoned college professor, Daniel pulls no punches when it comes to letting go of everything we think we know for certain. His advice is to readopt the mindsets that are slowly “taught out” of us in our academic lives. To become a better critical thinker, he suggests learning to once again think like a child:
“Every four-year-old asks a series of incessant ‘why’ questions: Why is there rain? Because of condensation. Why is there condensation? Because of changing temperature conditions. Why are there changing temperature conditions? Et cetera. We have this beaten out of us early on by worn-down parents and teachers. But this why mode is the key to all critical thinking. Think like a four-year old. Ask ‘why’ and ‘how.’ Ask them often.”
In the past, we’ve written about all the ways you can improve critical thinking. Improving critical thinking is best if we make it ongoing and consistent.
7 Ways to Be a Better Critical Thinker
Below we have summarized Daniel’s 7 pieces of advice for being a better critical thinker. If you want more, be sure to check out his full article on Psychology Today. In the meantime, think also about how to extend these practices to your learners for fostering bulletproof critical thinking.
1. Don’t believe it just because others do
It’s easy to fall into this trap if you don’t consider that the majority doesn’t necessarily rule intelligently. However, a better critical thinker makes up their own mind after viewing opinions and collecting facts. This is more important than ever in the age of fake news and unregulated Web content. “Yes, there is such a thing as the wisdom of the crowds,” says Daniel, “but it has limited applicability, especially when the crowds aren’t thinking critically.”