How can we continue improving critical thinking skills long after we’ve begun their practice? In this section you’ll find some practical and beneficial ways of doing just that. As you incorporate these ideas, critical thinking will gradually get more comfortable until it finally becomes second nature.
In the article, Critical Thinking in Everyday Life: 9 Strategies, Richard Paul and Linda Elder provide questions that help us review how we practiced our thinking throughout the day.
You can go through them all, or just a few. Spend as much time as you want pondering your responses internally or recording them in a journal. The more you practice this, the more patterns you’ll see emerging in your thinking habits.
This is about achieving two things: first, fulfilling an intellectual need, and second, developing habits of curiosity. What have you always been curious about? Is there a question about something you’ve always wanted to get answered? Of course, if you have higher learning ambitions and want to take your broader knowledge or ability to a whole new level, do that also.
Improving critical thinking skills isn’t an age-specific pursuit either. Besides, you don’t have to change the world, conquer nature, or write the next great masterpiece. All you need do is believe in the possibility of your own potential.
In modern learning, we teach our children to question and to explore possibilities. Questions are good; essential questions are even better. Asking meaningful questions that lead to constructive and useful answers is at the core of critical thinking and lifelong learning.
Providing learning with driving questions as the focus ensures we don’t just passively accept information. Instead, we train ourselves to search for different viewpoints and to take nothing for granted. The following activity for improving critical thinking is an excerpt from an article featured on Skills You Need.
Think of something that someone has recently told you. Then ask yourself the following questions:
Have you ever heard the expression “most people are just waiting for their turn to talk?” If that’s really the case, then who is truly listening? What does it mean to actively listen when someone is talking? How do we adopt it as personal practice for improving critical thinking skills?
Research cited by the University of Missouri suggests that most people may be inefficient listeners:
“Studies have shown that immediately after listening to a 10-minute oral presentation, the average listener has heard, understood and retained 50 percent of what was said. Within 48 hours, that drops off another 50 percent to a final level of 25 percent efficiency .”
Most people think that listening is easy, but actively listening takes effort. Active listening means making a conscious effort to hear the words being said and understand their message. It’s also about understanding what the person speaking needs or is trying to accomplish. This translates to having empathy, not offering sympathy or placating the speaker, or trying to solve their problem for them.
The following 10 listening strategies are guaranteed to make you a more active listener.
Whether problems happen independent of our influence or are created by our actions and choices, they don’t go away on their own. The secret is to take them on one by one, one day at a time, and learn how to avoid them in the future.
Do you want to clear up a long-held misunderstanding between you and another person? Are you getting distracted too much at work? Have you been struggling with a project or an activity you want to improve? Is there something around the house that desperately needs fixing? Choose one problem that you want to work on solving and give it your undivided attention until it’s resolved. Face it head on, get it done, and get on with the more important things in life.
The practice of improving critical thinking is best if we make it ongoing and consistent. The more we challenge ourselves to think critically, the more habitual such powerful thinking habits become. We took some wisdom from the TED Ed lesson 5 Tips to Improve Your Critical Thinking created by Samantha Agoos. It provides a formula to improve critical thinking that you can internalize easily and use every day.
In her lesson, Samantha outlines and explains a 5-step process for boosting critical thinking as follows:
If you look closely, you’ll see the similarities to our own 6D process of Solution Fluency. This is another simple but effective method for practicing and improving critical thinking while problem solving: