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Chapter 5

Course Syllabus
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Cchapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Contact Me
Part 2 Chapter 1
Part 2 Chapter 2
Part 2 Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Critical Thinking


Far too often, people don’t think critically (logically) but let their emotions govern their actions.  In college, that can lead to trouble!


One of the main ingredients in a college education is learning how to think critically.  And if you believe that college is a path to a higher paying job, remember that a good critical thinker is a good job candidate.


Theodora Kalikow, president of the University of Main lists several characteristics students should have in order to receive a good college education   -   which demands above all else critical thinking.  


Here are some of the characteristics:


        A lithe mind, able to move rapidly in new directions

        The ability to analyze a problem

        The ability to imagine solutions, weigh them by rational criteria and commit to one of them

        A tolerance for ambiguity and complexity

        An ability to imagine and share the perception of different individuals, cultures, and times





Some instructor feel they have all the answers and want to fill your mind with dates, times and facts then expect you to recite these facts back to them when you take a test.  On the first day the instructor might say, the only important thing in my class is how well you learn the material and how frequently you choose the right answers.  “Remember, while there are lots of wrong answers, there is only one answer that is always correct.


Others instructors fill the most important aspect of education is for an individual to know how to use what he or she has learned to solve problem they face.  Each time new students begin a course, they bring their own values, ideas, and past knowledge to the material.  What most important is that you learn to analyze facts, decide which facts are supportable by evidence, and know how to convince others of your belief.  And remember, while there are lots of wrong conclusions, there also may be more than one right conclusion.  (knowing where to go to get information and how to use it when you need it is more important than just rote memorization)


 It might be an awakening experience to discover that some of your instructors trust you to find valid answers too many of you own questions.






Critical thinking is a process of choosing alternatives, weighing then, and considering what they suggest.  It involves understanding why some people believe one thing rather than another – whether you agree with those reason or not.


Critical thinking is learning to ask pertinent questions and testing your assumptions against hard evidence.





         Collaborative learning  (more than one student is involved in the learning process which generates a number of thoughts instead of just one.   In a group, you learn to agree on the most reliable thoughts, which moves you closer to a surer solution.


         Walking through the process of several choices (good critical thinkers consider questions such as: 


 (A) Is the information given in support of the argument true?

 (B) Does the information really support the conclusion?

 (C) Do you need to withhold judgment until better evidence is available?

 (D) Is argument based on good reasoning, or does it appeal mainly to emotions?


Critical thinking is at the core of liberal education.  In Liberal education, students are taught to investigate all sides of a question and all possible solutions to a problem before reaching a conclusion or planning a course of action. 




Critical thinking cannot be learned overnight.  However, critical thinking processes can be divided into four basic steps.  Practicing these basics ideas can help you become a more effective thinker.


        Abstract Thinking:  Using Details to discover some bigger idea

        Creative Thinking:  Seeking connections, finding new possibilities, rejecting nothing

        Systematic Thinking: Organizing the Possibilities, tossing out the rubbish

        Precise Communication:  Being prepared to present your ideas convincingly to others




You may believe you’ve solved a problem logically, but later you find yourself a victim of faulty reasoning.


The following suggestions should help you avoid fallacies:


        Attack the Argument, not the Person

        Don’t Threate4n in Order to Win an Argument

        Don’t Beg

        Avoid Appealing to Authority

        It’s Not a Popularity Contest

        It Isn’t True Simply Because It Hasn’t Been Proven False

        Don’t Fall Victim to False Cause

        Avoid Hasty Generalization




Many college students believe that their teachers will have all the answers.  You must be willing to challenge assumptions and conclusion, even those presented by experts. 


To challenge how you think, a good college teacher may insist that how you solve a problem is as important as the solution and even may ask you to describe the problem-solving process.

To promote critical thinking, your instructor may ask open-ended questions that have no clear-cut answers, questions of “Why”?  or “How”?  or  “What if”?  


The best way to learn and develop critical thinking skills is to take demanding college courses that provide lots of opportunity to think out loud, discuss and interact in class..


Take courses that use essay examination as opposed to multiple choice, true/false, short answer: the latter three are much less likely to develop your critical thinking skills.






Anyone can put anything on the Internet.  It is often difficult to tell where something on the internet came from, how it got there or who wrote it.  In other words, the lack of a proper citation makes it difficult to judge the credibility of the information.


First thing to do is to look for a citation.  Then, using the citation, do a search for the original source and evaluate its authenticity.  I there is no citation, chances are you should avoid the site.





        Is It Credible?

        Who Is the Author?

        Does It Reflect Mainstream Opinions?


The University of Wisconsin offers these Nine C’s for evaluating Internet Source:


Content, Credibility, Critical Thinking, Copyright, Citation, Continuity,

Censorship, Comparability and Context.





Exercise 5.3 The Challenge of Classroom Thinking:  Individually, think about your experiences in each of your classes so far this term.


        Have your instructors pointed out any conflicts or contradictions in the ideas they have presented?  Or have you noted any contradictions that they have not acknowledged?


        Have they asked questions for which they sometimes don’t seem to have the answer?


        Have they challenged you or other members of the class to explain yourselves more fully?


Be prepared to present your response to each of these questions orally to the Class.










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