The most effective way to assess critical thinking is to use a validated critical thinking skills test to assess the skills used to solve problems and make decisions, and a critical thinking mindset measure to assess the person's consistent internal motivation or willingness to use his or her critical thinking abilities. There are many good critical thinking tests available online that can be taken either completely anonymously or with a username and password. These tests look at one's ability to: understand issues critically, analyze information systematically, make judgments intelligently, apply knowledge effectively, and communicate ideas clearly.
Critical thinking is not only important in academics but also in everyday life. Critical thinkers are needed in order to make informed decisions about health, education, politics, and other aspects of life. In fact, almost every profession requires some form of critical thinking as part of the job. For example, lawyers must be able to think critically in order to analyze evidence efficiently, come up with alternative solutions for their clients' problems, and communicate these ideas to others.
It is impossible to describe exactly what critical thinking entails because it varies depending on one's field of interest and experience. However, it can be said that all critical thinkers share certain traits in common. They tend to be independent minded, have a desire to learn new things, enjoy solving puzzles, and care about their community. Critical thinking is not a fixed trait but rather an adaptable skill that can be developed through practice.
Critical thinking, among other things, encourages the development of:
Critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, and creative thinking are all characteristics of higher-order thinking skills, according to Lewis and Smith (1993). It may be assessed using a variety of ways, including performance exams, portfolios, projects, and multiple-choice questions with written reasoning (Ennis, 1993).
On a performance exam, students demonstrate their knowledge by explaining how they would go about solving problems or analyzing situations. The purpose of this type of exam is to allow teachers to see how well their students think on their feet under pressure during an actual class session. Performance exams should not be given until after several lessons have been taught because it can be difficult for students to remember what was covered in class months ago when they arrive at the exam room. However, if given early in the school year, they can serve as a tool for identifying strengths and weaknesses among the students.
A portfolio is a collection of materials that students are asked to reflect upon and respond to in some way, such as writing or drawing. Portfolios can be used as evidence that students are developing higher-order thinking skills. For example, one student might create a portfolio that includes samples of her work over time as well as detailed explanations of how she would solve problems related to these subjects. This student would be demonstrating an understanding of how different aspects of her work relate to each other and the ability to consider alternative perspectives on issues that affect her community.
People Matters defines critical thinking as "the ability to make judgments and solve issues based on logical reasoning and facts while excluding emotions in order to evaluate and improve one's own thought process." In its most basic form, critical thinking is the process of making decisions based on a few heuristics. For example, if all you have are three choices - A, B, and C - you can decide what action to take by considering these options and making a choice or selecting one option over the others.
Using critical thinking skills helps us develop sound judgment because it allows us to identify information that may not be apparent to the naked eye. This hidden information may influence our decision-making process and lead us to make mistakes. By using critical thinking skills, however, we can determine how certain pieces of evidence fit together and come to a conclusion that is better informed than simply following our first instinct.
For example, if you were trying to decide whether to trust someone who claims they saw a bear in a tree outside of their house this morning, it would be easy for your initial reaction to be to believe them. After all, bears do eat eggs! However, since seeing a bear is such an unusual occurrence, you should also consider other possible explanations for why they might have seen one. If they did see a bear, then it probably wasn't far away from home and may even have been near their house.