Critical thinking is utilizing our higher faculties to understand and evaluate subject matter; or to put it simply “knowing how to think.” When we were in elementary and secondary school, we were taught what to think. We were subjected to a lot of information and now, the trend is to teach to pass a test. We memorize what is needed, take the test, and then forget what we remembered. If we pursued higher education, most of us college graduates continued down the same path of learning what to think again for that anticipated test at the end of each semester. It isn’t until we pursue advanced degrees that we are then required to know how to think.
Consider this conclusion from the National Commission on Excellence in Education in its landmark report, A Nation at Risk, 1983:
“Many 17-year olds do not possess the “higher-order” intellectual skills we should expect of them. Nearly 40 percent cannot draw inferences from written material; only one-fifth can write a persuasive essay; and only one-third can solve a mathematics problem requiring several steps.”
This trend in education has taught us to mind dump everything we know when sharing information. When conducting masterminds or presenting our principles and ideas to prospects, take a moment and evaluate your approach. Are you unconsciously mind dumping everything you know in your allotted time or are you taking the time to help others develop conclusions and their own thought.
Critical thinking is a higher-order level of thinking. It is the ability to think for one’s self and responsibly make those decisions that affect one’s life. In addition, critical thinking is also critical inquiry: investigating problems, asking questions, and posing new challenging answers.
Consider the benefits of helping develop others’ critical thinking skills. They will be able to better understand your ideas and better accept your methodologies if they are able to understand, evaluate and conclude in a critical way. In addition, by developing your own critical thinking skills, you will be better equipped to share this your life changing information with your clients, co-workers, friends and family.
Critical thinking requires advanced listening skills. Lecturing to others is a passive activity that does not inhibit audience participation. To critically evaluate needs, it is necessary to present ideas and then allow the group to develop conclusions – openly discuss and debate these new ideas. Allow the group to think deeply about your ideas and in turn, value what they think and feel. Share these ideas in an environment that allows them to think their ideas matter. Ask them to make connections and recognize patterns in the new ideas you are presenting. These techniques allow your group to begin to develop trust in themselves and their thoughts, which in turn develops their critical skills.
At the conclusion of your discussion, to further develop critical thought, ask your participants to write out the most significant thing they learned AND what single thing they would like to learn more about. This is immediate feedback about what they are learning and what they still need to understand. When presenting – encourage questions and praise the questioner with these examples: “Good question” or “I am sure others want to know that as well”. When your audience asks questions, this is a great indicator that they are thinking critically.