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Are You Thinking?. Building Connections: Community Leadership Program. Improving Lives. Improving Texas. Think Before You Leap!. What is “critical thinking”?. What is Critical Thinking?. Brookfield & Knox (1987) define it as:

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Are You Thinking?

Building Connections: Community Leadership Program

Improving Lives. Improving Texas.

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Think Before You Leap!

  • What is “critical thinking”?

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What is Critical Thinking?

  • Brookfield & Knox (1987) define it as:

    “ . . . calling into question the assumptions underlying our customary, habitual ways of thinking and acting and then being read to think and act differently on the basis of this critical questioning.”

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What is Critical Thinking?

  • According to experts at critical thinking is:

    “. . . mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structure inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.”

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What is Critical Thinking?

Group Think

Distorted thinking that renders group members incapable of making rational decisions. Members try hard to agree with one another causing them to make mistakes, ignore alternatives & commit errors

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Self - Regulation


Core Skills




What is Critical Thinking?

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What is Critical Thinking?

  • Considered “emancipatory learning” or self-regulation

    • Learner becomes aware of the forces used in creating/causing experiences

    • Learner takes action to change some aspect of the situation

  • Plays an important role in adult life

    • Development of family life in a household

    • Calls into question the validity of workplace norms and company values to avoid “group think”

    • Development of creative solutions for personal & professional problems

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What is Critical Thinking?

Involves Effective Listening

  • Find areas of interest

  • Judge content, not delivery

  • Hold your fire!

  • Listen for ideas not just facts

  • Be flexible

  • Resist distractions

  • Keep an open mind

  • Look for non-verbals & verbals

Involves Affirmation

  • Respect & value alternative views

  • Show respect through actions & words

  • Encourage others to “look outside the box”

  • Do Not Be Intimidated!

  • Create a support network with colleagues, friends and/or family

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What is Critical Thinking?

Role of Questioning

  • Designed to elicit underlying assumptions

  • Prompts reflection & analysis

  • Must be able to explore situations

  • Be specific & relate questions to events, situations or people

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What is Critical Thinking?

Role of Analysis

  • Can create a sense of openness and honesty within a culture (Rogers 1984)

    • Rationale behind actions are exposed

    • Ability of putting everyone on the “same page”

  • Assists in creating meaningful change for organizations

  • Builds more informed and participative society

    • Foundations for which democracy thrives

    • Facilitates development of policies that fit more diverse needs

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What is Critical Thinking?

Based in Emotion

  • Is emotional as well as rational – central part of the process of critical thinking

  • Normally produces anxiety when challenging deeply rooted beliefs & values

  • When abandoning destructive behavior, feelings of relief and exhilaration are expressed

  • Used as a driving force for questions and cultivation of solutions

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How Do I Recognize It?


  • A negative behavior

  • Does not produce effective & useful results

  • Used to intimidate people

  • Is not important

  • Does not reveal needed information


  • Is the result of positive & negative events

  • Must be uncomfortable to grow

  • Can be intimidating to volunteer thoughts but needed to find solutions

  • Very important to cultivate much-needed solutions

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How Do I Recognize It?

Critical thinking is . . .

  • Productive and positive activity

  • A process, not an outcome

  • Different for each situation or context

  • Part of a decision-making process regarding a problem

  • Intended to explore alternatives not tear down others or their beliefs

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Four Phases of Critical Thinking

  • Reflect on the problem

  • Test new solutions, strategies or methods on the basis of the reflection

  • Reflect on the success/failures of those actions in context

  • Refine/Adapt those actions according to alternative context(s)

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Phase One: Reflection

  • Be aware that your background & personality traits affect your perception

    • Assumptions about people and things (MBTI)

    • Preferences (religious, political, etc)

    • Cultural & Familial Affiliation

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Phase One: Reflection

  • Explore the problem or context by using a series of questions:

    • Question of Fact: who, what when where

    • Question of Interpretation: relationship & sequence

    • Question of Analysis: alternatives, reasons why

    • Question of Synthesis: predict, add or create

    • Question of Evaluation: decide or assess

    • Question of Application: feasibility given this context

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Phase Two: Testing Strategies

  • List out all possible solutions regardless of feasibility before deciding on which to use

  • Consider consequences or impacts of each solution given the context

    • On people

    • Budgets

    • Environments

  • Determine how to measure success of each solution

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Phase Two: Testing Strategies

  • Implement solutions causing least amount of harm and largest benefit to all involve

  • Consult others for ideas and assistance

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Phase Three: Success & Failure

  • Compare results of solutions used to measures of success

    • Determine if necessary steps were followed to implement solution before comparing

    • Reflect on result to see if intended goal was met

  • Analyze all results of solution(s) used to see which was most of effective

  • Assess damage caused by implementation

  • Reflect on worth of implementation versus damage caused

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Phase Four: Adaptation

  • Given analysis from previous phase, determine how solution can be adjusted

  • Involve assistance of others where appropriate

  • Reassess values for the context

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Group Activity

  • Read your scenario to identify the main problem or issue(s)

  • Identify the behavior(s), values and/or attitudes that contributed to this issue

  • Generate a list of 3-4 possible solutions and impacts (positive & negative)

  • Determine the best course of action

  • Be prepared to defend it!

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What Does It All Mean?

Success in Critical Thinking

  • Gathered information before engaging in the process

  • Vital questions or concerns are raised before solutions are developed

  • Open minded before hearing & deciding on solutions

  • Aware of consequences of any action(s) taken

  • Involves others

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What Does It All Mean?

Success in Critical Thinking

  • Scrutinizing personal or professional situations = more informed decision

  • More informed decisions yield greater satisfaction within workplace & personal arenas

  • Recognizes & encourages diversity of solutions as well as creativity

  • Allows greater participation by individuals

  • Allows for more choice

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What Does It All Mean?

For Individual

  • Need to have a desire for change

  • A willingness and desire to know the world and people around you

  • Can create a stronger commitment to current values or a new commitment to new beliefs & values

For Organization

  • Need desire for change

  • Willingness to hear those within

  • Willingness to accept the unpleasant

  • Encourage this behavior at all levels

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For More Information

  • Brookfield, S. D. (1987) Developing critical thinkers: challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.

  • Chaffee, J., Kalash, B. D., Brooke, C., and Janzow, F. (2000). Thinking Critically. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.




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For More Information




  • University of Victoria, British Columbia Learning Skills Center –


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