CRITICAL THINKING AND REFLECTIVE THINKING
Lecturer in Physical Science, Arafa Institute for Teacher Education
Learning to think and act critically lies behind many aspects of student life. Thinking and acting critically requires willingness to challenge ideas, to make mistakes and to recover, to fail, to express one’s voice and so on. Critical thinking is at the heart of higher education and it is of particular importance in media education programmes. However, getting students to think critically is challenging for educators and learners alike.
Critical thinking is used to describe:
"... the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome...thinking that is purposeful, reasoned and goal directed - the kind of thinking involved
in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions when the thinker is using skills that are thoughtful and effective for the particular context and type of thinking task. Critical thinking is sometimes called directed thinking because it focuses on a desired outcome." Halpern (1996).
“Critical thinking is a capacity to work with complex ideas whereby a person can make effective provision of evidence to justify a reasonable judgement. The evidence, and therefore the judgement, will pay appropriate attention to context. “(Moon, 2005)
There is a perceived gap between theory and practice by learners and teachers in media education. Getting students to become more reflective learners is one way of resolving this issue.
Reflective thinking, on the other hand, is a part of the critical thinking process referring specifically to the processes of analyzing and making judgments about what has happened.
Dewey (1933) -“ Reflective thinking is an active, persistent, and careful consideration of a belief or supposed form of knowledge, of the grounds that support that knowledge, and the further conclusions to which that knowledge leads. Learners are aware of and control their learning by actively participating in reflective thinking – assessing what they know, what they need to know, and how they bridge that gap – during learning situations.”
Mental activity that helps to formulate or solve a problem, to make a decision or to seek understanding involves critical and creative aspects of the mind, both the use of reason and the generation of ideas. (Fisher, 1990).
Ellis, D. Becoming a Master Student, 1997:Critical thinking is best understood as the ability of thinkers to take charge of their own thinking. This requires that they develop sound criteria and standards for analyzing and assessing their own thinking and routinely use those criteria and standards to improve its quality.
critical thinking involves a wide range of thinking skills leading toward desirable outcomes and reflective thinking focuses on the process of making judgments about what has happened. However, reflective thinking is most important in prompting learning during complex problem-solving situations because it provides students with an opportunity to step back and think about how they actually solve problems and how a particular set of problem solving strategies is appropriated for achieving their goal.
· Provide enough wait-time for students to reflect when responding to inquiries.
· Provide emotionally supportive environments in the classroom encouraging reevaluation of conclusions.
· Prompt reviews of the learning situation, what is known, what is not yet known, and what has been learned.
· Provide authentic tasks involving ill-structured data to encourage reflective thinking during learning activities.
· Prompt students' reflection by asking questions that seek reasons and evidence.
· Provide some explanations to guide student’s thought processes during explorations.
· Provide a less-structured learning environment that prompts students to explore what they think is important.
· Provide social-learning environments such as those inherent in peer-group works and small group activities to allow students to see other points of view.
· Provide reflective journal to write down students' positions, give reasons to support what they think, show awareness of opposing positions and the weaknesses of their own positions.
reflective thinking activities in use
o Recommendations for prompting reflective thinking in the classroom:
o Examples of lesson plans that have been revised to encourage reflective thinking in students, e.g., prompting to compare what they know to what they don't know and actively make modifications to their conceptions:
Why is reflective thinking important?
Modern society is becoming more complex, information is becoming available and changing more rapidly prompting users to constantly rethink, switch directions, and change problem-solving strategies. Thus, it is increasingly important to prompt reflective thinking during learning to help learners develop strategies to apply new knowledge to the complex situations in their day-to-day activities. Reflective thinking helps learners develop higher-order thinking skills by prompting learners to a) relate new knowledge to prior understanding, b) think in both abstract and conceptual terms, c) apply specific strategies in novel tasks, and d) understand their own thinking and learning strategies.
· By thinking critically you will develop as an independent learner who can engage more confidently in debate within your subject area.
· Reflection is a complex set of processes which can empower an individual to recognise their learning opportunities and make the most of them. In its simplest form, reflection is the ability to look back over one’s experiences and identify significant aspects, such as reasons for success and failure. The important thing, of course, is to then learn from these reflections, by using them to inform practice and future learning.
It is important to prompt reflective thinking in middle school children to support them in their transition between childhood and adulthood. During this time period adolescents experience major changes in intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development. They begin to shape their own thought processes and are at an ideal time to begin developing thinking, learning, and metacognitive strategies. Therefore, reflective thinking provides middle level students with the skills to mentally process learning experiences, identify what they learned, modify their understanding based on new information and experiences, and transfer their learning to other situations. Scaffolding strategies should be incorporated into the learning environment to help students develop their ability to reflect on their own learning. For example,
o Teachers should model metacognitive and self-explanation strategies on specific problems to help students build an integrated understanding of the process of reflection.
o Study guides or advance organizer should be integrated into classroom materials to prompt students to reflect on their learning.
o Questioning strategies should be used to prompt reflective thinking, specifically getting students to respond to why, how, and what specific decisions are made.
o Social learning environments should exist that prompt collaborative work with peers, teachers, and experts.
o Learning experiences should be designed to include advice from teachers and co-learners.
o Classroom activities should be relevant to real-world situations and provide integrated experiences.
o Classroom experiences should involve enjoyable, concrete, and physical learning activities whenever possible to ensure proper attention to the unique cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domain development of middle school students.
Suggestions to promote reflective thinking
Ø Structuring lesson plans to support reflective thinking.
Ø Providing lesson components that prompt inquiry and curiosity.
Ø Providing resources and hand-on activities to prompt exploration.
Ø Providing reflective thinking activities that prompt students to think about what they have done, what they learned, and what they still need to do.
Ø Providing reflection activity worksheets for each lesson plan to prompt students to think about what they know, what they learned, and what they need to know as they progress through their exploration.
Critical thinkers can
· distinguish between fact and opinion
· ask questions
· make detailed observations
· uncover assumptions and define their terms
· make assertions based on sound logic and solid evidence.
Defining Critical Thinking
ü In general terms, we can say that to think critically is to think clearly, accurately, knowledgeably, and fairly while evaluating the reasons for a belief or for taking some action.
ü Critical thinking means correct thinking in the pursuit of relevant and reliable knowledge about the world
ü Critical thinking is reasonable, reflective, responsible, and skillful thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.
ü Critical thinking can be described as the scientific method applied by ordinary people to the ordinary world.
ü This is true because critical thinking mimics the well-known method of scientific investigation: a question is identified, an hypothesis formulated, relevant data sought and gathered, the hypothesis is logically tested and evaluated, and reliable conclusions are drawn from the result. All of the skills of scientific investigation are matched by critical thinking, which is therefore nothing more than scientific method used in everyday life rather than in specifically scientific disciplines or endeavors.
ü Critical thinking is scientific thinking.
ü Critical thinking consists of mental processes of discernment, analysis and evaluation. It includes possible processes of reflecting upon a tangible or intangible item in order to form a solid judgment that reconciles scientific evidence with common sense.
ü Critical thinking is using logic, reason and the scientific method over abstract theories and emotional judgments. Awareness of heuristics (shortcuts) and biases (errors) that influence human thinking. Using these abilities systematically on everything in your life. From that, using the results to make improvements.
A Brief Conceptualization Of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically. They strive to diminish the power of their egocentric and sociocentric tendencies. They use the intellectual tools that critical thinking offers – concepts and principles that enable them to analyze, assess, and improve thinking. They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities and they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest. They strive to improve the world in whatever ways they can and contribute to a more rational, civilized society. They embody the Socratic principle: The unexamined life is not worth living, because they realize that many unexamined lives together result in an uncritical, unjust, dangerous world.
The Critical thinking includes a complex combination of skills. Among the main characteristics are the following:
Rationality: We are thinking critically when we rely on reason rather than emotion, require evidence, ignore no known evidence, and follow evidence where it leads, and are concerned more with finding the best explanation than being right analyzing apparent confusion and asking questions. Self-awareness We are thinking critically when we weigh the influences of motives and bias, and recognize our own assumptions, prejudices, biases, or point of view.
Honesty: We are thinking critically when we recognize emotional impulses, selfish motives, nefarious purposes, or other modes of self-deception.
Open-mindedness: We are thinking critically when we evaluate all reasonable inferences consider a variety of possible viewpoints or perspectives, remain open to alternative interpretations accept a new explanation, model, or paradigm because it explains the evidence better, is simpler, or has fewer inconsistencies or covers more data accept new priorities in response to a reevaluation of the evidence or reassessment of our real interests, and do not reject unpopular views out of hand.
Discipline:We are thinking critically when we are precise, meticulous, comprehensive, and exhaustive resist manipulation and irrational appeals, and
Avoid snap Judgment: We are thinking critically when we recognize the relevance and/or merit of alternative assumptions and perspectives recognize the extent and weight of evidence
Critical thinkers are by nature skeptical.: They approach texts with the same skepticism and suspicion as they approach spoken remarks. Critical thinker’s reactive, not passive. They ask questions and analyze. They consciously apply tactics and strategies to uncover meaning or assure their understanding. Critical thinkers do not take an egotistical view of the world. They are open to new ideas and perspectives. They are willing to challenge their beliefs and investigate competing evidence. Critical thinking enables us to recognize a wide range of subjective analyses of otherwise objective data, and to evaluate how well each analysis might meet our needs. Facts may be facts, but how we interpret them may vary.
Characteristics Of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is an effort to develop reliable, rational evaluations about what is reasonable for us to believe and disbelieve. Critical thinking makes use of the tools of logic and science because it values skepticism over gullibility or dogmatism, reason over faith, science of pseudoscience, and rationality over wishful thinking. Critical thinking does not guarantee that we will arrive at truth, but it does make it much more likely than any of the alternatives do. Open-mindedness & skepticism. A critical thinker is neither dogmatic nor gullible. The most distinctive features of the critical thinker’s attitude are open-mindedness and skepticism. A person who wishes to think critically about something like politics or religion must be open-minded. This requires being open to the possibility that not only are others right, but also that you are wrong. Too often people launch into a frenzy of arguments apparently without taking any time to consider that they may be mistaken in something. Doubt things. Don’t accept things at face value and think them through. The worst error you can commit is to delegate all your thinking to another person. By creating a layer of doubt on everything, even your ideas, you can improve them. Sense perception. Having the right attitude and knowing the standards of evaluation are not enough to guarantee that one will always succeed at critical thinking. Human beings are subject to a number of limitations and hindrances that forever get in the way of our best intentions.
Argue from Knowledge, not Ignorance Because we often have an emotional or other psychological investment in our beliefs, it isn’t unusual for people to step forward and try to defend those beliefs regardless of whether the logic or evidence for them are weak. Indeed, sometimes people will defend an idea even though they really don’t know a great deal about it — they think they do, but they don’t. A person who tries to practice critical thinking, however, also tries to avoid assuming that they already know everything they need to know. Such a person is willing to allow that someone who disagrees can teach them something relevant and refrains from arguing a position if they are ignorant of important, relevant facts. Probability is not Certainty There are ideas that are probably true and ideas that are certainly true, but while it is nice to have an idea that belongs in the latter group, we must understand that the latter group is far, far smaller than the former
Critical Thinking Process
The critical thinking process includes four steps.
Step 1 Identify the problem, the relevant information and all uncertainties about the problem
Step 2 Explore interpretations and connections. (gather information-organizing information in meaningful ways)
Step 3 Prioritize alternatives and communicate conclusions. (analysis of underlying problem) Integrate, monitor, and refine strategies for re-addressing
Step 4 the problem (an ongoing process for generating and using new information)
Benefits Of Critical Thinking
Critical thinkers are more aware of uncertainty that hinges beneath plans. Thinking is the key component of strategy and tactics. If you can’t beat an opponent with luck, looks or lies, you need to be able to out think them. This applies particularly when your opponent isn’t another individual but the world.
Less gullibility. You are less likely to fall for obvious deceptions and problems when you can think critically. This doesn’t need to twist you into a trust-deficient cynic, but it can help you remain cautious when others are greedy and smart when others are fearful.
Creativity. Some would argue that creativity comes from intuition and randomness,not controlled thinking. But critical thinkers can utilize their skills to see outside the imaginary lines they draw around a problem. Intellectual Freedom.
One could argue that people use the word 'freedom' too liberally . But intellectual freedom is perhaps the greatest benefit of critical thinking. Instead of simply conforming to the status , you can actively question assumptions. Questioning assumptions (even your own) can lead to finding new solutions for a greater quality of life
More sophisticated analysis of information.
More flexibility in thinking
Use of more logical inferences
More rational conclusions based on an examination of evidence.
Our Concept Of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking skills are vital to well-educated individuals and acquiring this ability should be one of the most important goals in one's life. A broad framework of intellectual rigor is called critical thinking.
Critical thinking skills enable people to evaluate, compare, analyze, critique, and synthesize information. Those who possess critical thinking skills know that knowledge is not a collection of facts, but rather an ongoing process of examining information, evaluating that information, and adding it to their understanding of the world.
Critical thinkers also know to keep an open mind- and frequently end by changing their views based on new knowledge.A broad-based education, inter-disciplinary study, and the ability to think beyond the textbook or class lecture is important for students. Being able to think and write clearly, critically, and cogently is a skill that will contribute to quality of life.
Critical thinking is the art of taking charge of your own mind. If we can take charge of our own minds, we can take charge of our lives; we can improve them, bringing them under our self-command and direction. This requires that we learn self-discipline and the art of self-examination. This involves becoming interested in how our minds work, how we can monitor, fine tune, and modify their operations for the better. It involves getting into the habit of reflectively examining our impulsive and accustomed ways of thinking and acting in every dimension of our lives.Our actions are based on some motivations or reasons. But we rarely examine our motivations to see if they make sense. We rarely inspect our reasons critically to see if they are rationally justified.
Reason can merely take us to the gates of the afterlife. Even though it is aware that the world is not limited to the material, it cannot go farther than this world. It is here that faith must step in. Humans cannot do without reason in their lives as they encounter practical matters, and if they have to choose between faith and reason, they will choose the latter. Interpretations of the world based on reason are relative, a relativity that also permeates our perceptions of religion
Barriers To Critical Thinking
Egocentrism (self-centered thinking): – The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that deep down inside, we all believe that we are better than average drivers (Dave Barry).
Sociocentrism (group-centered thinking)