Critical Thinking


About This Course

E40 Critical Thinking, 3 CE hours

Description: In critical thinking, we learn to ask questions to determine the facts, analyze the support for the various claims, evaluate the reliability of the various options, and infer the most reasonable conclusions.

Objective: At the end of this course, you will 1. Ask questions to determine the facts, 2. Analyze the support for the various claims, 3. Evaluate the reliability of the various options, and 4. Infer the most reasonable conclusions.

Meet Your Instructor


Rudolf E. Klimes, PhD, MPH


At the end of this course, if you are taking this course individually for 3 CEUs (rather than as a module of Care Ethics) you will need to take the self-correcting test to complete this course.


Critical thinking is the reasonable and reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do.

In critical thinking, we

  1. Ask questions to determine the facts,
  2. Analyze the support for the various claims,
  3. Evaluate the reliability of the various options, and
  4. Infer the most reasonable conclusions.

Read the following synopsis of a case study on critical thinking, “Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults To Explore Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting” by Stephen D. Brookfield:

A variety of methods are presented for developing skills for critical thinking, which is described as reflecting on assumptions underlying actions and considering new ways of looking at and living in the world. Critical thinking is viewed as not just an academic exercise, but a productive process enabling people to be more effective and innovative in four key areas of adult life: personal relationships, workplaces, political involvements, and responses to the media. The book contains three main parts:

(1) Understanding Critical Thinking in Adult Life, which covers what it means to think critically, recognizing critical thinking and learning to think critically in adult life, and how critical thinking sustains a healthy democracy;

(2) Practical Approaches for Developing Critical Thinkers, including effective strategies for facilitating critical thinking, helping others examine the assumptions underlying their thoughts and actions, and techniques for developing alternative ways of thinking; and

(3) Helping Adults Learn to Think Critically in Different Arenas of Life, including using the workplace as a resource for thinking and learning, analyzing political issues and commitments, developing critical judgments about television reporting, encouraging active learning through personal relationships, and being a skilled facilitator of critical thinking. An epilogue addresses the risks and rewards of helping others learn to think critically. 400 references. (LB)

Source: ED294480


1. Scientific Investigation Critical Thinking Indicators


  • Challenges assumptions
  • Creates analogies or metaphors
  • Differentiates between fact and opinion
  • Recognizes more than one point of view
  • Makes connections with prior learning experiences
  • Makes connections between shared ideas
  • Respectfully reflects on others’ ideas
  • Distinguishes between measurable and nonmeasurable questions
  • Constructs/formulates a measurable question or a purpose/problem
  • Composes a purpose/problem from the selected measurable question


  • Formulates reasonable questions related to the problem
  • Locates information from a variety of resources
  • Identifies and seeks additional materials
  • Reads to find additional information related to an investigation
  • Engages in self-directed research investigations
  • Expresses interest in replicating the investigations of others
  • Summarizes information to demonstrate understanding of facts


  • Selects a plausible and measurable solution based on information gathered from research


  • Designs a measurable test of the selected hypothesis
  • Breaks down test into steps which can be sequenced
  • Sequences steps
  • Adjusts steps when necessary
  • Rewrites steps to clarify


  • Compiles a list of all materials necessary to conduct the test
  • Verifies and acquires necessary materials
  • Modifies list of materials as adjustments are made in procedural steps


  • Performs test(s) following the steps of the procedure
  • Makes observations carefully, using all senses
  • Gathers data in an organized manner
  • Records data accurately in a written log
  • Makes diagrams or photographs during the test
  • Summarizes the data written form
  • Chooses an appropriate graphic representation of the data collected
  • Analyzes data
  • Communicates results accurately to an audience
  • Generalizes results to other investigations or applications
  • Clarifies results when necessary


  • Evaluates the analysis of the data
  • Judges data to assess whether it supports the hypothesis or not
  • Draws conclusions in written form



  • Interprets data when hypothesis is not supported by the conclusion and attempts to explain the reason for the failed hypothesis
  • Redesigns procedures based on interpretation of test results
  • Applies results to other learning opportunities
  • Reflects on investigation and poses other relevant questions to be investigated
  • Reflects on investigation and formulates a new purpose/problem that probes more deeply into the topic
  • Creates variation(s) on the original problem

Suggestions for Effective Use of Scientific Investigation Critical Thinking Indicators

  • Input the indicators into a spreadsheet program and evaluate one investigation process (ex. brainstorming) at a time.
  • Input the indicators into a spreadsheet program and evaluate students’ skills throughout the marking period and note the dates each indicator was investigated.
  • Enlarge the list of indicators and attach it to a chart. Jot down student’s name and place a sticker next to each critical thinking indicator attained throughout the investigation, grading period, or year.
  • Print out the entire list of Scientific Investigation Critical Thinking Indicators and highlight only those deemed appropriate for your classroom use. Generate a page of the selected indicators to be placed in the student’s science log for referencing during investigations. This page sets the standard that will be expected in future investigations and provides easy access to reference when in parent or student conferences.




2. A consensus statement on critical thinking in nursing.

Department of Nursing Education, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti 48197, USA.

The purpose of this study was to define critical thinking in nursing. A Delphi technique with 5 rounds of input was used to achieve this purpose. An international panel of expert nurses from nine countries: Brazil, Canada, England, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Thailand, and 23 states in the U.S. participated in this study between 1995 and 1998.

A consensus definition (statement) of critical thinking in nursing was achieved. The panel also identified and defined 10 habits of the mind (affective components) and 7 skills (cognitive components) of critical thinking in nursing.

The habits of the mind of critical thinking in nursing included: confidence, contextual perspective, creativity, flexibility, inquisitiveness, intellectual integrity, intuition, open-mindedness, perseverance, and reflection.

Skills of critical thinking in nursing included: analyzing, applying standards, discriminating, information seeking, logical reasoning, predicting and transforming knowledge. These findings can be used by practitioners, educators and researchers to advance understanding of the essential role of critical thinking in nursing.

Source: PMID: 11103973 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]



 3. Critical Thinking: Promoting It in the Classroom

Prepared by: M. Carrol Tama

IC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Digest #40

The NCTE Committee on Critical Thinking and the Language Arts defines critical thinking as “a process which stresses an attitude of suspended judgment, incorporates logical inquiry and problem solving, and leads to an evaluative decision or action.” In a new monograph copublished by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills, Siegel and Carey (1989) emphasize the roles of signs, reflection, and skepticism in this process.

Ennis (1987) suggests that “critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.” However defined, critical thinking refers to a way of reasoning that demands adequate support for one’s beliefs and an unwillingness to be persuaded unless the support is forthcoming.

Why should we be concerned about critical thinking in our classrooms? Obviously, we want to educate citizens whose decisions and choices will be based on careful, critical thinking. Maintaining the right of free choice itself may depend on the ability to think clearly. Yet, we have been bombarded with a series of national reports which claim that “Johnny can’t think” (Mullis, 1983; Gardner, 1983; Action for Excellence, 1983). All of them call for schools to guide students in developing the higher level thinking skills necessary for an informed society.

Skills needed to begin to think about issues and problems do not suddenly appear in our students (Tama, 1986; 1989). Teachers who have attempted to incorporate higher level questioning in their discussions or have administered test items demanding some thought rather than just recall from their students are usually dismayed at the preliminary results. Unless the students have been prepared for the change in expectations, both the students and the teacher are likely to experience frustration.

What is needed to cultivate these skills in the classroom? A number of researchers claim that the classroom must nurture an environment providing modeling, rehearsal, and coaching, for students and teachers alike, to develop a capacity for informed judgments (Brown, 1984; Hayes and Alvermann, 1986).


Hayes and Alvermann found that coaching teachers led to significant changes in students’ discussion, including more critical analysis. The supervision model that was used allowed teachers and researchers to meet for preobservation conferences in order to set the purpose for the observation. Then, each teacher’s lessons were videotaped and observers made field notes to supplement the videotape. After the lesson, the researchers met to analyze the tape and notes and to develop strategies for coaching the teachers. In another post-observation meeting, the teachers and supervisors planned future lessons incorporating the changes they felt necessary to promote and improve critical discussion in the classes.

Hayes and Alvermann report that this coaching led teachers to acknowledge students’ remarks more frequently and to respond to the students more elaborately. It significantly increased the proportion of text-connected talk students used as support for their ideas and/or as cited sources of their information. In addition, students’ talk became more inferential and analytical.

A summary of the literature on the role of “wait time,” (the time a teacher allows for a student to respond as well as the time an instructor waits after a student replies) found that it had an impact on students’ thinking (Tobin, 1987). In this review of studies, Tobin found that those teachers who allowed a 3-5 second pause between the question and response permitted students to produce cognitively complex discourse. Teachers who consciously managed the duration of pauses after their questioning and provided regular intervals of silence during explanation created an environment where thinking was expected and practiced.

However, Tobin concludes that “wait time” in and of itself does not insure critical thinking. A curriculum which provides students with the opportunity to develop thinking skills must be in place. Interestingly, Tobin found that high achievers consistently were permitted more wait time than were less skilled students, ndicating that teachers need to monitor and evaluate their own behavior while using such strategies.

Finally, teachers need to become more tolerant of “conflict,” or confrontation, in the classroom. They need to raise issues which create dissonance and refrain from expressing their own bias, letting the students debate and resolve problems. Although content area classroom which encourages critical thinking can promote a kind of some psychological discomfort in some students as conflicting accounts of information and ideas are argued and debated, such feelings may motivate them to resolve an issue (Festinger, 1957). They need to get a feel for the debate and the conflict it involves. Isn’t there ample everyday evidence of this: Donahue, Geraldo Rivera, USA Today?

Authors like Frager (1984) and Johnson and Johnson (1979) claim that to really engage in critical thinking, students must encounter the dissonance of conflicting ideas. Dissonance, as discussed by Festinger, 1957 promotes a psychological discomfort which occurs in the presence of an inconsistency and motivates students to resolve the issue.

To help students develop skills in resolving this dissonance, Frager (1984) offers a model for conducting critical thinking classes and provides samples of popular issues that promote it: for example, banning smoking in public places, the bias infused in some sports accounts, and historical incidents written from both American and Russian perspectives.

If teachers feel that their concept of thinking is instructionally useful, if they develop the materials necessary for promoting this thinking, and if they practice the procedures necessary, then the use of critical thinking activities in the classroom will produce positive results.

Matthew Lipman (1988) writes, “The improvement of student thinking–from ordinary thinking to good thinking–depends heavily upon students’ ability to identify and cite good reasons for their opinions.”

Training students to do critical thinking is not an easy task. Teaching which involves higher level cognitive processes, comprehension, inference, and decision making often proves problematic for students. Such instruction is often associated with delays in the progress of a lesson, with low success and completion rates, and even with direct negotiations by students to alter the demands of work (Doyle, 1985). This negotiation by students is understandable. They have made a career of passive learning. When met by instructional situations in which they may have to use some mental energies, some students resist that intellectual effort. What emerges is what Sizer (1984) calls “conspiracy for the least,” an agreement by the teacher and students to do just enough to get by.

Despite the difficulties, many teachers are now promoting critical thinking in the classroom. They are nurturing this change from ordinary thinking to good thinking admirably. They are 1) promoting critical thinking by infusing instruction with opportunities for their students to read widely, to write, and to discuss; 2) frequently using course tasks and assignments to focus on an issue, question, or problem; and 3) promoting metacognitive attention to thinking so that students develop a growing awareness of the relationship of thinking to reading, writing, speaking, and listening. (See Tama, 1989.)

Another new ERIC/RCS and NCTE monograph (Neilsen, 1989) echoes similar advice, urging teachers to allow learners to be actively involved in the learning process, to provide consequential contexts for learning, to arrange a supportive learning environment that respects student opinions while giving enough direction to ensure their relevance to a topic, and to provide ample opportunities for learners to collaborate.

Source and Footnotes:


Study this web-site for 3 hours for an approved (RN-CEP 11430, MFT- PCE 39) 3-hours Continuing Education Certificate (0.3 CEUs).  Click here for the self-correcting test & online payment, and 2) receive your certificate immediately online. All is online, nothing by post-mail.

Leave a Reply