Critical thinking can be defined as the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
Basically, critical thinking is reasoned thinking involving critique.
We will look at a simple critical thinking structure that can be applied in any learning situation. Being aware of this structure may help you identify the extent of your knowledge on any given subject, therefore revealing where your strengths and weaknesses are.
THE ICE CREAM SHOP.
Let’s use critical thinking skills to invent a perfect ice cream store.
Stage one: Knowledge
Knowledge is the first stage of critical thinking. It is asking the simple questions and remembering the answers.
So, let’s invent our store! First let’s ask the basic questions:
What: Icy Creams Store
Where: Oxford High Street
Why: To make a profit serving delicious desserts.
Who: OISE Language Coaching
When: In three months
We can also ask ourselves how we’ll set up the store and we can describe our store to others.
Great! So, we have thought of our perfect store. But let’s delve deeper into what our store does and what it means to our customers.
Stage two: Comprehension
Okay, we know some simple facts. But do we comprehend what we really want our store to be?
When trying to comprehend something, we can tell somebody else, clearly, what the thing is and, most of all, how it is different to other things like it.
So, as part of the ice cream experiment, write a small paragraph explaining about the store. What is the store's mission? What type of atmosphere are you aiming for? What does your brand represent? - you want to show a true understanding of the subject, even if that understanding is just theory.
“Icy Creams Store will be a family-friendly store in central Oxford, designed to cool and relax busy shoppers. Icy Creams will be table service; customers enter a chilled and spacious environment and make their orders with enthusiastic servers. We will serve a range of flavours, desserts, and drinks. We want service to be quick and easy - customers should never have to queue up for their ice cream. They can relax from the moment they sit down. They can also order and pay with their Icy Creams app.”
Stage three: Application
We now know what we want, and what we want the store to represent. We can define it, explain it, talk about it with others. But now we go deeper. Now we will apply our skills and knwoledge to the situation, design the store, and consider how to achieve these goals in an ordered and sophisticated way.
Applying essentially means proving that your comprehensive model works. To practice this, draw a small outline of your store. Figure out where the customers will sit, where they will pay, where you will advertise your menu. If this was a real situation, the business would follow through on its promises and open, following an applied plan.
But what we really want to see is critical thinking, so this leads us on to stage four…
Stage four: Analysis
Having had real experience with your store, you are now in a position to analyse what works and what does not. You can compare your store to others like it, or examine what has been working and what has not. Perhaps you could debate with your staff as to what might be done to improve the operation.
To practise this in our ice cream example, complete the exercise with somebody else in your class. When you swap plans, fairly critique it and ask probing questions that might undermine or support the plan you've just seen. By actively challenging each other, you will be building your analytical skills.
So, let’s say we wanted to apply this structure to English practise.
First we would have to know the correct words.
Then we would have to comprehend the structure of the sentence we want to create.
Afterwards, we would apply the sentence by practising it in written and spoken English.
Finally, we would analyse our use of the sentence by critiquing the pronunciation, trying new combinations, and by distinguishing where we are going right and wrong.
Written by Sam Kearns, Community Manager.