WHAT DO YOU AS A CRITICAL THINKER DO TO LEARN – PART 6B – CRITICAL THINKING SERIES

Disclaimer: Good Day, Readers.  WealthBuildingPowers blog is a financial literacy/competency blog and does not provide specific investment recommendations.  

Jim Leemann, Ph.D.

Part 6B. What do Critical Thinkers do to learn?

In this column we will continue explore ways to improve learning by making a course/work project work for you, important activities for successful learning, deciphering the logic of an article and book, and learning how to evaluate an author’s reasoning.  Learning involves taking an active role in planning your learning by focusing on the goals you want to achieve, the questions you want to answer, the information you need, the concepts you want to understand, and the perspectives you need to accept.

Making a Course/Work Project Work for You

Drs. Paul and Elder suggest that at the beginning of a course or a work project, ask yourself: How am I going to learn so as to make the design of this class or project work for me?  How am I going to become actively involved?  How am I going to develop the essential insights, understandings, knowledge, and abilities to contribute and learn?  How am I going to learn to reason my way to the answers to questions in this course or work project?

Important Activities for Successful Learning

Indeed, the most important activities for successful learning are ReadingWritingSpeaking, and Listening.  These four modes of thinking are highly interrelated and learning how to take charge of one of them will help you take charge of the other three.  Whenever you are reading, writing, speaking, and listening, you need to have your thinking be clear, precise, accurate, relevant, responsive to complexity, as broad as the issue requires, and focused on the appropriate point(s) of view.

Good readers, writers, speakers, listeners, and thinkers have agendas, address questions and problems, make assumptions, utilize information and concepts, make inferences and draw conclusions, consider implications and consequences, and reason within a point of view.

Deciphering the Logic of an Article, Essay, or a Book

In deciphering the logic of an article, essay, or book, you must be able to identify the elements of the author’s reasoning.  Once you have accomplished this, you can evaluate that reasoning by using the Intellectual Standards.  To analyze the logic of a written manuscript, using the following template will give you the reasoning of any author.

  1. The main purpose of the manuscript is ______________.  (In this statement, you are stating as accurately as possible the author’s purpose for writing the manuscript.  What was the author trying to accomplish?)
  2. The key question the author is addressing is _____________.  (Here, you want to figure out the key question that was in the author’s mind when he or she wrote the manuscript.  What was the key question the manuscript addressed?)
  3. The most important information in this manuscript is _______________.  (Identify the key information the author used in the manuscript to support the main arguments.  Here you are looking for facts, experiences, and data the author is using to support the conclusions.)
  4. The main inferences/conclusions in this manuscript are _____________.  (Identify the most important conclusions the author presents in the manuscript.)
  5. The key concept(s) we need to understand in this manuscript are ______________.  By these concepts, the author means _____________.  (What are the most important ideas that you would need to understand the author’s line of reasoning?  Then elaborate briefly on what the author means by these concepts.)
  6. The main assumption(s) underlying the author’s thinking is (are) ____________.  (What is the author taking for granted that might be questioned?  The assumptions are generalizations that the author does not think he or she has to defend, and they are usually unstated.  This is where the author’s logical thinking begins.)
  7. i.) If we take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are ___________.  (What consequences are likely to follow if people take the author’s reasoning seriously?  Follow the logical implications of the author’s position.  You should include implications that the author states.  If you believe them to be logical, you should also do your best thinking to determine on your own what you think the implications are.)

ii.) If we fail to take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are ___________.  (What consequences are likely to follow if people ignore or reject the author’s reasoning?)

  • The main point(s) of view presented in this manuscript are __________.  (What is the author looking at and how is the author seeing it?)

Learning How to Evaluate an Author’s Reasoning

At times you will want to analyze an author’s reasoning.  Drs. Paul and Elder provide a template for evaluating how well an author uses each of the elements of reasoning.  The template entails reviewing each of the elements of the author’s reasoning and evaluating them using the Intellectual Standards as outlined below.

  1. Focusing on the author’s purpose: Is the purpose well stated?  Is it clear and justifiable?
  2. Focusing on the key question that the manuscript answers: Is the question at issue well stated or clearly implied?  Is it clear and unbiased?  Does the way the question is stated do justice to the complexity of the matter at issue?  Are the question and purpose directly relevant to each other?
  3. Focusing on the most important information the author presents:  Does the author cite relevant sources, experiences, and other essential information to the topic?  Is the information accurate and relevant to the question being addressed?
  4. Focusing on the most fundamental concepts that are the centerpiece of the author’s reasoning: Does the author clarify key concepts, and are the concepts used justifiably?
  5. Focusing on the author’s assumptions: Does the author show sensitivity to what is taken for granted or assumed or does the author use questionable assumptions without pointing out possible inherent problems with the assumptions?
  6. Focusing on the most important inferences or conclusions: Do the inferences or conclusions follow from information relevant to the issue or does the author jump to unjustifiable conclusions?  Are there flaws in the author’s conclusions?
  7. Focusing on the author’s point of view: Does the author show sensitivity to alternative relevant points of view or lines of reasoning?  Does the author consider and respond to objections framed from other points of view?
  8. Focusing on implications: Does the author show a sensitivity to the implications and consequences of the position the author is taking?

Closing Remarks

The best Critical Thinkers are also skilled learners.  Learning requires one to devote a considerable amount of time to actively analyzing the sources of information presented and questioning the author’s assumptions and conclusions.  Additionally, learning requires the exploration of multiple sources of information and not being trapped in only seeking sources that support one’s point of view.  As you practice Critical Thinking skills, it will become obvious that learning will become a lifelong endeavor.

For a deeper understanding of Critical Thinking, I invite you to explore the following reference sources by Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder, published by Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD:

  • Critical Thinking – Learn the Tools the Best Thinkers Use (Concise Edition)
  • The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking – Concepts and Tools.
  • The Foundation for Critical Thinking https://www.criticalthinking.org/

Bio: Jim Leemann, Ph.D.

Dr. Leemann has had a 45-year career that has included being in the forefront of the safety, occupational health, and environmental fields in both the private and public sector. In addition, for 22 of those years, Dr. Leemann was an adjunct assistant professor teaching a variety of environmental and public health courses in the country’s oldest school of public health. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, master’s degrees in industrial hygiene and environmental engineering, his doctorate is in systemic management, which he has used to apply systems thinking methods to address organizational management problems.  

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ABOUT ME

I am a proud nerd (as my beautiful wife and daughter have told me) investment and finance blogger with an N.C.  State, Chemical Engineering, University Rutgers, MBA and Harvard University, Advanced Management education.

I left a corporate career because I desired to make a difference as a speaker and writer.  I was blessed to be coached and mentored by strong women and men in my family and professional life.  It is my time to serve and give back.

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I started my first business at ~13 years of age (a small but brilliantly created plant nursery). I am a successful investor in stocks, options, real estate and am happy to share my finance and investment lessons.  I am NOT a licensed financial advisor.  Please do not construe my suggestions on this blog as recommendations for your situation.  As an investor, you must establish your risk/loss tolerance.  Investment in any asset involves risk, including complete loss. 

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Powers Investments Management, LLC

This blog will provide, information and simple strategies, that will assist you to achieve YOUR financial objectives and long term targets. For over 30 years, I solved multi-million dollar problems, for Fortune 10-250, companies. My formal education includes: Business, Finance and Chemical Engineering {Problem Solving} at: Harvard, Rutgers and North Carolina State. And an additional 30+ years, managing my family’s investment decisions. I currently manage/advise people with net-worths ranging from the tens of thousands to several million dollars.

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