WHAT STAGE ARE YOU IN CRITICAL THINKING DEVELOPMENT? – FINAL CRITICAL THINKING SERIES – PART 10

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

STYRON’S INTRODUCTION

My wife and I made several critical decisions in the past few months and relied heavily on our critical thinking skills. From selecting a retirement state and city, placing our home of 20+ years on the market, deciding to build a new home, and selecting a builder, each choice required careful consideration and evaluation. Thanks to Dr. Leemann and this series, we could approach these situations more clearly and confidently and feel better equipped to handle future decisions.

Dr. Leemann, I want to take a moment to thank you for this excellent and informative series. Your insights and guidance have been invaluable, and I plan to continue reading your reference materials to improve my critical thinking skills further.

Regardless of your career, life, or financial goals, improving your critical thinking skills is crucial for success. I hope this series inspires you to hone your analytical abilities and make more informed decisions in all aspects of your life.

FINAL/PART 10 THINKING SERIES: What stage are you in Critical Thinking development?

Jim Leemann, Ph.D.

As we finish this Critical Thinking series, I want to close with presenting the stages of Critical Thinking and some ideas to consider in developing your Critical Thinking skills.  Indeed, Critical Thinking is a discipline that takes focused and concentrated practice and is fraught with setbacks.  Hopefully, this column will furnish several approaches to developing these skills that you arane comfortable with pursuing.  To further your exploration of Critical Thinking, here are recently uploaded YouTube presentations on Critical Thinking from the Foundation of Critical Thinking: https://www.youtube.com/@CriticalThinkingOrg/videos.

FINAL/PART 10: What stage are you in Critical Thinking development?

As previously noted, most of us take our day-to-day thinking for granted and spend little time working on improving our thinking processes.  Adjusting our thinking habits is a long-term process that occurs over years, not weeks or months.

Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder describe in their Critical Thinking – Learn the Tools the Best Thinkers Use, the six stages of development of Critical Thinkers.  These stages include:

Stage 1 The Unreflective Thinker – Unaware of significant problems in thinking.

Stage 2 The Challenged Thinker – Aware of the problems in thinking.

Stage 3 The Beginning Thinker – Improving thinking but without regular practice.

Stage 4 The Practicing Thinker – Recognizes the necessity of regular practice.

Stage 5 The Advanced Thinker – Advanced in accordance with CT practices.

Stage 6 The Master Thinker – Skilled and insightful thinking is second nature.

Achieving the stage of a Master Thinker may according to Drs. Paul and Elder be an “ideal” that one can work toward as opposed to a goal one can reach.

Stage 1: The Unreflective Thinker

As we go through life, many of us remain Unreflective Thinkers lacking awareness of how our thinking is affecting our lives.  For example, we find ourselves challenged by the following:

▪ Making assumptions, forming concepts, and drawing inferences within our point of view.

▪ Failing to analyze our thinking.

▪ Failing to question our beliefs.

▪ Failing to question our decisions.

▪ Lacking intellectual standards or even knowing what such standards might be.

▪ Lacking intellectual traits.

▪ Unconsciously deceiving ourselves in many ways.

▪ Creating and maintaining pleasant illusions, which often lead to problems.

At any given time, all of us are Unreflective Thinkers confidently believing that the way things appear to us at the moment is as we think it should be.  It is at these moments that we rely on our egocentric and irrational thinking behavior dismissing any alternative ideas that are contrary to our way of thinking and outside of our comfort zone.  To break out of this Unreflective Thinker phase, it will take a concentrated effort to recognize and address the problems in our thinking.

Stage 2: The Challenged Thinker

Once we begin to recognize the flaws in our thinking and take the time to start learning and developing the necessary skills to become a Critical Thinker, we will enter the Challenged Thinker phase of our thinking journey.  The second stage, according to Drs. Paul and Elder, is characterized by noticing that we are often:

▪ Making questionable assumptions.

▪ Using false, incomplete, or misleading information.

▪ Making inferences not aligned with the evidence.

▪ Failing to recognize important implications in our thought process.

▪ Failing to recognize problems we are addressing.

▪ Forming faulty concepts.

▪ Reasoning using prejudiced points of view.

▪ Thinking egocentrically and irrationally.

Challenged Thinkers become aware of how their thinking is affecting their lives; especially, when they realize their thinking is causing the problems in their lives.  It is at this point in your thinking journey that it is obvious that changing your thinking habits will be quite challenging.  Signs, according to Drs. Paul and Elder, that one is beginning to become reflective include:

▪ Striving to analyze and assess one’s thinking.

▪ Working with the structures of the mind that create thinking (e.g., concepts, assumptions, inferences, implications, and points of view).

▪ Thinking about the qualities that make thinking sound (i.e., clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, and logic) even though you are just beginning to understand how these qualities can be achieved.

▪ Becoming interested in the role of self-deception in your thinking.

At this stage, it is easy to fall back into being an Unreflective Thinker reasoning that your thinking has not been that bad.  You may find yourself thinking – “if everyone would think like me, this would be a great world.”  By the way, this way of thinking is shared by people in all walks of life and ages regardless of their level of education.  Absence of intellectual humility will lead to resistance to the challenge of Critical Thinking; therefore, Drs. Paul and Elder note some soul-searching is important at this point in the process.

Stage 3: The Beginning Thinker

Once you decide to accept the challenge to develop your thinking skills, you have entered the Beginner Thinker stage. Drs. Paul and Elder remind us:

A thinker who has never challenged his [or her] own thinking has no right to challenge the thinking of others.

Characteristics that surface as beginning thinkers start thinking about thinking include:

▪ Analyzing the logic of situations and problems.

▪ Expressing clear and precise questions.

▪ Checking information for accuracy and relevance.

▪ Distinguishing between raw information and someone’s interpretation.

▪ Recognizing assumptions guiding inferences.

▪ Identifying prejudicial and biased beliefs, unjustifiable conclusions, misused words, and missed implications.

▪ Noticing when our viewpoint is biased by our self-interest.

As a Beginning Thinker, awareness of the Elements of Thought, discussed in Part 2 of this Series, begins to come into play.  Recall, the Elements include Purposes, Questions, Points of View, Information, Inferences, Concepts, Implications, and Assumptions.  Additionally, the Beginning Thinker starts to appreciate the value of thinking in terms of Clarity, Accuracy, Relevance, Precision, Logic, Justifiability, Significance, Completeness, Breadth, Depth, and Fairness discussed in Part 3 of this Series.

In addition to undertaking this above awareness, the Beginning Thinker needs to explore what influences his or her thinking.  For example, such influences might include the culture, time, and place one is born into, parental beliefs, and the beliefs of those with whom one associates.

Stage 4: The Practicing Thinker

Moving from Beginning to Practicing Thinker requires one to make a daily commitment to practice thinking well and design and implement a personal plan for practice.  It is at this stage that one may tend to give up based on failing to establish habits of regular practice.  Individuals are discouraged due to not achieving success on their early attempts.   The key is to develop a plan that you are comfortable with and will not burn you out.  Indeed, you may need to trial-test several different approaches to find the plan that best suits you.

Stages 5 and 6: The Advanced and The Master Thinker

Drs. Paul and Elder include these two stages to distinguish a Critical Thinker that has spent years of advanced practice to become an Advanced Thinker.  They present the Master Thinker as an “ideal” toward which one can strive for rather than a practical goal one can reach.

Ideas for Developing a Thinking Plan

Drs. Paul and Elder have developed nine ideas for you to consider using to develope your thinking plan.  None of these ideas take precedent over the other.  Consider each and determine which one or several you would consider using to practice developing your thinking.

1. Use “wasted” time.  

Since none of us use all of our time wisely, this idea suggests using your wasted time to practice good thinking.  Select a quiet time during your day and reflect over the past day asking yourself questions, such as:

▪ When did I do my worst thinking today?

▪ When did I do my best thinking today?

▪ What did I actually think about today?

▪ Did I figure out anything?

▪ Did I allow my negative thinking to frustrate me unnecessarily?

▪ If I had to repeat today, what would I do differently? Why?

▪ Did I do anything today to further my long-term goals?

▪ Did I act in accordance with my own expressed values?

▪ If I were to spend every day this way for 10 years, would I at the end have accomplished something worthy of that time?

2. Handle a problem a day.  

As you start your day, select a problem to tackle that day when you have free moments.  Consider the logic of the problem based on its elements.  Systematically answer the questions:

▪ What exactly is the problem?

▪ How can I put it into the form of a question?

3. Internalize intellectual standards.  

Each week select one of the Universal Intellectual Standards presented in Part 3 of this Series and focus on that Standard for the week.  Drs. Paul and Elder use Clarity as an example.  If you select Clarity, practice four techniques of clarification: 1) clearly state what you are saying with careful consideration of the words you use, 2) elaborate on the meaning in other words, 3) provide examples of your meaning based on experiences you have had, and 4) draw upon metaphors, analogies, pictures, or diagrams to illustrate your meaning.

4. Keep an intellectual journal.  

Each week journal the following about events you experience:

▪ Describe situations that are emotionally significant to you.

▪ Describe only one situation at a time.

▪ Describe how you behaved in the situation, being specific and exact.

▪ Analyze in light of what you have written, what precisely was going on.

▪ Assess the implications of your analyses. What did you learn about yourself?  What would you do differently if you could relive the situation?

5. Reshape your character.

Select one intellectual trait (i.e., intellectual humility, autonomy, integrity, courage, perseverance, empathy, confidence in reason, and fair-mindedness) to strive for each month.  Drs. Paul and Elder provide Intellectual Humility as an example.  They suggest noticing when you admit you are wrong and refuse to admit you are wrong.  Notice when you become defensive when another person points out a flaw in your thinking and when your self-importance keeps you from learning.

6. Deal with your ego.

Questions Drs. Paul and Elder propose you ask yourself on a daily basis include:

▪ Did I ever become irritable over small things?

▪ Did I do or say anything irrational to get my way?

▪ Did I try to impose my will on others?

▪ Did I ever fail to speak my mind when I felt strongly about something, and then later feel resentment?

After you identify your egocentric thinking, turn your attention to rational thought by way of systematic self-reflection.  Avoid being trapped into thinking you are thinking the same as a rational person’s thinking when you may be engaging in self-deception.

7. Redefine the way you see things.  

You have control over how you see your world and how you react to your world.  As the old question goes – Is your glass half full or half empty?  For this idea, list five to ten recurrent negative situations wherein you become frustrated, angry, worried, or unhappy.  Next, define the root cause of the negative emotion for each case.  Then identify a plausible alternative definition for each case followed by a plan for a new emotional response to each case.

8. Get in touch with your emotions.  

Drs. Paul and Elder suggest for this idea to identify a situation when you have a negative emotion and systematically ask yourself:

▪ What, exactly, is the thinking that led to this emotion?

▪ How might my thinking be flawed?

▪ What am I assuming?

▪ Should I be making these assumptions?

▪ What information is my thinking based on?

▪ Is that information reliable?

9. Analyze group influences on your life.  

The groups you associate with have a considerable influence on how you think.  Based on this influence, Drs. Paul and Elder encourage the idea of analyzing the effects each of your groups have on you by asking the following questions:

▪ What are you required or expected to believe?

▪ What are you “forbidden” to do?

If you find the group does not require you to believe in something or that there are no taboos, it is highly likely that you are not analyzing the group very deeply.

Closing Remarks

In closing, Critical Thinking can be and is a life changing experience both in your personal and professional lives.  It takes practice to become comfortable with routinely drawing upon the thinking skills to employ Critical Thinking in addressing problems and situations.  Always be mindful that there will be setbacks in your Critical Thinking journey, but once you have achieved the skills to Critically Think you will be pleased with the results.  My best to you in your intellectual Critical Thinking journey.

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.

Critical Thinking – Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life, Fourth Ed.

▪ The Foundation for Critical Thinking https://www.criticalthinking.org/

Critical Writing – A Guide to Writing a Paper Using the Concepts and Processes of Critical Thinking by Dr. Gerald Nosich, published by Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD.

▪ Here are recently uploaded YouTube presentations on Critical Thinking from the Foundation of Critical Thinking: https://www.youtube.com/@CriticalThinkingOrg/videos

Additionally, the following reference provides an excellent resource on irrational behavior.

Sway – The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman, 2008. Doubleday, NY, NY.

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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TRUST ME – YOU WILL LIKE THE BELOW BLOGS! 

NEW SERIES – CRITICAL THINKING – BY: DR. JAMES LEEMANN 

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CRITICAL THINKING – TOP TEN IN-DEMAND SKILLS FOR MANY EMPLOYERS! – CRITICAL THINKING PART 3: WHAT ARE THE UNIVERSAL STANDARDS OF THINKING?

CRITICAL THINKING – WHAT LEVEL OF THINKING ARE YOU? CRITICAL THINKING PART 4

THINKING IS DRIVEN BY QUESTIONS, NOT ANSWERS – PART 5 CRITICAL THINKING SERIES: WHAT QUESTIONS DO THE BEST CRITICAL THINKERS ASK?

WHAT {DO YOU, AS A} CRITICAL THINKER, DO TO LEARN? – PART 6A – CRITICAL THINKING SERIES

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

WHAT HABITS DO CRITICAL THINKERS USE WHEN READING AND WRITING? PART 7A – CRITICAL THINKING SERIES

PART 7B: SUBSTANTIVE WRITING: WHAT HABITS DO CRITICAL THINKERS USE WHEN READING AND WRITING? – CRITICAL THINKING SERIES

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A FAIR-MINDED CRITICAL THINKER? – CRITICAL THINKING SERIES – PART 8

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO DEAL WITH YOUR IRRATIONAL MIND? – CRITICAL THINKING SERIES – PART NINE (9)

 

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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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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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