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Learning without thought
is labour lost
Confucius 551 – 479 BCE
Chinese philosopher

Thinking and recall series

Critical thinking I

Strategies for critical thinking in learning and project management

Critical thinking studies a topic or problem with open-mindedness.
This exercise outlines the first stage of applying a critical thinking approach to developing and understanding a topic. You will:

  • Develop a statement of the topic
  • List what you understand, what you've been told
    and what opinions you hold about it
  • Identify resources available for research
  • Define timelines and due dates
    and how they affect the development of your study
  • Print the list as your reference

Here is more on the first stage:

Define your destination, what you want to learn
Clarify or verify with your teacher or an "expert" on your subject

Topics can be simple phrases:
"The role of gender in video game playing"
"Causes of the war before 1939"
"Mahogany trees in Central America"
"Plumbing regulations in the suburbs"
"Regions of the human brain"

  • Develop your frame of reference, your starting point,
    by listing what you already know about the subject
  • What opinions and prejudices do you already have about this?
    What have you been told, or read about, this topic?
  • What resources
    are available to you for research
    When gathering information, keep an open mind
    Look for chance resources that pop up!
    Play the "reporter" and follow leads
    If you don't seem to find what you need, ask librarians or your teacher.
  • How does your timeline and due dates affect your research?
    Keep in mind that you need to follow a schedule.
    Work back from the due date and define stages of development,
    not just with this first phase, but in completing the whole project.

Summary of critical thinking:

  • Determine the facts of a new situation or subject without prejudice
  • Place these facts and information in a pattern so that you can understand them
  • Accept or reject the source values and conclusions based upon your experience, judgment, and beliefs

Thinking and recall series

Concentrating | Radical thinking | Thinking aloud/private speech |
Thinking critically I | Thinking critically II | Thinking creatively | Brainstorming |
Mapping explanation | Make your own map I | Make your own map II |
Thinking like a genius: Creative solutions | Famous thinkers | Blog

See also: Teaching with questioning; teaching critical thinking

Flash exercise contributed by Lisa Reed and Professor Brad Hokanson, Interactive Media (DHA 4384) School of Design, University of Minnesota; revised and edited by Joe Landsberger