Skills and critical thinking

Critical thinking involves a number of cognitive skills. Although there are varying descriptions, we suggest there is a general consensus around three composite subset skills. The first is reasoning, which comprises the ability to identify and explore evidence using particular generic methods such as reading and discussion, as well inference and explanation. A second skill set involves evaluation, which comprises the skills of interpretation and analysis, including technical analysis using tools appropriate to the discipline (Ennis 1992). A third skill set involves the capacity for reflection or self-regulation that supports a "disciplined" ability to seek out knowledge and evidence (Ikuenobe 2001), as well as minimize assumptions and biases and see weaknesses even in one's own thinking (Ruggiero 2004).

Disposition and critical thinking

Disposition implies a willingness to do something given certain conditions (Ennis 1992). Personal disposition is an implicit component that can either enhance or hinder critical thinking and while literature tends toward positive dispositions as a key determinant of performance, some disagreements between the normative and laudatory roles of disposition in defining critical thinking are also noted (Lai 2011). Three main subset dispositions are identified: attitudes such as being open-minded and fair-minded; intellectual virtues such as truth seeking and curiosity; and habits of mind that include cultural- or trait-induced bias and the tendency toward black-and-white (dichotomous) thinking. Linking skills and disposition, studies suggest that being positively disposed toward critical thinking does not ensure that a person will be skilled. Equally, being skilled does not ensure that a person is disposed to use critical thinking (Facione, Facione, and Giancarlo 2000). For these reasons, as Facione et al. say, school curricula and educational outcome assessments need to focus on both developing skills and positive dispositions.

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