Most people are not critical thinkers by nature. It takes years of practice and commitment to become a highly productive and efficient critical thinker. In order to develop the right frame of mind in becoming a critical thinker there are certain stages that can be followed to help students practice their critical thinking skills. “Stage one: The Unreflective Thinker” this stage entails students who are unaware of any problems that they might have in the critical thinking process (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.1). “Stage Two: The Challenged Thinker” this is the stage where the students begin to become familiar with any problems they might have in the critical thinking process (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.1). “Stage Three: The Beginning Thinker” in this stage the student begins to improve their skills but without much practice (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.1).
“Stage Four: The Practicing Thinker” here the student begins to realize the importance of practicing their critical thinking skills (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.1). “Stage Five: The Advanced Thinker” advancement is directly correlated with practice. The more the student practices the more advanced he/she becomes (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.2). “Stage Six: The Master Thinker” at this stage, the student begins to become a highly skilled critical thinker and it becomes second nature (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.2). A question a student might want to ask themselves is, what stage best fits me? And, how can I improve myself to become a more proficient critical thinker?
These stages are useless unless a student is willing to accept the fact that there is some deficit in their critical thinking skills. In order to help students progress through the rankings of these stages, a list of nine strategies has been devised to aid in the student’s progress. “Strategy #1: Use “Wasted” Time” a countless number of hours are wasted every day (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.2). This is wasted time that could have been used to improve your critical thinking skills. A student must be able to recognize when the time they are using is wasted or productive. When an individual acquires this skill, the wasted time can be put to further the individual’s critical thinking development. “Strategy #2: A Problem A Day” a student must pick a problem that can be thought out thoroughly each day (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.3). This can be done on the way to work, in the shower, or when one finds that they are wasting time. Completely think out the question and suggest solutions to possibly remedy the problem. “Strategy #3: Internalize Intellectual Standards” Some examples of universal intellectual standards are, clarity, precision, logicalness, and accuracy (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.3). Once a week a student must take one of these standards and use it in everyday situations.
For example, a student might want to use logicalness and apply it to every day life. This can be applied to every task the student is performing in order to see if it is being performed in a logical manner. “Strategy #4 Keep an Intellectual Journal” a written record of a students critical thinking experiences will be helpful in allowing the student to refer back to specific techniques that were the most productive (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.4). “Strategy #5: Reshape Your Character” A student must take one personal trait such as empathy, and apply it to their everyday life (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.5). “Strategy #6: Deal with Your Egocentrism” (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.6) it is human nature for an individual to think in terms of ones self (Gelfand et. al., 2002). A student must devise a way to be aware of this type of thinking in order to minimize egocentric actions. “Strategy #7: Redefine the Way You See Things” (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.6) students consistently bombard themselves with negative thoughts about themselves, the world, and their work.
A student must lean how to turn these negative thoughts into positive thoughts. Only then will he/she be more productive in every aspect of their life. “Strategy #8: Get in Touch with Your Emotions” a student must turn negative emotions into positive (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.6). One good example is to try to find the humorous side of an occasion that might otherwise make you angry or upset (Paul and Elder, 2000). “Strategy #9: Analyze Group Influence on your Life” individuals tend to give in to group influences (Paul and Elder, 2000, p.7). A student must learn to read these influences and make a decision on what action needs to be taken.
In order to become a more proficient critical thinker a student must remember these three main points. First, evaluate yourself honestly in order to realize what area needs improvement, only then can you begin to improve. Second, practice makes perfect, in order to become a master of any skill a certain amount of practice is needed in any field. Third, once a student becomes a proficient critical thinker, keep exploring new ideas in order to improve.
These steps and strategies can also be applied to the research field. In research, scientific reading and writing is an everyday process. Critical thinking is a skill that every scientist must have in order to excel in their work environment. All these strategies can be used in order to improve the critical thinking skills of every employee.
Elder, L. & Paul, R. (2000). Critical Thinking: Nine strategies for everyday life. Journal of
Developmental Education, 24, 40-42. Retrieved November 2, 2003, from: http://www.apollolibrary.com/srp/gbm/COM515.asp
Gelfand MJ, Higgins M, Nishii LH, Raver JL, Alexandria D, Murakami F., et al. (2002).
Culture and egocentric perceptions of fairness in conflict and negotiation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 5, 833-845.