Learn to master critical-thinking skills


Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.

It appears that every curriculum nowadays is geared toward improving problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Today, coursework does not concentrate so much on memorization as it has in the past. Now the focus is on how well we are able to use critical-thinking skills.

If you are unclear about the definition of critical thinking and problem solving, allow me to define them for you in simple terms. The skills involve the process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing and synthesizing through observation, experience, reflection and reasoning to guide a set of beliefs and actions. A shorter definition of critical thinking and problem solving would be the ability to gather information and make appropriate decisions.

Schools are now focused on real-life experiences to help young students in their everyday life to meet the challenges of the real world. This is why it is so important for students to understand the steps in problem solving and critical thinking.

I do not want to misguide anyone into thinking that memorization skills and other skills are non-essential. They are important, too, but the emphasis now has shifted somewhat. Students must know how to research and process information that will resolve complicated issues.

Below are some steps to consider when engaging in critical thinking and problem solving:

* Gathering facts/information.

* Analyzing information to determine facts.

* Having knowledge of methods of logical inquiry.

* Drawing an opinion or proposing a theory.

* Reflecting by expressing the opinion.

* Making an observation, when appropriate.

* Exploring evidence.

* Drawing on ones own experiences.

* Learning from past practices/history.

* Figuring out what is reasonable.

* Having an objective viewpoint/contrast.

* Having a course of action and strategy.

* Being able to apply the skills.

* Knowing the consequences and impact of a decision.

* Making an evaluation.

* Knowing the outcome or result.

Once students have determined the right application process in how to arrive at the right decision, then it becomes practical to apply these steps in our everyday life. This is the process of critical thinking.

Today's standardized test will give students situations to solve by using their critical-thinking skills. It would be prudent for students now to become familiar with these terms and learn as much as possible for the coming years ahead.

It is important to know that we all use our problem-solving skills daily, and for many of us, we are successful at using these skills. However, perfection is always a goal. We want to sharpen these skills to give us the best opportunities for success.

With this being said, I want to encourage every student to review the aforementioned skills and apply them in your reading, science, math and history classes as well as in your everyday life. These skills will broaden your understanding of concepts and improve your abstract thinking.

This is a win-win approach to learning.

Good luck.

Philoron A. Wright Sr. is assistant to the superintendent of community and schools for Alachua County Public Schools.

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