Critical thinking involves the use of a group of interconnected skills to analyze, creatively integrate, and evaluate what you read and hear so you can make the most informed decisions. Its about not believing the first thing you are told, or going along with popular opinion based solely on the fact that many other people believe in something.
Critical thinking is a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false. It can be considered a skill as it takes a lot of practice and long periods of trial and error to get it right, but when you do, it will help you make better decisions in your personal and professional life.
Here are 6 steps to Critical thinking:
Step 1: Knowledge
In terms of critical thinking, the basic level of acquisition of knowledge requires that you be able to identify what is being said: the topic, the issue, the thesis, and the main points. Become a learned person by acquiring knowledge and pursuing topics that interest you. Read great books on interesting subjects that will give you a better understanding of the world, logic, and science.
Step 2: Comprehension
Comprehension means understanding the material read, heard or seen. In comprehending, you make the new knowledge that you have acquired your own by relating it to what you already know. The better you are involved with the information, the better you will comprehend it. As always, the primary test of whether you have comprehended something is whether you can put what you have read or heard into your own words.
Remember that comprehending something implies that you can go beyond merely parroting the material back but instead that you can give the material your own significance.
A key factor in becoming a master of any skill is to be able to link different and seemingly unconnected pieces of information, and putting them together to build new ideas. Comprehension is an understanding of the subject matter as apposed to knowing it.
Step 3: Application
Application requires that you know what you have read, heard, or seen, that you comprehend it, and that you carry out some task to apply what you comprehend to an actual situation.
Its not an option to learn what you should do, but never get down to applying it to real life situations. Apply what you know and enjoy the results.
Step 4: Analysis
Analysis involves breaking what you read or hear into its component parts, in order to make clear how the ideas are ordered, related, or connected to other ideas. Analysis deals with both form and content to improve your critical thinking.
Any difficult or seemingly complex subject matter or story has components that can be dissected to allow for a better understanding of what has happened. Just like a news story told from different news channels with different motives, learn to dissect and understand what is happening, by looking at the story as small segments of a larger picture.
Step 5: Synthesis
Synthesis involves the ability to put together the parts you analyzed with other information to create something original.
Step 6: Evaluation
Evaluation occurs once we have understood and analyzed what is said or written and the reasons offered to support it. Then we can appraise this information in order to decide whether you can give or withhold belief, and whether or not to take a particular action. Never put evaluation ahead of the other steps in critical thinking steps; otherwise, you will be guilty of a “rush to judgement.” When emotion substitutes for reasons, evaluation incorrectly precedes analysis.
Understanding Convergent and Divergent Thinking
Convergent and divergent thinking have a crucial role in critical thinking. Paul Guildford, an American psychologist, first introduced the terms convergent thinking and divergent thinking. Convergent and divergent thinking are natural thought processes and are invariably referred to as ‘two sides of the same coin.’ Convergent and divergent thinking is required to solve problems, enhance creativity, enable decision-making, and developing innovative ideas.
Convergent thinking and divergent thinking are the polar opposites of each other. Convergent thinking is linear, but divergent thinking stimulates multiple thoughts, leading to multi-directional thinking. Understanding convergent and divergent thinking can allow you to consciously use the appropriate thought process to get the best results:
What is convergent thinking?
Convergent thinking allows the application of knowledge and logic in order to reduce the number of solutions of a problem. This method of thinking is rigorous and analytical, and it demands attention as well as focus. Fine-tuning ideas, improving, and consideration falls in the convergent way of thinking. It focuses on selecting, screening, and evaluating alternatives. Convergent thinking’s goal is to arrive at a single correct answer, or else the best option available.
Understanding convergent and divergent thinking will lead you to the understanding that though the modes of divergent-convergent thinking differ, they are both required to find creative solutions – or rather – for creative thinking. Convergent thinking judges the options generated and divergent thinking generates options which are without judgment.
Convergent thinking is inward thinking
In this mode of thinking, the thought process moves inwards with a very narrow attention focus. It’s tied to the end goal and does not veer out of the area concerned. Ideas are sorted into different categories; then analyzed as well as evaluated. Solving questions in a multiple choice questionnaire is one of the convergent thinking examples, as the answer is quite definite and there can be no ambiguity.
What is divergent thinking?
Divergent thinking generates multiple solutions to one problem. Brainstorming sessions are good examples of divergent thinking. This type of thinking has no limitations and is not bound to a single goal. In divergent thinking, the thought process is not logical. The thinker uses his/her imagination to explore various possibilities. Divergent thinking happens in a free-flowing, spontaneous manner.
Divergent thinking generates ideas in an unorganized and random manner. It is supposed to be the primary method of discovering creative ideas.
Divergent thinking is focused outwards (think centrifugal movement as opposed to the centripetal movement of convergent thinking). The area of thought is vast, and it isn’t tied as much to the goal as convergent thinking is. Divergent thinking is part of the creative process – or rather- the beginning of the creative process. Albert Einstein is one of the most famous exponents of divergent thinking.
Explained: The difference between divergent and convergent thinking
In divergent thinking, the right side of the brain is used; whereas in convergent thinking, the left side of the brain is used. In any situation, convergent and divergent thinking is used, to a lesser or greater degree, depending on the person. Another type of thinking is the ‘Pivot’ thinking – the ability to switch between convergent and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking examples include spelling tests, standardized tests, and so on, which can have only one correct answer. Divergent thinking examples are creative writing and brainstorming.
Strategies used in convergent thinking
In convergent thinking, the thinking process progresses from parts of a particular problem to specific data. It involves narrowing down of several ideas or converging ideas by sorting, analyzing, judging, selecting, and eliminating. It emphasizes accuracy and the thinking process is channelized to arrive at the correct answer. The strategies used in convergent thinking is:
- Being systematic
- Evaluating ideas using logic
- Using intuition
- No breaking of paradigms
Strategies used in divergent thinking
Divergent thinking entails imagery and perspectives. It is a complex process. Novel ideas find expression through divergent thinking. Strategies to develop divergent thinking are:
- Expansion of ideas while deferring judgment
- Creation of multiple ideas
- Combining numerous ideas
- Breaking paradigms
Understanding convergent and divergent thinking is important for the optimal use of both the techniques. They are extremely important for critical thinking and are powerful tools which lead to new discoveries and inventions. All great scientists have used these two modes of thinking and made groundbreaking discoveries. It is wise to remember that imagination and decision-making are both crucial for every innovation.