In this paper we shall set out a stage theory based on the nearly twenty years of research of the Center for Critical Thinking and explain some of the theory’s implications for instruction.
We shall be brief, concise, and to the point in our explanation with minimal theoretical elaboration.
Defining Feature: Unreflective thinkers are largely unaware of the determining role that thinking is playing in their lives and of the many ways that problems in thinking are causing problems in their lives.
Unreflective thinkers lack the ability to explicitly assess their thinking and improve it thereby.
Here are some ways to sharpen your critical thinking skills. Know what is happening as well as what is not happening is essential. So often successful projects are the result of genuine collaboration where people build on each others’ ideas and contribution so that the net result is a synthesis, not the product of a single mind.
Senior managers who are good at their jobs do this intuitively. Debating alternatives takes time but it is so necessary. If there is one area of critical thinking that is overlooked, it is reflection. I remember interviewing the late Skip Le Fauvre, the former president of Saturn Corporation, about finding time for reflection. Reflection need not be saved for outcomes; it is often wise to evaluate the process as it applies to progress.Knowledge of Thinking: Unreflective thinkers lack the knowledge that high quality thinking requires regular practice in taking thinking apart, accurately assessing it, and actively improving it.In fact, unreflective thinkers are largely unaware of thinking as such, hence fail to recognize thinking as involving concepts, assumptions, inferences, implications, points of view, etc.It is important to recognize that on this view, persons are critical thinkers, in the fullest sense of the term, only if they display this ability and disposition in all, or most, of the dimensions of their lives (e.g.as a parent, citizen, consumer, lover, friend, learner, and professional).That is, most teachers are unaware of the levels of intellectual development that people go through as they improve as thinkers.We believe that significant gains in the intellectual quality of student work will not be achieved except to the degree that teachers recognize that skilled critical thinking develops, only when properly cultivated, and only through predictable stages.Once the stages are explained, and stage-specific recommendations are given, we close with some global implications for instruction.We make the following assumptions: (1) that there are predictable stages through which every person who develops as a critical thinker passes, (2) that passage from one stage to the next is dependent upon a necessary level of commitment on the part of an individual to develop as a critical thinker, is not automatic, and is unlikely to take place “subconsciously,” (3) that success in instruction is deeply connected to the intellectual quality of student learning, and (4) that regression is possible in development.Some Implications for Instruction: We must recognize that in the present mode of instruction it is perfectly possible for students to graduate from high school, or even college, and still be largely unreflective thinkers.Though all students think, most students are largely unaware of how their thinking is structured or how to assess or improve it.