Conversations on Critical Thinking: Can Critical Thinking Find Its Way Forward as the Skill Set and Mindset of the Century?
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.It entails the examination of those structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue; assumptions; concepts; empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from alternative viewpoints; and frame of reference…the development of critical thinking skills and dispositions is a life-long endeavor. The development of critical thinking is included in most conversations related to the development of so-called “21st century skills”. This manuscript is the initial investigation of the discourses around the notion of critical thinking as reflected in four diverse global contexts. It seeks to investigate the current perceptions of critical thinking in the relevant education policies of these different cultural environments if they exist, and, if possible the degree to which critical thinking is articulated. Further study intends to research how, if at all, the rhetoric of critical thinking is actually realized in educational practices and to what degree the development of critical thinking skills can contribute to informed global citizenship. This writing presents the initial investigation of the policyscape in each of the four contexts included in the study. These are captured in the vignettes developed by the participants with academic educational experiences in dissimilar backgrounds. The vignettes are followed by a discussion of the major theories defined and developed by scholars of critical thinking in western tradition and a suggested framework for the possible identification of, and the potential success of teaching and learning around the cognitive capacities of critical thinking in the formal, educational contexts of the countries of those represented by the collaborative team associated with this research project.
2. Research Context
3. Purpose of the Research
4. Historical Perspectives of Critical Thinking
Reinforcement fosters the repetition of what gets reinforced, regardless of the acting subject’s understanding of the problem that was posed, and of the inherent logic that distinguishes solutions from inadequate responses (p. 17).
…certain actions are reinforced as a result of their outcomes, so learning follows action. And what is learnt is action: the cognitive element is small .
5. Current Perspectives of Critical Thinking
- What contextual influences may impact on educational policy statements related to developing students’ critical thinking skills?
- What, if any, do the statements in educational policy, ministerial declarations, curriculum and syllabi indicate about perceptions of the nature and importance of students in schools developing the cognitive capacities of critical thinking?
7. Critical Thinking in the Pakistani Educational Context
7.1. History and Tradition Contexts
7.2. Perceptions and Importance of Developing Critical Thinking Skills
There are some cultural barriers, mentioned by the participants, which discourage critical thinking, especially for women. The common social norm expects females to be quiet and this silent trait makes them more appealing to the proposition of marriage. In addition, people feel unease when questions about religion are being asked, not only for Islamiat, but also for Christianity, as this challenges their beliefs.
Promote higher order thinking skills that develop the capacity for self-directed learning, a spirit of inquiry, critical thinking, reasoning and teamwork  (p. 31).
8. Critical Thinking in the Educational Context of Australia
- goals and purpose;
- questions that lead to the proposition or proposal;
- information, data and experience gleaned;
- inferences and conclusions made;
- concepts and ideas evoked;
- implications and consequences;
- viewpoints and perspectives.
- Inquiring, identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas: pose questions; identify and clarify information and ideas; organise and process information;
- Generating ideas, possibilities and actions: imagine possibilities and connect ideas; consider alternatives; seek solutions and put ideas into action;
- Reflecting on thinking and processes: think about thinking (metacognition); reflect on processes; transfer knowledge into new contexts;
- Analysing, synthesising and evaluating reasoning and procedures: apply logic and reasoning; draw conclusions and design a course of action; evaluate procedures and outcomes.
9. Critical Thinking in the Educational Context of Vietnam
- Logical dimension: thinking is an inference process;
- Psychological dimension: thinking is a psychological process;
- Semiotic dimension: thinking is a process of expressing stored thoughts via language;
- Sociopolitical dimension: thinking is under the influences of the contextual factors;
- Methodological dimension: thinking process employs different strategies and principles to be operated;
- Educational dimension: thinking is a process to develop universal intellectual traits (intellectual humility, intellectual autonomy, intellectual integrity, intellectual courage, intellectual perseverance, confidence in reason, intellectual empathy, and fair-mindedness).
10. Critical Thinking in the Educational Context of India
We need critical thinkers—Times of India, 13 June 2011;Can India have a future without critical thinkers—Hindustan Times, 26 June 2016;The elephant in the room—Indian Express, 28 July 2017;Critical thinking a post-truth remedy—The Hindu, 30 Jan 2017.
Educational Policy and Documentation
- conformity with the values enshrined in the Constitution;
- all round development of the child;
- building up child’s knowledge, potentiality and talent;
- development of physical and mental abilities to the fullest extent;
- learning through activities, discovery and exploration in a child friendly and child-centered manner;
- medium of instructions shall, as far as practicable, be in child’s mother tongue;
- making the child free of fear, trauma and anxiety and helping the child to express views freely;
- comprehensive and continuous evaluation of child’s understanding of knowledge and his or her ability to apply the same.
11.1. Cultural, Social, Religious and Political Sensitivities Which Impact on Purposes for Teaching Critical Thinking
11.2. The Nature of Critical Thinking
We understand critical thinking to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment that results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based. 
Collaborative problem solving (CPS) is a critical and necessary skill used in education and in the workforce. While problem solving, as defined in PISA 2012 (OECD, 2010), relates to individuals working alone on resolving problems where a method of solution is not immediately obvious, in CPS, individuals pool their understanding and effort and work together to solve these problems. Collaboration has distinct advantages over individual problem solving because it allows for: (i) an effective division of labour (ii) the incorporation of information from multiple perspectives, experiences and sources of knowledge  enhanced creativity and quality of solutions stimulated by the ideas of other group members.
11.3. Pedagogies of Critical Thinking
11.4. Pedagogies to Support the Development of Critical Thinking
12. Conclusions and Implications
- Q3. Where critical thinking and its authentic culturally based counterparts appear in educational documents, is there any evidence of classroom-based practices that articulate the policies?
- Q4. If critical thinking pedagogies in any form are evidenced in school- based practices, what implications may these have for culturally authentic, global citizenship?
Conflicts of Interest
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Sellars, M.; Fakirmohammad, R.; Bui, L.; Fishetti, J.; Niyozov, S.; Reynolds, R.; Thapliyal, N.; Liu-Smith, Y.-L.; Ali, N. Conversations on Critical Thinking: Can Critical Thinking Find Its Way Forward as the Skill Set and Mindset of the Century? Educ. Sci. 2018, 8, 205. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci8040205
Sellars M, Fakirmohammad R, Bui L, Fishetti J, Niyozov S, Reynolds R, Thapliyal N, Liu-Smith Y-L, Ali N. Conversations on Critical Thinking: Can Critical Thinking Find Its Way Forward as the Skill Set and Mindset of the Century? Education Sciences. 2018; 8(4):205. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci8040205Chicago/Turabian Style
Sellars, Maura, Razia Fakirmohammad, Linh Bui, John Fishetti, Sarfaroz Niyozov, Ruth Reynolds, Nisha Thapliyal, Yu-Ling Liu-Smith, and Nosheen Ali. 2018. "Conversations on Critical Thinking: Can Critical Thinking Find Its Way Forward as the Skill Set and Mindset of the Century?" Education Sciences 8, no. 4: 205. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci8040205