When you first learned to drive you weren't put behind the wheel of a car and told to "figure it out." Of course not because driving requires considerable higher order thinking skills. You practice, you learn, and you practice. The more you drive, the better you get.
Why should critical thinking be any different?
In order to develop your critical thinking skills in business, you'll need some guidelines and then practice, practice, practice.
These simple guidelines lead to deeper, more critical thought when evaluating articles, art, problems, or even behavior.
Use the following steps when your instructor asks you to evaluate something critically:
Identify 3 main points/facts. Keep them objective; for example, saying the sky is gray is objective, saying the sky looks stormy is an opinion based on experience.
How do these main points make you feel? This is easier to answer when you're talking about art or music, however, it is possible to evoke feelings in the workplace and examine them. What feelings are produced when you think about diversity management or stereotypes? What about innovation and problem solving?
What do these points remind you of? This could be a childhood memory or an experience at work. Your work and personal lives are rich with experiences that help you evaluate and critically think through material.
What is the intent of the author/agent? Whether you are evaluating a piece of work or someone's actions it takes someone who can share other person's perspective to answer this question. What did the agent/author intend? Why is that important?
Now reflect on what you've found. Summarize and tie your evaluation together. What impact does your evaluation have on you, business, other people?
The more you practice, the better you'll get.
Recently, I assigned readings around privilege in the workplace to my Managing a Diverse Workforce students. All but one is American born and they were rather upset that anyone would consider the trials and tribulations of their lives as privilege. After a frank discussion around our readings, I asked them to watch the video below. Then I asked them to critically evaluate the video using the steps above and have included one student's response organized by the steps.
Step One: Identify three main points
Step Two: How did it make you feel?
Step Three: What did it remind you of?
Step Four: What was the producer's intent?
Step Five: Summary
The whole class found value in this process over a more general instruction to analyze the work.
Students wrote a reflection using the critical thinking steps based on this video.
I have to share a few points from this reflection of the same video. This reflection is from a minority student who is first generation.
Although the student mixes some opinion and analysis with the main points, their ability to make connections that leads to higher order thinking is clear.
Although this student's reflection was less complete, consider the depth the student reached by following this guideline that he/she may not have reached without it.