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Exercises to Improve Critical Thinking Skills

by Jennifer Brozak

The concept of critical thinking refers to the ability to reason, reflect and question information in an analytical manner. As a type of “higher-order” thinking, critical thinking allows people to weigh and process complex situations and make effective decisions. While this may seem complicated, there are ways to improve your critical thinking skills and learn how to think more logically.

Tackle Brain Teasers

Because they require you to think about different ways to solve problems, brain teasers can serve as an excellent method for improving your critical thinking skills. Brain teasers can test – and improve – critical thinking skills related to logic, spatial awareness, reasoning skills and lateral thinking, which is your ability to solve problems using non-traditional methods. You can find a wide variety of brain teasers online by conducting a simple keyword search.

Ask Questions

According to The Critical Thinking Community, “the key to powerful thinking is powerful questioning.” While it may seem basic, the simple act of questioning the information being presented can improve your critical thinking skills. Asking questions forces us to examine complex issues. By asking questions, we learn how to judge, reflect, examine and assess the world around us and contribute to society in meaningful ways. To improve your critical thinking skills, learn to ask questions about what you read, what you’re told and what you hear being presented to you via the media.

Analyze, Don't Summarize

As mentioned above, critical thinking is considered a higher-order thinking skill. Critical thinkers have the ability to analyze a situation as a whole and determine its potential outcome. In other words, critical thinking skills enable you to “read between the lines.” A simple way to develop your analytical skills is to try to figure out the meaning behind ancient proverbs, such as “The swiftest horse can't overtake a word once spoken” or “The judge with seven reasons states only one in court.” You can find thousands of proverbs to practice with by conducting a simple Internet keyword search.

Eliminate Personal Biases

Bias is often referred to as a blind spot in a person's thinking. In other words, the biases that we acquire through personal experiences shape the way we see and evaluate our environment and the people in it. Because of human nature, people are all biased to a certain degree; they place their own cultures, religions and nations above all others. To become a critical thinker, however, you must learn to overcome these self-interests and evaluate, assess and judge other points of view. You can do this by learning to continually acknowledge the impact that your own biases, stereotypes and culture may have on your decision-making process. Before making a decision, run your ideas past someone who doesn’t always agree with you.

About the Author

As a mother, wife and recovering English teacher, Jennifer Brozak is passionate about all things parenting and education. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and St. Vincent College, Jennifer writes features for the IN Community magazine network and shares her daily escapades on her blog, One Committed Mama.

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