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Cultural Values And Personal Ethics

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Critical Thinking in Graduate Studies and Business

Learning Team C

Communications 515

Mr. Harvey Kim

March 10, 2004


Critical thinking concepts have been around for over 2000 years. Thinking in this way entails questioning the evidence and arguments of other thinkers. Critical thinking has both general and specific applications for every individual's life. By making use of critical thinking techniques, people can become better independent thinkers. Critical thinking can be essential to success in a graduate degree program. Critical thinking skills developed within a graduate degree program helps to prepare students for success in the business world. Critical thinking skills can enable individuals to better manage their time, sort through, and make order of the complexities of business while making order of thinking of the world in which we live.

Critical Thinking

The idea of critical thinking is not new; it has been around for more than 2000 years. Alec Fisher, an independent thinker, suggests that while Socrates was one of the first real critical thinkers, John Dewey, is widely considered the "Ð''father' of the modern critical thinking tradition." (Fisher, 2001). Referring to critical thinking as Ð''reflective thinking', Dewey defined the it as "Active, persistent, and careful consideration of a belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds which support it and the further conclusions to which it tends." (Dewey cited in Fisher, 2001).

Fisher explains that the "active" process of critical thinking, defined by Dewey, implies a process through which individuals learn and think for themselves. This is opposed to a "passive" thinking process that depends on someone else to do one's thinking. Critical thinking entails considering all sides of an argument by oneself; thinking the concept through, raising questions, and developing relevant information. (Fisher, 2001) This process requires knowledge and understanding of oneself; thus the key element of critical thinking is "the ability to self-assess and continually improve one's thinking." (Celuch, 1999)

Learning to Think Critically

Critical thinking is not an ability that humans have naturally, but is learned system that requires hard work and regular practice to become established at it. Paul and Elder (2000) outline this learning process through six stages. Stage One is "The Unreflective Thinker." At this stage, the individual accepts what is presented to them and is not aware there is any problem with the way they think. Stage Two is "The Challenged Thinker." The individual becomes aware that there is a better way to do things in stage two. Stage Three is "The Beginner Thinker." The individual attempts to improve their thinking capabilities but does not commit to regular practice. Stage Four is "The Practicing Thinker." The individual begins to understand that to succeed in becoming an accomplished critical thinker, practice is necessary. Stage Five is "The Advanced Thinker." Improvement in critical thinking processes is apparent due to diligent practice. Stage Six is "The Master Thinker." Here, critical thinking exercises become second nature.

Critical thinking implies questioning an argument or a topic being presented. An individual must learn to consider all sides of such an argument to be a successful critical thinker. Several analytical tools can assist in the process. According to the reasoning elements presented by Celuch and Slama (1999), time must be taken first to consider the purpose of the argument being presented. The key issues of the argument must then be ascertained. Then questions should be asked like, "What makes this argument unique?" Or, "Does the information presented support the argument?" What then, is the argument trying to say? What problem is solved or what issue is addressed? These assumptions, made by an individual whose arguments are under analysis, should be called into the questioning process. Are these assumptions valid? From what point of view is the individual speaking? What biases or issues might the individual have that would shape the argument? Does the evidence presented support the argument made? What are the concepts and ideas of the argument and what are valid alternatives to these concepts? What can be inferred from this argument? (Slama 1999) And so on. These and other questions like, "How is the topic interpreted?" help one get at the argument. Or, What implications can be a result of your assessment of the topic? All these questions allow the critical thinker to ascertain and get at meaning to increase understanding from which to assess and analyze thinking through thinking.

Critical Thinking Applications

General Applications

"Fundamentally, Critical Thinking or Informal Logic deals with the use of reason in the pursuit of truth." . . . "But why should we be interested in the truth? On the one hand, much of who we are, of the people we have become (and are yet to become) is due to our ideas and beliefs and what we do and how we react to any situation is also determined by the background of beliefs and ideas we bring to it." (Miller and Connelly, 1996).

A person's individual philosophy is based on the sum of their beliefs and ideas. From Machiavelli to the stereotypical used car salesman, people try to influence others. As interpretation of information from others forms part of the basis of a person's beliefs and ideas, the most obvious benefit of critical thinking is the knowledge that what they believe is based on a rational interpretation. In order to interpret degrees of truth, one must learn to dissect the truth by oneself; otherwise, we grow dependent on the interpretation of others. Critical thinking employs what many think is our greatest ability: to reason. Accepting without thought is to take the world-view of someone else as fact. This can be disastrous as that person may not have interpreted facts rationally, or they may in fact be providing false or misleading information.

Graduate Studies Applications

The pursuit of a graduate degree prepares the student for a higher level of responsibility and expectation in their career. Critical thinking is



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