Monday, February 22, 2010

Culture of Discussion: Cognitive Skills for Critical Thinking

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(Image from Insight Assessment)

I'm continuing to look at the issue of critical thinking in light of its importance for a culture of discussion.

In "Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts" (2010), which I noted two days ago, Peter A. Facione lists six essential reasoning skills identified by experts "as being at the very core of critical thinking: interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation."
1. Interpretation: "to comprehend and express the meaning or significance of a wide variety of experiences, situations, data, events, judgments, conventions, beliefs, rules, procedures, or criteria."

2. Analysis: "to identify the intended and actual inferential relationships among statements, questions, concepts, descriptions, or other forms of representation intended to express belief, judgment, experiences, reasons, information, or opinions."

3. Evaluation: "to assess the credibility of statements or other representations which are accounts or descriptions of a person's perception, experience, situation, judgment, belief, or opinion; and to assess the logical strength of the actual or intended inferential relationships among statements, descriptions, questions or other forms of representation."

4. Inference: "to identify and secure elements needed to draw reasonable conclusions; to form conjectures and hypotheses; to consider relevant information and to educe the consequences flowing from data, statements, principles, evidence, judgments, beliefs, opinions, concepts, descriptions, questions, or other forms of representation."

5. Explanation: "to state and to justify that reasoning in terms of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, and contextual considerations upon which one's results were based; and to present one's reasoning in the form of cogent arguments."

6. Self-Regulation: "self-consciously to monitor one's cognitive activities, the elements used in those activities, and the results educed, particularly by applying skills in analysis, and evaluation to one's own inferential judgments with a view toward questioning, confirming, validating, or correcting either one's reasoning or one's results."
I've gleaned these six critical-reasoning skills from pages 5 through 8 of Facione's article, where one finds them explained in greater elaboration, but they're also explicit in the "Consensus Statement" that I quoted two days ago.

There's a temptation here to look for a simple method, a one-through-six heuristic steps to follow in thinking critically -- e.g., some correspondence to the six-step IDEALS heuristic noted the day before yesterday -- but a closer look shows that such can never strictly be the case even though the numerical sequence chosen by the experts surely has some significance, perhaps a roughly temporal sequence of steps.

But only very roughly, for we see, e.g., that number 4's "Inference" must already have played a role in number 2's "Analysis," for "Analysis" requires one to "identify . . . inferential relationships" (emphasis mine).

And, of course, number 6's "Self-Regulation" should be constantly at work in practicing the other five skills.

I'll perhaps have to return to these for more reflection, but readers are welcome to comment on these six reasoning skills identified by "the experts" and especially to judge whether or not any skill has been left out.

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