A student reflecting on a course task

Reflecting on a course task

Critical thinking

The most difficult aspect for me is to compare, contrast and evaluate information. - Pakpao

Critical thinking is an important skill needed for university study in the UK. On your course you will be expected to learn new information about your subject but you will also be expected to reflect in a careful and critical way about what you are learning. Reflecting critically involves skills such as recognising a particular point of view being expressed or identifying the implications of an academic argument. It also involves being able to evaluate how true or useful certain information might be. Besides these, there are other skills involved in critical thinking.

These activities will help you to understand what critical thinking means in terms of your academic study and also identify which critical thinking skills you may need to develop.

Activity 1What is critical thinking?

In this activity you are going to explore what critical thinking involves and the kind of approach you need to take in your studies.

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Read this text about critical thinking carefully. Some important words are missing. Think about the meaning of each part of the text, and for each gap choose a word from the list and type it in a box. Then look at the feedback to check your answers.

| argument | reliable | weak | influencing | evidence | bias | accept | counter | evaluate | supported | develop | actively |

Critical thinking is an important requirement for successful academic study in the UK. It is basically a skill that students already have or might need to , which helps them to think in a particular way. For example, you might be asked to read a book or article from a journal for your course. If you think critically as you read, you will not automatically everything that the writer says at face value. A good academic text is likely to include ideas or opinions; some reasons for these in the form of ; and possibly some further conclusions that the writer wants to draw from this. The writer will have organised all of these elements into an academic .

A reader who is thinking and reading critically will first want to consider whether the ideas and opinions are with reasons and evidence. An unsupported academic argument is a very one. The reader will then want to the reasons and evidence given to decide if they are valid and . Evidence which does not support an idea directly may be questionable and is therefore less effective. The reader will also want to think critically about the ideas or opinions themselves to check that they are logical and reasonable in relation to the topic, and finally, to consider what might be the writer's ideas or opinions. This is particularly important if there are no arguments in the writing, offerng an opposite view that should be considered. In other words, the critical thinker needs to search for any evidence of or one-sided argument in the writing.

So the critical thinker should read and respond to a text by asking themselves questions about it before deciding whether or not to accept what the writer is saying. Critical thinking can be used when reading someone else's work or listening to someone else's ideas but it is equally important to apply this skill when writing academic assignments yourself.

Activity 2What skills are needed for critical thinking?

In this activity you are going to see how much you know about the different skills that are involved in critical thinking. You can also test yourself on what you have understood from the first activity.

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Make six descriptions of specific skills that are used in critical thinking by matching the start of the sentence on the left with the correct ending on the right. Then check your answers and read the feedback.

Would you like to review the main points?