A critical thinker approaches problems and
complicated situations aware of his or her thoughts,
beliefs, and viewpoints. Then, he or she can direct
those thoughts, beliefs, and viewpoints to be more
rational and accurate. A critical thinker is willing to
explore, question, and search out answers and
Attributes of Critical thinking
Generally, critical thinking includes the ability to:
Be curious, asking relevant questions and finding
the resources you need
Challenge and examine beliefs, assumptions, and
opinions against facts
Recognize and define problems
Assess the validity of statements and arguments
Make wise decisions and find valid solutions
Understand logic and logical argument
Some of us are already competent in some of these areas.
Or, there is the need to learn or improve on all of them.
We all face problems every day. Some are simple,
requiring a short period of time to solve, others are
complex, and demand much of your time and thought.
Once you recognize the problem, you will want to
prioritize—does your problem demand immediate
attention, or can it wait until you are finished working
on something else?
It amazes me when I remember how I used to jump
from something important to something else that is so
unimportant for no reason all of a sudden. If you have
more than one situation to resolve, you must rank them
in order of importance, tackling the most important first.
What Is a Problem?
A problem is defined as a question or situation that calls
for a solution.
That means when you are faced with a problem, you
must take action or make decisions that will lead to
resolution of that problem. Using this definition,
problems that occur in the form of a question are
typically those that do not have one straightforward
answer. Situational problems require thinking critically
and making decisions about the best course of action.
For example, I learn that a man has been
cheating on his wife and they are both my friends
—Do I blow the whistle, jeopardizing our friendship and
possibly breaking up a home? If so, how? or do i keep
quiet and let the promiscuity continue?
Road Block to Recognizing a Problem
One of the most common reasons for not recognizing
a problem is the desire to avoid taking action or
responsibility. The thinking is “no recognition means
no responsibility”. Realize that by not recognizing the
problem, you make the solution more difficult. The
initial problem could grow larger and more complex
with time, or by waiting you could create multiple
problems that need solutions. The failure to recognize
a problem almost always creates more work for you.
Types of Problems
Once you recognize that a problem exists, but before
you begin to solve it, you should determine the type of
problem as it relates to a timeframe and your personal
priorities. There are two criteria to use in your
determination: severity and importance.
These problems may be identified by the following
Require immediate solutions
May call for the involvement of others who have
more expertise than you
Result in increasingly drastic consequences the
longer they remain unsolved
For example, ahole in your house’s soakawayis a
severe problem. Foul odour will continue until the
hole is sealed. The odour can make the surroundings
unbearable to live in and flies might start moving from
there into the building. Neighbours would start to
complain. Unless you are a bricklayer, you will need to
call a professional to solve the problem immediately.
Delays can result in a larger hole, more contaminated air
and also costly soakaway damage repairs. You might even
need to replace soakaway top or other items if the hole is
not sealed quickly.
Some minor problems can become severe if not
solved immediately. For example, a small fire on the
field that is difficult to put out may take a great deal of
time and effort to extinguish. But if it is not put out, it
could start a major forest fire (severe problem).
The word important is relative like everything else.
Problems are viewed as important or unimportant in
relation to one another, and according to personal
priorities. When faced with a number of problems,
evaluate them in terms of priority so that you are not
dealing with minor issues first, and leaving the more
important ones to go unattended until the last minute.
Prioritizing means looking at each problem or issue, and
ranking it in terms of importance. What is most important
to you as you begin the thinking process?
When you recognize that you are faced with a problem,
you also recognize the need for action on your part. But
that action depends on the type of issue you are facing.
Is the problem severe? If there is more than one problem,
which should be tackled first? Use your thinking skills to
pinpoint any problem or problems before you begin to
anticipate a solution.
Here are some things I do:
■ When I need to make a TO DO list, I rank the items on
my list. You might list them in order of what takes the
most or least time. Or perhaps list them in order of when
they have to be done. You might have your own order of
importance in which to list items. For practice, try ordering
them in each of the different methods listed above.
■ Test your skill of problem recognition when watching the
evening news. After you hear a story, list three problems that
will probably occur as a result.
Quote of the post
"Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough,
we must do." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe